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Carter turns around USA fortunes

Chris Carter (USA) flies to men's 400m Hurdles gold (Getty Images)Chris Carter (USA) flies to men's 400m Hurdles gold (Getty Images) © Copyright

Beijing, ChinaAs great as the USA team were earlier in the season, many have struggled to replicate their best form in Beijing, but Chris Carter is one American athlete who lived up to expectation to win the 400m Hurdles.

A lack of gold medals had pushed the USA down to 14th place in the medal table at the end of day three and the track and field powerhouse looked set for their worst World Juniors performance since the 2000 edition, where they came away with just one medal – a bronze in the pole vault.

Reasons for the USA’s below-par showing had been suggested by many – the most popular being the long season that American athletes have to endure – but Carter looked as fresh as a daisy and out-classed a field which, despite the numerous personal best performances, could not get close to the 19-year-old.

Down the home-straight, Carter could even afford to ease down slightly and he crossed the line in 50.08 – almost a second outside his 49.19 best, but more than enough to win the title. “To be able to compete for your country and then win is the best feeling in the world,” said a delighted Carter after the race.

Very much a new-comer to the sport, Carter has only been seriously training for one year. But his rise to the top has been meteoric – first taking the NCAA bronze medal, then winning the US Junior Championships and now the World junior gold.

“A part of the reason why the US team have struggled is because of the long season,” explained Carter. “But also the current team is very young – they will be back next time and will be much stronger.”

Rarely do athletes plan to take mid-career breaks – especially after scoring such major success – but Carter plans to do exactly that after the 2007 season. “I will take a couple of years out to serve a LDS church mission, but I plan to return in time for the 2012 Olympics,” he said.

Knowing that he can produce such a quick turn-around of form will surely give him confidence for making a comeback a few years from now, but perhaps by then the talented fellow American David Klech will be his biggest rival.

“He’s a great kid,” says Carter of the prodigious hurdler, who is one year younger than him and narrowly missed out on making the USA team for Beijing. “We are more friends than rivals and I look forward to compete against him in the near future.”

Having catapulted the USA team to sixth place on the medal table, Chris Carter – who studies computer science at Brigham Young University – says that this win is the outstanding highlight of a long season.

“This is without a doubt my greatest achievement this year,” he says. “Taking a lap of honour and waving the USA flag makes me feel so proud – it is the greatest feeling.”

Hopefully some of his American team-mates will also get to experience the same emotions before the championships draw to a close.

Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF