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Two-time Olympic gold medalist Angelo Taylor staggered to the finish in the men’s 400-meter hurdles for fifth place in a race won by 34-year-old Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic. Sanchez finished in 47.63 to beat American Michael Tinsley to the line, as the United States took only one medal in an event where it captured all three in Beijing.

“It’s a new day, it’s a new era,” said the 33-year-old Taylor. “Things change. People evolve. People show up.”

Defending 400-meter sprint champion LaShawn Merritt wasn’t among them, however.

The American was heading back home after pulling up with a hurt hamstring in the first round. With no other American men in that final, 19-year-old Kirani James gave Grenada its first-ever Olympic medal. He took the lead at the halfway point and ran hard to the finish line even though he hardly needed to — winning in 43.94 seconds.

It was the first time since the 1980 Moscow Games that someone other than an American won the men’s 400. Merritt went home to start rehabilitating, figuring there was no need to try to run the 4x400-meter relay — where the Americans have won seven straight — at less than full health.

“You can’t be 75 percent in track,” said Merritt’s coach, Loren Seagrave.

Earlier, Americans Lolo Jones and Dawn Harper, the defending Olympic champion, made it through the first round of 100-meter hurdles qualifying, along with world champion Sally Pearson of Australia.

In the women’s 200, Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica provided the only bit of drama in preliminaries, barely making it into the top three to move on to Wednesday.

Americans Allyson Felix and Carmelita Jeter, Jamaican 100-meter gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and 400-meter winner Sanya Richards-Ross of the U.S. also made it through. Richards-Ross had the best time of the bunch at 22.48 seconds after a restless four or five hours of sleep the night before with her new gold medal.

“I just feel lighter and free and so I’m just going to go out there and give it my best and hopefully make it through the semifinals as well,” she said.

While Richards-Ross was expected to win in the 400, Suhr wasn’t really the favorite. She’s been through a lot the last four years — namely, an Achilles injury, a gluten allergy that has caused sometime-debilitating sickness and, of course, the always-hovering presence of Isinbayeva, who despite her recent struggles still has a lot of her competition cowed before they ever step into the stadium.

It felt that way for Suhr — then Jenn Stuczynski — in Beijing, where the cameras caught Rick berating her minutes after she finished second. Lost in that snippet was the relationship that developed as he became more to her than a coach.

“If he could get out there and try to push me over the bar, he would,” Suhr said. “He’s done so much for me. He cares so much. People are like, ‘Your coach is intense.’ It’s because he has that passion and knows how much I want it. It’s two people with that kind of passion and drive.”

Maybe their practice facility tells their story best — a cold, unforgiving, shell of a place that hardly looks like the training center for an Olympic champion.

“It’s uphill, a slanted box, a lot of messed-up stuff,” Suhr said.

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