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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

East St. Louis native Dawn Harper wins gold medal

Yes, I know Dawn Harper isn't a cyclist, but she's a hometown hero!

Harper, who grew up in East St. Louis and was a track star at East St. Louis High School and UCLA, was the surprise gold-medal winner in the 100 women's hurdles. Harper won the event with a personal best time of 12.54 seconds, a tenth of a second ahead of silver medalist Sally McLellan of Australia.

American Lolo Jones was the favorite to win the event, but she clipped a hurdle, opening the door for her teammate. Teammate Damu Cherry, who defeated Harper in a semifinal Monday, finished fourth in the finals. Jones finished seventh.

Not surprisingly, Harper has close ties to another East St. Louis Olympic champion, Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Harper's coach is JJK's husband, Bob Kersee.

Harper barely made it to the Beijing Olympics. Harper qualified for Beijing by placing third in the 100m with a time of 12.62 at Olympic Trials in Eugene. She crossed just .007 seconds in front of Nichole Denby for the final spot in the event.

"I honestly did not know if I finished third or not," Harper told the Belleville News-Democrat after the trials. "I was able to get out of the (starting) blocks well, but then I hit the seventh and eighth hurdles and I saw my dream maybe ending. I just leaned at the finish line as far as I could."

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