HELSINKI, Finland (AP) – The Americans are taking Helsinki by storm, and Justin Gatlin is the whirlwind leading the way.

Gatlin joined Maurice Greene as the only athletes to sweep the 100 and 200 at the world track and field championships. The 23-year-old sprinter, who outran kids racing him on bicycles as a child on the streets of Brooklyn, led an unprecedented 1-2-3-4 U.S. finish in the 200 meters on a damp, chilly Thursday night.

“Double gold,” Gatlin said. “I think I’ve sealed my fate right now as the king of sprints.”

Two other Americans took home gold – a surprise victory for Walter Davis in the triple jump and Michelle Perry in the 100-meter hurdles. Brad Walker added a silver behind winner Rens Blom of the Netherlands in the pole vault.

The powerhouse performance gave the United States 15 medals, seven more than second-place Russia. The Americans have nine golds. No other country has more than two.

The United States swept the 200 at the Athens Olympics, but other than Gatlin, this was a different group of sprinters who capped Thursday night’s onslaught with perhaps the most dominant performance since the world championships were first held in 1983.

The Americans had four entries in the 200 because John Capel had an automatic berth as defending champion. Gatlin, with his incredible long stride, pulled away down the stretch to win in 20.04 seconds. Wallace Spearmon was second at 20.20, and Capel third at 20.31, just ahead of Tyson Gay’s 20.34.

“I think I’m in shock and awe more than anybody else right now,” Gatlin said.

When the race was over, the four huddled together to pray, then paraded with American flags. Gatlin also waved a Finnish flag, a display of thanks for the fans’ enthusiastic support.

Gatlin was the only one of the four Americans who had run in the 100. Counting the preliminaries, the 200 final was his eighth race in six days, with the 400-meter relay still to go.

“He’s amazing,” Spearmon said. “He’s a beast.”

Capel marveled at Gatlin’s show of strength.

“The only person right now who would be able to be in the same sentence with him is Maurice Greene,” Capel said. “I think in a couple of years he may surpass that. Justin Gatlin is on his way to being the greatest ever.”

Greene won the 100, 200 and was part of the gold medal-winning 400 relay at the 1999 worlds.

The 20-year-old Spearmon, added to the 200 field when Shawn Crawford withdrew with a foot injury, dispelled any notion of an old-versus-young rift among the U.S. sprinters, something Capel had talked about Wednesday.

“Now did you all see anything wrong out there?” Spearmon asked. “We all looked happy. We’re good. I love everybody. I want to go celebrate.”

Davis celebrated with a stunning victory in the triple jump, going 57 feet, 7 3/4 inches on his fifth attempt to become the first American to win the event since Mike Conley in 1993.

“I told him yesterday that he could win this thing,” said Conley, now executive director of elite athletic programs for USA Track and Field. “He always had a potential to be a champion at the world level. To see him mentally be tougher than everybody in the field was great.”

Eight jumpers had better leaps than Davis going into the meet.

“I surprised myself a little bit,” the former NCAA champion at LSU said. “But I knew if I could hit one, I’d be all right.”

Perry, who has the best three times in the world this year, surged ahead over the last two hurdles to win in 12.66 seconds, far ahead of Delloreen Ennis-London of Jamaica in 12.76.

“I think this was my year for things to really work out for me,” Perry said.

Perry was 14th in the heptathlon at the Athens Olympics, and shifted her attention this year to the hurdles, under coach Bobby Kersee, whose former pupils include Gail Devers and his wife, Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Perry believes she can compete in both heptathlon and the hurdles in the future.

But for now, it’s the hurdles, and she won with a powerful finish.

“I didn’t know where I was in the race,” Perry said, “but I could feel everybody behind me, that I had to charge home. I’m just happy that I finished clean and strong.”

Not everything went well for the United States, though. Olympic champion Joanna Hayes clipped the ninth hurdle, stumbled into the 10th, then fell face-down on the track, sobbing as she tried to pull herself up. She was taken from the track on a stretcher, but was not seriously hurt and said later that her tears came from emotional not physical pain.

“I could feel that I was going to be world champion,” she said. “The surge came on, and I was moving. And I think I moved too hard and rushed that ninth hurdle. … I didn’t take my time. I made a crucial mistake, and I lost everything because of it.”

Four Americans advanced to the finals in the 110-meter hurdles – Allen Johnson, Dominique Arnold, Terrence Trammell and Joel Brown.

Nineteen-year-old Allyson Felix, the Olympic silver medalist, led all qualifiers in the 200-meter semifinals in 22.90 seconds. Rachelle Boone-Smith and LaTasha Colander also advanced to Friday’s finals.

In Thursday’s other final, Franka Dietzch of Germany won the women’s discus.

AP-ES-08-11-05 1805EDT

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