HELSINKI, Finland (AP) – The sky finally cleared at the world track and field championships Friday night. Even Mother Nature knows how special Yelena Isinbayeva is.

The 23-year-old Russian broke another world pole vault record, and the United States won two more gold medals as the competition entered its final weekend at the Olympic Stadium.

The Americans fumbled away another potential gold with a dropped baton on their first handoff in the opening round of the men’s 400-meter relay.

The United States increased its medal total to 20 – 11 golds – with 1-2 finishes in the men’s 400 and women’s 200.

Jeremy Wariner broke the 44-second barrier for the first time in his young but spectacular career, adding a world 400-meter title to his Olympic gold. The 21-year-old Texan ran the best race of his life in 43.93 seconds. Andrew Rock lunged ahead of Canada’s Tyler Christopher at the line.

Olympic silver medalist Allyson Felix, the 19-year-old “really, really close” friend of double world gold medalist Justin Gatlin, pulled away down the stretch to win the 200 in 22.16. U.S. teammate Rachelle Boone-Smith edged Christine Arron of France for the silver. Both were timed at 22.31.

Gatlin, deprived of a shot at a third gold by the relay debacle, lifted Felix off the ground in celebration after the race.

“It was great,” Gatlin said of her victory. “That’s the biggest cheer I put out the whole time I’ve been here. Seeing her win the gold medal, she deserves it more than me. She worked so hard, she’s been through so many coaches and so many ups and downs that a lot of people don’t know.”

Allen Johnson’s bid for a fifth world title in the 110-meter hurdles failed when he knocked down six hurdles, including the last one, to finish third behind winner Ladji Doucoure of France and Olympic champion Liu Xiang of China.

After three days of wet, windy and cold weather, the sun came out Friday and only a brisk breeze kept conditions from being ideal. The women’s pole vault had been postponed from Wednesday because of the nasty weather.

The delay provided a dry night for Isinbayeva to steal the show, clearing 16-feet, 5 1/4 inches, a half-inch higher than when she broke the 5-meter barrier (16-4 3/4) at the Crystal Palace meet July 22 in London. She has set the world record 18 times, indoors and out, nine times this year.

“No limit,” she said after overcoming a pesky wind to clear the bar on her second try. “I don’t believe I did it in this difficult weather. The stadium is wonderful and the crowd is good.”

Isinbayeva is halfway to her goal of 36 world marks, one more than the great Sergei Bubka accomplished. At 23, the charismatic Russian looks like she has a good shot.

She started smiling before she hit the mat on her record vault, then raised her arms in triumph and did a back flip to celebrate. She posed in front of the sign that showed her record height, then wrapped the Russian flag around her, giving the television camera a coy grin.

“She’s a personality, not only for sports,” said Bubka, now an IAAF official. “She is very intelligent, and she’s a star outside of sports.”

Gatlin had talked about a world record in the 400-meter relay, but that dream died in a hurry.

Weary after eight races en route to his 100 and 200 golds, Gatlin was to run only in the finals.

But on the first exchange in the first heat of the qualifying, Leonard Scott barely got a hold of the baton from Mardy Scales, then dropped it. Maurice Greene, who was to run the anchor leg in his first appearance at the meet, could only watch from the far side of the track.

“I put all the blame on myself,” Scott said. “I was trying to pull for it and it slipped out of my hand. That was my fault.”

The mistake cost Gatlin a chance to match Greene as a triple-gold medalist. Greene won the 100, 200 and was part of the winning 400 relay team at the 1999 worlds.

“My job was to come out here and get the 100 and 200 gold medals,” Gatlin said. “That’s what I did. The (relay) was icing on the cake. Obviously there’s no icing now, but I feel sorry for the guys who came here with dreams to win a medal. … They didn’t get that chance.”

Unlike their male counterparts, the U.S. women’s 400-meter relay team advanced with ease.

Wariner, as he often does, made victory look simple. With his smooth, steady stride, he ran away from the pack for a victory. He repeatedly credited his coach Clyde Hart, who also mentored Michael Johnson.

“I’m a whole different runner from a couple of years ago,” Wariner said.

“My race has been fundamentally perfect the last couple of years. In the big races I stay confident. I just listened to Coach Hart throughout my career, and there’s no telling where I can go from here.”

Although still a teenager, Felix is at her second world championship and already has an Olympic silver. Now coached by Bob Kersee, she is poised and confident in the pressure of international racing.

“I think that plays a lot into it,” she said. “I can come out in races like this and be comfortable and be relaxed and not let it overwhelm me.”

She has the one of the sport’s biggest international stars firmly on her side. Gatlin and Felix live and train on opposite sides of the country, but they are each other’s biggest supporters.

“We’re just really, really close friends,” Gatlin said. “If the situation were different we probably would be together, but we’re just friends, and that’s how we like to keep it right now. Hopefully things will turn out the best they can.”


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