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Hayes triumphs as her rivals fall

• Olympics 2004: Special report 

ATHENS, Greece (Reuters) -- Joanna Hayes of the U.S. stamped her authority on a chaotic Olympic 100 meters hurdles when she blazed to the gold medal in a Games record 12.37 seconds on Tuesday.

The 27-year-old American ignored a first-barrier pile-up to scorch over the line in a personal best time that also bettered the 1988 Olympic mark of Bulgaria's Yordanka Donkova by one hundredth of a second.

Olena Krasovska of Ukraine took silver in a personal best 12.45 with the American Melissa Morrison winning bronze in 12.56.

It was a repeat of her Sydney placing for 33-year-old Morrison.

World champion Perdita Felicien of Canada, the fastest woman in the world this year, crashed to the ground after hitting the first hurdle, bringing down Russian Irina Shevchenko with her.

Felicien had been the pre-race favorite but walked away in tears, flinging her shoes to the ground in anger and frustration.

"The first hurdle came up, I reached for it way too much," she said.

"Before I knew it I was on the ground. I couldn't believe it, there was no coming back. This is going to take four years to sink in."

But even if she had not fallen the burly Canadian, with a lifetime best of 12.46 set this season, may have struggled to stay with Hayes.

The race had been one of the most open finals for years due to the absence of some of the pre-Games favorites.

Gail Devers of the United States, Spain's Glory Alozi and Jamaican duo Brigitte Foster and Delloreen Ennis-London all failed to make the final.

But with the sixth-fastest time in history delivered at exactly the right moment, nobody could deny Hayes was a worthy winner.

Tonique Williams-Darling claimed the Bahamas' first individual Olympic gold on Tuesday when she took the women's 400 meters title in 49.41 seconds.

Silver went to world champion Ana Guevara of Mexico (49.56), with Natalya Antyukh of Russia winning the bronze (49.89).

Williams-Darling's triumph at the Olympic stadium confirmed her dramatic rise to prominence this year, during which she has repeatedly shattered her personal best.

The Bahamas' only previous gold medal came in the women's 4x100m sprint relay in Sydney four years ago.

Pole vault record

Tearful Yelena Isinbayeva beat her own world record to snatch the Olympic women's pole vault gold from Russian team mate and bitter rival Svetlana Feofanova on Tuesday.

Isinbayeva, who accumulates world records at the same rate as former men's champion Sergei Bubka, defied difficult, windy conditions to win with 4.91 meters, surpassing her own mark by one centimetre.

Former gymnast Feofanova, the world champion, was second with 4.75 and Anna Rogowska of Poland took the bronze with 4.70.

It was Isinbayeva's seventh world record this year yet the 22-year-old had been close to tears moments earlier, holding her head in her hands.

Her dramatic victory came from an inspired gamble.

In the bronze position and one jump away from defeat after failing at 4.70 and 4.75, and with Feofanova and Rogowska ahead of her, Isinbayeva put up the bar to 4.80 and cleared majestically, earning one of the biggest roars of the night from a sell-out Olympic stadium.

She then emphasised her domination by clearing 4.85, then sailed over the record height as tears welled up in her eyes again.

Her feat -- the first athletics world record in Athens -- so impressed Feofanova that the pair, who have publicly admitted that they do not get on, exchanged friendly words and smiles after the event.

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