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Gardner left stunned in 100

August 14, 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO — English Gardner, shellshocked and empty handed, couldn’t explain how her dreams of a podium finish at the Olympics were left in the dust Saturday during the women’s 100-meter final at Olympic Stadium.

“I don’t really know how I feel right now,” Gardner said. “I prepared to get a medal, my practice said I was going to get a medal, my mindset said I was going to get a medal, but yet, I’m medal-less.”

The former Oregon standout, who cruised through the first round on Friday and semifinals on Saturday, couldn’t overcome what appeared to be a slow start in the final, finishing in 10.94 seconds and far out of medal contention.

Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson won gold in 10.71, followed by American Tori Bowie in 10.83. Two-time Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica, who has been slowed by a toe injury all season, won bronze in 10.86, her fastest time of the year.

“Honestly, I feel like I did everything my coach told me to do,” said Gardner, the Olympic Trials champion who had run 10.74 this season. “He told me to be patient, try to stay in my own lane. Unfortunately it didn’t work.”

The Summer Games aren’t over for Gardner. She’s expected to be a member of the U.S. 4x100 relay team, which races Thursday morning.

Gardner said she was giving herself “until midnight, and then I gotta go try and break this world record in the 4x100. Midnight is right around the corner, so I’ll go rearrange the hotel room, yell, scream and cry and then get back to work.”

Francis has fastest 400 qualifying time

More than a week after arriving in Rio, Phyllis Francis made her Olympic debut Saturday morning.

It couldn’t have come soon enough for Francis, the former Oregon standout who is the first Duck to compete in the women’s 400 in the Summer Games.

“There were a few days back where I was taking it all in and I was like ‘Wait, take a breather, calm down, take it one step at a time,’” she said.

Francis won her first-round heat in 50.58 seconds to advance to Sunday’s semifinals. Her time was the fastest of the day.

“It’s amazing,” Francis said. “It feels super surreal right now. I’m just soaking it all in.”

Francis set her personal record of 49.91 at the Olympic Trials in June and came to Rio with the third-fastest time this season among her fellow Olympians. She was seventh last season at the World Outdoor Championships in Beijing.

“I know I’m a lot stronger than I was last year, and faster, so I can’t wait to surprise myself,” Francis said.

Americans Allyson Felix and Natasha Hastings also breezed through the prelims and into the semifinals.

Praught moves into steeplechase final

Oregon Track Club Elite’s Aisha Praught made the final of the women’s steeplechase, though she needed a little help getting there.

With 2 1/2 laps to go in her semifinal heat, Praught collided with Ethiopia’s Etenesh Diro, who had come to a sudden halt when her right shoe came off.

“I was coming through and all of sudden there was a women stopped in front of me and there’s not enough time to react,” said Praught, who lives in Eugene. “I went down but I got back up and charged as hard as I could because I knew every second counted.”

Praught, competing for Jamaica, finished eighth in 9:35.79 and filed an appeal.

“I was feeling great,” Praught said immediately after her race. “I was actually surprised. I wasn’t looking at pace and I wasn’t looking at the clock, I was just ‘I got this.’ And then I was down. I’m super fit so this is extremely disappointing.”

Diro, who finished the race without her right shoe or sock, was also added to Monday’s final.

All three Americans advanced to the final as well, including Portland residents and Bowerman Track Club members Courtney Frerichs and Colleen Quigley.

Frerichs grabbed an automatic qualifier with a third-place finish in her heat in 9:27.02. Quigley got in on time after finishing Heat 1 in fourth place in 9:21.82.