SYDNEY-Hazel Clark ran the fastest 800 meters of her life in the Olympics Monday night but when it was over she was still bitterly disappointed.
For several minutes after coming in off the track where she finished seventh, she sat alone, her head in her hands. She thought a case of Olympic nerves had hurt her.
"I went out there and basically I got very nervous," said Clark, who lives in Gainesville, Fla. "I know if I would have gone out and eased up in my first Olympics, maybe it would have gone better in the end.
"I was supposed to have a finish and it was just so hard. I ran a little bit too hard that first section but I gave it all I had. I was in the race. And I know that this will motivate me to come back to work really hard."
Maria Mutola of Mozambique won the gold medal with a time of 1:56.15, extending her unbeaten streak this season to five. It is the first ever Olympic gold medal for Mozambique. Stephanie Graf of Austria took silver at 1:56.64 and Kelly Holmes of Great Britain won bronze at 1:56.80. The top seven finishers all ran personal bests or season's bests. Two set national records.
The race started off on a fast pace and by the time the runners made the final turn, Clark was boxed in behind the leaders and looking like she was out of gas. She didn't have the energy for the final kick to the finish line.
"I didn't have a finish like I usually do," she said. "No gear. Just flat. There are certain ways to run things. You can run things smooth and fast or hard and fast. I went the hard and fast way today."
Clark, her sister-in-law Jearl Miles Clark and her sister Joetta Clark-Diggs, took the top three places in the 800 meters at the U.S. Trials in that order, but Hazel was the only one to make it to the Olympic finals. The other two members of her family were eliminated in the semifinals.
She said this experience would only motivate her to work harder and come back stronger than ever.
"I wanted it so bad," said Clark, who turns 23 on Oct. 3. "I'm in good shape. I have a lot of talent. And I feel like I'm going to show people eventually what I really have inside. Nobody's seen it yet. I represented my family the best I could."