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Austin raises ante, takes pot _ of gold

Charles Austin had missed on two straight jumps at 7 feet, 9\ inches when he decided it was time to move the bar _ higher.

"That's how I am," Austin said nonchalantly. "I try to get that height in my mind before I even go out and jump. I don't consider it playing poker."

Whatever you want to call it _ "a gamble" would certainly seem appropriate _ Austin cleared the next height for an Olympic record of 7-10. He is the first American to win the event since Dick Fosbury, who originated the "Fosbury Flop" technique used today, in 1968.

"I was not concentrating on "win, win, win,'

" Austin said. "I just wanted to have fun."

Austin had an easier time after Javier Sotomayor of Cuba, the defending gold medalist and only man to clear 8 feet, failed on three straight attempts at 7-7\. Sotomayor, hampered by a sore left ankle, wound up in a tie for 11th.

After Sotomayor was knocked out at a height he normally clears with ease, Austin went over to console him.

"I told him that I feel for him," Austin said. "I know he's having a hard time, and hopefully everything will get back to normal where he can come out and jump.

"You have to understand: Us high jumpers, we're very close. We're all very good friends. We care about each other. We like to see each other do well. That motivates us to go out and take care of business."

Even without Sotomayor to motivate him, Austin knocked out the rest of the field with his decision to raise the bar. Poland's Artur Partyka won the silver at 7-9\. Steve Smith of Britain took the bronze at 7-8{.

Austin tried to break the world record of 8-0{ but failed at 8-0}.