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Another Johnson claims gold

It might go down as the most obscure gold medal in American track and field history.

On a night when Michael Johnson be-gan his quest for a historic double and the curtain dropped on Carl Lewis' splendid Olympic career, Allen Johnson of the United States set an Olympic record in winning the 110-meter hurdles Monday.

Johnson, his eyes hidden by menacing black sunglasses, didn't need to see the other runners. He won by a full 2 meters with a time of 12.95, just four-hundredths of a second off the world record.

The silver went to Mark Crear in a 1-2 sweep for the Americans, and Florian Schwartoff of Germany won the bronze.

Afterward, Johnson collapsed amid the flower pots which line the track. Then he took a victory lap with his 3-year-old daughter, Tristine.

Even in the interview room Monday, Allen couldn't escape Michael's shadow. The 400 winner peeked around a curtain while Allen discussed his hurdling victory.

That's okay because Johnson can stand on his own accomplishments. Last year, he won the world indoor and outdoor championships, and he thinks hurdlers might just be the best athletes in the Olympics.

Johnson knocked over eight of 10 hurdles, but he got over the one that counted _ winning his first Olympic medal.

"I don't know if I'd call it perfect, but it's a good continuation of my short career," Johnson said. "Hopefully, there will be more. But I'm the Olympic champion and that's what I was looking for."

Crear revealed after the race that he was running with a broken arm. He fractured the radius bone in his left arm falling over a hurdle three weeks ago.

WOMEN'S 400: Marie Jose-Perec of France set an Olympic record, finishing in 48.25 to defeat Australia's Cathy Freeman (48.63) and Falilat Ogunkoya of Nigeria (49.10). Perec edged ahead of Freeman coming off the final turn, and pulled away with 15 meters left. She became the first man or woman ever to defend an Olympic 400-meter title. American Jearl Miles finished fifth in 49.55 in the first race in history in which six women ran under 50 seconds.

WOMEN'S 800: Svetlana Masterkova of Russia won a race expected to be between Maria Mutola of Mozambique, who won 42 straight 800s in a stretch that ended last August, and sentimental favorite Ana Quirot of Cuba. Masterkova pulled away to win easily in 1:57.73 as Mutola had trouble extricating herself from a boxed-in inside position and Quirot simply couldn't make up the gap. Quirot, who was severly burned in a house fire in 1993 after winning the bronze medal in Barcelona, won the silver in 1:58.11. Mutola overtook Britain's Kelly Holmes in the final 15 meters to take the bronze in 1:58.71.