By Chris Kaftan
SOFIA, Bulgaria – And the medals keep rolling in.
Janna Vander Meulen led the hardware haul Thursday for the U.S. with a bronze in a photo finish in the women’s 400m hurdles. All top three finishers ran faster than the previous deaf world record of 1:02.94, set by Estonia’s Emilija Mannien in 2009.
Vander Meulen’s time of 1:02.35 also set a new American deaf record.
“I’m shocked … I couldn’t believe how hard I trained for this, and now I have a medal,” Vander Meulen said.
Erin LaFave added to the pile with a silver medal in the women’s 3,000m steeplechase.
She was on the heels of eventual gold medal winner Daria Gaynetdinova of Russia for the first several laps but faded and finished second in 11:27.21.
“I didn’t really focus after that and I let go of her, thinking I would catch up later,” LaFave said. “I’m glad I got the silver, though.”
In the men’s 400m hurdles, Kyle Winter and Taylor Koss qualified for the finals but placed out of medal contention. Winter came in fourth with a time of 54.73, and Koss placed fifth with 55.81.
Discus hurler Onyemachi Davis, coming off an appendectomy three weeks ago, was warned by his doctor that he might not be able to compete. Undeterred, he threw 47.65m in the men’s discus throw and took fourth.
“I know he’s not happy, but we are very proud of him,” throws coach Dan Fitzpatrick said. “For someone who had major surgery three weeks ago, what he did today was amazing.”
Teammate Jasmine Simmons placed ninth in her first international shot put throw competition with a distance of 11.38 meters.
Craig Saalfeld started his pursuit for a gold in the two-day decathlon competition with a total of 3,629 points from five events. Saalfeld won silver in 2009 in Taipei and is expected to have a strong chance to earn gold in Sofia.
Saalfeld placed first in the high jump and 400m and second in the shot put.
Friday, Saalfeld is scheduled to do the 110m hurdles, discus throw, pole vault, javelin throw and the 1,500m.
Also Friday, the track and field team has several chances for medals, including Vander Meulen and Kori Koss in the 100m hurdles; Shanieka Coleman, MaKenzie Hageman, and Saria Webb in the women’s 200m race; and Delvin Furlough and DeWayne Esper in the men’s 200m. Joshua Hembrough will defend his world record and gold medal in the men’s 110m hurdles, accompanied by teammate Michael Haynes.