By Chris Kaftan
SOFIA, Bulgaria – In a banner day for the U.S. Track and Field team, USA athletes won five medals, including two golds.
Four years after earning silver in the men’s decathlon, Craig Saalfeld finally stood atop the podium with the title of “world’s best athlete” – a moniker often bestowed upon the winner of the decathlon because of its grueling schedule of 10 events in two days.
Saalfeld bested two Russian competitors with a total of 6,898 points, 517 better than his total in the 2009 Taipei Deaflympics.
“All of our athletes achieved a personal best in their events,” assistant coach Larry Smith said. “Regardless of whether they medaled or not, they set personal records.”
In the 110m hurdles, teammate Joshua Hembrough endured two false starts before successfully defending his gold medal with a new Deaflympics record of 14.06 seconds.
His time was just two hundredths of a second shy of his world record.
Hembrough later said the false starts dampened his ability to explode out of the blocks.
“I feel I could have hit below 14 if not for the false starts,” Hembrough said.
Michael Haynes came in fifth in the 110m hurdles with a time of 15.47.
In the men’s 200m race, DeWayne Esper and Delvin Furlough captured two of the three podium spots. Esper clocked a 21.77 for the silver, and Furlough tied with David Wamira of Kenya for bronze.
The fifth medal of the Americans’ haul came when Janna Vander Meulen ran to silver in the 100m hurdles.
A day after Vander Meulen won bronze in the 400m hurdles, she did a color better by clocking a 14.209 in the 100m hurdles. She narrowly missed gold by six hundredths of a second.
Shanieka Coleman and Saria Webb placed sixth and seventh in the women’s 200m race.
The last day of track and field Saturday features relay races, in which the U.S. has a shot at winning four more medals.