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Florence Griffith Joyner won her third gold medal Saturday when Evelyn Ashford chased down the Soviet bloc, then settled for silver 40 minutes later when she couldn't do the same thing at the Seoul Olympics.

America's boxers, meanwhile, pursued the Montreal mystique with two gold medals, the U.S. men's 1,600-meter relay team tied a 20-year-old world record, and all that Mary Decker Slaney could chase was the pack."I'm proud of us! We said a prayer for our relay team, and we got it," Ashford said after blazing past a Soviet then an East German in the final 100 meters for victory in the women's 400 relay.

Ashford, the world's second-fastest woman, took the baton for the anchor leg from the world's fastest woman, Griffith Joyner. In the pass, both the East Germans and Soviets got in front of the Americans.

But, with less than 50 meters left, Ashford turned on the speed, stealing the race from the Eastern bloc and the spotlight, for just a moment, from Flo Jo.

The winning time was 41.98 seconds. East Germany was second in 42.09, with the Soviets third in 42.75.

When Flo Jo got the spotlight back in the 1,600-meter relay 40 minutes later, it wasn't quite the way she wanted.

Running the final 400 meters of this race, she got the baton from Valerie Brisco and was two or three strides behind the Soviet runner. And that's about where she finished as her quest for four gold medals ended.

The Soviets won in a world record 3:15.18, and the United States was second in 3:15.51. East Germany got the bronze in 3:18.29. East Germany set the old world mark of 3:15.92 in 1984.

Griffith Joyner also won gold medals in the 100 and 200. The only woman to win four gold medals in track and field at a single games was Fannie Blankers-Koen of the Netherlands in 1948.

In the 15th day of the Games, the medal standings looked like this: Soviet Union 120 total, 49 gold; East Germany 99 total, 37 gold, and the United States 81 total, 32 gold.

Greg Barton, meanwhile, gave America its first kayak gold medals ever in the Games, winning the singles and doubles at 1,000 meters, and Steffi Graf topped off a Grand Slam season with the gold medal in women's singles tennis.

Ray Mercer stopped Baik Hyun-han of South Korea in the first round, and Kennedy McKinney and Michael Carbajal split a pair of fights with the battling Bulgarians named Hristov.

That gave U.S. boxers two golds, one silver and two bronze with three more fighters going for gold on Sunday.

Mercer, a U.S. Army infantryman from Jacksonville, Fla., set up his Korean opponent with a right hand and dropped him in a heap with a left to the head, winning the 201-pound gold. The referee stopped the fight with 44 seconds left in the first round.

McKinney, of Killeen, Texas, knocked down Alexandar Hristov with only 12 seconds gone in the fight and scored a unanimous decision in the 119-pound division.

Despite taking the role of aggressor and landing the harder punches, Carbajal lost a 5-0 decision to the quick-jabbing Ivailo Hristov, who is not related to Alexandar, in the 106-pound title match. Carbajal, of Phoenix, earned the silver.

"I'm the Olympic silver medalist, and that's not bad at all," Carbajal said. "I thought I won the gold medal, and I'll always feel that way."

The boxing team already had two bronzes from the semifinals and, with six boxers in the finals - twice as many as any other country - the United States had a chance to equal or surpass the feats of those Montreal fighters, who won five gold, one silver and one bronze.

Slaney, 30, has never been an Olympic winner and will stay that way for at least four more years. She finished 10th in the 3,000 meters, then came in a badly beaten eighth in the 1,500 on Saturday. At least she didn't fall down, like she did in 1984.

"I've been more successful than in past Olympics," Slaney said, "actually finishing a race."

Paula Ivan of Romania won the 1,500 in an Olympic record 3:53.96. Tatyana Samolenko of the Soviet Union won the silver, and teammate Lailoute Baikauskaite got the bronze. The old Olympic mark was 3:56.56 by Tatyana Kazankina of the Soviet Union in 1980.

Peter Rono of Kenya won the gold medal in the men's 1,500 meters in 3:35.96. American Steve Scott was fifth.

"When it ain't there, it ain't there," Scott said.

In kayak, Barton, of Homer, Mich., won the singles by one hundredth of a second over Grant Davies of Australia in a photo finish. He and Norman Bellingham of Rockville, Md., combined in the doubles to beat a New Zealand pair by more than a second.

Graf, of West Germany, beat Gabriela Sabatini 6-3, 6-3 in a rematch of the U.S. Open final. Sabatini got the silver, and semifinal losers Zina Garrison of the United States and Manuela Maleeva of Bulgaria took the bronze.

"I think it's something not many people after me will achieve, winning the Grand Slam first and the gold medal afterward," Graf said. "That's amazing."

The victory was Graf's 40th in a row and her 14th in 16 matches against Sabatini, the only woman to beat her this year.

Other athletes, meanwhile, were learning that anything can happen at these goofy Games. Carl Lewis found out, and Linford Christie almost did.

Lewis lost his last chance for a gold medal here when his 400-meter relay team was disqualified, and he wasn't even there. He won the 100 gold when Ben Johnson was disqualified for using steroids.

The Soviets won the 400 relay on Saturday.

Christie, the British sprinter who got the silver in the 100, said he only took ginseng, an exotic root. But Olympic officials say they found traces of an over-the-counter cold remedy in his drug test after he finished fourth in the 200 - four days after the 100. At first, the International Olympic Committee considered stripping him, but British track officials say he'll get to keep the medal.

Lewis' Olympics have sputtered and whirred, stopped and started so many times, it's getting hard to remember it all.

First, he finishes second to Johnson's world record in the 100. His quest for another four-gold grand slam is gone. Then, Johnson is stripped and Lewis is back in business. He wins the long jump easily, and he's halfway there.

Then, Lewis gets beat by teammate Joe DeLoach in the 200, and it's over again. He'll have to settle for three golds.

Then, his heavily favored 400 relay team gets disqualified during first-round heats for an illegal baton pass between Calvin Smith and Lee McNeill, running the anchor leg to spell Lewis - over Lewis' objections.

"My hand was shaking so bad, I gave him a shaky target," McNeill explains.

Lewis' Olympics are over - two gold, one silver.

The scientific name for the substance found in Christie's drug test is pseudoephedrine. British Olympic Association spokeswoman Caroline Searle described it as "a low-dose stimulant found in cold and hay fever preparations ... available over the counter."

But Christie insists he only took the aromatic plant called ginseng, thought by Koreans to contain special healing powers.

Christie passed a drug test after last weekend's 100, but another test was taken after the 200, in which he finished fourth.

Searle said the IOC has decided to give Christie the benefit of the doubt, and they're going to test the ginseng.

OLYM1 SCOTTY;10/01,08:35

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