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Dragila earns diamond with stadium vault mark

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STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Stacy Dragila left Sweden with a diamond. She hopes to claim gold in Canada next month.

Three weeks before the World Championships in Edmonton, the American earned a diamond valued at $10,000 for setting an Olympic Stadium record in the women's pole vault. Dragila also had a powerful near-miss at her own world record in Tuesday's DN Galan meet in the Swedish capital.

Competing in cold weather and a drizzle, the Olympic champion improved the stadium record to 15 feet, 5 3-4 inches on her third and last attempt. The performance matched the second-highest jumps ever, twice achieved by Dragila.

"It wasn't perfect," she said of one of the worst conditions in the meet's history. "But the others pushed me and the crowd was great. I'm happy with my result."

Dragila's first try at 15-9 3-4, one-half inch beyond the world mark she set earlier this summer, was the best; she just missed clearing the height.

"I had the height with my first attempt, but I just didn't have the positioning over the bar," Dragila said. "I knew it would be a tough day and that it would go down to the wire to win the diamond.

"It was a long and very competitive competition, and the break early on for the opening ceremony didn't help," added Dragila, refering to a ceremony that featured musician B.B. King.

Svetlana Feofanova of Russia, ranked second in the world behind Dragila, was runner-up at 15-1 3-4. Third went to Monika Pyrek of Poland. Kellie Suttle, another American, was fourth.

Michael Johnson, competing for the last time in Sweden, anchored his Nike team to victory in the "Swedish relay" in which each team's sprinters ran, in order, the 100, 200, 300 and 400 meters.

Relays began in the United States. The first known relay was a two-mile event at the University of California-Berkeley in 1883. The "Swedish relay" started in 1910, two years before the Summer Olympics in Stockholm.

Johnson, history's greatest 200- and 400-meter runner, helped his team improve by more than a second on a 51-year old record set by another American team.

Marcus Brunson, Derrick Brew, Jerome Davis and Johnson finished the "Swedish relay" in 1 minute, 49.09 seconds.

Sprinting down the final stretch, Johnson received a standing ovation from the near-sellout crowd of 15,521 at one of track's most famous venues, built for the 1912 Summer Games.

"This was great," said Johnson, who never ran the "Swedish relay" before. "We had a great time."

Talking about his retirement, Johnson told the crowd, "I'll miss the competition, the excitement. The only thing I won't miss is training."

Johnson, fourth in the 100 in his first Olympic Stadium race in 1990, decided to retire after the Sydney Olympics.

"I had been thinking about it for a while," he said. "I felt I had accomplished everything that I really wanted and all the realistic goals had been met."

The 33-year-old Texan won five Olympic golds and nine World Championship golds in the 200, 400 and relays. He holds the world marks at 200 meters in 19.32 seconds, and 400 meters in 43.18. Many believe they are two of the best records in track.

Ato Boldon of Trinidad, who ran the second-fastest time (9.88) of the year when he finished behind American Tim Montgomery at the Bislett Games in Norway four days ago, won the 100 in 10.09.