Pittman gold beats hurdles

? MELBOURNE ? Australian Jana Pittman successfully defended her Commonwealth 400m hurdles title last night, winning in a Games record time of 53.82 seconds.

Pittman dominated the final from start to finish. It was the 23-year-old's first major international title since winning gold at the 2003 world championships in Paris.

Her Athens Olympic campaign was compromised by a knee injury, while a back stress fracture forced her to skip last year's world championships in Helsinki.

Natasha Danvers Smith of England was second in 55.17 and Lee McConnell of Scotland was third in 55.25.

Australian Sonia Brito was last in 57.23. Pittman's life had again become a soap opera in the lead-up to the race after a slight hamstring strain forced her out of a warm-up meet in Melbourne and then out of her leg of the Queen's Baton Relay.

But she proved her fitness with victory in the heats on Wednesday and confirmed it again last night. Pittman joins Australian great Debbie Flintoff-King and England's Sally Gunnell as two-time winners of the Commonwealth title.

She raised her arms in triumph as she crossed the line and then embarked on a long lap of honour, soaking up the rapturous applause from a capacity crowd at the MCG. Pittman was unable to hold back tears as she flourished an Australian flag and stopped to sign autographs.

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