It was Felix Sanchez who moved the hearts of the capacity crowd at the Olympic stadium on Monday, as it cheered him as one man, when he wept inconsolably on the podium.
“Tonight I came off the tenth hurdle and I was very tired. I was waiting for someone to pass me but then, with 10 metres to go, I knew no one would and then it got kind of surreal and that is when it got emotional,” said Sanchez, who knelt after the finish, pulled out his grandmother’s photo and put it on the ground before bending to kiss it.
“In Beijing I was not able to defend my title. I had a few injuries and I got the news the morning of the first round that my grandmother had passed away and that really affected me. It was very emotional. I cried all day and I ran terribly,” recalled Sanchez.
“You train so hard and everything has to go right for you to pull it off. When I got on the podium it was as if my grandmother was crying tears of happiness. Crying for all the sacrifices I have made,” said Sanchez as he explained his emotions.
Michel Tinsley of the US who got the silver behind Sanchez in the 400m hurdles said that he knew about the lurking threat. “Felix, with his experience and gold medals, just that experience alone is enough in itself. I grew up watching Felix when I was in high school and ever since I got my first pair of spikes, I wanted to be on this stage,” said Tinsley.
There was immediate inspiration for Luguelin Santos on hearing the national anthem of Dominican Republic during the medal ceremony. “For me it was a great honour and motivation for my race to listen to the national anthem. In 2004, I was at home watching Felix Sanchez race. I asked myself how difficult it would be to be there. So Felix Sanchez has always supported me and he is a great inspiration for me. It is very important to win the silver medal. I always dreamed of being at Olympic Games,” said Santos, who won the 400m metres silver.
Teenager Kirani James, the new hero of Grenada, though he had shown his class in becoming the World champion last year, was humble.
“I want to thank God for giving me the ability to come here and compete, and to make my country proud. I want to thank my coach and my whole family. It shows that I am on the right track, and being the right people has helped,” he said.
More than his gold, James was talking about his family and people whom he felt would be having a street party.
James had exchanged his bib with Oscar Pistorius, the ‘Blade Runner’, after the semifinal on Sunday. “It was a spur of the moment thing. Oscar is an inspiration or everyone, regardless of their ability. It was a huge honour to compete against him. He is a great athlete,” said James.
He may be inching closer to Michael Johnson’s Olympic record of 43.49 and the world record of 43.18, but James said that he had great respect for the American hero.