Felix Sanchez recaptured the Olympic gold in the men’s 400m hurdles and was caught in a flood of emotions as he wept uncontrollably at the medal ceremony, while 19-year-old Kirani James, the World champion, put Grenada on the podium for the first time ever in athletics at the Olympics with the gold in the 400m, on an evening when two-time Olympic champion Yelena Isinbayeva had to settle for the bronze at the Olympic Stadium on Monday.
Quite dramatically, the 34-year-old Sanchez clocked 47.63 seconds, exactly the same time that he had returned for his gold medal in Athens in 2004. Sanchez had failed to qualify from the heats in Beijing as he was devastated hearing about the death of his grandmother Lillian prior to his competition.
He dedicated the medal to his grandmother on Monday.
Sanchez is the oldest medallist in the event, as he broke the 104-year-old record of Leonard Tremeer of Britain, while sailing past Michael Tinsley of the US who ran a personal best 47.91 for the silver and Javier Culson (48.10) of Puerto Rico who was the favourite for gold.
The cheering crowd could not lift David Greene of Britain beyond fourth place at 48.24, after he had stumbled at the start and had kicked the second hurdle.
Defending champion Angelo Taylor of the US, who had won the event in 2000 as well, was not at his best in the home straight as he slipped to fifth in 48.25.
A promise kept
“I made a promise that I would win a meal for her before I retired,” said Sanchez who kept the photo of his grandmother pinned to his vest and kissed it after winning the race.
“I didn’t make any mistakes and that is perhaps why I won the race,” said the Dominican Republic athlete, who won his first major medal in five years after the silver in the World championship in 2007.
James was streets ahead of the pack, as he won the 400m by about four metres, with a national record of 43.94 seconds, as he became the 10th man in history and the first non-US runner, to break the 44-second barrier.
“I didn’t think about it at the race. It is a feeling that I can’t describe. It is ecstatic,” said James on winning Grenada’s first athletics gold in the Olympics, and becoming the youngest champion.
In fact, it was the first medal for the country as Grenada became the 143rd nation to win at least one medal at the Games, and the third to win its first medal in the London Games after Guatemala and Cyprus.
With 109,000 people, Greanada is the smallest country by population to ever win a gold medal in the Olympics. US had dominated the event winning gold in the last seven Olympics, but did not have a runner in the final this time. The favourite, LaShawn Merritt, had pulled out before the heats with an injury. Another 19-year-old, Lugeulin Santos of Dominican Republic took silver with a time of 44.46 seconds, while Lalonde Gordon of Trinidad and Tobago bagged bronze in a personal best of 44.52.
Beijing silver medallist Jennifer Suhr of the US took the golden spot vacated by Yelena Isinyabeva of Russia, with a jump of 4.75m.
“This is definitely a dream come true. There is only one place up from silver but a lot of places down.
“I knew that I had to come here and execute. This medal is a blessing,” said Jennifer who became the first non-Russian to win multiple Olympic medals in the event.
Yarisley Silva of Cuba also cleared 4.75m, but had to be content with the silver on having failed with her first height of 4.45m. She became the first Cuban to win a pole vault medal in the Games.
Isinbayeva had to be happy with the bronze, as she failed in her bid to become the first female athlete to win three Olympic gold medals in an individual event in three successive Games.
With a stiff breeze posing a big hurdle and her fitness not at its best, Isinbayeva could not sail beyond 4.70m.
Yuliya Zaripova of Russia was another reigning World champion to collect the Olympic gold, as she won the women’s 3000m steeplechase in nine minutes 6.72 seconds.
It was the fourth fastest time and a personal best for the Russian.
Babiba Ghribi (9:08.37) of Tunisia set a national record for the silver while Ethiopia’s Sofia Assefa won the bronze in 9:09.84. Defending champion Galkina Gulnara of Russia did not finish as she pulled out near the two kilometre mark.
In women’s shot put, former World champion Nadezhda Ostapchuk of Belarus beat the defending champion Valerie Adams of New Zealand with a throw of 21.36m. It was her third throw, and she had an outstanding series of four throws over 21m.
The Belarussian had finished runner-up to Adams in the World championships in 2007 and 2011, apart from being placed third in the Beijing Games.
“Last year I rested and this year I trained very hard. In the end, I saw the results we expected of 21m plus,” said Ostapchuk.
Adams took the silver at 20.70m while Yevgenia Kolodko of Russia beat China’s Gong Lijiao in the fifth round to clinch the bronze at 20.22m, 26 centimetres ahead of the Chinese.