Golden day for Sanchez, Suhr

Golden day for Sanchez, Suhr

Belarus Ostapchuk ends Kiwi Adams reign as Olympic shot put champion

Golden day for Sanchez, Suhr

When grown men cry it doesn’t make for a pretty picture. But Felix Sanchez didn’t mind it one bit. On the victory stand, he just let his emotions flow. So powerful were the feelings that fuelled his race to the gold medal in the 400M hurdles.

On the fourth night of the Olympic Games athletics programme, Sanchez reclaimed the prime position in this event that he once ruled with an iron fist. He was the champion eight years ago in Athens but could not even enter the final in Beijing 2008. Therein lies the story of his emotional outpouring on Monday.

The hurdler from Dominican Republic was brought up by his grandmother Lilian Morcelo, who died on the day of his first-round race in Beijing. A devastated Sanchez crashed out but vowed that day to win another Olympic medal for his grandmother.

“It was a very emotional time for me. I cried all day and I ran terribly. I made a promise that I would win a medal for her before I retired. I brought a picture of her and had it behind my bib number,” said the 34-year-old, who became the oldest winner of this event.

In a race that featured two-time champion Angelo Taylor of the United States and season’s leader Javier Culson of Puerto Rico, it was Sanchez who stood out with a tactically sound and physically strong performance. Timing his charge to perfection, he collared his rivals with a superb run past the final bend and to the finish, clocking the same time – 47.63 seconds – that he did while winning the gold in Athens.

Kneeling down on the track, he then pulled out the photograph and kissed it but the packed stadium felt the full force of his feelings only on the podium a few minutes later.

“When I got on the podium, it was raining and it was as if my grandmother was shedding tears of happiness, crying for all the sacrifices I have made,” said Sanchez. “Tonight, when I came off the tenth hurdle, I was feeling tired and I thought someone would pass me but then, with ten metres to go, I knew no one would and then it got kind of surreal...”

Sanchez wasn’t the only athlete from the Caribbean to shine on a cool night, with Grenada’s Kirani James underlining his talent in the men’s 400M in terrific fashion. While the Dominican is in the last part of his glittering career, James is just taking off and a glimpse of his potential was evident when he won the gold medal at the Daegu World Championships last year.

On Monday, the 19-year-old became the first non-American to duck under 44 seconds, clocking 43.94 seconds in a final in which no American was present for the first time in history, barring the boycotted Games of 1980.

Defending champion LaSh-awn Merritt had crashed out in the first round, hit by an injury, and James really didn’t have challengers on the night as he won by a mile from  Luguelin Santos of Dominican Republic (44.46) and  Lalonde Gordon of Trinidad & Tobago  (44.52).
James, the youngest Olympic champion in this event, also became the first gold medal winner for Grenada in Olympic history. “I didn’t think about it at the race, it is a feeling I cannot describe,” he said.

Adams dethroned

Valeria Adams reign as Olympic women’s shot put champion ended earlier in the evening, with Nadzeya Ostapchuk scoring over her long-time rival.

Belarussian Ostapchuk hurled the iron ball to 21.36 metres in the third round, and Adams couldn’t match that. The New Zealander, whose entry was confirmed after a last minute scramble thanks to some bungling by her country’s officials, had a best of 20.70 for the silver.

Results: Men: 400M: Kirani James (Grenada) 43.94 seconds, 1; Luguelin Santos (Dominican Republic) 44.46, 2; Lalonde Gordon (Trinidad & Tobago) 44.52, 3.
400M hurdles: Felix Sanchez (Dominican Republic) 47.63 seconds, 1; Michael Tinsley (USA) 47.91, 2; Javier Culson (Puerto Rico) 48.10, 3.

Women: 3000M steeplechase: Yuliya Zaripova (Russia) 9:06.72, 1; Habiba Ghribi (Tunisia) 9:08.37, 2; Sofia Assefa (Ethiopia) 9:09.84, 3.

Shot put: Nadzeya Ostapchuk (Belarus) 21.36 metres, 1; Valerie Adams (New Zealand) 20.70, 2; Evgeniia Kolodko (Russia) 20.48, 3.

Pole vault: Jennifer Suhr (United States) 4.75M, 1; Yarisley Silva (Cuba) 4.75,  2; Yelena Isinbayeva (Russia) 4.70, 3.

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