Diving Miller dashes Felix's dream

Diving Miller dashes Felix's dream

Kenya's Rudisha claims second successive 800M gold; Brazilian da Silva vaults to glory

Diving Miller dashes Felix's dream

A desperate dive and a controlled charge highlighted the fourth night of the Olympic Games athletics programme that was topped off by a vault of joy for the host nation.

The dive of delight belonged to Bahamas’ Shaunae Miller in the women’s 400M as she denied a cherished gold to American Allyson Felix. David Rudisha made the triumphant assault in calculated fashion in the men’s 800M to retain his title while Brazil’s Thiago Braz da Silva applied the finishing touches to a rainy night with a stunning win in men’s pole vault.

In a thrilling finale, Miller, a former world junior and youth champion, was struggling to protect her lead with metres to go against a fast-finishing Felix when she stumbled and dived across the finish in sheer desperation.

Felix seemed to have sealed it but the dive clinched it for Miller with the photo verdict giving her a personal best time of 49.44 against the American’s 49.51.

“My mind just went blank and the next thing you know, I was on the ground,” said Miller, of her instinctive effort that deprived the American of another global title. “I then heard my mom scream ‘yeah, yeah, yeah’ and that is when I realised I had won the race.”

Miller, in lane seven, had gone out fast, dominating the backstraight even as Felix progressed in her serene, unhurried style. The Bahamas girl was a couple of metres in front coming into the final straight but she was tiring and Felix made good ground to scare the daylights out of Miller. Fear and desire then combined to give Miller the winning push.

Close to tears, Felix said she didn’t do enough to win. “I could have been a bit more aggressive,” said the American, the 200M gold medallist in London, who was aiming for her fifth Olympic gold, including relays.

“It has been a tough year and I really wanted it. I am a competitor and I went for it, so in this moment, it is painful,” added Felix, whose attempt at a 200-400 double was thwarted by an injury earlier in the year.

Rudisha too had enjoyed a great time in London, when he set a world record of 1:40.91. On this day, he became the first man since Peter Snell in 1964 to defend the 800M gold, after his compatriot Alfred Kipketer had done all the early running.

Rudisha, a front-runner, attempted to do just that but Kipketer, a former world junior champion, took off in a flash, covering the ground rapidly and crossing the 400 metres in 49.3 seconds. That pace seemed too hot to last and so it proved as the defending champion hit his stride in the final lap. Followed by Frenchman Pierre-Ambroise Bosse and Taufik Makhloufi of Algeria, Rudisha lengthened his strides and cantered to the finish in 1:42.15.

Makhloufi took the silver in a career best 1:42.61 while American Clayton Murphy overtook Bosse in the final stages for the bronze.

Another champion from London, Renaud Lavillenie, was the favourite to win the pole vault when it resumed after a rain-induced break. But Brazilian Da Silva, cheered on by a partisan home crowd that booed Lavillenie, soared higher and higher, finally clearing 6.03 for an unexpected gold.

Lavillenie’s contest ended at 5.98 and he was outspoken against the crowd. “It was not fair play. In 1936, the crowd was against Jesse Owens. We have not seen this since. It is not good for the image of Olympics.  “You see it in football. This is the first time I have se­en it in track and field,” said the Fre­nchman.

“It was my dream night but now I have to wait for four more years,” rued Lavillenie who gave a thumbs down to the crowd during the competition. “I was showing them we are not in a football stadium. Track and field has no place for that.”

Later, Lavillenie apologised for his remarks but he was clear what his stance was. “I am not doing pole vault to make friends. I am doing it to give my best.” World champion Shawn Barber could only clear 5.50, leaving the stage when the party was just beginning for Brazil.

Results: Men: 800M: David Rudisha (Kenya) 1:42.15, 1; Taoufik Makhloufi (Algeria) 1:42.61, 2; Clayton Murphy (United States) 1:42.93, 3.

Pole vault: Thiago Braz da Silva (Brazil) 6.03 metres, 1; Renaud Lavillenie (France) 5.98, 2; Sam Kendricks (United States) 5.85, 3.

Women: 400M: Shaunae Miller (Bahamas) 49.44 seconds, 1; Allyson Felix (United States) 49.51, 2 Shericka Jackson (Jamaica) 49.85, 3.

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