London 2012 Olympics: Pearson lifts Australia with brave gold in 100m hurdles
NO-ONE, with the possible exception of Jessica Ennis, has been under more pressure at these Games than Sally Pearson.
Like her fellow-Australian Cathy Freeman a dozen years ago, the 100m hurdler carried the hopes of a nation – the significant difference this time being how poorly that nation has fared here compared to Sydney in 2000.
Modest would be the best way to describe Australia’s results so far. But matters improved somewhat when Anna Meares beat Victoria Pendleton in the velodrome yesterday afternoon – and then they got a whole lot better at night on the track when Pearson performed superbly to justify her status as favourite.
It was a desperately close conclusion, all the same, to a race which Pearson seemed to have under control. Clear by a metre or more coming off the last flight, she was shocked to see Dawn Harper of the United States coming up on the inside.
Both women were almost neck and neck as they dipped for the line, and Pearson, the firm favourite, had to put up with some seconds of high anxiety before having her victory confirmed in a new Olympic record time of 12.35 seconds. Harper was second in 12.37, with her fellow-American Kellie Wells third in 12.48. The pouring rain and relatively cold conditions are far from what Pearson is used to when training at home on the Gold Coast, but she took the wise step of flying into the UK some five or six weeks ago and has thus had more than enough time to grow used to the dismal weather that has prevailed this summer.
If that event was the most thrilling of the evening in the Olympic Stadium, the men’s 1,500m final had to be the most perplexing. The runaway winner was Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria – a man who only a day earlier had produced a doctor’s note to say he was injured.
The reason for that was his disqualification from the 1,500 after he was thrown out of the Games for not trying hard enough in the 800. It seems he had only been entered for the shorter event by mistake and had not wanted to take part, having been confident he had a much better chance over 1,500. Without that doctor’s note, he would have been out. Up against a high-quality field, Makhloufi ran away with the race in the last lap, establishing a lead which no-one was able to eat into significantly in the home straight. He won in 3:34.08, ahead of Leonel Manzano of the USA (3:34.79) and Abdalaati Iguider of Morocco, who timed 3:35.13.
Britain’s Robbie Grabarz was disappointed to win only a bronze medal in the men’s high-jump final, having qualified for the final with the best jump. Grabarz shared the bronze with Mutaz Barshim of Qatar and Derek Drouin of Canada, all three having cleared 2.29, and his achievement had a wider significance for his team, as it took their medal total to 48 – one more than won in Beijing.
Gold went to Ivan Ukhov of Russia, the man who became a massive hit on YouTube at a meeting in Switzerland not long after the last Olympic Games when he competed while drunk. Ukhov was sober last night, but as ever cut an ungainly figure, looking far too solid to get any distance off the ground. That appearance was deceptive, however, as he cleared 2.38 to beat off the challenge of Erik Kynard of the USA, who claimed silver with a leap of 2.33.
The men’s discus final was won by Robert Harting of Germany with a best throw of 68.27, ahead of Ehsan Hadadi of Iran and Gerd Kanter of Estonia, both of whom also cleared 68m. Lawrence Okoye of Britain was 12th, with 61.03.
In the women’s long jump, Great Britain’s Shara Proctor qualified for tonight’s final with her first jump of 6.83m.
David Rudisha of Kenya was in imperious form in the semi-finals of the men’s 800m, cruising through in 1:44.35. Britain’s Andrew Osagie clocked a personal best of 1:44.74 to finish second behind Rudisha in the second semi and make it into tonight’s final. “I’m so happy, so happy,” Osagie said. “I thought ‘My legs are so tired today’. Luckily my legs were there. I can’t believe I qualified automatically. I’ve always wanted to make an Olympic final and to do it in London 25 minutes from my house is a dream come true. It’s literally like someone switches the volume up with 100m to go, it’s like they’re saying to me ‘Come on, why are you not winning?’ So I put a little burst in and it pulled me through.”
Rudisha has been dubbed ‘The Best Athlete You’ve Never Heard Of’, but his relatively anonymity looks set to vanish for good tomorrow. If he runs anywhere close to his best, he will win the final and may even challenge the world record. Mohammed Aman of Ethiopia won the third semi in a slightly faster time, and is the last athlete to have defeated Rudisha. But once the Kenyan throws everything into the final he should have five or six metres to spare.
The 400m champion Sanya Richards-Ross was fastest qualifier for tonight’s final of the women’s 200m, with a time of 22.30. Allyson Felix and Carmelita Jeter also made it through for the US, as did Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the 100m gold medallist, and Veronica Campbell-Brown. Britons Abi Oyepitan and Margaret Adeoye failed to qualify.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 18 June 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 21 C
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Wind direction: South
Temperature: 10 C to 19 C
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