London 2012 Olympics: Gold at last for Felix

Allyson Felix leads US gold rush with victory in the 200m while Aries Merritt and Brittney Reese also prevail

Allyson Felix (Mark Shearman)

Britain enjoyed what has been dubbed ‘Super Saturday’ after gold medals from Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford last weekend. But tonight could easily be nicknamed ‘Wonderful Wednesday’ for the Americans.

After back-to-back silver medals at the past two Olympics, Allyson Felix dominated tonight’s 200m final and the three-time world 200m champion set the tone for the sixth evening of athletics.

The world-leader at 21.69 ran a superb bend and maintained her form well in the straight to pull further clear of Olympic 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce from Jamaica.

Felix clocked 21.88 while Fraser-Pryce was rewarded with her first major 200m medal in a PB of 22.09 with Carmelita Jeter taking bronze in 22.14.

Veronica Campbell-Brown was looking to become the first female athlete to win three successive Olympic titles in the same event but her 200m form hasn’t been a hot commodity this year and she finished fourth in 22.38.

Reese takes long jump crown

Since finishing fifth in 2008, Brittney Reese hasn’t lost at a major championships and the 25-year-old staked her claim for the Olympic gold medal with a second-round effort of 7.12m. This was the longest jump at the Olympics since 1996 and nobody else had jumped further this year.

Prior to London, Yelena Sokolova was a regular underperformer at major championships but the Russian champion responded to Reese’s effort with a PB of 7.07m.

The gold and silver medal positions didn’t change after the second round although Janay DeLoach moved into bronze with a fifth-round jump of 6.89m.

UK record-holder Shara Proctor was expected to challenge for a medal but she wasn’t on form tonight, finishing ninth with 6.55m. If she reproduced her 6.83m performance from qualifying, she would have finished fifth.

Merritt wins sprint hurdles

World indoor champion Aries Merritt has barely lost this year and the 27-year-old would have been a tough customer in the final even if Liu Xiang and Dayron Robles were at full fitness.

Merritt produced a polished performance with gold in 12.92 which was a well deserved PB. He has produced three successive 12.93 performances in the build-up to the Games as well as 12.94 in the semi-final.

Merritt’s time was just one-hundredth short of Liu Xiang’s Olympic record and the US took a one-two as world champion Jason Richardson took silver in 13.04.

Hansle Parchment produced a Jamaican record of 13.14 in the semi-final and he lowered it to 13.12 for the bronze medal – one of the more surprising medals for the Jamaican team.

Lawrence Clarke clocked a 13.31 PB in the semi-final and he performed commendably in his first appearance in a major final with fourth in 13.39.

Antyukh spoils US golden sweep

Natalya Antyukh was the sole non-American winner of the evening as the Russian champion won gold in the 400m hurdles, proving her switch from the 400m flat in 2009 was a profitable move.

The European champion from 2010, who is tall enough to skip over the barriers, didn’t take the final flight particularly well and she was being closed down by a fast-finishing Lashinda Demus but Antyukh just held on for the title.

Her winning time of 52.70 was a PB and the second-fastest time in Olympic history, while Demus lowered her season’s best to 52.77 for the silver medal. Zuzana Hejnová from Czech Republic came through for bronze in 53.38.

Casual qualifying for Bolt and Blake

Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake didn’t need to expend too much energy in qualifying for the 200m final. There were doubts to Bolt’s fitness before the Games but the world record-holder clearly has his mojo back as he sauntered to a 20.18 victory in the second semi-final.

Blake also made light work of his semi-final. He turned off the accelerator midway down the home-straight to qualify fastest in 20.01 but who can bet against Bolt in the final?

Competing in his fourth Games, a record for a British male sprinter, Christian Malcolm was third in his semi-final in 20.51 and just missed out on a fastest loser spot.

Dobriskey and Weightman progress

Great Britain has fielded a finalist in every Olympic 1500m final since 1996 and Lisa Dobriskey and Laura Weightman maintained this tradition. Dobriskey usually likes to sit towards the back of the pack but knowing her semi-final was devoid of a committed front-runner, the Beijing finalist ran a more positive race and was with the leaders at the bell.

Dobriskey covered the final lap in around 60 seconds to cross the line in fourth in 4:05.35 along with European champion Asli Çakir-Alptekin from Turkey and Russian champion Ekaterina Kostetskaya. Hannah England missed a large block of training after she was badly spiked in an early-season race in Hengelo and the world silver medallist lacked her usual pace on the last lap. She finished ninth in 4:06.35.

Laura Weightman was in the faster semi-final and she had a battle-royal with Lucia Klocová in the home straight for the seventh qualifying spot. The UK champion prevailed by the thickness of her vest in a PB of 4:02.99. In fact, Klocová was given the same time and was also eventually allowed to advance to the final.

Evening round-up

Ashton Eaton has a 220-point lead over Trey Hardee after the first day of the decathlon. While he might not be on his world record pace, Eaton is comfortably ahead of schedule for an Olympic record which stands to Roman Šebrle at 8893. Sadly, Šebrle was forced to drop out after the 100m with a heel injury.

A Czech fared better in the javelin though as Vítěslav Veselý led qualifying with a PB of 88.34m. Two-time champion Andreas Thorkildsen has been injured this year but he threw as well as he’s done all season with 84.47m.

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