Christine Ohuruogu wins Britain’s fourth medal of the athletics programme with silver in the 400m
Usain Bolt may have been the star of the show on the third day of athletics at the London 2012 Olympics, but there was plenty for the host nation to cheer for too as Christine Ohuruogu came within inches of defending her Olympic 400m title.
But she couldn’t quite catch the 2009 world champion Sanya Richards-Ross, who has been the dominant one-lap performer over the past decade.
Sixth in Athens and third in Beijing, Richards-Ross ran a more measured race than she did in 2008 when she bolted from the blocks and faded in the home straight. The US record-holder started fast but, having learnt from her experience from the 2008 final, she left something in reserve for the closing stages and came through to claim the gold medal in 49.55.
Ohuruogu wasn’t in a medal position at the top of the home straight but then she unleashed her trademark finish. She passed, among others, world champion Amantle Montsho from Botswana and world-leader Antonina Krivoshapka from Russia and, for a moment, it looked as though the reigning champion would repeat what she did in Beijing.
She was undoubtedly moving the fastest in the final 50m but she just ran out of room although she still came away with a glorious silver medal in a season’s best of 49.70. Such a performance wouldn’t have seemed remotely feasible twelve months ago when she trailed home eighth at Crystal Palace and was disqualified from her heat at the World Championships for a false-start.
To exemplify the reliability of Ohuruogu’s championship credentials, her five fastest times have all been achieved in major championships and her time for the silver medal was her third fastest ever.
DeeDee Trotter from USA won the bronze medal in 49.72 while Montsho took fourth and was under 50-seconds at 49.75.
Kazakhstan are enjoying a superb Olympics and Olga Rypakova won her country’s sixth gold medal of the Games and just their second ever in athletics.
It wasn’t a vintage competition and the distances weren’t helped by a stiff headwind. Her winning distance of 14.98m was the shortest gold medal-winning mark in Olympic history but this sufficed for victory over Colombia’s Caterine Ibarguen by 18cm with Olha Saladuha taking bronze with 14.79m.
Competing in her fifth Olympics, world indoor champion Yamilé Aldama came into the final as a medal contender but the veteran was disappointed with her performance. However, she was a very creditable fifth in 14.48m.
Krisztián Pars finally delivered the goods in a major championships final as he won gold for Hungary with the only 80m throw of the competition. His third-round throw of 80.59m was enough for victory ahead of reigning champion Primoz Kozmus from Slovenia and 2004 champion Koji Murofushi from Japan who set season’s bests of 79.36m and 78.71m respectively.
Alex Smith became the first British man to reach an Olympic final since 1984 and he finished twelfth with 72.87m.
World champion Ezekiel Kemboi was only second at the Kenyan Trials but he prevailed in a slow-run Olympic final in 8:18.56. The 30-year-old unleashed a devastating sprint finish to regain the crown he first won in Athens although his task was perhaps made easier when reigning champion and arguable pre-race favourite Brimin Kipruto fell during the final kilometre.
Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad won his second successive Olympic silver medal while Kenyan champion Abel Kirui won the bronze.
Perri Shakes-Drayton defeated a world-class field at Crystal Palace last month and the Londoner finished ahead of reigning Olympic champion Melaine Walker in the heats of the 400m hurdles. Shakes-Drayton qualified as the sixth fastest into the semi-finals with 54.62 while team-mate Eilidh Child also progressed with 56.14.
The heats were led by world-leader Natalya Antyukh at 53.90 and Zuzana Hejnova at 53.96.
The top seven from the second 1500m semi-final qualified for the final but Beijing finalist Andy Baddeley narrowly missed out, finishing eighth in 3:36.03. Senior debutant Ross Murray placed tenth in the first semi-final in 3:44.92.
Kenyan athletes lead the world-rankings and their triumvirate comfortably progressed although African 800m champion Taoufik Makhloufi from Algeria was the most convincing qualifier from the first semi-final.
Britain fielded three 400m semi-finalists but none of them went any further. 2008 finalist Martyn Rooney was the fastest of the triumvirate at 45.31 but the main news was the demise of the Americans and for the first time, bar the boycotted 1980 Olympics, none of their athletes made the final.
Bryshon Nellum missed the final by three-hundredth after finishing third in his semi-final in 45.02 while Tony McQuay was fourth in the second semi-final in 45.31. Reigning champion LaShawn Merritt pulled up injured in the heats.
World champion Kirani James ran his fastest time of the year of 44.59 but the quickest qualifier was Lalonde Gordon from Trinidad & Tobago who ran under 45-seconds for the first time with a 44.58 PB.
European champion Robbie Grabarz was the only athlete with an unblemished card in high jump qualifying as he progressed with a 2.29m clearance.