A drama-filled evening sees David Rudisha dominate over 800m and Shaunae Miller pip Allyson Felix to 400m crown
There were many thrills and spills on the fourth evening of Rio Olympic athletics action which saw David Rudisha and Shaunae Miller get gold and Thiago Braz da Silva take the Olympic pole vault title on home soil.
Rudisha timed his peak to perfection as he successfully defended his 800m title, running a season’s best of 1:42.15 for victory ahead of Algeria’s London 2012 1500m champion Taoufik Makhloufi and USA’s Clayton Murphy.
Four years ago the Kenyan produced the performance of the Games with his world record-breaking 1:40.91 but, despite winning the world title last year, he seemed to have lost his aura of invincibility.
But in Rio he proved that when it comes to the Olympic stage he is almighty, as he tucked back behind a fast-starting Alfred Kipketer and then unleashed his killer kick to surge away and claim victory by almost half a second, with Makhloufi clocking a 1:42.61 national record and 21-year-old Murphy running 1:42.93 to improve on the PB he had set in the semi-finals by more than a second.
With his win, Rudisha becomes the first to successfully defend the title since New Zealand’s Peter Snell, who achieved the feat in 1960 and 1964. His time is the fastest by anyone since he won his 2012 gold and only four other men have ever run quicker.
Frenchman Pierre-Ambroise Bosse was fourth in 1:43.41, while Rudisha’s fellow Kenyans Ferguson Rotich and Kipketer finished fifth and seventh respectively.
“London 2012 was one of the special races because it had so many fast times,” said Rudisha. “But today was special to defend my title as no one has done it since Peter Snell. And coming from a disappointing period in 2013 and 2014, I knew I was coming into form.”
There was a dramatic finish to the women’s 400m as Bahamas’ Miller dived over the line to get 400m gold ahead of Allyson Felix – 49.44 PB to 49.51.
Miller had pulled up with injury in her heat in London four years ago, but putting that heartbreak behind her she put everything into getting the gold. Ahead off the final bend, it looked as though the 22-year-old might be caught by the fast-finishing Felix, but she dipped hard for the line to take the title ahead of the four-time Olympic and nine-time world gold medallist.
“My mind went completely blank and the next thing I was on the ground,” explained Miller.
Felix said: “I dug as deep as I could and let it all out there and when the race was over, I wasn’t sure who had won. It’s been a tough year for me (due to injury) and when I look back on this race I think I will be proud of what I achieved.”
Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson claimed the bronze in 49.85 ahead of Americans Natasha Hastings and Phyllis Francis with respective times of 50.34 and 50.41.
Earlier on in the pouring rain and Jamaica’s Omar McLeod and Spain’s Orlando Ortega had been among the 110m hurdles heat winners as they took heat one in 13.27 and heat two in 13.32 respectively.
After the rain delay, Frenchman Dimitri Bascou won the third heat in 13.31 from GB’s Andrew Pozzi with 13.50. Brazil’s João Vítor de Oliveira aquaplaned over the finish line on his stomach in fourth to see him through to the semi-finals.
There was disappointment for French medal contender Wilhem Belocian who was disqualified from heat four for a false start. That race was won by Greek Konstadinos Douvalidis in 13.41 from Oregon wide receiver Devon Allen with 13.41. The fifth heat was won by USA’s Ronnie Ash in 13.31 as GB’s Lawrence Clarke was third in 13.55 to advance along with fourth-placer Éder Antônio Souza to big cheers.
Two hours later, though, non-qualifying athletes from the first two heats took part in a re-run to give the athletes another chance to make the semi-finals after their initial races had been affected by pouring rain. It was an unusual decision but a good one for Deuce Carter of Jamaica as he ran 13.51 to join the athletes progressing to the next round.
The women’s 400m hurdles competition also got underway, with Jamaica’s Ristananna Tracey winning heat one in 54.88 from Czech two-time world champion Zuzana Hejnová in 55.54. American 17-year-old Sydney McLaughlin, the youngest US Olympian since 1972, finished fifth in 56.32.
Poland’s European silver medallist Joanna Linkiewicz took the second heat in 56.07, while USA’s Ashley Spencer won the third in 55.12 and Denmark’s European champion Sara Slott Petersen the fourth in 55.20.
The pre-race favourite is USA’s Dalilah Muhammad and she dominated heat five to clock 55.33. Last but by no means least, there was an easy final heat victory for GB’s Eilidh Doyle, who ran 55.46 to Canadian Sage Watson’s 55.93.
Defending champion Sandra Perkovic had two fouls but threw 64.81m on her final attempt to get an automatic discus qualifier and advance to the final from group ‘A’ along with Australia’s Dani Samuels, Cuba’s Denia Caballero and China’s Bin Feng.
Britain’s Jade Lally missed out on making the final as she threw a best of 54.06m in group ‘B’, with Yaime Perez, Su Xinyue, Nadine Muller and Mélina Robert-Michon the automatic qualifiers.
» Further coverage of the fourth evening of Rio Olympics action, including Thiago Braz da Silva’s Olympic pole vault gold for Brazil, can be found here