Tue, August 07, 2012 - 12:06 AM
LONDON – World champion and now Olympic champion! Kirani James of Grenada put the exclamation point on an already outstanding career yesterday at the London 2012 Olympic Games, rewriting the history books and winning the gold medal in the men’s 400 metres.
James stopped the clock in 43.94 seconds, a new national record, down from the 44.36 he did in Zurich last year.
The 19-year-old, who has won virtually every major world medal in this discipline, fittingly also won his country’s first Olympic medal. The previous best performance was a fourth-place finish in 2004 by Alleyne Francique in the same event.
The Caribbean swept the race with World Juniors champion Luguelín Santos of the Dominican Republic taking silver in 44.46 and bronze went to Trinidad and Tobago’s Lalonde Gordon in a personal best 44.52.
There were no Americans in the race they have traditionally dominated. It stops a streak dating back to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games and James also became the first non-American to join the sub-44 club.
Add his name to the exclusive club which includes World and Olympic record holder Michael Johnson; Quincy Watts; LaShawn Merritt; Lee Evans, Steve Lewis, Butch Reynolds, Larry James and Jeremy Warriner. It was also a British All-Comers record, erasing the 43.98 done by Johnson 20 years ago.
History was also created by Felix “Superman” Sanchez of the Dominican Republic. Eight years after he was crowned Olympic champion in Athens in a time of 47.63 seconds, he shocked the world by doing the same here in London in exactly the same time.
Sanchez looked like the old World and Olympic champion who had an unbeaten streak of more than 40 races the way he attacked the hurdles, especially along the backstretch. By the time the field realized he was going to hold on, none of them could catch him in the straightaway.
Michael Tinsley of the United States made a late surge for a personal best 47.91 seconds to take silver and Puerto Rico’s Javier Culson, one of the pre-race favourites, took bronze in 48.10.
Briton Dai Greene could not add the Olympic title to his World, European and Commonwealth crowns, finishing fourth in 48.24 despite the best efforts of the partisan crowd to will him to win. Defending champion Angelo Taylor of the United States was fifth in 48.25.
Trinidad’s Jehue Gordon was sixth in 48.86, Jamaica’s Leford Green seventh in 49.12 and 2009 World champ Kerron Clement of the United States brought up the rear in 49.15.
A new champion will also be crowned in the women’s event after Jamaica’s Melaine Walker finished a disappointing fourth in her semi-final heat in 55.74 seconds and did not make the cut. Nickiesha Wilson was fifth in her heat and also missed out.
Jamaica will be represented by Kaliese Spencer who clocked 54.20, second behind World Champion Lashinda Demus of the United States who was timed at 54.08.
Russia’s Natalya Antyukh takes the fastest time of 53.33 seconds into tomorrow’s final.
The disappointment of that series was erased moments later, however, with men’s 100 metres gold and silver medallist Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake seeing their flag raised and hearing the anthem played on Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of independence.
Meanwhile, today’s semi-finals of the women’s 200 metres will feature a host of Caribbean athletes, including two-time defending Olympic champion Veronica Campbell-Brown who was third in her heat in 22.75, compatriot Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (22.71), who is chasing the double, and Sherone Simpson who qualified with a time of 22.97.
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