Grenada’s Kirani James produced a stunning 400m run to deepen US track woes at the Olympics while Russia’s two-time pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva had to settle for bronze.
Felix Sanchez stormed to an emotion-fuelled 400m hurdles Olympic gold medal at the age of 34 last night, regaining a title he first won in 2004, and dedicated his win to his late grandmother.
Sanchez won in a time of 47.63sec and pulled a photograph of his grandmother from his vest after he crossed the line in a teary tribute to the woman who brought him up in the United States.
James, the 19-year-old reigning world champion, won Grenada’s first Olympic medal of any colour and showed he is the future of the one-lap flat race as he kicked with 150 metres to go to cross the line in 43.94sec.
“It’s a very ecstatic feeling, I am very proud for me, very proud for my country,” James said.
“There must be a huge party in the streets right now.”
He said going under 44sec for the first time showed he was “on the right track to do some good things”, while Michael Johnson predicted he could beat the long-standing world record of 43.18sec that the American set in 1999.
The teenager became the first non-American winner of the event since 1980 and exacerbated the problems the US sprint team is facing on the track in London.
Jamaican duo Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce have already claimed the blue riband 100m events and look strong for the 200m.
To make matters worse for the United States, the New York-born Sanchez, who represents the Dominican Republic where his parents were born, stormed to victory ahead of American Michael Tinsley in the 400m hurdles.
The pre-race favourite, Javier Culson of Puerto Rico, ran poorly and was relegated to bronze.
Sanchez sobbed uncontrollably during the medal ceremony — a moment he missed four years ago in Beijing, where he failed to make it out of the first round on the day he learned his grandmother had died.
The veteran’s time was the same as he ran in Athens while Tinsley ran a personal best of 47.91sec and Culson recorded 48.10sec, one of the slower times he has run this season.
Britain’s world champion Dai Greene finished fourth and two-time Olympic champion Angelo Taylor of the United States was fifth.
The people of the Dominican Republic “expected me to win the 2001 and 2003 worlds, but no one expected this”, said Sanchez. “A lot of people said I should retire but I stuck with it.”
The one glimmer of gold for the US team came from Jennifer Suhr.
The 30-year-old American foiled Isinbayeva’s bid for a historic hat-trick of women’s pole vault Olympic titles by claiming a nip-and-tuck competition in rainy conditions.
Suhr, the silver medallist behind Isinbayeva in Beijing four years ago, eventually claimed gold after registering a best of 4.75m.
Cuba’s Yarisley Silva claimed silver with the same height, a failed effort at her opening height of 4.45m seeing her cede the gold on countback.
Isinbayeva, who also holds the world record of 5.06m, had to settle for bronze with a best of 4.70m — and immediately said she had put off plans to retire.
“I think this bronze tells me ‘Yelena, don’t quit’, as I had planned to do after London,” the 30-year-old said, and insisted that she was happy with third place after an inconsistent few years.
“It’s like a gold medal for me,” she said. “There have been a lot of things which have been disappointing for three years.
“I’m just glad the Olympics are finished as they were so stressful.”
In the field, Belarus’ Nadezhda Ostapchuk ended the almost two-year unbeaten run of defending champion Valerie Adams of New Zealand by winning the women’s shot put with a throw of 21.36m.
The 31-year-old — the last person to beat Adams, in Lausanne on August 22, 2010 — collected the only title missing from her collection ahead of Adams, who took silver with 20.70m.
“I’m disappointed, to be honest, but that’s sport,” said Adams. “I really wanted to do my target but that was impossible.
“I’m happy with the medal but not the colour, but I gave my heart out there.”
Russia’s Yevgeniya Kolodko took bronze with a personal best of 20.48m.
Kolodko’s teammate Yuliya Zaripova claimed a stunning gun-to-tape victory in the women’s 3000m steeplechase, timing a personal best of 9min 06.72sec to finish ahead of Tunisian Habiba Ghribi, with Ethiopia’s Sofia Assefa taking bronze.