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Olympics

Pearson edges 110m hurdles nail-biter, sets new record

Pearson poses next to the score board after she clocked an Olympic record.

LONDON: Sally Pearson came to the rescue of Australia Tuesday, getting an Olympic record in the 100-meter hurdles final and a gold medal for a nation that had been going through its worst Olympics in decades.

Nothing has been easy for the Australians, not even Pearson’s win. She was left to wait a while after crossing the line before the big screen showed she had beaten defending champion Dawn Harper of the United States by just .02 hundreds of a second with a time of 12.35 seconds.

She let out a huge scream when the time flashed up and fell to the ground, crying, finally getting Olympic gold after finishing second four years ago.

“Relief was the first thing I felt and then shock,” Pearson said.

Pearson held off a trio of American challengers. Behind Harper, Kellie Wells took bronze in 12.48. Lolo Jones, who stumbled out of contention when gold was just about hers in Beijing four years ago, was again left without an Olympic medal, finishing fourth.

If Pearson held off the pressure of a nation to win an expected title, Algeria’s Taoufik Makhloufi’s gold medal in the 1,500 was as surprising as could be, considering he was excluded from games a day earlier for not trying hard enough in a heat of the 800 meters.

He was reinstated late Monday on medical advice after the Algerian federation said he was troubled by a bad knee in Monday’s 800.

There was no sign of any problem during Tuesday’s 1,500 final as Makhloufi took the lead in the last 250 meters and never wavered to beat the favored Kenyans, who faded out of medal contention.

Leonel Manzano of the United States took silver and Abdalaati Iguider of Morocco finished with bronze.

On a night of exceptional feats, few were as rare as the high jump where no fewer than five jumpers won medals. Russian Ivan Ukhov, who earned a “strong warning” from the IAAF for being drunk during a competition in 2008, took gold when he cleared 2.38 meters, leaving Erik Kynard of the United States second with 2.33 meters.

Three men were tied for bronze: Essa Mutaz Barshim of Qatar, Robert Grabarz of Britain and Derek Drouin of Canada.

No one on Tuesday came with such an overpowering record into the final as Robert Harting in the discus. The German had been unbeaten since August 2010 and now has an Olympic gold to go with his world title.

Veronica Campbell-Brown remained on course to become the first woman to win three individual Olympic track and field gold medals in a row, when she reached Wednesday’s final of the 200.

Campbell-Brown already won a bronze medal in the 100 meters and is now looking for her third consecutive title in the 200. She beat Carmelita Jeter of the United States in her semifinal.

Olympic 400 champion Sanya Richards-Ross and 100 gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Price also advanced to keep alive their shots at double sprint gold. Former champion Liu Xiang left the Olympics Games in the first heat of the 110-meter hurdles for the second time in a row, clutching the same right Achilles tendon that had already doomed his chances at the Beijing Games.

It left one of the signature races of the games without one of its main characters – a challenge by Liu of defending champion Dayron Robles and U.S.-hurdler Aries Merritt which was to be one of the highlights of the Olympics.

The biggest duel – between 100 champion Usain Bolt and training partner Yohan Blake – continued apace, with both cruising into Wednesday’s semifinal of the 200, where Bolt is seeking his second Olympic sprint double.

But Liu’s hopes for a second gold are over – for at least another four years.

“He’s one of the best,” Bolt said of Liu. “For him to push himself and come back last year and for this to happen, it’s really sad for any athlete.”

This time, his coach had already expressed concern that Liu was less than fully fit, but he had still been expected to challenge for gold in London.

Liu had his right Achilles protected with yellow tape when he came into the stadium. While other runners flew over hurdles for practice, he jogged up to the first hurdle and raised his eyebrows.

He produced a wan smile when the stadium speakers announced his name to the cheering. He was talking to himself as he started to settle in the blocks.

Then from the starting gun, it all went wrong for one of the biggest stars in the sport. With his lead leg, he crashed into the first hurdle and tumbled over. He looked up and held his right leg, realizing history has just repeated itself.

Instead of being wheeled off, he hopped on one leg along the track, going over to kiss the last hurdle in his lane 4.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 08, 2012, on page 15.

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