U.S. breaks Jamaican sprint stranglehold, takes three golds

Felix celebrates her win.

LONDON: The United States came out on top in track duels with Jamaica at the Olympic Games when Aries Merritt flew to victory in the men’s 110-meter hurdles and Allyson Felix struck gold at her third attempt in the women’s 200m Wednesday.

In the semifinals of the men’s 200, Jamaicans Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake both cruised through their races to set up a second and potentially historic showdown at London 2012.

The United States captured a third athletics gold of the evening when world indoor and outdoor champion Brittney Reese took the women’s long jump, despite making only two of six jumps all night.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Natalya Antyukh just held on at the line to beat American Lashinda Demus in the women’s 400-meter hurdles.

In other action on Day 12 of the Games, Hungary claimed men’s and women’s canoeing titles and Steve Guerdat of Switzerland won individual show jumping gold.

China completed a second successive sweep of all Olympic titles in table tennis when its men’s team beat South Korea 3-0.

French and Spanish basketball players nearly came to blows, while Italy’s men knocked out defending champions the United States in volleyball and Hungary in water polo.

Eighty thousand spectators in the Olympic Stadium witnessed the latest installment in a series of U.S.-Jamaican track showdowns, with the Americans this time coming out on top.

Felix, a silver medalist at the last two Olympics, strode out in the home straight to beat Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the Jamaican winner of the 100m, with Carmelita Jeter of the United States taking bronze. “It’s been a long time coming. I’ve waited so long for this moment,” Felix said.

Jamaican Veronica Campbell-Brown, bidding for a third straight Olympic 200m title, came fourth.

The high hurdles was another U.S.-Jamaican affair, with Americans Merritt and Jason Richardson taking gold and silver, while Hansle Parchment got the bronze.

Bolt and Blake comfortably won their 200m semis, both easing up sharply toward the end. Blake, nicknamed ‘The Beast,’ set the faster time of 20.01, seventeen-hundredths of a second faster than his training partner.

The pair will contest a 200m final on Thursday at which Bolt, champion in both sprints in 2008 and already the 100m victor in London, will seek the historic ‘double double’ that he says will make him a legend.

“He’s my good friend, and I think it’s going to be interesting,” Blake said.

Bolt said he was looking forward to the final of his favorite event and would win it “without a doubt.”

American Ashton Eaton opened his bid to become the best all-round male athlete of the Games with a 10.35-second 100m dash and long jump of 8.03 meters that put him in the lead of the decathlon.

Sarah Attar became the first woman from Saudi Arabia to compete in the Olympic athletics, coming last in an 800 heat she ran wearing a white head cover.

“It is the hugest honor to be here to represent the women of Saudi Arabia. It is an historic moment. I hope it will make a difference. It is a huge step forward. It’s a really incredible experience,” said Attar, who also has U.S. citizenship and is a student at Pepperdine University in Los Angeles.

Compatriot Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shaherkani similarly bowed out at the first hurdle, lasting just 80 seconds on the judo mat last week, but the pair have been hailed as heroines by many in their homeland and around the world.

Russia’s 30-year-old double Olympic champion and world record holder in the women’s pole vault, Yelena Isinbayeva, told Reuters on Wednesday she would compete again in Rio De Janeiro in 2016 having come a disappointing third in the London Games.

Her compatriot Ivan Ukhov revealed that he had been forced to borrow a T-shirt from a teammate to make his winning leap in the men’s high jump on Tuesday after his own vest was stolen midway through the competition.

It may even have helped. The shirt belonged to fellow Russian and 2008 Olympic champion Andrei Silnov.

“I guess Andrei being the 2008 champion just passed me the good luck,” Ukhov told Russian media.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 09, 2012, on page 15.




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