Athletics Review: Lightning Bolt the star of Olympic Athletics show
2008-08-24 11:38:46 GMT 2008-08-24 19:38:46 (Beijing Time) BOCOG
(BEIJING, August 24) -- Usain Bolt of Jamaica was the shining star of 10 days of Athletics competition at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games that produced five world records and 16 Olympic records.
Bolt arrived at the Games having lowered the 100m world record to 9.72 in May. He did not disappoint, winning both the 100m and 200m in astonishing world record runs of 9.69 and 19.30.
Shelly-Ann Fraser led home a Jamaican clean sweep in the Women's 100m with her compatriots Kerron Stewart and Sherone Simpson sharing silver. Then Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica retained the 200m gold she had won at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.
Jamaica's near-total domination of the sprints was underlined in the Men's 4 x 100m Relay. The team, featuring Bolt on the third leg and former world-record holder Asafa Powell on the anchor, raced home with a new world record of 37.10.
The Jamaican Women's 4 x 100m Relay team, however, failed to complete the final after a mix-up between Simpson and Clement on the second handover led to Clement running beyond the changeover zone.
Clean sweeps of the medals in the Men's 400m and Men's 400m Hurdles meant there was some joy for the United States at the shorter distances. They took only four medals from 12 in the Men's and Women's 100m and 200m and watched in horror as both their Men's and Women's 4 x 100m Relay teams dropped the baton in their semifinal and failed to reach the final.
LaShawn Merritt of the United States was a surprise but unstoppable winner of the Men's 400m, ahead of his teammate Olympic and world champion Jeremy Wariner, who took silver. In the Men's 400m Hurdles, Angelo Taylor of the United States reclaimed the title he won at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
There was more woe for the United States in the Women's 400m when 2008's leading runner Sanya Richards of the United States was overtaken in the home straight by Christine Ohuruogu of Great Britain. Richards finished with bronze.
Jamaica's Melaine Walker added another gold to her country's collection in the Women's 400m Hurdles, pushing Sheena Tosta of the United States into second place in the final stretch.
But the United States responded with victories in both the Men's and Women's 4 x 400m Relays. Richards overtook Russia's Anastasia Kapachinskaya in the last 100m to win the Women's race while Merritt and Taylor took their second golds of Beijing 2008 in the Men's.
World record holder Dayron Robles of Cuba confirmed himself as the premier 110m hurdler in the world by claiming Olympic gold. It was done in the absence of Athens 2004 champion and home town hero Liu Xiang of China, who limped out of his first-round heat with a foot injury.
In the Women's 100m Hurdles, Dawn Harper of the United States took advantage of favorite Lolo Jones of the United States hitting the eighth barrier. Jones was not the only hurdler to come a cropper. European champion Susanna Kallur of Sweden failed to finish her semifinal while one of the Men's favorites, Terrence Tramell of the United States, hit the first hurdle to exit at the first heat.
In the middle and long distance races, Ethiopia and Kenya each won four of the 10 gold medals on offer.
Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia showed their class in winning the Men's and Women's 5000m and 10000m respectively, while 19-year-old Pamela Jelimo of Kenya continued her fantastic debut season by racing away for the Women's 800m gold medal.
In the exceptions to the two African countries' domination, Rashid Ramzi became Bahrain's first Olympic medalist when he sprinted home to claim gold in the Men's 1500m and Gulnara Galkina-Samitova of Russia won the Women's 3000m Steeplechase in world-record time to mark the event's Olympic Games debut.
The throwing events were largely dominated by eastern European countries. Poland's Tomasz Majewski took the first Athletics gold medal of the program, the Shot Put. Gerd Kanter of Estonia won the Discus Throw and Primoz Kozmus of Slovenia the Hammer Throw, for Slovenia's first Olympics Athletics gold medal.
It was the same in the Women's throwing events where Barbora Spotakova of the Czech Republic claimed the Javelin Throw gold and Aksana Miankova of Belarus became Hammer Throw champion.
In exceptions to eastern-European control, Andreas Thorkildsen of Norway needed an Olympic record of 90.57m to retain his Men's Javelin Throw Olympic crown, Valerie Vili of New Zealand set an area record to win the Women's Shot Put and Stephanie Brown Trafton of the United States won the Women's Discus Throw.
Irving Jahir Saladino Aranda of Panama was another athlete to make history when he won the Men's Long Jump, his country's first Athletics gold medal. Maurren Higa Maggi of Brazil ended Russia's Tatyana Lebedeva's dominance of the Women's Long Jump, pushing the Russian into silver medal position by a centimeter with a leap of 7.04m.
In the Triple Jump, Francoise Mbango Etone of Cameroon, who had won her nation's first-ever Athletics gold medal at Athens 2004, added their second gold with a jump of 15.39m. Nelson Evora of Portugal triumphed in the Men's competition.
There was a surprise in the Women's High Jump when Tia Hellebaut of Belgium beat 2007 world champion Blanka Vlasic of Croatia to the gold medal, while Andrey Silnov of Russia cleared 2.36m to win the Men's gold.
The Women's Pole Vault produced no surprises. Defending champion Elena Isinbaeva of Russia retained her title with 5.05m, her third world record of the year. Australia's Steve Hooker set an Olympic record of 5.96m to win the Men's.
Valeriy Borchin of Russia won the first Race Walk gold, the 20km, compatriot Olga Kaniskina finished first in the Women's 20km and Italy's Alex Schwazer broke from the chasing pack to take 50km gold.
Kenya's Samuel Kamau Wansiru brought an end to the Athletics program by leading home the Men's Marathon field on the final morning of competition. The Kenyan broke from the pack at the 38km mark to claim victory, one week after Constantina Tomescu of Romania had won the women's race, and break the Olympic record Portugal's Carlos Lopes set at Los Angeles in 1984 by three minutes.
In total, 42 different countries won Athletics medals. The United States took the most golds with seven - only half the tally they achieved at the Osaka 2007 World Championships - and the most medals overall with 23. Jamaica was the most-improved nation since Osaka with their haul of golds up from one to six.