James wins first gold for Grenada
ATHLETICS:NO MISTAKING the Caribbean breeze blowing around the track last night, even if it was actually a little chilly, and spitting a little rain. No mistaking the American’s determination to beat the Cuban, and no mistaking either the enduring strength of the Russians.
Another one of those nights inside the Olympic Stadium, another reminder of why these little games mean so much to so many people, and especially if you live on the small island of Grenada.
It ended with Kirani James, the 19-year-old from the tiny parish of Saint John, winning a first ever Olympic medal for Grenada in the 400 metres, and winning gold – with that getting the rum flowing in the bars around Saint George’s.
He may already be the world champion but the feeling was James needed to be better again here, so he was, his winning time of 43.94 seconds making him only the 10th man ever to go sub-44, and enough to hold off the challenge of Luguelin Santos, from the Dominican Republic, who ran 44.46 – and himself still only 19.
Bronze went to the Caribbean too, with Lalonde Gordon from Trinidad running a best of 44.52 for third, the only real pity there being Chris Browne, from the Bahamas: fourth in Beijing four years ago, fourth again in London.
“What this means to my country, right now, I can’t explain,” said James, “except to say that the whole country will be going crazy.”
Santos wasn’t too disappointed to win silver, nor were the people of the Dominican Republic, as just 45 minutes earlier, Felix Sanchez won them a gold medal by winning back his 400m hurdles title – his time of 47.63 seconds, by either cosmic coincidence or pure destiny, exactly the same time he ran the win the gold medal in Athens, eight years ago.
Judging by the way the 34-year-old cried on the medal podium it even better than first time round. In winning eight years ago, wearing his once famous flashing red wristband, Sanchez handed the first and only Olympic medal for the Dominican Republic – and has now won them their second. Although born in New York, raised in California hardly matters, because that hasn’t stopped him from becoming the most popular man on the streets of Santo Domingo.
The silver medal went to the American Michael Tinsley, in 47.91, while holding on for third was Javier Culson of Puerto Rico: that gave them their first Olympic medal of any colour, no doubt leaving the rum flowing freely too in the bars around Old San Juan.
Britain’s World Champion Dai Greene lost ground early on, but fought back well down the final straight, only to finish short of a medal in 48.24.
Elena Isinbaeva failed in her quest to become the first woman ever to win three successive Olympic gold medals, surrendering her pole vault title when only clearing 4.70 metres, and only good enough for bronze.
That left the American Jennifer Suhr fighting out for the gold with the Cuban Yarisley Silva, and although they both failed to go higher than 4.75, the American won on count back, celebrating their first title in the event since the inaugural Olympic champion, Stacy Dragila.
But if Russians couldn’t win the pole vault as expected then they still showed their enduring strength in the women’s 3,000 metres steeplechase – albeit not with the woman we originally expected.
Defending Olympic champion Gulnara Galkina, also the world record holder, was clearly struggling from the start, and soon dropped out – leaving current World champion Yuliya Zaripova at the front, which is where she remained.