Ramzi has it all his own way in the end


ATHLETICS:SIX YEARS ago Rashid Ramzi was a young athlete struggling for recognition in Morocco, so he moved to Bahrain, joined their armed forces, and later took out citizenship.

Six years later he's won them their first Olympic medal on the track - and it happens to be one of the most coveted of all.

It wasn't one of the great 1,500-metre finals. Not that Ramzi could care less. In fact the field simply played into his hands, particularly the Kenyans, doing all the work early on, and allowing Ramzi deliver his turbo-charged finish to claim the title in 3:32.94.

Morocco will still play some part in the celebration. He still trains there, and if anyone had to claim the title from their previous champion, Hicham El Guerrouj, then Ramzi was surely the man.

"The gold medal is a great honour to Bahrain and the Arabic world," said the champion, who admittedly lacks the charisma that made his predecessor more universally popular.

The silver medal went to the Kenyan teenager Asbel Kiprop, who closed on Ramzi but just could not get alongside him.

Nick Willis won the frantic battle for bronze, edging out Frenchman Mehdi Baala in 3:34.16. This gave New Zealand their first distance running medal since John Walker's gold in 1976.

Although Willis is a product of the US scholarship system and trains in Michigan, it was a hugely proud achievement.

"I know this is a unique moment for New Zealand, and I just can't wait to get on the medal stand," said the 25-year-old. "I was crying after the finish there, thinking of all the people that sacrificed so much for me. My brother came out to America and coached me for the year. My wife worked to support me. And this was the first year of our marriage."

Four other gold medals were hatched inside the Bird's Nest, and not all turned out as expected. Britain are cleaning up elsewhere in Beijing, but the tough question of whether they'd win gold on the track was answered in amazing style by Christine Ohuruogu.

She gunned down the USA's 400-metre favourite Sanya Richards to win in 49.62, just one hundredth of a second slower than her victory at the World Championships in Osaka last year.

Ohuruogo remains a somewhat controversial figure in British athletics after missing three out-of-competition drugs tests in 2006, and getting a lifetime Olympic ban overturned to compete in Beijing.

There was some irony too when her medal was presented by Sebastian Coe, the very man who questioned where the British athletics medals would come from out here.

The 24-year-old timed her finishing burst to perfection, just as Richards faded to third. Silver went to the Jamaican Shericka Williams. Before the race Richards had described Ohuruogu as "lucky to be here", referring to the overturned ban, and afterwards complained about a "grab" at her hamstring - but there was no disputing the result on the night.

It looked like there was no disputing the result of the women's 100-metre hurdles either, until the second-last hurdle, when the American Lolo Jones lost her stride and thus the gold medal.

Her team-mate Dawn Harper capitalised on the error to win in 12.54 seconds, though celebrating even more wildly was the Australian Sally McLellan - an athlete Derval O'Rourke has long considered in the same class as herself - who took silver in 12.64.

The men's high-jump gold went to Russia's Andrey Silnov, who cleared 2.36 metres. Stefan Holm, the defending champion, finished fourth, just as in 2000, with 2.32.

The Swede retires without a second Olympic medal as a foot operation he's been putting off will bring the curtain down on his wonderful career.