Sally Pearson won an Olympic gold medal that finally fulfilled Australia’s expectations. Algeria’s Taoufik Makhloufi got one that seemed impossible when he was briefly thrown out of the Games.
Pearson came to Australia’s rescue on Tuesday, winning with an Olympic record in the 100m hurdles final to soothe the pain of a nation going through its worst Games in decades.
Nothing has been easy for the Australians in London, not even Pearson’s win. She was left to wait a while after crossing the line before the big screen showed she had just edged defending champion Dawn Harper of the US by 0.02 seconds with a time of 12.35 seconds.
She let out a 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 challengers from the US. Behind Harper, Kellie Wells took bronze in 12.48 seconds. Lolo Jones, who stumbled out of contention when gold was within her reach in Beijing four years ago, was again left without an Olympic medal, finishing fourth.
Pearson’s victory gave Australia their fourth gold medal of the Games as they slowly move up the medals table to a more respectable position in the top 10.
“We’re definitely going to get more than that, and we are working our way up that medal tally and it’s going to be great,” Pearson said.
If Pearson held off the pressure of all the expectations, Makhloufi’s gold medal in the 1,500m was as surprising as could be, considering he was excluded from the Games a day earlier for not trying hard enough in a heat of the 800m.
He was reinstated late on Monday on medical advice after the Algerian federation said he was troubled by his left knee in Monday’s 800m.
From 4pm, Taiwan’s Tseng Li-cheng goes for gold in the women’s under-57kg competition.
2:45am tomorrow morning, Japan face the US in the women’s final.
3:55am tomorrow morning, Usain Bolt goes for the sprint double in the final of the men’s 200m.
There was no sign of any problem during Tuesday’s 1,500m final as Makhloufi took the lead in the last 250m and never wavered to beat the favored Kenyans, who faded out of medal contention.
“Yesterday I was out, and today I was in. I dedicate this to all the people of Algeria and the Arab world,” he said.
Leonel Manzano of the US took silver and Abdalaati Iguider of Morocco finished with the bronze medal.
The morning session was overshadowed by former champion Liu Xiang’s exit in his first heat of the 110m hurdles for the second Olympics 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. Liu’s challenge to defending champion Dayron Robles and US hurdler Aries Merritt had been shaping as one of the highlights of the Olympics, but Liu’s hopes for a second gold are over — for at least another four years.
“The initial assessment of medical experts is a suspected ruptured Achilles tendon,” Chinese team leader Feng Shuyong said.
“The injury should be quite serious,” he said.
Liu won in 2004 in Athens to become the first Chinese man to claim an Olympic gold medal in athletics, but he shocked the home crowd in Beijing four years later when he had to withdraw in his heat without clearing a hurdle because of a problem with his right foot, which later required surgery.
The biggest duel of the Games — between 100m champion Usain Bolt and training partner Yohan Blake — continued apace, with both cruising into the semi-finals of the 200m, where Bolt is seeking his second Olympic sprint double.