08 AUG 2012 Report

London 2012 - Event Report - Women's 400m Hurdles Final

Natalya Antyukh of Russia crosses the finish line ahead of Lashinda Demus of the United States in the Women's 400m Hurdles Final on Day 12 of the London 2012 Olympic Games on 8 August 2012 (Getty Images)Natalya Antyukh of Russia crosses the finish line ahead of Lashinda Demus of the United States in the Women's 400m Hurdles Final on Day 12 of the London 2012 Olympic Games on 8 August 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
Natalya Antyukh came into the London Olympic Games as the fastest 400m hurdler of the year. She was the fastest in the first round with a sub-53 performance on Sunday. She improved her own World lead in the semi-finals a couple days ago and today, she became the second Russian ever to win a 400m Hurdles Olympic title and the fifth fastest performer of all-time!

"This has been very special. I cannot express the words," said Antyukh who won a bronze medal in the 400m flat in Beijing 2008.

"I only started the hurdles in 2009. I have done a lot of work, to get a PB is amazing - a World record soon would be great. It's not very far away.

"The biggest challenge was to see myself against just myself."

But it didn’t look as easy as it sounds.

Looking to add another gold medal to the Daegu World Championships title she won last year, US champion Lashinda Demus set off to her trademark quick start and found herself in the lead coming off the opening bend having made up most of the stagger on team-mate Georganne Moline who was running on her outside.

However it was former World Junior champion Kaliese Spencer, the only Jamaican in this final following the early elimination of defending Olympic champion Melaine Walker, who moved into the lead on the back straight with Antyukh now level with Demus.

Winner of the 2010 European Championships and this year Russian Championships, Antyukh waited until halfway through the final bend to make her move, one which proved crucial.

Coming off the bend it was Antyukh clearly ahead of Demus and Spencer who was starting to pay for her earlier efforts running blind in lane 9.

The Russian maintained a solid four-to-five metres lead as she made no mistakes on hurdles 9 and 10 but Demus who clearly wanted nothing short of gold found another burst of energy and started closing the gap with each of her step. Unfortunately for Demus, she didn’t quite make it and she would have to be content with second place at 52.77, still her second best performance ever.

Holding on for gold, Antyukh was just 6 hundredths of a second shy of the Olympic record but her 52.70 personal best and World leading time still saw her move up by seven places in the all-time World performers list which now sees her in fifth just ahead of 1992 Olympic champion Sally Gunnell of Great Britain.

Antyukh is the second Russian woman to win gold since legendary Irina Privalova back in Sydney 2000 while Demus failed in claiming USA’s first ever title in this relatively new event for women which was introduced on the Olympic Athletics programme at the Los Angeles Games in 1984.

"I'm very grateful to be on the podium," said Demus who missed out on the Beijing Olympic Games after giving birth to twin boys in June 2007.

"Of course I wanted the gold medal. I wanted it so bad I can't explain how bad. I started crying because I knew how bad I wanted it. It's very emotional for me, but I will not stop until I get gold. I will be back in 2016."

Spencer also lost out on any medal as fast finishing Zuzana Hejnova improved on her seventh place finish from Beijing to claim bronze in a new personal best 53.38 out-sprinting the Jamaican in the run-in.

Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF