Olympic champion, World record holder – Dayron Robles thought he had filled the gap in his c.v. when he was first across the line in a 110m Hurdles final which became physical in its closing stages.
But a protest by China on behalf of Liu Xiang, who appeared to be impeded when Robles strayed to the edge of his lane and the pair clashed arms at each of the last two hurdles, was upheld. [UPDATE - NOTE: 23:20 local time- The counter-protest lodged by Cuban officials was rejected by the Jury of Appeal and Robles' disqualification stands.]
Robles, who had been first across the line in 13.14, was disqualified, handing victory to Jason Richardson, who had followed in 13.16.
Liu, third across the line in 13.27, was elevated to the silver medal and Andrew Turner of Britain took the bronze in 13.44, the same time as fourth-placed David Oliver.
Robles had only just held off Richardson with a desperate lunge at the line.
Robles and Liu were running alongside one another in lanes five and six. Robles held the early advantage but was clearly under pressure from both Liu and Richardson over the second half of the race.
Approaching the eighth hurdle the Cuban started to drift to the outside off his lane. He and Liu came together over hurdles nine and 10. Rising to both barriers Robles arm appeared to swing back and contact Liu.
The first clash seemed to impede Robles the more, the second caused Liu to check his stride into the final hurdle, which he then stumbled off after hitting it with his trailing knee.
Liu glanced desperately to his right as a charging Richardson flashed past him. Only Robles’ despairing throw at the line deprived the American of the gold, of until China’s protest was upheld, at least.
Richardson has been the big improver of the latter part of the season. Winner of both hurdles at the World Youth Championships in 2003, he had not made a major senior championship team before this year. He announced himself as a threat in London when his personal best 13.08 split Robles and Oliver, and was just 0.04 behind the Cuban.
Now, he has halved that gap, albeit with a helping hand or two.
Liu for his part has consolidated a stuttering comeback from the lower leg injuries which sensationally put him out of the 2008 Olympics without running a step and have resulted in a number of setbacks since.
He looked like he was back when he won the Asian title in Guangzhou in 2009, looked like he was back again when he won the Asian Games title in the same city a year later. Now he has put a season together – trading wins with Oliver in the Shanghai and Eugene SDL meetings, winning another Asian title and now a silver medal here.
The 100m has shown the difficulty of getting Usain Bolt, Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell together, but the hurdles pulled off the trick here to produce a memorable race and add one new face to the mix.
Len Johnson for the IAAF
- Jason Richardson of the USA celebrates after the men's 110m Hurdles final (Getty Images) © Copyright
- Liu Xiang and Dayron Robles neck and neck in the 110m Hurdles final (Getty Images) © Copyright