Two Olympic records, two closely-matched field events which came down to the final rounds, and athletes overcoming the elements as well as their competition characterized the seventh day of competition at Beijing's National Stadium.
Spotakova breaks a record just minutes old
The women's Javelin Throw looked to be over from the first throw, as Maria Abakumova launched a 69.32m mark which looked unassailable. World Champion Barbora Spotakova of the Czech Republic was the only one to approach it, throwing 69.22m later in the same round, but when Abakumova flung the spear out to 70.78m on the fifth round, a new European record, Spotakova looked finished.
Not so: there was something left in the Czech's arm. In the sixth and final round, Spotakova found it (even though she admitted afterward, "I don't know how I did it,") and threw a whopping 71.42m, shattering Abakumova's European record (though it will stand as a Russian national record) and swiping her Olympic gold. Abakumova had a single chance to better Spotakova's mark, but couldn't manage it.
With former World Championship silver medallist Christine Obergfoll of Germany solidly in third (66.13m), the competition was the deepest in the recent history of the women's Javelin, and doubled the number of women to have bettered the 70m mark in just under fifteen minutes.
Kaniskina prefers long walks alone
Russia's 2007 World champion in the women's 20km Race Walk, Olga Kaniskina, didn't waste any time asserting herself at the front of the pack in the Olympic final. Kaniskina opened a 10m lead on the rest of the field before the race had completed its first kilometre on the track, and from there on, the race for gold was functionally over.
Kaniskina appeared undisturbed even by the monsoon-like conditions in Beijing's Olympic Park as the walk proceeded outside the stadium and revolved around a 2km loop between venues. Despite a caution for a bent knee, her lead gradually expanded beyond a minute, and at halfway her pace was swifter than that of the three-year-old World record.
That pace slowed later in the race, however, and Kaniskina was forced to settle for a gold medal and an Olympic record of 1:26:31, trimming a whopping two and a half minutes off the old OR (1:29:05, set in Sydney by China's Liping Wang.)
A large pack pursued Kaniskina until Belarus' Ryta Turava made a strong move to close the gap not long after halfway. Turava was unable to sustain the pace, however, stopping more than once in an attempt to manage some great discomfort, and the chase was taken up by Norway's Kjersti Platzer, who ended with silver and a National Record for Norway in 1:27:07. Italy's Elisa Rigaudo took bronze in 1:27:12 with China's Hong Liu just five seconds outside the medals.
Evora tops Idowu in last rounds
Like Spotakova in the Javelin, Portugal's Nelson Evora had to fight for every mark to win the men's Triple Jump, an event characterised by frequent lead changes in the early stages. Phillips Idowu started out with a 17.51m mark in the first round, but Evora topped that with a 17.56m in the second. Idowu went to 17.62m in the third round before Evora finally locked up the gold medal with his 17.67m leap in the fourth round. Idowu's 17.62m stood for silver, and the Bahamas' Leevan Sands picked up bronze with a 17.59m effort, putting the entire field of medallists within 8cm.
There's a UPS office in the Main Press Centre here in Beijing, but their brown trucks are nowhere near as electric as Veronica Campbell-Brown's deliveries. With the women's 200m expected to be a duel between Jamaica's Campbell-Brown, the 2004 Olympic Champion, and Allyson Felix of the USA, the 2007 World champion, Campbell-Brown decided to end the race as soon as possible. She came off the turn in the lead, and despite ragged form in the last 50m she will ship yet another gold medal in the sprints home to Jamaica with a PB time of 21.74. Felix held on for silver in 21.93, and Jamaica's Kerron Stewart, co-silver medalist in the 100m, took bronze here in 22.00 - just .01s ahead of Muna Lee of the USA.
Cuban Dayron Robles took Liu Xiang's World record earlier this season, and without Liu in tonight's 110m Hurdles field, he took the Olympic gold medal as well. Robles broke from the field early and apparently coasted to victory in a relaxed 12.93 - leaving Liu his Olympic record of 12.91. 2007 World Championships bronze medallist and last-minute traveller David Payne cashed in his frequent flyer miles for an upgrade to silver here, nipping David Oliver, who bested Payne at the U.S. Trials, 13.17 to 13.18.
LaShawn Merritt and 2004 Olympic gold medallist Jeremy Wariner have dueled at 400m throughout the season, arriving in Beijing matched with two victories apiece, all by narrow margins. They'll leave with Merritt the leader, as Merritt's pacing in tonight's 400m final brought him to the line ahead of Wariner by almost a full second, 43.75 to 44.74. The margin was greater than all four previous decisions between the two added together, and was a PB for Merritt.
Third went to their teammate David Neville, who literally drove for the line to catch Christopher Brown of the Bahamas. Neville would win few style points in the Water Cube, but he did get a bronze medal for his (literal) pains, in 44.80 over Brown's 44.84. That victory kept Neville waving off medical attention at the finish.
Decathlon Day One
After five events on the first day, Bryan Clay of the USA holds a lead of 88 points over Andrei Krauchanka of Belarus, 4521 to 4433. Just five points back from Krauchanka is the USA's Trey Hardee with 4428, and Ukranian Oleksiy Kasyanov remains in striking distance in fourth with five more events coming on Friday (22).
Parker Morse for the IAAF
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