Seldom does a race, even a hurdles race, end with the first two men spread-eagled on the track.
Desperate times require desperate measures, however, and times don’t come much more desperate than the last two hurdles of the 400m Hurdles final in the Luzhniki Stadium on Thursday night.
Michael Tinsley led into the straight, led to and off the ninth hurdle. Jehue Gordon was closing in on him. Rising to the tenth barrier they were locked together; off it, perhaps Gordon enjoyed the slimmest of margins. No-one else had a chance.
Both men dived as they crossed the line. Both hit the track beyond it. But it was Gordon who produced the better lean to take the gold medal by a hundredth of a second in a world lead and Trinidad & Tobago national record 47.69.
Tinsley had glanced across to his right as he dove for the line and probably knew before he hit the track that he was beaten. He had all but won, going out very fast from lane three, gathering in Olympic champion Felix Sanchez half-way up the back-straight and Cuba’s Omar Cisneros – the two to his immediate outside – a little after.
And he had edged in front of Gordon by the time the final bend stagger took full effect. But it was the younger man who proved to have the greater strength – just – as they battled along the final straight. His 47.70 was a personal best.
Serbia’s Emir Bekric stormed home to take the bronze medal in 48.05, his second national record following his 48.36 in the semi-finals and Serbia’s first medal in the men’s 400m Hurdles.
It was also Trinidad & Tobago’s first podium finish in the event and it was fitting that it was Gordon who won it. In Berlin in 2009, he finished fourth in the final at the age of 17, 0.03 outside the bronze. He won the World junior title the following year.
Cisneros was the man one outside the medals – which would have been Cuba’s first in the event – finishing fourth in 48.12 ahead of Sanchez and Culson.
The 400m Hurdles had looked an open race all year and it lived up to that expectation here.
Tinsley came in with the two fastest times of the year, one set in winning the US title back in June, the second at the London IAAF Diamond League meeting just before Moscow. He then produced a personal best here to lose by a whisker. You cannot do much more.
Gordon ran his fastest time before Moscow in winning in Monaco, then carried on that form when it mattered.
Then, here in Moscow, dual Olympic champion Sanchez produced his best time of the season behind Cisneros as the Cuban emerged as a potential threat with a then world lead 47.93 in the semi-finals, and Bekric improved from his previous national record of 48.83 all the way to 48.05 and the bronze medal.
Finally, the medallists all ran personal bests and the gold medal was decided by a desperate dive to the line. Would that every race turned out as good.
Len Johnson for the IAAF