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London, UKThe United States moved to the top of the medals table and very nearly took gold in all of the finals this evening at the London Olympic Stadium. But three out of four ain't bad.
Despite closing fast in the first track final of the evening, the women's 400m Hurdles, World champion LaShinda Demus of the USA had to settle for silver behind Russia's Natalya Antyukh as just 0.07 separated the pair. But Allyson Felix, Aries Merritt and Brittney Reese lived up to expectations in the finals that followed to boost USA's gold medal tally by three.
Demus timed her race well and looked to have saved just enough for a late surge down the home straight. But Antyukh was ready to respond and was able to maintain her lead to the bitter end, breaking the tape in a PB of 52.70 – the second-fastest time in Olympic history. Demus was timed in 52.77, as the bronze medal went to Zuzana Hejnova of the Czech Republic (53.38). The top five women broke 54 seconds with Kaliese Spencer in fourth and USA's Georganne Moline fifth.
Felix wins 200m gold at last
It was third time lucky for Allyson Felix, who won the Olympic 200m title that had eluded her in 2004 and 2008. On both previous occasions she had taken the silver medal behind Veronica Campbell-Brown, but this time the Jamaican finished outside the medals as the top two from the 100m – Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Carmelita Jeter – took silver and bronze respectively.
Having this year improved her 100m speed, Felix was already in the lead as she came off the bend. She gradually pulled away from the field to win in 21.88 – her fifth career sub-22 clocking – as Fraser-Pryce set a PB of 22.09 ahead of Jeter (22.14). Campbell-Brown was tying up in the home straight and just about managed to hold off a fast-finishing Sanya Richards-Ross, 22.38 to 22.39.
Merritt keeps his cool to take 110m Hurdles gold
US champion Aries Merritt came to London as the favourite to win the 110m Hurdles after a string of three successive 12.93 clockings and big victories on the international circuit. Even a top-form Liu Xiang – who crashed out in the heats – would have struggled to catch the American tonight as Merritt ran away with the title in 12.92, finally breaking his personal best.
Up until the fifth hurdle, defending champion Dayron Robles had been in contention for a medal position, but her pulled up in pain, clutching at his hamstring. It left World champion Jason Richardson as Merritt's nearest challenger, but in the end Merritt was simply too good as Richardson took silver in 13.04.
Jamaica's Hansle Parchment had the run of his life to take bronze in 13.12, breaking the national record by 0.02 that he had set in the semi-finals. Britain's Lawrence Clarke was fourth in 13.39, having set a PB of 13.31 in the semis to make the final.
Reese continues Long Jump domination
Brittney Reese yesterday overcame a minor scare in qualifying to make the final as a non-automatic qualifier. But in today's final she regained her focus and sailed out to 7.12m to take gold. It was the best winning mark since 1996, when Chioma Ajunwa won with the same distance.
But it was close to being yet another disaster – aside from that mark, her only other valid attempt was a 6.69m leap, which would have otherwise only placed her seventh. As is often the case with Reese, she had some big fouls – some that looked to be in excess of her winning jump – but her victory was all that mattered.
Undoubtedly the most dominant long jumper of her generation, this was Reese's fifth successive global title, following her two World titles outdoors and two World Indoor golds.
It was a close competition too, with Russia's Yelena Sokolova just five centimetres behind with 7.07m to take the silver. Latvia's Ineta Radevica, the World bronze medallist, had taken an early lead with 6.88m and was still in a medal position for most of the competition, but USA's Janay DeLoach usurped her by one centimetre in the penultimate round to take the bronze with 6.89m.
Eaton looking good for gold after day one of Decathlon
As the only athlete in the world to have broken a world record this summer, decathlete Ashton Eaton came to London as one of the biggest gold medal favourites of the entire Games. On the first day of the 10-discipline event, he did not disappoint.
He opened his account with a 10.35 clocking in the 100m – the fastest ever within an Olympic Decathlon – and followed it with an 8.03m leap in the Long Jump. He threw 14.66m in the shot, better than his mark from the US Trials, to maintain his overall lead and followed it with 2.05m in the High Jump and 46.90 in the 400m.
It brought his day-one tally to 4661, which is slightly behind world record pace, but he insists that his main aim for this week is to win the title, and not necessarily break his 9039 World record. The Olympic record of 8893 though, is definitely within his grasp.
220 points behind Eaton, two-time World champion Trey Hardee had a solid day all-round, but he could find himself locked in a battle for silver as Olympic bronze medallist Leonel Suarez, Belgian record-holder Hans Van Alphen and Dutch record-holder Eelco Sintnicolaas are also performing at near-PB level. European champion Pascal Behrenbruch had a few disappointing events, but providing he has no more disasters tomorrow, he may not yet be completely out of the medal hunt.
Farah closes in on second medal, Wlodarczyk threatens Olympic record
Just a few days after taking 10,000m gold, Mo Farah returned to the Olympic Stadium today and qualified for the 5000m final, but his tiredness was evident as he lined up against fresher athletes. Hayle Ibrahimov of Azerbaijan took the first heat in 13:25.23 from Isiah Koech and Farah in third. But Kenya's Edwin Soi and Saudi Arabia's Moukheld Al-Outaibi – both sub-13 runners at their best – missed out on qualifying after finishing outside the top five.
They had no chance of grabbing a fastest loser spot, as the second heat was a speedy one – the fastest in Olympic history, in fact, as Dejen Gebremeskel led the way in 13:15.15. Team-mate Yenew Alamirew was close behind (13:15.39) with American duo Bernard Lagat and Galen Rupp also qualifying as all the fastest loser spots came from this heat.
Former World record-holder Anita Wlodarczyk gave herself the best possible 27th birthday present as she qualified for the Hammer final with her first throw. Her 75.68m is just 66cm shy of the Olympic record and was easily the best mark of the day.
Joining her in the final will be world record-holder Betty Heidler, World champion Tatyana Lysenko, two-time World champion Yipsi Moreno and Asian record-holder Zhang Wenxiu. Defending Olympic champion Oksana Menkova only made it through to the final with her last throw, 73.10m.
Aside from a few non-starters and DNFs – including Ethiopian record-holder Fantu Magiso – all the main contenders made it through to the next round of the women's 800m. Defending champion Pamela Jelimo won her heat with ease in 2:00.54, while some of the other heat winners included World champion Mariya Savinova, 2007 World champion Janeth Jepkosgei and US champion Alysia Montano.
The top two finishers at last year's World Championships – Pawel Wojciechowski and Lazaro Borges – will not compete in the Olympic Pole Vault final after going out in this morning's qualifying round. Wojciechowski has been struggling with injury all year and failed to clear his opening height of 5.35m, while Borges' focus was thrown after his pole snapped and could go no higher than 5.50m.
But defending champion Steve Hooker needed just one jump to make the final as his first-time clearance at 5.50m proved adequate to advance. Joining him in the final will be European champion Renaud Lavillenie, 2008 Olympic silver medallist Yevgeniy Lukyanenko and top German trio Bjorn Otto, Malte Mohr and Raphael Holzdeppe.
Two highly-competitive semi-finals saw the finalists decided in the women's 1500m - and they did not include World champion Jenny Simpson. The American was run out of it in the fast second race, finishing back in 12th. At the front it was Ethiopian record-holder Abeba Aregawi who impressed, clocking 4:01.03 to finish ahead of Turkey's Gamze Bulut (4:01.18). Former World champions Tatyana Chernova and Maryam Jamal also grabbed automatic qualifying spots, along with World indoor 3000m champion Hellen Obiri. The first semi was a few seconds slower but even more competitive as just a third of a second separated the top five finishers. They were led by European champion Asli Cakir (4:05.11) with Russian champion Yekaterina Kostetskaya and former World silver medallist Lisa Dobriskey progressing.