Athletics: Team GB captain Dai Greene scrapes into 400 metres hurdles final

 

Team captain Dai Greene tonight scraped into the Olympic final of the 400 metres hurdles in a dramatic start to an evening expected to bring the British team their first athletics medals.

World champion Greene lay on the track with his head in his hands after crossing the line fourth in the opening semi-final, with only the first two qualifying automatically and the next two fastest across all three semis also reaching Monday's final.

That meant an anxious wait for the 26-year-old Welshman to see if his time of 48.19 seconds would be good enough - a wait which ended when a massive roar from the 80,000-strong crowd confirmed he had enjoyed a lucky escape.

Speaking before he knew he had made the final, Greene said: "I can't believe it. I'm just devastated. I went off at a decent pace. I couldn't believe I wasn't closing them down (in the final straight). I'm just shocked.

"I just don't really know what went wrong. Second fastest loser is no way to perform if you are world champion in my mind. I feel like I've let everybody down. I should be able to do better than that - I know I'm better than that."

His training partner Jack Green had an even worse experience, the 20-year-old clattering into the third hurdle in the second semi-final and crashing to the track.

Green, who looked to have suffered an injury in the fall but was fit enough to get to his feet, pick up the offending barrier and slam it into the track, had tears in his eyes as he said: "It's a lack of experience in the event. I am absolutely distraught as you can see. I lost my balance, I was already going down and as you can see I now have bloody knees because that track's nice and hard and takes off the skin quite well."

European champion Rhys Williams also missed out after finishing fourth in the last semi-final in 49.63, while 2004 Olympic champion Felix Sanchez was the fastest qualifier in 47.76 - the quickest time in the world this year - ahead of previous world number one Javier Culson, who clocked 47.93.

Williams looked in contention until stumbling off the last hurdle and said: "I gave it everything and I am gutted I am not going to get another chance to go out there because the support has been great.

"I had a dreadful last hurdle and lost all my momentum. The Slovakian guy (Brent Larue) beat me and, with all due respect, that should not happen."

Abi Oyepitan, who had reached the 100m semi-finals as a fastest loser, then finished eighth in the first semi in a time of 11.36, with world champion Carmelita Jeter of the United States winning in 10.83.

But Britain's defending Olympic champion Christine Ohuruogu powered into the 400m final by running a season's best of 50.22 in her semi-final, while team-mates Shana Cox (52.58) and Lee McConnell (52.24) missed out after finishing seventh in the subsequent semis.

Ohuruogu did not speak to the media after the race but a disappointed Cox said of her own performance: "It was not the best of times, definitely not the way I would have wanted to go out. Now I just have to go back to the drawing board and work on a few things."

McConnell added: "I'm a bit disappointed with that. I had hoped for a better performance. It was tough out there and the girls went out quick and just pulled me out too fast. I need to try to push this disappointment aside and focus on the relay."

The first gold medal of the evening was won by 22-year-old Sandra Perkovic in the women's discus with a Croatian national record of 69.11m.

Perkovic took the lead in the second round with a throw of 68.11m and added exactly one more metre in the next for what proved to be the winning distance.

Russia's Darya Pishchalnikova claimed silver with a throw of 67.56m in the penultimate round, with China's Li Yanfeng winning bronze with 67.22m.

More to follow...

PA

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