Christine Ohuruogu has to settle for 400 metres silver despite her late lunge
This stadium had already witnessed more than any expected. Drama is a Union flag. And none who saw Christine Ohuruogu pound down the final 100 metres last night was any less inflamed than the attendees the night before. The golden glow that settled on Saturday was not in Ohuruogu's gift in the 400m final, but how near she came to banking some bullion of her own.
Oh so close. For a moment it was almost Beijing all over again. Where did that come from? Ohuruogu's time of 49.70 was her best since running down Sanya Richards-Ross four years ago. The American, though not at her best, must have feared a second sacking here as Ohuruogu closed with every stride down the final straight.
A surprise champion four years ago, she was no less of a shock here despite the respectable time she set to make the final. Her victory at the London grand prix last month had hinted that something might be stirring but she has not produced anything like the consistency to suggest the form required to threaten the podium. But that is to ignore a champion's heart and the power of running in your own neighbourhood.
Ohuruogu is Stratford-born and -bred but made nil use of the proximity to milk the build-up to these Games. She likes to operate in the margins. Not for her the poster girl role for which Jessica Ennis is so well cast. Consequently, there has been no east London drum roll accompanying her into the stadium. Indeed, her brother Charles, an aspiring footballer serving burgers at the ExCel Arena while recovering from injury, went public with his view that the underwhelming support for Ohuruogu amounts to a lack of respect for her golden achievement in Beijing.
Maybe her treatment in the media surrounding her failure to attend compulsory drug testing on three occasions made her wary. Pity, because her talent and her smile are worthy of greater appreciation. If she was reluctant to seek the limelight coming into these Games, she seemed to make her peace with fame when the moment came.
There was no sense of fear or apprehension as she walked to her blocks with a white hoody drawn over her head. Time seemed to have slowed in her final seconds as champion. She sat passively before completing the disrobing ritual. Whether deliberately or otherwise, Ohuruogu was the last to undress. Perhaps she was hanging on to every last second as champion, taking in all that defending a gold medal meant.
She was given a rapturous welcome, the crowd doing their bit to give her the extra yard. She gave it everything, as they all do, but on this occasion her famous late kick was not enough to repeat the marvel of Beijing. Had she made her move 10 metres sooner, the result might have been different. No race is won in retrospect and she accepted silver with grace. "I was stunned by the reception. I was heartbroken at the end. To lose your title like that was tough. Sanya is a wily competitor. It could have been worse.
"I tightened. I could feel my shoulders lifting. I thought I had some time but the line came too soon. I came here with one thing in mind and that was to continue my reign as Olympic champion. So really disappointed."
Failure is relative. Ohuruogu embarked on a lap of honour that could barely have been more engaging had she won.
The audience had come to see the world's fastest man, but mindful of the electricity that shot around this arena the night before, they hoped to tap into a little of that force last night. Ohuruogu was the British vehicle carrying domestic hopes. She acknowledged the power of that atmosphere and was secretly hoping that she might evince the same response.
This is a woman who knows how to manage the big stage. Two of those who flicked Saturday's switch, Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford, were presented with their medals shortly before the 400m final. It was yet another reminder of what was and also what might yet be. The volume was off the scale once more, as it was when she took her valedictory lap draped in the Union flag.
"I wanted to say thank you to all the fans. Everybody I have spoken to, all the athletes visiting our country for the Games say what a great Games this has been. The people have made it what it is. The athletes just perform. It is just so nice to have this in your own country. I just wanted to say thanks and take it all in."
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