Team GB's Christine Ohuruogu earns silver after late surge
Sunday 05 August 2012
Britain's Christine Ohuruogu tonight produced a storming finish to claim a silver medal in the defence of her Olympic 400 metres title on home soil in London.
Ohuruogu, whose family lives so close to the Olympic site in Stratford that she could walk to the stadium, looked out of contention with 120m to go before powering down the home straight in trademark style.
American Sanya Richards-Ross took gold in 49.55 seconds with Ohuruogu clocking a season's best of 49.70secs, just 0.02s ahead of another American DeeDee Trotter on the line.
Britain's athletes have now won four medals in less than 24 hours after golds for Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah on Saturday night, with the pre-Games target set by UK Athletics head coach Charles van Commenee of eight - with just one of them gold - looking highly conservative.
Ohuruogu's time was a season's best by more than half a second and only the third time in her career that she had broken 50 seconds.
On the other two occasions she won the world title in Osaka in 2007, in 49.61, and the Olympics in Beijing the following year, in 49.62, confirming her reputation as someone who delivers on the biggest stages.
That reputation took a major dent when she was amazingly disqualified for a false start at the World Championships in Daegu last year, but a storming leg as Britain won gold in the 4x400m relay at the World Indoor Championships in March indicated she was back to her best after various injury problems.
Sadly for another capacity 80,000 crowd, Ohuruogu's male counterparts failed to even make the final of their event, as Conrad Williams (45.53), Nigel Levine (45.64) and Martyn Rooney (45.31) finished eighth, sixth and fifth respectively in the semi-finals.
"I don't think in all honesty you can call that a decent race," Rooney said. "When I normally open up my stride and pull away in the final 100m it just wasn't there today and that's been the story of this year.
"I've trained hard, made all the sacrifices everyone talks about, I lost a social life and a life of normality with this altitude training I did this year. I did all the work, it just wasn't good enough."
Levine finished ahead of double amputee Oscar Pistorius, who clocked 46.54 in the second semi-final.
And Levine added of his performance: "I am not pleased with that. My aim here was to make the final. I was aiming pretty big for my first Olympics so I have got a lot to work on for next year."
Williams, who faded badly on the home straight, said: "My race was brilliant to 320m, I went out eyeballs out to try to be in the mix, but I needed to be a bit more patient at the top turn to be in a better position for the finish."
There was drama in the final of the men's 3,000m steeplechase as defending Olympic champion Brimin Kipruto was tripped with just 700m remaining and sent crashing to the track.
Kipruto jumped straight back up and sprinted to get back into the pack, but the damage was done and it was fellow Kenyan and world champion Ezekiel Kemboi who produced the decisive finishing burst to claim gold.
France's Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad took silver and Kenya's Abel Mutai the bronze, while the unfortunate Kipruto had to settle for fifth.
Ohuruogu was devastated to lose her Olympic title.
"I was stunned," she told BBC1. "I was heartbroken actually, I really was.
"To lose your title like that, it was tough. But Tanya's a worthy competitor and she ran a good race so I have to be happy with what I got. It good have been worse."
After a storming home straight, it almost looked like Ohuruogu might win it.
She said: "I thought I still had some time but the line came too soon and I thought, 'No, it's gone, it's gone'.
On last night's British heroics in the stadium, she said: "It was great, the guys did really well last night. I think we were all kind of surprised.
"But I always came here with one thing and one thing only [on my mind] and that was to continue my reign as Olympic champ. I'm just a bit disappointed."
Despite missing out on gold, Ohuruogu enjoyed a lap of honour at the end.
"I just wanted to go back and say thank you to all the people who've come up," she said. "They've really made these Games special.
"Everybody I've spoken to - non-British athletes - have all said what a great crowd we have and what a great atmosphere and it's really great that everybody, the whole country, has got behind the London 2012 Games.
"They've all helped to make it the Games it is. They did it. We're just here to perform, but it's the crowd who turn up to support us, even when it's raining and it's cold, they're all here.
"We can only say thank you for getting behind us. It means so much to us. The athletes were buzzing on the first day. We really couldn't believe it.
"It's so nice to have this in your own country, that people just love and appreciate what you do."
Britain's Robbie Grabarz justified his status as a serious medal contender by leading the qualifiers into Tuesday's high jump final, the 24-year-old producing first-time clearances at 2.21m, 2.26m and 2.29m.
World champion Jesse Williams, world number one Ivan Ukhov and defending Olympic champion Andrey Silnov also qualified for what promises to be a high-quality final.
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