Another lightning Bolt for Jamaica; another unexpected jolt of a medal for Great Britain. Usain Bolt was still posing next to the trackside clock on the infield of the Beijing Bird’s Nest when Tasha Danvers was getting ready to settle into her starting blocks for the women’s 400m hurdles final. The barriers set out in front of her were just ten more to surmount in a career - a season even - that has been strewn with obstacles.
Only last month, when the native Londoner finished a drained runner-up in the British trials in Birmingham, she underwent blood tests and when the results came through a doctor told her: “We’re going to have to need to revive you.” Her white blood cell count was dangerously low. There have been Achilles tendon and hamstring problems this summer too. And in years gone by there has been a trip at the final hurdle that cost her a Commonwealth Games bronze medal, plus a surprise pregnancy that put her out of the reckoning for the Athens Olympics - and gave her a beloved baby boy, Jaden, who turns four in December.
In Beijing’s showpiece Olympic arena today, Danvers ran the mother of all races. As Melanie Walker sped to another gold for Jamaica (in an Olympic record 52.64sec) and Sheena Tosta took silver for the USA (clocking 53.70), Danvers seized the hand of opportunity and a wholly unexpected bronze medal - just as Germaine Mason had done 24 hours previously when he soared to silver in the high jump. Entering the home straight a clear third, Danvers held her form to the line, finishing 0.12sec clear of the Ukrainian Anastasiya Rabchenyuk. Her time was the best of her life, 53.84sec.
At the grand old age of 30, the Croydon athlete who spends most of her time living in Los Angeles (where she is coached by her American husband, Darrell Smith) had finally come good. “Don’t ever give up: that’s the moral of the story,” Danvers reflected. “That’s what I want the next generation to understand. Everything just doesn’t come all roses all the time. That is the nature of this athletics game.”
The Beijing National Stadium was no bed of roses today for Mo Farah, who suffered a knock out blow in the 5,000m heats. With Phillips Idowu in the triple jump final tomorrow, though, Britain could well have another golden egg to match the one delivered by Christine Ohuruogu in the Bird’s Nest on Tuesday night.