Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic stole the show at the Olympic Stadium on Monday when he won the Men’s 400m hurdles in 47,63 seconds.
In a tight finish, Sanchez powered home in a season’s best time of 47,63 to win the gold medal, finishing just ahead of Michael Tinsley of the United States (47,91) and Javier Culson of Puerto Rico (48,10).
It was a big upset and a great comeback by the 34-year-old who won his second Olympic gold medal after his triumph at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
In the process he beat the current world champion of Great Britain, Dai Greene, who finished fourth in 48,24, and the 2008 Olympic champion Angelo Taylor of the United States, who finished fifth in 48,25.
An emotional Sanchez could not stop the tears on the winners podium and was warmly applauded by another capacity 80 000 crowd at the Olympic Stadium.
Afterwards he revealed that he had run with a photo tucked in his vest of his late grandmother Lillian who passed away during the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
“I just wanted to make her proud so I’ve got her name on my spikes. The day she died in Beijing it broke my heart. That’s why I ran with her photo close to my heart,” he said.
Sanchez also received praise from his fellow competitors.
“Sanchez is a fantastic athlete,” said Dai Greene.
“I am tired and shocked. I gave it everything I could. I was just too tired at the end and just missed out on a medal,” he added.
“My heart goes out to him. He worked hard all year long,” said Angelo Taylor.
“Sanchez ran well, he’s a great athlete,” said Kerron Clement from the United States who finished eighth.
In the men’s 400m final, Kirani James of Grenada ran a brilliant race to win in 43,94 seconds. It was a national record for Grenada and the first time this year that an athlete had gone under 44 seconds.
Luguelin Santos of the Dominican Republic came second in 44,46 and Lalonde Gordon of Trinidad and Tobago third in 44.52.
James, who is still only 19 years old, powered away from the rest of the field over the home stretch to win by more than a meter, and on this form Michael Johnson’s world record of 43,18 is well in his sight.
James on Sunday also endeared himself to the public when he exchanged name tags with South Africa’s double amputee Oscar Pistorius after their semifinal heat.
James won the heat and Pistorius came last, but as soon as their race was finished, Kirani traded name tags with Pistorius in a sign of respect for what he has accomplished.
“He’s an inspiration for all of us. What he does takes a lot of courage, just a lot of confidence. He’s very special to our sport. He’s a great individual and its time we see him like that and not anything else,” he said.
James’ inspirational gesture was just the latest sign of the wonderful sportsmanship and cameraderie that has made the London 2012 Olympics so special.
For Pistorius, it was also an amazing journey, as he became the first paralympic athlete to compete with able bodied athletes at the Olympic Games.
“It just felt really magical. If I could predict what it would feel like or imagine beyond my wildest dreams, this was probably 10 times that. To step out in front of a crowd this massive, it’s a mind-blowing experience. I’ve had support in the last couple of days like I have never felt before,” he said afterwards.