There was drama in the Men’s 110m Hurdles final at the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday evening when the world record holder and defending Olympic champion Dayron Robles of Cuba crashed out of the final.
Robles pulled up lame at hurdle seven clutching his right hamstring and walked dejectedly to the finish line.
In Robles’ absence, Aries Merrit of the United States raced through to take the gold medal in 12,92 seconds, which was close to Robles’ world record of 12,87 seconds.
Jason Richardson of the USA won silver in 13,04 while Hansle Parchment of Jamaica won bronze in 13,12.
“I am so excited, words cant explain how excited I am right now. People were talking about a world record, but 12,92 into a headwind is still pretty impressive. I am happy with that,” Merrit said after the race.
“The gold medal means everything. The US havent had a gold medal in the 110m hurdles since Allen Johnson in 1996. It’s phenomenal. To be here in this atmosphere is really special,” he added.
Robles’ exit followed that of another favourite, Liu Xiang of China who crashed out in his first round heat when he failed to clear his first hurdle.
But he turned his personal tragedy into a universal triumph when he hopped 100m on one foot to what would have been his final hurdle, bent down and kissed it. At the finish line he was met by his fellow competitors who helped him off the track into a wheelchair.
Allyson Felix of the United States finally won a gold medal at her third Olympics following two silver medals in 2004 and 2008.
She won the women’s 200m in 21,88 seconds, followed by the 100m gold medallist, Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce of Jamaica (22,09) and Carmelita Jeter of the United States (22,14).
“I mean finally,” Felix said afterwards.
“It’s been a long time coming, I am so overjoyed, my boyfriend and family, everyone was here. I am so thankful to God for an amazing opportunity, I am so excited,” she said.
“I thought back to the disappointment in Beijing. It’s been a long road, I never wanted to give up. It’s been a journey - never easy, but you cant lose sight of your dream. It’s just awesome, I’ve wanted it for so long. This moment is really priceless,” she added.
The women’s 400m Hurdles final saw a brilliant race, with Natalya Antyukh of Russia pipping Lashinda Demus of the United States to the gold medal.
Antyukh underlined her status as the world number one to win gold in a great time of 52,70 seconds. It was the fastest time of the year and the sixth fastest time in history.
Demus won the silver medal with a time of 52,77 while Zuzana Hejnova of the Czech Republic won the bronze medal in 53,38.
“This has been very special. I cannot express the words,” Antyukh said.
“I only started hurdles in 2009. I have done a lot of work, to get a PB (personal best time) is amazing - a world record soon would be great, it’s not very far away. The biggest challenge was to see myself against just myself,” she added.
Meanwhile, Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake eased into Thursday’s 200m final with both winning their semifinal heats.
Blake won the first heat in 20,01 seconds, finishing just ahead of Wallace Spearman of the United States (20,02) and Christophe Lemaitre of France (20,03).
Bolt won the second heat in 20,18, finishing ahead of South Africa’s Anaso Jobodwana (20,27) who also qualified for the final.
Churandy Martina of the Netherlands won the third semifinal in 20,17 to qualify for the final along with second placed Warren Weir (20,28) of Jamaica.
“It’s all about going through as easy as possible. I am ready, this is my favourite event,” Bolt said afterwards.
On critics who have doubted his prospects of repeating his triple gold medal performance of the Beijing Olympics, he said:
“That’s how people are. They are always doubting a champion. But that is why I am here, to cement my legendary status. I am focused and I am ready.”
Blake also sounded confident of his chances.
“I’ve been working hard, all I needed to do was kick well. There is always a good chance (of winning the final) but mistakes can happen.”