Jennifer Suhr of the U.S. outjumped world record holder and two-time defending Olympic champion Elena Isinbaeva to win pole vaulting gold at the London Games.
The 30-year-old American, the silver medalist in 2008, won the women’s title with a jump of 4.75 meters (15 feet, 7 inches). Cuba’s Yarisley Silva took silver while former gymnast Isinbaeva took bronze. All three women paraded around the stadium waving their national flags after the event.
“It’s really breathtaking,” Suhr, who is coached by her husband, Richard, told reporters. “It’s emotional. To have faith and to have it all come together and to achieve what we dreamt of, it’s amazing.”
Isinbaeva, 30, had been trying to become the first woman to win three consecutive gold medals in the same individual track and field event. The Russian, who set her world record of 5.06 meters three years ago in Stockholm, is the only woman to have cleared five meters or better. She has broken her own world mark 28 times.
Felix Sanchez captured the first gold medal of the London games for the Dominican Republic by winning the 400-meter hurdles in a season’s best 47.63 seconds. Sanchez also won the event at the 2004 Athens Olympics, in exactly the same time as today. At 34 years of age, he’s the oldest champion and medalist in the event at the Olympics.
“A lot of people said I should retire, but I stuck with it,” Sanchez told reporters.
American Michael Tinsley, 28, ran the fastest race of his career to take silver in 47.91 seconds. Puerto Rico’s Javier Culson, 28, took bronze in 48.10 seconds.
Angelo Taylor, the 33-year-old American who was trying for a record third gold, finished fifth, behind Britain’s world champion David Greene.
“My heart goes out to him,” Taylor said about Sanchez. “He worked hard all year long.”
Nadzeya Ostapchuk won the women’s shot put with a throw of 21.36 meters to clinch the first athletics gold medal for Belarus at the London Games. Defending Olympic champion Valerie Adams from New Zealand took silver, while Russia’s Evgeniia Kolodko got the bronze. Adams, the reigning world champion, had not lost a competition at an Olympic or world championship level to the Belarussian since 2005.
“I’m very happy at this moment,” Ostapchuk told reporters. “It’s my third Olympic Games and it’s a long way to get to this gold medal. My coach said that I must commit all because my opponents were very strong and they could do something until the end.”
Kirani James, 19, of Grenada, took gold in the men’s 400 meters in 43.94 seconds, becoming the first non-American to break 44 seconds in the event. The Dominican Republic’s Luguelin Santos, also 19, took silver in 44.46 seconds and Trinidad’s Lalonde Gordon, 23, took bronze in 44.52 seconds.
Defending champion LaShawn Merritt of the U.S., who successfully sued to participate in the games following a doping ban, failed to make the final after hurting his hamstring in the heats on Aug. 4.
Russia’s Yuliya Zaripova won the gold medal in the 3,000-meter steeplechase in a new personal best of 9:06:72, ahead of Habiba Ghribi of Tunisia in second place. Sofia Assefa of Ethopia got bronze.