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Makhloufi in upset 1,500 win

August 08, 2012


Algeria's Taoufik Makhloufi (R) competes with (from L) Morocco's Abdalaati Iguider, US athlete Matthew Centrowitz, Ethiopia's Mekonnen Gebremedhin and Kenya's Silas Kiplagat in the men's 1500m final. -Photo by AFP

LONDON: A day after being kicked out of the Olympics for not trying, Algeria's Taoufik Makhloufi gave it his all to secure a surprise gold medal in the men's 1,500 metres final on Tuesday.

World champion Sally Pearson of Australia also pulled out all the stops to claim the 100 hurdles title, edging out 2008 gold medallist Dawn Harper by 0.02 seconds for victory.

Makhloufi was briefly excluded from participating in all events at the Games for not trying in his 800 heat but there was no questioning the 24-year-old's effort as he blasted away from the pack to coolly take gold on a wet night in London.

“Yesterday I was out, today I'm in. This is a gift for the Algerian people and for the whole of the Arabic world,” said Makhloufi, who was reinstated to the Games on medical grounds after evidence was provided by two doctors.

Defending champion Asbel Kiprop, awarded the 2008 title after winner Rashid Ramzi failed a dope test, was never in the mix and trailed in last, putting his poor showing down to a hamstring injury.

Asked if Makhloufi should have been in the final, Kiprop told reporters: “Yes it was healthy to have him in the race. It was not a big offence what he did.”

Pearson led from the start in the hurdles but, for once, did not pull away from the field, crossing the line with Harper.

The pair faced an anxious wait for the result which finally showed Pearson as victor in an Olympic record 12.35, Harper second and fellow American Kellie Wells third.

The champion looked shell-shocked when her name flashed up on the scoreboard first.

“Relief was the first thing I felt and then shock. I'm just going through the motions,” said the 25-year-old Pearson. “I really wanted this.”

Harper had thought for one fleeting moment the title was still hers.

“Then I looked up (at the scoreboard) and then I said 'darn, I didn't get her'. It was a really close race,” Harper said.

Earlier, it looked as though German discus thrower Robert Harting could have given the women a run for their money as, stripped to the waist, he leaped the hurdles in celebration after his gold medal, producing a cheer from the crowd each time.

Harting took the lead from Iran's Ehsan Hadadi in the penultimate round with a throw of 68.27.

“I don't drink beer, I will have a non-alcoholic beverage,” the world champion said of his celebration plans.

Hadadi's silver with 68.18 was Iran's first Olympic track and field medal.

There were five medallists in the high jump, led by Russian Ivan Ukhov who cleared 2.38 despite jumping in a t-shirt after losing his competition vest.

American Erik Kynard took silver with 2.33 and the bronze was shared by Qatar's Mutaz Essa Barshim, Canadian Derek Drouin and Robert Grabarz of Britain, who all jumped 2.29 with identical records.

“It's going to be busy on the podium,” Grabarz said.

“As long as we get a medal each and don't have to split it we'll be all right.”

All the medal favourites made it through to Wednesday's final of the women's 200 with Olympic 400 metres champion Sanya Richards-Ross running full pelt to record 22.30 for the fastest time of the round.

The American was up against Jamaica's Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and appeared determined to get the better of the Olympic 100 gold medallist despite the first two being guaranteed a place in the final.

“I just wanted to give myself the best shot for tomorrow. I wasn't trying to send any messages,” Richards-Ross said.

Defending champion Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica, Carmelita Jeter and Allyson Felix, searching for a first Olympic individual gold after finishing second at the last two Games, also qualified.

Kenya's world record holder David Rudisha barely broke sweat as he eased to victory in his 800 metres semi-final in 1:44.35 although he was edged off the top of the qualifying list by Ethiopian Mohammed Aman, the only man to have beaten the Kenyan since 2009, who won his heat in 1:44.34.

Britain's Shara Proctor headed the qualifiers for the women's long jump final with a first-round effort of 6.83.

Beijing winner Maurren Higa Maggi of Brazil failed to reach the final, finishing in 15th with a best of 6.37.