In Beijing four years ago, Jenn Suhr's clearance at 4.80 meters (15 feet, 9 inches) was only good enough for second place, thanks to Yelena Isinbayeva's world record performance. But on a breezy evening in London Monday, Suhr's 4.75/15-7 success, plus a tactical advantage over runner-up Yarisley Silva, earned the American an Olympic gold medal. Both Silver and Isinbayeva missed their first attempts Monday, while Suhr cleared her opening height of 4.55/14-11. After passing at 4.65/15-3, Suhr topped 4.70/15-5 on her first try and 4.75 on her second, matching Silva's performance. But Silva, who equaled Cuba's national record, had to settle for a silver medal due to her earlier miss. Isinbayeva, meanwhile, cleared 4.65 and 4.70 before barely missing twice at 4.75. She took her final attempt at 4.80, but wasn't close, so the Russian two-time defending champ goes home with a bronze medal. Neither Suhr nor Silva came close to clearing 4.80 in three attempts each.
Kirani James of Grenada surprised many by winning the 400-meter World championship one year ago. But he surprised few, if any, by capturing the Olympic gold on Monday. How the race would've played out if American defending champion LaShawn Merritt hadn't been injured, no one will ever know. Nevertheless, James hardly backed into his title, dominating the race and winning in a world-leading and personal best 43.94 seconds. Luquelin Santos of the Dominican Republic took second in 44.46 while Trinidad's Lalonde Gordon earned the bronze in a personal best 44.52.
Nadzeya Ostapchuk of Belarus enjoyed an equally dominating victory in the shot put. Four of her attempts flew past the 21-meter mark, including her winning toss of 21.36/70-1 in the third round. Ostapchuk, who took third in Beijing, gained her biggest victory over New Zealand rival Valerie Adams since Ostapchuk won the 2010 World Indoor title. Adams, the 2008 Olympic champion, led after one round but never again, topping out at 20.70/67-11 on her third attempt. Russia's Evgeniia Kolodko snatched the bronze away from Gong Liljao of China with a sixth-round effort measuring a personal best 20.48/67-2.
Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic took the lead late in the 400-meter hurdles final and powered home to victory in a season-best 47.63 seconds. The American-born Sanchez, who turns 34 later this month, dominated world competition from 2001-04, winning two World championships and the 2004 Olympic gold medal. Since then he'd earned just one major championship medal, a silver at the 2007 World Championships. Sanchez entered the Olympics well down on the 400-meter charts this year with a season-best of 48.56. But he leaves London with the world's two best times of 2012 (including his 47.76-second semifinal performance) and, most importantly, the gold medal. American Michael Tinsley rallied down the stretch to earn the silver medal in a personal best 47.91, while pre-Olympic favorite Javier Culson of Puerto Rico was third in 48.10.
Russia still controls the women's Olympic steeplechase gold medal, courtesy of Yuliya Zaripova's victory in a personal best 9:06.72. Russia's Gulnara Galkina won the initial Olympic women's steeplechase in 2008. Zaripova led Monday's steeplechase final from the start. She was challenged on the last lap but refused to budge, finally pulling away from her African challengers. Habiba Ghribi of Tunisia was second in a national record 9:08.37, while Sofia Assefa of Ethiopia gained the bronze in 9:09.84, just ahead of pre-Olympic favorite Milcah Chemos of Kenya (9:09.88).
In preliminary action, Russia's Natalya Antyukh posted the best time in the 400-meter hurdles semifinals, running a season-best 53.33. American Lashinda Demus won her heat in 54.08 to lead three Americans into Wednesday's final, while Nigeria's Muizat Odumosu won the other semi in a national record 54.40.
Sanya Richards-Ross of the U.S., who already has the 400-meter gold medal in her pocket, led all runners in the 200-meter heats, winning in 22.48. The event moves on to the semifinals Tuesday.