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Pearson wins hurdles gold for Australia, Makhloufi takes surpising 1,500 title at Olympics

08/07/2012 06:10 EDT | Updated 10/07/2012 05:12 EDT
LONDON - Sally Pearson won an Olympic gold medal that finally fulfilled Australia's expectations. Algeria's Taoufik Makhloufi got one that seemed impossible when he was briefly thrown out of the games.

Pearson came to Australia's rescue Tuesday, winning with a games record in the 100-meter hurdles final to soothe the pain of a nation going through its worst Olympics in decades.

Nothing has been easy for the Australians in London, not even Pearson's win. She was left to wait a while after crossing the line before the big screen showed she had just edged defending champion Dawn Harper of the United States by .02 hundreds of a second with a time of 12.35 seconds.

She let out a scream when the time flashed up and fell to the ground, crying, finally getting Olympic gold after finishing second four years ago.

"Relief was the first thing I felt and then shock," Pearson said.

Pearson held off a trio of American challengers. Behind Harper, Kellie Wells took bronze in 12.48. Lolo Jones, who stumbled out of contention when gold was within her reach in Beijing four years ago, was again left without an Olympic medal, finishing fourth.

Pearson's victory gave Australia its fourth gold medal of the games as it slowly moves up the medals table to a more respectable position in the top 10. "We're definitely going to get more than that, and we are working our way up that medal tally and it's going to be great," Pearson said.

If Pearson held off the pressure of all the expectations, Makhloufi's gold medal in the 1,500 was as surprising as could be, considering he was excluded from games a day earlier for not trying hard enough in a heat of the 800 metres.

He was reinstated late Monday on medical advice after the Algerian federation said he was troubled by his left knee in Monday's 800.

There was no sign of any problem during Tuesday's 1,500 final as Makhloufi took the lead in the last 250 metres and never wavered to beat the favoured Kenyans, who faded out of medal contention.

"Yesterday I was out and today I was in. I dedicate this to all the people of Algeria and the Arab world," he said. Leonel Manzano of the United States took silver and Abdalaati Iguider of Morocco finished with bronze.

The morning session was overshaodwed by former champion Liu Xiang's exit in his first heat of the 110-meter hurdles for the second Olympics in a row, clutching the same right Achilles tendon that had already doomed his chances at the Beijing Games.

It left one of the signature races of the games without one of its main characters. Liu's challenge to defending champion Dayron Robles and U.S. hurdler Aries Merritt had been shaping as one of the highlights of the games.

But Liu's hopes for a second gold are over — for at least another four years.

"The initial assessment of medical experts is a suspected ruptured Achilles tendon," Chinese team leader Feng Shuyong said, adding that "the injury should be quite serious."

Liu won in 2004 at Athens to become the first Chinese man to claim an Olympic track and field gold medal, but shocked the home crowd in Beijing four years later when he had to withdraw in his heat without clearing a hurdle because of a right foot problem which later required surgery.

The biggest duel of the games — between 100 champion Usain Bolt and training partner Yohan Blake — continued apace, with both cruising into Wednesday's semifinal of the 200, where Bolt is seeking his second Olympic sprint double.

On a night of exceptional feats, few were as rare as the high jump where no fewer than five jumpers won medals. Russian Ivan Ukhov, who earned a "strong warning" from the IAAF for being drunk during a competition in 2008, took gold when he cleared 2.38 metres, leaving Erik Kynard of the United States second with 2.33 metres.

Three men were tied for bronze: Essa Mutaz Barshim of Qatar, Robert Grabarz of Britain and Derek Drouin of Canada.

No one on Tuesday came with such an overpowering record into the final as Robert Harting in the discus. The German had been unbeaten since August 2010 and now has an Olympic gold to go with his world title.

Veronica Campbell-Brown remained on course to become the first woman to win three individual Olympic track and field gold medals in a row, when she reached Wednesday's final of the 200.

Campbell-Brown already won a bronze medal in the 100 metres and is now looking for her third consecutive title in the 200. She beat Carmelita Jeter of the United States in her semifinal.

Olympic 400 champion Sanya Richards-Ross and 100 gold medallist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Price also advanced to keep alive their shots at double sprint gold.

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