London, Aug 9 (IANS) Aries Merritt ran a personal best of 12.92 to win the 110 metres hurdles gold at the Olympic Games athletics competition here Wednesday night. It is the first gold medal for the US in the event since Allen Johnson won it in Atlanta in 1996.
Merritt got a flying start and held off the challenge of world champion Jason Richardson and Jamaica's Hansle Parchment to secure what in the end was a comfortable win. The race ended in sadness for Daryon Robles as the reigning Olympic champion, who had got a good start, but limped out after pulling his hamstring.
Merrit said his hard work and his ability to relax at the key moment were main reasons for his win.
"I trained for this, it is very intensive," he said, adding that he had done all he could to take the tension out of his performance.
Meanwhile, Richardson's silver gave the US an impressive 1-2 on an excellent night for the Americans in the Olympic Stadium winning three of the four gold medals that were up for grabs.
Allyson Felix ended the disappointment of taking silver in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics by finally getting the better of Veronica Campbell Brown in the 200 metres final.
"You can never lose sight of your dream; I suppose it will sink in sometime tonight. I have waited so long and this moment is really priceless. It has been a long time coming, I have waited to do long for this, so I am overjoyed, there are so many people here tonight, so I am delighted to share it with them," said Felix.
Campbell went into the race with hopes of becoming the first woman to win gold in the same track event in three consecutive Olympics, but was run out on the back straight.
Felix was strongest from start to finish, while 100 meters gold and silver pair, Shelly Ann Frazier-Pryce and Carmelita Jeter were left to battle for silver medal. Frazier-Pryce showed she has worked on her stamina by holding off Jeter in the closing metres to add silver to the gold she won on Saturday night.
Felix ran a time of 21.88, while Campbell Brown ended the race outside of the medals in fourth place.
Natalya Antyukh completed a successful switch from the flat to hurdles with gold in the women's 400 metres final. The Russian had a bronze medal from the 400 metres flat race from Athens, but was able to hold on to win an exciting final.
The race boiled down to a duel between Antyukh and world champion Lashinda Demus, while the Czech Republic's Zuzana Hejnova finished fast to take bronze.
Demus and Antyukh were both fast out of the blocks with Demus getting the better start before Antyukh's pace told round the back straight and the bend, but she began to tire in the closing metres and faded dramatically after the last hurdle. She had just enough left to hold on to clock a new personal best of 52.70, although she admitted the time was down more to strength that her fluency over the hurdles.
Britney Reese rounded off a fine night for the US when she won the women's long jump with a leap of 7.12 metres. Russia's Elena Sokolova won silver with a jump of 7.07 and Janay Deloach put the icing on the cake by winning bronze.
"I feel great. I wanted to come out and make a statement and that's exactly what I did," said Reese. "It's taken a lot, but it's been fun. I've dedicated a lot to working towards this medal," she added, dedicating the win to her home state of Mississippi.
"I'm from the coast of Mississippi. We went through Hurricane Katrina (2005), so I have got this medal for them. This is to honor them," said Reese.
Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake were back in action in the semifinals of the 200 metres. Blake set down the marker in the first race, easing up but still winning in 20.01sec., followed across the line by Warren Spearman and Christophe Lemaitre, who ran the second and fastest times of the night.
Bolt meanwhile was always in control in the second heat finishing in 20.18 after easing off following a good start and fast first 10 metres.
The semifinals of the women's 1500 meters showed the advantage of being in the second race as the athletes were able to take advantage of the slower pace of the first semi-final, which was a more tactical affair.
The second race saw Abeba Aregawi look comfortable in 4:01.03, while Gamza Bulut of Turkey was only a fraction slower as she ran a personal best to assure her final spot.
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