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Updated: Wednesday, 08 Aug 2012, 8:11 AM CDT
Published : Tuesday, 07 Aug 2012, 8:38 PM CDT
LONDON (AP) - Thanks to Leo Manzano, for the first time since 1968 an American will stand on the 1500 meter podium.
Manzano used a big kick to go from the middle of the pack to second place as he crossed the finish line, securing his first Olympic medal.
"I am honored and excited to represent both the United States and Mexico by earning this silver," Manzano said. "Standing on the podium has been a dream of mine and I share it proudly with my family, friends, coaches and all my supporters from Austin, Marble Falls, and Granite Shoals, Texas as well as Dolores Hidalgo, Mexico."
Algeria's Taoufik Makhloufi, who was kicked out of the London Olympics for presumably not trying hard enough in another event, got a second chance after a doctor took his side. Makhloufi won the race with a 3 minute, 34.08 second time, just 0.71 seconds in front of Manzano.
Manzano, who might have won this gold medal had Makhloufi not been around, said he wasn't judging what was fair or not.
"If he deserves it, I guess it was up to the people," Manzano said. "I don't know what his objective was. He probably knew what it was, but I really don't know."
The last U.S . gold in the men's 1,500 came from Melvin Sheppard in 1908. The last medal was Jim Ryun's silver in Mexico City 44 years ago.
But thanks, in part to Manzano, Americans are starting to become a factor in distance running, once again.
"We've really brought distance running around a corner," Manzano said. "And I know it's going to get better. I definitely hope this is a turning point for everybody. I hope there's a kid out there, sitting on the couch, watching this race and says, 'Hey, I can do this as well.'"
As for Makhloufi, the past couple of days have been a roller coaster.
"Yesterday I was out," Makhloufi said. "And today I was in."
If only it were that simple.
On Monday, the race referee in the 800 meters, Makhloufi's other event, kicked him out of the Olympics for "failure to compete honestly with bona fide effort" after breaking slowly and pulling out of the race on the first lap.
He may have simply been conserving energy for Tuesday night's 1,500 final — not unheard of in the world of track — but the Algerian coaches insisted Makhloufi pulled out of the 800 because of a left knee injury. When a doctor examined the runner and said the injury was legit, track officials revoked the DQ and allowed him to start in the 1,500.
"I was not afraid of not being allowed to compete," Makhloufi said. "I knew I had two choices. Either I would compete, or not be allowed to compete. I tried not to think about it too much. I tried to stay calm, continue with my experience and my training."
Before Makhloufi's win, Sally Pearson won the 100-meter hurdles in the drizzle to serve up a rare dose of sunshine for Australia at these Olympics. Pearson finished in 12.35 seconds to edge defending champion Dawn Harper of the United States by .02 seconds and win just the fourth gold for the Aussies at an Olympics that has been downright dreary for them.
"We're definitely going to get more than that," Pearson insisted.
American Kellie Wells was third and Lolo Jones fourth, a tear-inducing result for the woman who spent four years waiting for a second chance for Olympic gold after clipping the next-to-last hurdle while leading in Beijing four years ago.
"At least this time it was a clean, smooth race," Jones said. "I wish I had a better result."
Earlier, the women's 200 semifinals went to form, with two-time defending champion Veronica Campbell-Brown and the woman she beat both times, American Allyson Felix, both making it to Wednesday's final. Also there: 100-meter winner Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica and runner-up Carmelia Jeter and 400-meter champion Sanya Richards-Ross, both from the United States.
In the men's 200, 100-meter champion Usain Bolt and runner-up Yohan Blake both cruised through the first round.
But China's track superstar, Liu Xiang, barely made it out of the blocks in the 110 hurdles. Liu crashed into the first barrier and had to hop his way down the track, stopping to kiss a hurdle on the way out. The champion at the Athens Games in 2004 has failed to clear a single hurdle in the last two Olympics.
Makhloufi will receive his gold medal in a ceremony Wednesday night. His win was the latest twist at a games where the term "Olympic spirit" has certainly been put to the test.
During the first week, four women's badminton teams were disqualified for trying to lose and get a better draw for the next round. Then, at the start of the second week, Makhloufi took his turn — getting off to a slow start uncharacteristic of the reigning African champion at 800 meters, then bailing out of the race and standing on the infield to applaud while the other seven runners went by.
A few hours after that, he was disqualified. He's hardly the first runner to pull out or pull up in one race to get ready for another. And, to be fair, he was helped off the track after the 1,500 semifinal, held the day
before the 800 heat.
"It's not a big mistake. I have problem here," Makhloufi said, pointing to his tender left knee. "It's a dangerous injury, but I'm all right."
Roger Bannister, the first man to break the 4-minute barrier in the mile, was in the house for this one, and goodness knows what he thought when he watched the discus champion, Robert Harting of Germany, rip off his shirt, flex his muscles a la the "Incredible Hulk," then sprint down Lane 9, leaping over the hurdles set up for Pearson's race.
"It was a way of celebrating," Harting said. "It was a symbol to let every emotion come out of me. Now, I'm addicted to it. If you see me coming out the stadium without a shirt, you know it was good."
In the high jump, Ivan Ukhov of Russia won the gold and American Erik Kynard won silver — two of the five medals given out because of an unusual three-way tie for third. Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar, Derek Drouin of Canada and Robert Grabarz of Britain all head home with a bronze.
Unusual, you might say, was the word of the night.
"It was a little hectic," Makhloufi said. "And it's not easy."
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