August 8, 2012

He's out, then he's in, and he wins

First they told him to leave. Then they invited him back.

LONDON – First they told him to leave. Then they invited him back.

Now he's a gold medalist.

Kicked out of the London Olympics for presumably not trying hard enough in another event, Taoufik Makhloufi got a second chance after a doctor took his side.

Back at the track Tuesday, the Algerian cashed in on that opportunity and won the 1,500 meters in 3 minutes, 34.08 seconds, beating Leonel Manzano of the United States by 0.71 seconds. Morocco's Abdalaati Iguider got the bronze in 3:35.13.

"Yesterday I was out," Makhloufi said. "And today I was in."

If only it were that simple.

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 he broke slowly and pulled out of the race on the first lap.

He might 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.

Manzano became the first American to win a medal in the 1,500 since 1968, when former world-record holder Jim Ryun took silver.

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 Jamaica's two-time defending champion Veronica Campbell-Brown and the woman she beat both times, American Allyson Felix, both making it to today's final.

Also there: 100-meter winner Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica and runner-up Carmelita 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 for Jamaica.

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.

In the high jump, Ivan Ukhov of Russia won the gold (7 feet, 93/ 4 inches) and American Erik Kynard won silver (7-7 3/4) – two of the five medals given out because of an unusual three-way tie for third that did not include Sacramento's Jamie Nieto (7-6), who finished sixth.

Robert Harting of Germany celebrated his discus victory in unforgettable fashion.

As if he were the "Incredible Hulk," he ripped off his shirt, flexed his muscles, and then sprinted 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 of the stadium without a shirt, you know it was good."

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