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Upsets Set the Scene in Track and Field Competition

Qualifying heats predictable, but exciting

By Patrick Hickey Jr. and Scott Ross
|  Tuesday, Aug 7, 2012  |  Updated 12:50 PM PDT
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Upsets Set the Scene in Track and Field Competition

AP

Allyson Felix hopes to win the women's 200m hurdles. After winning her heat in prelims, that dream becomes closer.

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Monday's track and field events were all about big upsets, after a 2008 bronze medalist won gold in the shot put and a 2004 gold medalist took top honors in the 400m men's hurdles.

But the biggest upset of the day came in the women's pole vault. American Jenn Suhr, a silver medalist in the event in 2008, beat out Cuba's Yarisley Silva and two-time defending Olympic champion Yelena Isinbayeva, the hands-down favorite to win the event. In addition to Isinbayeva's two golds, she's won seven other championships, holds both the indoor and outdoor record—each of which she's broken more than a dozen times--and is widely considered the greatest female pole vaulter of all time. On this day however, Suhr owns the title as the world's best.

Belorussian Nadezhda Ostapchuk shocked the shot-put world after she defeated the reigning champion, Valerie Adams of New Zealand, winning the gold medal in the event with a high mark of 21.36.

Adams looked flustered during the competition and was unable to keep pace with Ostapchuk, who  just two weeks ago had the best shot put of the year, at 21.58 meters (70.8 feet). While Adams won the silver with a mark of 20.70, she never got comfortable enough to unleash the big throw she needed in order to win. Russia's Evgeniia Kolodko won the bronze with a mark of 20.48.

In the men's 400m hurdles, 2004 gold medalist Felix Sanchez won the event with a time of 47.63 after a miraculous last-second surge. USA's Michael Tinsley won the silver with a time of 47.91 and Puerto Rico's Javier Culson, who was the favorite to win, took home the bronze. The result was a shock as Culson won the most competitive qualifying heat before the event, and then posted an even better time in the semis.

The results of the Women's 3000m steeplechase were predictable on top, but the silver medal went out to surprise competitor. Russian Yuliya Zariova, the reigning world champion, won the gold with a time of 9:06.72. She was considered the woman to beat before the event, with Kenyan Milcah Chemos Cheywa, who took bronze at the world championships in 2011 and Ethiopians Sofia Assefa and Haywot Ayalew to vie for silver and bronze. Instead Assefa settled for a bronze and Tunisia's Habiba Ghribi ended up winning the silver.

In the women's 400m hurdles, Natalya Antyukh, Lashina Demus and Muizat Ajoke Odumosu won their respective heats to qualify for the final on Aug. 8. Zuzana Hejnova, T'erea Brown, Kaliease Spencer, Perri Shakes-Drayton and Moline Georganne also qualified for the final.

The men's 400m finals were perhaps the most interesting race of the day. It featured three teenagers and a 33-year-old as competitors. Kirani James of Grenada, made his Olympic debut as the favorite and didn't disappoint with a time of 43.94, earning a gold medal. Fellow first-timer Luguelin Santos, 18, of the Dominican Republic, won the silver. Trinidad's Lalonde Gordon won the bronze, making the winner's circle a perfect Caribbean tri-fecta.

With all the surprises today, you expect the same in the women's 200m prelim heats. That was just not the case. Murielle Ahoure, Mariya Ryemyen, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Americans Cermelita Jeter, Sanya Richards-Ross and Allyson Felix won the preliminary heats.

The event's final will be on Aug. 8 at 3:45pm and will feature one of the most anticipated showdowns in London, as Felix and Veronica Campbell-Brown vie for gold. Felix, an American, and Campbell Brown, a Jamaican, have been trading positions as the world’s top and second-ranked sprinters for years. Felix has won three world championships, but never a gold. She won silvers in Athens and Beijing.

But don’t discount the Jamaican Fraser-Pryce, who on Saturday won her second consecutive gold medal in the 100-meters, or Richards-Ross, who on Sunday won gold in the 400-meters.

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