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Pistorius Eliminated

LONDON -- Oscar Pistorius finished last in his semifinal of the men's 400 meters, which was won by reigning world champion Kirani James of Grenada. Pistorius had a slow start and finished in 46.54, one second slower than a day before. He would have needed a time under 45 to make the final.

Pistorius didn't expect to make it. He came here with the goal of advancing to the semifinals, and he did that. He didn't have much left tonight. But he achieved his other goal of inspiring physically challenged people around the world. He will take part in the 4x400 relay for South Africa.

Here's the lineup for the marquee event of the night, the 100-meter final:

Lane 2-Richard Thompson, Trinidad & Tobago; Lane 3-Asafa Powell, Jamaica; Lane 4-Tyson Gay, USA; 5-Yohan Blake, Jamaica; 6-Justin Gatlin, USA; 7-Usain Bolt, Jamaica; Lane 8-Ryan Bailey, USA; 9-Churandy Martina, Netherlands.

Seven of the eight competitors ran under 10 seconds in the semifinals, which has to be a first. Six of the men in the 2008 final ran under 10 seconds. We might see seven or eight do it here.

 

More On Topic

LONDON -- A quick check of Wikipedia confirms that Yugoslavia did not disintegrate until 1991. So Dragutin Topic was indeed a citizen of that nation when he won the world juniors in 1990.

Topic Of Interest

LONDON -- This is the stuff that makes the Olympics so fascinating. Serbian high jumper Dragutin Topic competed in the high jump tonight at age 41. He went out early and the PR announcer congratulated him on a great career.

Topic won the world juniors in 1990, when he was 19. I'm pretty sure Serbia was part of Yugoslavia at the time. Topic never won an Olympic medal. His best finish was fourth in Atlanta 16 years ago. I wonder what it's like for him back in Serbia. Is he a national hero there? Does he run high jumping camps? Did he build a pit in his back yard, the way Rick Suhr did for pole vaulting?

All I know is I was watching when Topic made his final jump at an Olympics. Wait a minute, who says he won't be in Rio in 2016?

Soviet Trivia

LONDON -- Here's a little Olympic trivia for those of you who remember when the Soviet Union used to battle the United States for the medals title, before the Iron Curtain fell two decades ago:

If the Soviet Union were still intact, it would be a spirited three-country battle for the overall medal count. China has 59 medals. The countries of the old Soviet Union have 57. The United States has 56. So let's hear it for the breakup of the old bloc.

For the record, here's the medal count for the former Soviet republics: Belarus 7, Ukraine 6, Kazakhstan 5, Georgia, Lithuania, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Uzbekistan 1 each. Russia has 34.

One more nugget: All five of Kazakhstan's medals are gold. That puts them two ahead of Russia in gold medals. You know that must stick in Putin's craw!

Back At The Track, II

LONDON -- I'm back in the Olympic Stadium, getting ready for a big night of Olympic track and field. It will culminate, of course, with the men's 100-meter final at 9:50 p.m. (4:50 p.m. Buffalo time). Jamaican Usain Bolt will be defending his title from 2008, but his young countryman, Johan Blake, is the favorite. Justin Gatlin of the U.S., who won gold eight years ago in Athens, is a threat for the upset.

I took some time off today to see the sights. Went to the British Museum, the largest in the world from what I understand. Pretty amazing place. The first thing I saw when I walked into the huge open court was the Discobolus, the famous sculpture of a man throwing a discus.

There's lots of ancient stuff from Greece and Egypt in the museum. I got an education on the Greek Parthenon, and how Lord Elgin had many of the damaged monuments brought here because he was concerned about their safekeeping. I'm told the Greeks feel they were basically stolen.

It's amazing to see the old metopes, which are sculptures that surrounded the top of the Parthenon. They show various themes, mainly a lot of horses and centaurs (half man, half horse) battling mere mortals. The people in the metopes were called Lapiths. Obviously, I have a sketchy understanding of this stuff, but it was very impressive.

Also saw a lot of mummies and coffins from Egypt. One was Cleopatra's. It said she was 17 when she died. I didn't know that. Not even sure it was the famous Cleopatra. I don't know a lot. The one thing that becomes evident to me during an Olympics is that I'm an expert on nothing. Maybe basketball, but I'm sure there are people who would dispute that.

Stopped at a nice restaurant near Leicester Square, the theater district, for lunch with Melinda. Our waiter saw my vintage Detroit Pistons cap and became excited. He's a big basketball fan from Hungary. He had tickets to the U.S.-Argentina game tomorrow. Lucky guy. I told him I covered the NBA when Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan were all playing. He seemed impressed.

They're having the medal ceremony for the men's long jump. Greg Rutherford of Great Britain won the gold medal. It's pretty moving to hear "God Save The Queen" sung by 80,000 people in London. An Australian, Mitchell Watt, won silver.

I wonder if Mitchell Watt, the UB hoop star now with the Grizzlies, ever high jumped? He would have been good at it, if you ask me.

Great Britain is solidly in third place in the gold medal chart, by the way. The Brits have really been cleaning up the past few days, winning in sports like cycling, rowing and track. China now leads the Americans in overall medals, 59-56. But track and field is always a U.S. strength.

Russia, which has not finished out of the top three since 1948, has 34 medals, two back of Britain. But the Russians have only three golds, one of the major disappointments of the Games.They're really counting on Yelena Isinbayeva to win a third straight gold medal in women's pole vault.  

Most of the U.S. writers are downstairs in the press center. I like it up here in the stadium, outside with the crowd and the wind and the great sound system. This is awesome. I never lose fact of how lucky I am to do this. Women's 400-meter hurdles heats coming up.

Jenn Clears It

LONDON -- Fredonia's Jenn Suhr just cleared 4.55 meters with ease, making her one of six women to clear that height. Yelena Isinbayeva also cleared 4.55. So it appears the rivals have avoided any qualifying disasters and will be in Monday's final.

After making the bar, Suhr walked across the running track on the far end of the stadium, presumably to speak with her husband and coach, Rick Suhr.Coaches are not allowed to be in the athletes' area during the event.

American Becky Holliday has cleared 4.50 and is still alive for one of the 12 spots in the final. Holly Bleasdale, the 20-year-old rising star from Great Britain, has also made 4.50. Lacy Janson, the third U.S. vautler, went out at 4.50.

Bolt Heat

LONDON -- Usain Bolt, the defending Olympic gold medalist and world record-holder, just qualified for the next round in the 100-meter dash with a time of 10.09. Bolt eased to the finish line, giving only as much effort as was necessary to win the race.

Earlier, American Justin Gatlin had run a 9.97 in his qualifying heat -- the fastest 100-meter heat in the history of the Games.

Waiting on Jenn

LONDON -- Still waiting for Jenn Suhr to make her first attempt in the women's pole vault qualifying at the Olympic Stadium. It's closing in on 1 p.m. here and 12 women have made 4.50 meters. A dozen women qualify. The bar is now at 4.55. Her rival, Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia, made 4.50 meters on her first attempt. Jenn will likely start at 4.55, knowing that's sure to qualify.

 

Pistorius Makes The Semis, and History

LONDON -- Oscar Pistorius, the double amputee from South Africa, qualified for the semifinals of the men's 400 meters this morning, finishing second in his heat with a season's best time of 45.44. Pistorius made history by becoming the first amputee to compete in the Paralympic and Olympic Games.

Pistorius, 25, runs on carbon fiber blades. The man called "Blade Runner" was born without fibula and, had double amputation at 11 months. He will compete in the 400m semifinals tomorrow. 

I caught up with him in the "mixed zone" afterwards, along with about 75 other journalists. Pistorius arrived about 40 minutes after his race, because he had so many other interview responsibilities.

"It's such a whirlwind of the emotions," Pistorius said, "because you get out there and you want to take the occasion and be like, 'Wow, I'm actually here at the Olympics'. But at the same time,  you want to take it so seriously, because you don't want to let yourself down. You don't want to walk away from the track thinking, 'Could I have represnted myself better today? Could I have represented my country better?''

"So all these things go through your mind," he said. "It's a mixture of trying to believe you have the self-confidence to do well. But your nature wants to make you doubt yourself a bit and think, Wow that guy looks really good in Lane 8, or this guy looked really good in warmup."

Evidently, he looked pretty good, too. 

"I felt good," he said. "I heard some guy shout at me, 'Ah, you sexy beauty!' There are so many people here today just to enjoy the sport. That's what we must remember. We work so hard every day, we're so serious every day about what we do. It's moments like this that you have to just take a step back and said, 'Wow, I've been blessed by the lord and my family and friends have been so supportive."

"You actually reward yourself by doing well. That's why we're here, that's why we want to do well. Andit shouldn't be a burden. No one is making you run; you have to want to do it. It's just the most amazing experience."

 

Back At The Track

LONDON -- Still getting ready for the start of the women's pole vault in the Olympic Stadium. The fourth heatin the 100 meters is about to begin. It's kind of cool watching some of these runners who have no shot at a medal but are the fastest guys in their country. Just saw a runner from Surinam win his heat and set a national record. There's a runner from Mauritius in this heat.

The fans began clapping before the start of one heat and had to be informed by the public address announcer that clapping is not polite when the runners are in the starting blocks and listening for the gun. No false starts allowed nowadays, remember. One and you're out. Tremendous pressure. Something to keep in mind for later in the competition.

The opening height is 4.10 meters. Suhr will no doubt pass, along with the other top vaulters. The lesser competitors are weeded out early. The automatic qualifying height is 4.60 meters. We won't see the top women for awhile. That'll give me time to watch Pistorius and go to the mob scene that's sure to ensue in the mixed zone.

By the way, the other two Americans in the women's pole vault are Becky Holliday and Lacy Janson. They're both in the B group. Suhr is in the A grouping. The groups jump side by side in two pits. Both Janson and Holliday have a personal best of 4.60 meters.

It's windy here, by the way. Could be a factor.

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