• Bunce on Olympics

Agony follows ecstasy in epic Olympics

Steve Bunce August 7, 2012
Liu Xiang again suffered Olympic heartache, four years after his Beijing woe © PA Photos

On Tuesday in the stadium nine men lined up for the last heat of the 110m hurdles and roughly 13 seconds later it looked like a scene from the Grand National.

Medal Table

Four of the men failed to finish and the 2004 Olympic champion, Liu Xiang, went down so heavily at the first and remained on the floor so long that I thought for a moment the stewards would find a curtain to spare the crowd his suffering.

It was not a normal race and from 53 starters - not all at the same time, which by the way would be interesting - only seven failed to finish and four of those were in the dreaded heat six.

The race played out in slow motion with first Liu and then the men from Barbados, Poland and Senegal all joining the Chinese idol on the track or in an ugly and painful bundle of Man v Hurdle. There is, it has to be said, no graceful way to clatter a hurdle and fall over without it looking just a bit comic.

Thankfully, Liu regained his feet and hopped on just one foot, having damaged his right ankle when he forgot to jump, the length of the track, clocking according to an astute colleague in the press room, 15 seconds; a quality time that was close to the slowest in the pre-heats a few days ago. At the end of the hopping race, after kissing the final hurdle, he was found a blanket and wheelchair and applauded from the track.

"Liu is a legend, the greatest hurdler in history and that is why I waited for him to finish and helped him off the track," said Britain's Andy Turner, who won heat six. I have to just say that every single muscle flex, let alone victory in the heats, is roared on by the crowd.

We've had the highs of Bolt, Ennis, Farah and Rutherford. But it is not all golden glory inside the dreaming venue and either side of Liu's howler a couple of British icons came and went in a sad blink of an eye. First to fail and exit was javelin woman Goldie Sayers. She tweaked an already suspect arm in the warm-up and could not feel her javelin hand, which I don't need to tell you is bad news. Next, Phillips Idowu finally graced us with his presence and was well short of qualifying for the triple jump final.

They were a contrast in despair as they filed away ten-feet in front of me; Sayers in tears and Idowu looking stunned, but both suffering.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Steve Bunce Close
Steve Bunce has been ringside in Las Vegas over 50 times, he has been at five Olympics and has been writing about boxing for over 25 years for a variety of national newspapers in Britain, including four which folded! It is possible that his face and voice have appeared on over 60 channels worldwide in a variety of languages - his first novel The Fixer was published in 2010 to no acclaim; amazingly it has been shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year.