You got to have respect for the 400 meters.
Go too easy, you end up playing catchup (shades of Butch Reynolds Olympic 1988 come to mind)
Go too hard, you pay the price over the last 50 or 100 meters.
At least that’s what it appeared to be on live TV. Every Quarter-Miler knows the feeling of being hunted prey on the homestretch when you go out too hard.
Afterwards, Sanya Richards explained she had a hamstring cramp with 80 meters to go.
Speaking of hamstring pulls in a 400 meters, remember Bert Cameron’s 1984 Olympics 400m semi-final?
Richards fades to bronze in 400m
Christine Ohuruogu, who was at these Games only because she won an appeal that cleared her to compete — she had missed three out-of-competition doping tests — had won the 400m, in 49.62 seconds. (Full results)
Richards wasn’t even second. Shericka Williams of Jamaica was second, in 49.69. Richards was third, in 49.93.
So ended what was supposed to have been one of the fairy-tale stories of these Games.
This was no fairy-tale ending. Richards was supposed to win. Her fiancee, New York Giants cornerback Aaron Ross, won a Super Bowl ring in March. She was supposed to complete the story with Olympic gold.
Richards had battled back from an unusual illness — Behcet’s syndrome — to re-establish herself as the presumptive favorite.
She seemed this 2008 season, after a no-doubt-about-it win at the U.S. Olympic Trials, to be back in the form she had shown in 2006, when she ran under 50 seconds nine times. That year, she ran 48.70 at a meet in Athens.
She did no such thing here at the Olympics. She was ahead early, out fast. She was ahead as the eight runners hit the top of the backstretch.
She asked her body to go.
At 320 meters, she said, a hamstring “grabbed up on me.” As she came down the homestretch, she was laboring. With 30 meters to go, it looked to be all she could do to get to the line.
It looked, for an instant, like she might not even get third. She had just enough left in the tank for that.
The video of the race will appear shortly on YouTube below.
UPDATE: YouTube and NBC Olympics are cracking down on illegal copies of this broadcast. Therefore, check back on this site in a few hours for the latest Video.