LONDON (Reuters) - Taoufik Makhloufi ran a scorching last lap to take gold for Algeria in the Olympic 1,500 meters on Tuesday and attributed his victory to “the will of God”, a day after dropping out of an 800m heat with what his team said was a knee injury.
On another cold, rainy night in the Olympic stadium, Australia’s Sally Pearson won the women’s 100m hurdles by two-hundredths of a second from defending champion Dawn Harper of the United States. Unsure of the outcome, she let out a scream of delight when the scoreboard confirmed her victory.
Shaggy-haired Ivan Ukhov won gold in the men’s high jump for Russia, which also celebrated victories in diving and synchronized swimming as it edged up to fifth in the medals table after a disappointing Games so far.
The man with one of the longest names at the Games showed that he was also the strongest: Iranian Behdad Salimikordasiabi - Salimi for short - took gold in the superheavyweight class of the weightlifting.
Iran took the silver for good measure, along with a wrestling gold. And the Islamic state captured its first ever athletics medal when Ehsan Hadadi hurled the discus 68.18 meters to win silver.
He fell just 9 cm short of German winner Robert Harting, who delighted the crowd with a lap of honor in which he vaulted over the hurdles laid out for the women’s 100m race.
Elsewhere on Day 11 of competition in London, Italy’s Josefa Idem, the only woman to compete in eight Olympics, advanced to the kayak final at the age of 47, powering past a field of 20- and 30-year-olds.
Two brothers won gold and bronze for Britain in the triathlon, adding to the host nation’s biggest medal tally for 104 years, and four medals were awarded for the first time in an Olympic cycling race when a photo finish could not separate the third and fourth finishers from the Netherlands and New Zealand.
Makhloufi’s victory was controversial as it came just a day after he was temporarily disqualified for not trying in his 800m heat - and then reinstated when his team said he had a knee injury and had the decision overturned on medical grounds.
Evidence provided by two doctors confirmed “the athlete suffered from a painful injury, which however, with appropriate treatment, may allow him to compete in 24 hours.”
Makhloufi broke away on the back straight of the final lap and accelerated around the last bend to win comfortably from American Leonel Manzano and Moroccan Abdalaati Iguider.
“It’s the will of God. Yesterday I was out, today I‘m in,” Mahkloufi told reporters. “This is a gift for the Algerian people and for the whole of the Arabic world.”
Injury also struck China’s Liu Xiang, who left the Olympic stadium in a wheelchair after hitting the first barrier in a 110 meter hurdles heat.
Liu suffered a cruel echo of his early exit from Beijing four years ago, and indications were that it was the same Achilles injury that led to his fall on a cool, cloudy morning in London.
China’s first male gold medalist on the Olympic track after triumphing in 2004, Liu remains his country’s most popular sportsman alongside former basketball player Yao Ming.
Fellow athletes expressed their sympathy. “This is really sad for any athlete,” Jamaican Usain Bolt told reporters.
Fans back in China quickly took to social networking websites to voice their dismay. “My heart is broken,” wrote one on Chinese microblogging service Sina Weibo.
At the opposite end of sport’s emotional spectrum, there was jubilation in Grenada, whose prime minister gave everyone the afternoon off work to celebrate 19-year-old Kirani James’ gold in Monday night’s men’s 400 meters. The Caribbean island nation of 110,000 people had never won an Olympic medal before.
Bolt, who set the second fastest time ever in his weekend 100 meters triumph, brimmed with confidence after qualifying comfortably for the 200 semis before another capacity 80,000 crowd at the main stadium.
He remains on course for an unprecedented Olympic sprint “double-double” at Thursday’s final, although he may have to do it without the skipping rope he uses to train.
On his way into Sunday’s 100m final an official removed the rope, saying it was against the rules, and Games chief Sebastian Coe has ordered an investigation into why it was confiscated.
Bolt, who has described some of the rules at the Games as “weird”, said he planned to bring the rope with him on Thursday.
“I am going to do it tomorrow ... I am going to stick it under my bag, bottom of my bag or something.”
Home nation Britain surpassed its heroics of four years ago, when it picked up 19 golds in Beijing, by amassing 22 and counting.
Triathlete Alistair Brownlee crossed the line in central London’s Hyde Park draped in the Union flag to make it 19, while his younger brother Jonathan held on for bronze despite having to wait out a 15-second penalty for an infringement.
Britain’s horse riders triumphed in the dressage arena at Greenwich Park, ahead of Germany and the Netherlands.
At the velodrome, where the crowd’s roars were deafening, Chris Hoy won his seventh Olympic medal, and sixth gold, with victory in the keirin, where the riders shadow a motorized pacer bike before building to a sprint finish.
Hoy overtook rowing great Steve Redgrave’s five golds and matched fellow cyclist Bradley Wiggins as Britain’s most decorated Olympian, although Wiggins has only four golds.
Hoy was pushed to the limit by German Maximilian Levy, who took silver. New Zealand’s Simon van Velthooven and Dutchman Teun Mulder both won bronze medals after a photo finish could not split them.
Laura Trott won in the cycling track omnium, but Victoria Pendleton, favorite to prevail in the individual sprint, lost out to Australian arch rival Anna Meares.
China moved one step away from a second successive clean sweep of Olympic table tennis golds when their women marched to a 3-0 victory over Japan’s young team.
The Chinese picked up two more wins in gymnastics. Deng Linlin beat her compatriot Siu Lu to the balance beam title an hour after Feng Zhe had won the men’s parallel bars title.
Flying Dutchman Epke Zonderland caused an upset, however, by claiming the horizontal bar title ahead of Chinese favorite Zou Kai, who could only manage bronze.
American Aly Raisman won the women’s floor exercise title, 90 minutes after earning a bronze on the beam.
Russia’s Ilya Zakharov scored a surprise triumph in the men’s 3 meter springboard diving final, ruining China’s ambition of an eight-gold sweep in the sport.
Dutchman Dorian van Rijsselberghe became the last men’s RS:X windsurfing champion at the Olympics, with the event being replaced by kiteboarding in 2016 at the Rio de Janeiro Games. Marina Alabau Neira of Spain won the women’s title.
In kayaking, Italy’s Idem advanced to the final where she aims to add to her gold from Sydney (2000), two silvers from Beijing (2008) and Athens (2004) and bronzes from Atlanta (1996) and Los Angeles (1984).
“I don’t care about age,” a smiling Idem told reporters. “The stopwatch doesn’t ask.”
Canada’s women soccer players were less happy, accusing Norwegian referee Christiana Pedersen of bias towards the United States after their dramatic 4-3 extra-time defeat in the tournament semi-final on Monday.
Pedersen took the rare step of penalizing Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod for holding the ball too long.
“We feel like we got robbed in this game,” McLeod said.
South Korea’s Kim Hyeonwoo won his country’s first wrestling gold of the Games in the Greco-Roman 66kg final, despite competing with a badly swollen right eye.
Late on Monday, Cameroon’s ministry of sports and physical education said seven athletes had disappeared while in Britain for the Olympics.
The five boxers, a swimmer and a soccer player may have vanished to seek a more prosperous life in Europe, but the International Olympic Committee said on Tuesday it was not aware of the incident.
Additional reporting by the Reuters Olympic team; Editing by Mark Meadows and Sonya Hepinstall