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Sanchez wins men's 400m hurdles
05:55 AEST Tue Aug 7 2012

Felix Sanchez stormed to an emotion-fuelled victory in the Olympic men's 400m hurdles on Monday as he finally made good on a promise to win a medal for his adored late grandmother.

The 34-year-old from the Dominican Republic cut a forlorn figure at the 2008 Beijing Games when he was eliminated in the heats just hours after being informed of the death of his grandmother Lilian, who had raised him as a child.

But on Monday, the 2004 Olympic champion provided one of the signature moments of the London Games as he reclaimed his crown in 47.63sec.

Sanchez -- who had the word 'Abuela' (Grandmother) stitched into his spikes -- produced a photograph of his grandmother from his vest after crossing the line and kissed it before breaking down in tears.

The US-born hurdler later sobbed uncontrollably as he stepped up to collect his medal -- the first time he had registered a podium finish at any major championships since 2007.

Sanchez later wept again as he recalled the dark day in Beijing four years ago when he had learned of his grandmother's death.

"When I got the news my grandmother had died I cried all day and I wasn't sure I would run but I did and failed to make it out of the heats," said Sanchez.

"I made a promise that day that I would win a medal for her...it took me four years.

"I brought a picture of her to the Games and kept it under my bed and then brought it out for the final.

"I've been very emotional all week wanting to keep my promise but after 14 years at the top I had so many races under my belt since my first major championships the 1999 worlds I didn't know whether I had it in me.

"I just wanted to make her proud so I've got 'Abuela' on my spikes.

"It's just an amazing feeling. Then when I was on the podium and it started raining it felt like my grandmother was crying tears of joy.

"The day she died in Beijing it broke my heart," Sanchez said. "That's why I ran with the picture close to my heart."

Sanchez's victory was as unexpected as it was dramatic.

No-one had given the veteran a chance of upsetting Javier Culson, the brilliant Puerto Rican who has been unbeaten all year.

But as the occasion got to Culson, Sanchez pounced to score a victory for the ages, coming home ahead of Michael Tinsley (47.91sec) while Culson trailed home with bronze in 48.10 sec.

Great Britain's world champion Dai Greene finished fourth and two-time Olympic champion Angelo Taylor finished fifth in a high-quality race.

Sanchez, who sports a tattoo of "Superman" on his shoulder, led from the off and was never headed despite admitting he was dog tired coming off the bend.

Instead he pulled away to take gold, while Tinsley passed the tiring Culson and Taylor - who had been bidding to become the first athlete to win three Olympic golds in the event - to take second.

"I was really tired coming off the bend and I was just waiting for someone to pass me," said Sanchez.

"But they didn't materialise and once over the line it got surreal."

Culson like Sanchez collapsed to the track - but in disappointment, despite it being his country's first ever Olympic medal outside of boxing.

"It was a very bad run on my behalf," said Culson.

Sanchez, who was born in the United States but runs for the country where his parents were born, admitted despite years of poor form and injuries after he had dominated the event up to 2004 - once winning 43 successive races - he had always had a glimmer of hope his old class would return.

"It was like a merry go round there was no one like me around dominating," he said.

"If (Usain) Bolt had been around in my event I would have given up!."

Sanchez said that people back in the Dominican Republic would be astonished as his slump in form over the past few years had many thinking he should hang up his spikes.

"It's going to be huge," he said.

"They expected the worlds (he won the 2001 and 2003 world championships), no one expected this. A lot of people said I should retire but I stuck with it. They'll all be celebrating now."

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