In several events on the track, winners need just a handful of seconds to claim a gold medal. But Olympic dreams can be dashed even faster. That happened Monday to a Chinese national hero and another prospective gold medalist. VOA's Jim Stevenson has more on Monday's highlights in Beijing.
Liu Xiang was seeking to defend his 110-meter hurdles Olympic title on home soil. But a nagging Achilles injury flared at the worst possible moment.
Liu fired out of the starting blocks, but never even cleared the first hurdle in his first qualifying heat. His Olympic hopes and the dreams of millions in the host nation dissipated faster than the smoke from the starting gun.
American gold hopeful Terrance Trammell also had to stop running when he suffered a hamstring pull in the prior heat.
American Stephanie Brown-Trafton had much better luck, ending as the surprise gold medalist in women's discus (64.74 meters).
"I know that by far this meet probably was not in the top five this year of competitiveness," said Stephanie Brown-Trafton. "I know that when it comes to the Olympic Games, if you make the finals anything can happen. And it is just an awesome thing to come home with a gold medal."
Pamela Jelimo became the first woman from Kenya to win an Olympic Athletics event when she topped the 800-meter final. Compatriot Brimin Kiprop Kipruto stayed in front of the pack to win the men's 3,000 meter steepelchase.
"To be Olympic champion, it is not easy work," said Brimin Kiprop Kipruto. "You need extra training. And, as in Kenya, we are training as a group. And that is why we achieve a very, very good result for me."
Panama picked up a rare gold, thanks to Irving Jahir Saladino Aranda, who soared the farthest in the men's long jump. He says, his brother inspired him to take up the sport that took him to Beijing.
"Ever since I was very young, I was a very naughty kid," said Irving Jahir Saladino Aranda. "And I liked playing baseball at the time. But then my brother, my older brother, he introduced me to athletics. I began to like athletics. And here I am."
The United States picked up its first sweep in the 400-meter hurdles since 1960. But gold medalist Angelo Taylor (47.25 seconds) says the win is more important for the struggling U.S. track team.
"USA has not been doing so well in track and field so far," said Angelo Taylor. "And everyone in the building was really rooting for us. And boosting our confidence and cheering for us to do the sweep. And that really helped us out."
Russian Yelena Isinbayeva defended her gold medal from 2004 in front of 91,000 cheering fans at the Birds Nest national stadium.
"I felt that they want to see something great." said Yelena Isinbayeva. "And they want a world's record. I say 'ok, I am here. I am the main hero.' So I am going to [do] my best."
And she did, clearing the bar to set another pole vault world record at 5.05 meters.
In women's gymnastics, He Kexin of China took the top honor in the uneven bars during the individual event finals at the National Indoor Stadium. He and American Nastia Liukin finished with identical scores (16.725). But tiebreaking procedures put He on top. Yang Yilin of China won the bronze (16.650).
U.S. riders successfully defended their gold medal in show jumping in Hong Kong. In tournament play, the U.S. men's basketball team kept its record unblemished with a 106-57 victory over Germany. The Americans close out group play with a 5-0 record, and are the only undefeated men's team at the 2008 Olympic Games.
The U.S. men's volleyball team defeated Japan 3-0 (25-18, 25-12, 25-21). The victory gives the Americans a 5-0 record in Pool-A. The team moves to a quarter-final game against Serbia on Wednesday.
The U.S. Olympic Baseball Team defeated China, 9-1. The U.S. men have a 3-2 record in round-robin play.
The U.S. women's soccer team posted a 4-2 victory over Japan to advance to the gold medal match. Brazil is the other finalist for the gold medal game on Thursday.
China leads the medals standings with 39 gold medals, 14 silver and 14 bronze. The United States trails with 22 gold, while Britain has 12.