Culson wins bronze in PR track first
Still, Culson will bring home the bronze medal, marking the first time that any Puerto Rican track athlete has made it to an Olympic podium.
The Dominican Republic’s Félix Sánchez crossed the finish line first with a season’s best 47.63 seconds to win the gold. The silver medal went to American Michael Tinsley (47.91).
Culson (48.10) had gained the lead before fading down the stretch as both Sánchez and Tinsley passed him after the final hurdle.
As the clock ticked down toward the 400-meter hurdles final, most of Puerto Rico waited on edge, ready to cheer on their sports hero. Puerto Rico residents gathered in offices, cafeterias and colmados to tune into a race that has been built up for years but took less than a minute to complete.
After dominating the summer season in the run up to the Olympics, Culson was clearly the best bet to grab Puerto Rico’s first gold. The Ponce native had run the two fastest times the world had seen this year and came into the finals undefeated in 2012.
That undefeated streak included an opening heat and semifinals in the Olympics in which the Ponce native issued serious warnings to his world-class rivals by winning in 48.33 seconds and then 47.93 seconds – both fast times for pre-finals races.
Culson, 28, collapsed to the track in disappointment after Monday’s race, despite it being his island’s first ever Olympic medal outside of boxing.
“It was a very bad run on my behalf,” said Culson, who will be 32 years old when the next summer Olympics roll around in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
“I’m not pleased with it at all. I lost my rhythm towards the end of the race and I couldn’t get it back. I send my apologies to the people back home but at least I made it to the final.”
After winning his second 400-meter hurdles gold, Sánchez paid an emotional tribute to his late grandmother.
Sánchez, taking a title he first collected at the 2004 Athens Games, and then broke down in tears during the medal ceremony.
The 34-year-old’s time was the same as he ran in Athens eight years ago.
Great Britain’s world champion Dai Greene finished fourth and two-time Olympic champion Angelo Taylor finished fifth in a high-quality race.
Sánchez, who sports a tattoo of ‘Superman’ on his shoulder and had ‘Abuela’ — Spanish for grandmother — inscribed on a shoe, led from the off with Taylor and Culson chasing him down.
Coming off the final bend Sánchez showed no signs of slowing, although both Tinsley and Greene started to find an extra gear from the back.
Taylor looked to be gaining on Sánchez but stalled at the penultimate hurdle, while Culson failed to find the extra gear which had seen him dominate this season.
Sánchez pulled away to take a surprisingly easy 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.
Sánchez fell to his knees after crossing the line and plucked a photograph of his grandmother, whose death he learned of on the day of the 2008 Olympic heats, from his vest.
Sánchez was born in the United States but runs for the country where his parents were born.