New star emerges from hurdles debris

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Jason Richardson
Daegu (South Korea), Aug 30: Thrilling and controversial, an incident-packed world 110m hurdles final lived up to its billing by producing a dramatic disqualification for the Olympic champion -- and a new star.

In Monday's first ever meeting in a global final between the three fastest sprint hurdlers of all time -- Dayron Robles, Liu Xiang and David Oliver -- it was Jason Richardson who emerged with the gold after the dust had settled.

A day after defending champion Usain Bolt saw his 100m dream shattered after sensationally false-starting, the worlds were again rocked as another of the biggest stars in athletics was stripped of his medal for obstruction.

Cuba's Robles had won a thriller in 13.14sec, edging out American Richardson by just 0.02sec but made contact with former Olympic and world champion Liu in the latter stages of the race in South Korea.

A protest by China on behalf of Liu, who appeared to be impeded when Robles strayed to the edge of his lane and the pair clashed arms at each of the last two hurdles, was upheld and Robles lost his gold.

Richardson described his victory as "bittersweet", labelling himself "the wedding crasher", but set his sights high.

"I can beat Robles'' world record (12.87sec). My next objective is to repeat the same thing in the Olympics," he said.

"I think I have the biggest heart. I''m from Texas and I think I have the heart. The goal was to get a medal, but given how competitive the field was, I was still completely satisfied with the silver.

"You never want to see someone as talented as Robles be disqualified. But there are rules to follow," said the 25-year-old.

Although overshadowed by the ''big three'', Richardson came to South Korea in fine form after winning the Stockholm Diamond League meet in late July, where he beat US teammate Oliver.

At the London Diamond League meet earlier this month he was second behind Robles but again finished ahead of Oliver.

And, sneaking under the radar, Richardson, who won the 110m and 400m hurdles double at the 2003 world youth championships, looked strong in qualifying in Daegu.

The disqualification of Robles also meant Liu, the 2004 Olympic champion and former world record holder, who timed 13.27sec, was promoted to silver from bronze with Britain's Andy Turner taking bronze (13.44sec).

All had earlier seemed straightforward as a delighted Robles played down the contact with Liu, saying: "That's normal in hurdles. I feel great."

Giving his version of the incident, Liu said: "I felt like someone touched my elbow and I lost my balance for a while but then I managed to stabilise it. It happens all the time in competitions but this time, in the final of the world championships, it was kind of different.

"I'm sorry this happened to him because he's a friend of mine."

Oliver, who owns the fastest time in the world this year (12.94) was never in contention, finishing fourth in a photofinish with Turner following Robles'' disqualification.

He defended his Cuban rival on Twitter, saying Robles had lost balance after clipping a hurdle. "People who think Robles did it on purpose are crazy and haven't seen his races, late in races he's been getting wide with his arms.

"Gotta feel bad for Liu as his lead leg was ahead of Robles when the last contact over 10 happened between them, all around bad situation," he said.

PTI

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