Albany native and former Georgia Tech track star Angelo Taylor looks up at the order of finish with disappointment Monday after the men’s Olympic 400-meter hurdle final in London. Taylor, the reigning gold medalist, finished fifth.
LONDON — Angelo Taylor has said all along that at age 33, he was far from being too old to compete for a record third gold medal at the Olympics.
As it turned out, he was right: age is just a number — and 35-year-old Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic had Taylor’s on Monday.
Sanchez surged to the finish line in 47.63 seconds to win the men’s 400-meter hurdles final Monday afternoon at the Summer Games in London, where Taylor — an Albany native and former Georgia Tech track star — was seeking to become the first hurdler in Olympic history to win three gold medals in that event. Taylor finished fifth with a disappointing time of 48.25, which was slower than his semifinal qualifying heat time of 47.95.
Taylor won gold in 2000 in Sydney and again in 2008 in Beijing, while Sanchez — in a twist of irony — interrupted Taylor’s streak by winning it in 2004 in Athens. Had Taylor won Monday, he would’ve passed his idol, American track & field legend Edwin Moses, and cemented himself in the record books. Moses, like Taylor and former American hurdler Glenn Davis, has won two golds in the 400M hurdles, and now Sanchez adds his name to the list, as well.
But that number, however, is likely where Taylor’s mark will end. At 33, it’s unlikely he’ll be back to compete in Brazil, site of the 2016 Summer Games.
Taylor’s U.S. teammate, Michael Tinsley, won silver with a time of 47.91, while Puerto Rico’s Javier Culson (48.10) took bronze. Britain’s David Greene edged Taylor for fourth, crossing at 49.24.
Tinsley’s result wasn’t all that surprising after he beat Taylor in the U.S. trials following a late stumble by Taylor, who appeared slightly winded in that race, on the ninth hurdle.
After Monday’s race, Taylor thanked everyone back in the states for rooting him on in London, while also congratulating Tinsley.
“Thanks to everyone that has supported me and prayed for me. I (came) up short of reaching my goal. But thanks be to god for allowing me to participate,” Taylor said on his Twitter account, @Angelo_Taylor. “My hat goes off to @Mr400hurdles (Michael Tinsley) ... Good job homie .... I’m proud of you.”
Taylor, who still has a shot at his fourth overall career gold medal with the U.S. men’s 4x400 relay team when prelims begin Thursday, won his first heat in the 400M hurdles qualifying with a time of 48.29 on Friday, then posted a season-best in the semis Saturday, despite finishing second.
But Monday’s race was a whole ’nother animal with the world’s best-of-the-best clashing in the finals. Taylor told The Herald before heading to London that his goal at his fourth Olympics was to not only win his third individual gold, but to also break fellow American Kevin Young’s long-standing world and Olympic record of 46.78.
Unfortunately, he did neither.
Taylor got off to a great start in the race, but he grazed one of the hurdles near the midpoint, dropping him back slightly of Sanchez, who appeared in command the entire way.
Taylor, however, recovered nicely and actually appeared to surge to the lead with about 100 meters — and two hurdles — to go.
But just like in the U.S. Trials, Taylor appeared to get winded down the stretch and fell from running with the leaders to pursuing them.
Taylor, although disappointed, was at peace with his result.
“It’s a new day, it’s a new era,” Taylor told The Associated Press after the race. “Things change. People evolve. People show up.”
Sanchez, who many thought had little chance to repeat at age 35 what he did in 2004 in Athens at 27, was one of those who showed up big time Monday. He knelt down and wept — kissing a picture he carried with him during the race of he and his late grandmother — as he crossed the finish line.
And what Sanchez accomplished — in comparison to what Taylor had done in 2000 and 20008 — was not lost on NBC’s Joe Battaglia, who was covering the event.
“@elsupersanchez just pulled an @angelo_taylor, wins 2nd Olympic gold medal in 400m hurdles in 47.63,” he tweeted.