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Robles rises to the occasion

Robles rises to the occasion

Dayron Robles raised the ribbon draped around his neck with both thumbs, lifted the gold medal to his lips and kissed it, dedicating his Olympic triumph to Fidel Castro and all of Cuba.
In what organizers had long planned as China's golden night, promoting Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang as the face of the Beijing Games, Robles won the 110-meter hurdles for another Communist regime.
Robles won in 12.93 seconds, two-hundredths outside the Olympic record Liu set in winning the Athens 2004 gold medal. It was also some distance behind his own world record _ the 12.87 he ran in June to break Liu's two-year-old mark.
He wasn't pushing for the line, already taking in the moment before it happened.
"I wasn't trying to achieve a given time," he said. "It was an Olympic final and an Olympic final is like nothing else. All I wanted to do was win the medal.
"The track was wet ... so I tried not to force things. You know that if you slip up in hurdles, you can end up on the ground very easily."
So, the 21-year-old Cuban explained, his tailing off over the last hurdle was not in deference to his friend and rival Liu in the Chinese capital's 91,000-seat National Stadium, but more as a safety precaution.
"I was very calm since the games began _ I've been trying to be as relaxed as possible," said Robles, who wears distinctive round glasses while competing. "I'm still relaxed. I'm not euphoric by any means yet."
Robles was rhythmically perfect with his steps between hurdles, and had a textbook technique over them in a final he dominated from the start.
Liu was a shock withdrawal in the first round on Monday, making it into the blocks but limping away after a false start in an emotional confluence of expectations and injuries.
Terrence Trammell, the two-time Olympic silver medalist, exited when he crashed into a hurdle in his first heat _ in the same lane and in the race before Liu.
Robles said hurdling was too dangerous not to be cautious _ yet he still had a good lead over American runners David Payne, who took silver in 13.17, a touch in front of bronze medalist David Oliver.
"You never know if you're going to win ... I've known so many hurdlers who have clipped the last hurdle and lost the race," he said. "I could not drop my guard _ I was never overconfident.
Robles was both astute and gracious in handling questions after his race, ensuring he didn't play into any "enemy of the people" scenarios by denying tabloid reports that he signed a petition against human rights abuses in China.
"I have great admiration for the Chinese people _ it's a great nation," he said. "They demonstrate time and again they know and love their athletes."
And Liu, he said, made a great contribution to the Beijing Olympics even without winning.
"It's a shame that Liu was not racing because it would have been spectacular," he said. "Liu Xiang has always been a very good competitor and athlete. You can feel it when he's on the track with you.
"I didn't feel good when he withdrew _ I know what he represents to the Chinese people. He's a hero in China _ let me take this opportunity to wish him a speedy recovery."
Robles said he was still maturing as an athlete and wanted to still be competing when he was 36 or 37, following in the footsteps of past greats like 1996 Olympic champion Allen Johnson.
For the meantime, he dedicated his first major title to the people who backed him.
"To Fidel. To my mom," he said. "To everyone who believed in me always."


Updated : 2021-04-17 05:30 GMT+08:00