LONDON — Rain began falling on Olympic Stadium as Felix Sanchez accepted his gold medal for the 400-meter hurdles, and he knew the droplets were no mere quirk of English summer weather.
Eight years after he became a champion at the Athens Olympics, four years after he vowed but failed to win a medal in honor of his late grandmother, he was on top of the world again and in the same time — 47.63 seconds — that he clocked in Athens. He had pinned his abuela's picture beneath his bib, and when raindrops began to kiss his face he was sure she had sent them and he sobbed uncontrollably.
"It just made me feel like my grandmother was crying tears of joy. She was proud of me," said Sanchez, who grew up in San Diego and excelled at USC but represents the Dominican Republic. "That's what brought the tears."
Pole vaulter Jenn Suhr of Fredonia, N.Y., also cried Monday, almost overwhelmed by defeating two-time Olympic champion Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia and Cuba's Yarisley Silva in a battle of athleticism and nerves.
Silva jumped last and might have won but missed, giving Suhr the affirmation and gold medal she couldn't secure four years ago at Beijing. Suhr cried in the arms of her husband and coach, Rick.
"It's very emotional. It's something you work so hard at for four years and there's heartbreak and joy and then some more heartbreak," said Suhr, who had fewer misses than Silva in reaching a top height of 15 feet, 7 inches.
"To beat Yelena and her resume and record, it's an honor. That's the only thing I can say. To have someone so good in the field and come out on top, it really is an honor and it's a special title in that situation."
Sanchez, who will be 35 in a few weeks, won his title against a strong field. Michael Tinsley of Little Rock, Ark., was second in a personal-best 47.91 seconds and Javier Culson of Puerto Rico was third in 48.10. Angelo Taylor of the U.S., the 2000 and 2008 gold medalist, faded to fifth in 48.25, behind David Greene of Britain (48.24). Kerron Clement of the U.S. was eighth in 49.15.
"I went into sprint mode too early and I started getting too close to the hurdles," Taylor said.
Earlier Monday, Sanya Richards-Rossmade a quick turnaround after winning gold in the women's 400 Sunday. Fourth in her first-round heat of the 200 as she navigated the turn, she won in 22.48 seconds to advance to the semifinals. Carmelita Jeter, the 100 silver medalist, also advanced in the 200 with a 22.65. She was joined by Allyson Felix (22.71), 100 gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica (22.71) and Beijing 200 champion Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica (22.75).
"I probably got about four or five hours' sleep, max, but I'm excited to be on the track again," Richards-Ross said. "I just feel lighter and free and I'm just going to go out there and give my best and hopefully make it through the semifinals as well."
All three American women in the first round of the 100 hurdles eased into the semifinals. Lolo Jones ran a smooth 12.68 to win her heat, Kellie Wells won in 12.69 and defending Olympic champion Dawn Harper was second in her heat with a 12.75. The top time was recorded by Australia's Sally Pearson, 12.57. Jamaica's Brigitte Foster-Hylton clipped the sixth hurdle and failed to advance.
Kirani James of Granada won the men's 400 in a national-record 43.94 seconds. Luguelin Santos of the Dominican Republic was second in 44.46 and Lalonde Gordon of Trinidad and Tobago third in a personal-best 44.52. It was the first men's 400 Olympic final in which no American competed.
Nick Symmonds of Eugene, Ore., won his first-round heat of the 800 in 1 minute, 45.91 seconds and Duane Solomon Jr., of Rosemead and USC won his heat in 1:46.05 to advance to the semifinals. Khadevis Robinson didn't advance after finishing fourth in his heat in 1:47.17. World record holder David Rudisha of Kenya eased forward with an easy 1:45.90.
Jenny Simpson of Monument, Colo., the 2011 world champion in the 1,500, had to lean at the line of her first-round heat to grab a spot in Wednesday's semifinals. Shannon Rowbury of San Francisco qualified on time with a 4:06.03 and Morgan Uceny, who trains in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., advanced by finishing second in her heat in 4:06.09.
No Americans made the men's discus final. Jason Young of Dallas ranked 18th in qualifying with a top throw of 204 feet, Lance Brooks of Springfield, Ill., topped out at 200-8 and Jarred Rome of Marysville, Wash., had a best of 195-5…. Michelle Carter of Ovilla, Texas, the lone American in the women's discus final, finished sixth with a mark of 63-83/4 . Nadzeya Ostapchuk of Belarus won at 70-1…. Russia's Yuliya Zaripova won the women's 3,000 steeplechase in 9:06.72. Americans Emma Coburn (9:23.54) and Bridget Franek (9:45.51) were ninth and 14th, respectively.