Kerron Clement wins the 400m hurdles at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (© Getty Images)
After what many people thought was a modest and uninspiring season of 400m hurdling at an elite level, suddenly the event burst to life in Rio and a thrilling final saw four men go under 48 seconds for the first time in 15 years with Kerron Clement taking the gold medal in 47.73,
From the gun, it was Clement working hard over hurdles two to five to have a clear lead at the halfway point.
Running in lane five, the 2007 and 2009 world champion was almost up on the shoulder of Jamaica’s Annsert Whyte in the lane outside him as they entered the second bend.
Around the bend, Turkey’s European champion Yasmani Copello also started to motor, having run a conservative first half of the race.
Into the home straight, Clement held a slight lead which he managed to maintain over the final two hurdles and all the way to the line for his fastest time since winning his first world title in Osaka nine years ago.
"I came out here with one mindset and that was to execute my race plan and trust my fitness and just believe in myself. I knew the last 100 metres would be tough and those guys would be coming the last 50 metres," reflected Clement.
"I felt the lactate in my legs and I thought about diving like the Bahamas runner (Shaunae Miller in the women's 400m) but I dug down deeper to get that win and my first individual (Olympic) gold medal.
"It is a surreal feeling. It was a great honour for my Mum who gave me the flag to run around the stadium because she was here to witness history.
"Before we left the States I told her to bring a flag because I knew I was going to win. I made a space on my cabinet where I have all my medals and the space in the cabinet reads 'gold medal 2016' so I knew I was coming here to win the gold medal."
Behind Clement, there was all sorts of drama occurring over the final 60 metres or so.
Whyte started to weaken while Kenya’s Boniface Tumuti, in lane seven, started a charge from a long way back that took him past everyone apart from Clement. Had the race had been 20 metres further, he might even have grabbed the gold medal.
As it was, he had to settle for the silver medal in a national record of 47.78, shaving 0.01 off the time Nicholas Bett set when winning the gold medal at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015.
Copello held the bronze medal slot coming off the final hurdle but then started to visibly tire and only just managed to hold off the fast-finishing Irishman Thomas Barr. The pair were rewarded with national records of 47.92 and 47.97 respectively.
Whyte drifted back to sixth but still clocked a personal best of 48.07 while Rasmus Magi reduced his Estonian record to 48.40. Kenya’s Haron Koech, after two personal bests in his first two races in Rio, couldn’t make it a hat-trick and was seventh in 49.09.
The one man who didn’t complete the race was Puerto Rico’s 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Javier Culson. He might have been in contention to add to his medal collection, but false-started.
There were no protests from the 32-year-old two-time World Championships medallist, but his face was a picture of resignation and disappointment as he left the track.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF