LONDON (AFP) –
Cycling legend Chris Hoy became Britain’s greatest Olympian on Tuesday when he powered to a sixth career gold, but Chinese athletics icon Liu Xiang crashed to a second successive Olympic heartbreak.
Hoy, 36, won his sixth gold courtesy of victory in the keirin event which allowed him to overtake the five garnered by rower Steve Redgrave.
“I’m in shock, you try and compose yourself but it’s surreal. I wanted to win gold in front of my home crowd,” said Hoy who was in floods of tears at the medal ceremony.
“This is the perfect end to my Olympic career.”
Hoy’s emotional victory helped boost Britain’s gold tally to 22, just eight behind the mighty United States, and represented the country’s best ever Olympics performance.
Meanwhile, former Olympic 110m hurdles champion and world record holder Liu, who had to withdraw just moments before his opening heat in front of his home fans at Beijing in 2008, saw his 2012 bid crumble in just a split second.
The 29-year-old ploughed into the first hurdle of his opening heat with his left leading leg and crashed heavily to the track.
Liu got up and even hopped down the track to symbolically cross the finish line, also stopping to kiss the 10th and last hurdle, winning warm applause from a stunned 80,000 crowd.
China’s athletics team leader in London, Feng Shu Yong, later revealed Liu had possibly snapped his Achilles, a recurrence of a problem which has dogged the 2004 Olympic champion for years.
“The initial diagnosis from the medical staff is that he has a ruptured Achilles tendon. In the last several years he has had good medical care, but it is still there,” Feng said, referring to Liu’s long-standing injury problems.
“An achilles injury is almost impossible to recover from fully.”
Usain Bolt, fresh from running the second-fastest time in history to retain his 100m title on Sunday, began his bid to keep his 200m title by winning his heat in 20.39sec.
“That was an easy run. I am enjoying it,” said the Jamaican star. “This is my favourite event so I am looking forward to it.
“It’s getting pretty chilly. They say it should be good on Thursday for the final. We’ll see. I have heard that before.”
World 100m champion, and Bolt’s compatriot, Yohan Blake also made it through to the next round.
Alistair Brownlee won the men’s triathlon for Britain in Hyde Park and the equestrian squad clinched team dressage gold at Greenwich.
Victoria Pendleton’s dream of ending her Olympic career with a cycling sprint gold was shattered by a defeat to long-standing Australian rival Anna Meares.
Laura Trott gave Britain another gold in the gruelling omnium as the hosts won seven of the 10 golds on the track.
China stayed top of the medals table thanks to golds from Feng Zhe in men’s gymnastics parallel bars, Deng Linlin on the women’s balance beam and their women’s table tennis team.
But their hopes of sweeping all eight diving golds were ended by Russia’s Ilya Zakharov who won the men’s 3m springboard final ahead of Chinese pair Qin Kai and defending champion He Chong.
In men’s football, Mexico advanced to the final for the first time after coming from behind to defeat Asian giants Japan 3-1 and will face either South Korea or favourites Brazil for the gold medal.