RIO DE JANEIRO • The Bahamian runner lay on her back for several minutes, trying to process it all. She stared up at the dark Rio de Janeiro sky, wearing a smile that shone brighter than any Olympic medal. Shaunae Miller had just turned the women's 400m into a diving competition, a gamble that paid off.
Miller, 22, pipped Allyson Felix, one of the best runners to ever represent the United States, by launching herself head-first across the finish line.
The manoeuvre actually may have slowed Miller slightly as she began to put less force onto the track to propel herself forward. Still, her torso crossed the finish line first, as required, and she took the gold medal in 49.44 seconds, her personal best. Felix, 30, finished in 49.51.
"This is the moment I have been waiting for," Miller said. "I just gave it my all. I am just so happy, so grateful, such emotions I just can't say."
She did not violate any rules or sense of track decorum, and while diving across the line is uncommon, it is hardly shocking.
STRUGGLING FOR WORDS
This is the moment I've been waiting for. I just gave it my all. I am just so happy, so grateful, such emotions I just can't say.
SHAUNAE MILLER, who won the women's 400m in dramatic fashion.
Track and field's rules state that a runner only completes the race when his or her torso - rather than head or arms - crosses the finish line.
The silver was Felix's seventh Olympic medal, making her the most decorated woman track and field athlete in American history, breaking Jackie Joyner-Kersee's record of six.
Miller's dive was actually the second of the night. Earlier, Brazil's Joao Vitor de Oliveira had produced a nearly identical moment to secure qualification in dramatic fashion during his 110m hurdles heat, delighting the home crowd.
Miller's victory left Felix, who has a total of 20 Olympic and world championship medals to her name, distraught.
Speaking to reporters after the race, she choked back tears as she digested a shattering loss. "I think I should have been a bit more aggressive," she said.
"I'm disappointed. It's been a tough year and I was kind of hoping it would come together. I didn't think about lunging myself. I tried to give it all I have but I didn't have any more to give in the last 10m."
In the men's 800m, Kenya's David Rudisha claimed a majestic Olympic double as he became the first man in 52 years to clinch back-to-back 800m titles after producing a phenomenal last-lap kick to win in 1min 42.15sec.
Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria took silver in 1:42.61 and the United States' Clayton Murphy finished third in 1:42.93.
"Running 1:42, it's just fantastic. I had no doubts before," said Rudisha. "It is great to win such a big competition, my second gold. It's so great. I am so excited. It is the greatest moment of my career."
The last man to win consecutive 800m titles was New Zealand's Peter Snell at the 1960 and 1964 Games.
WASHINGTON POST, NEW YORK TIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE