Kenya basks in marathon glory as Games draw to a close
Samuel Wanjiru relished the Beijing heat as he ended Kenya's Olympic marathon drought on Sunday.
Beijing: Samuel Wanjiru relished the Beijing heat as he ended Kenya's Olympic marathon drought on Sunday, to start the final day of the Games which have seen China emerge as the dominant global sports power.
As the closing 12 events are played out after 15 days of competition, China has 49 gold medals, 15 more than the United States on 34, with Russian winning 22 and Great Britain 19.
The morning belonged to Wanjiru, striding to Kenya's first marathon gold medal, and celebrating in the hot sun as be broke the 24-year-old Games record while those around him wilted.
"I had to push the pace to tire the other runners. I had to push the pace because my body gets tired in the heat when I slow down," he said as temperatures rose towards 30 degrees.
"It feels good to make history here. It feels good to make history for Kenya and win the gold."
Kenya may have won according to the script but the principal actors were different as the outstanding Martin Lel, a triple London marathon winner, faded to fifth and it was half-marathon specialist Wanjiru who pulled through.
The final day in Beijing, before the Games mantle is passed on to London, also sees six more finals in the troubled boxing arena, while a team of US millionaire superstars try to regain lost glory in basketball.
Russia further improved their third place on the medal table winning the all-around rhythmic gymnastics final while other gold's on offer include handball, volleyball and water polo.
All combat sports have been bedevilled by complaints of biased judging, none more so than boxing, forcing Wu Ching-kuo, the president of the sport's governing body AIBA to promise a shake-up.
"You can see from this tournament how we need to upgrade the level of the judges," he said. We need re-education and re-training to achieve a higher level. No more cheating, no more manipulation but better referee judges."
The US basketball team's quest for redemption promised to be one of the most compelling closing-day dramas, as the team packed with National Basketball Association heavyweights battled world champion Spain in the final.
The USA all-stars believe they have a score to settle after being forced to settle for a humiliating bronze four years ago.
The men's volleyball final gives Brazil the chance to inflict a double blow on the United States a day after beating the North Americans in the women's final.
For China, the investment of more than $40 billion on the Games reaped handsome rewards.
Their athletes topped the medal count, and a near flawless organisation meant that the controversies that marred the build-up largely slipped into the background.
American swimming ace Michael Phelps, with his unprecedented eight gold medals and seven world records, and Usain Bolt, the fastest man on earth winning three gold medals with three world records, were the headline stories.
There were also the hardluck stories such as Italian weightlifter Genny Pagliaro who failed her first three attempts and was out of the Games in a matter of minutes on the first morning.
On Sunday evening, Beijing hands the Olympics over to London which is talking of a more modest affair in 2012.
To show off the next Games city, the London organizers plan to introduce themselves to a global audience with the help of Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Leona Lewis and football icon David Beckham.
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