. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Isinbayeva Caps a Day of Joy and Strife

APYelena Isinbayeva celebrating after setting a new world record and winning the gold medal in the women's pole vault on Tuesday.
ATHENS -- In the wee hours of Tuesday night, Yelena Isinbayeva had the Olympic Stadium stage all to herself -- and brought the most thrilling day of track and field thus far in Athens to a perfect end. The 22-year-old Russian pole vaulter set a world record for the fourth time this year, clearing 16 feet, 1 1/4 inches with ease.

"The energy for the world record came from the amazing crowd," she said. "When the full stadium was clapping for me, my spirit rose."

Tuesday was a day of triumph and trouble.

Hicham El Guerrouj danced with joy after a stirring victory in the 1,500 meters, earning the Moroccan great the gold medal that had eluded him in an event he had otherwise dominated for so long.

"Four years ago, I cried with sadness," he said. "Today I cry tears of joy. I'm living a moment of glory. I'm overjoyed for myself and for my country."

Joanna Hayes of the United States raced to victory in an Olympic record 12.37 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles, leaving the favorite Perdita Felicien, the 2003 world champion, crumpled beneath a hurdle. The young Canadian stepped on her first hurdle and tumbled violently onto the track, taking Russian runner Irina Shevchenko out with her.

Felicien got up in disgust and disbelief, then lay on her back near the track for what seemed an eternity, tears trickling down the side of her face.

"I think it's going to take four years for this to sink in," she said. "I was ready to run that race. I was ready to do this."

Hayes shot out of the blocks well ahead of Felicien, who tried to rush things to catch up. That's when she hit the hurdle, careening into the next lane.

Hayes' race was so fast that Felicien would have had a hard time catching her, even if she had not fallen.

"I'm not saying I can't be beaten," Hayes said, "but tonight I'm the best hurdler in the world."

El Guerrouj survived a classic showdown with Kenyan Paul Legat. Three weeks ago in Zurich, Legat had run down the Moroccan in the final 50 meters. Legat tried to do it again in Athens, but El Guerrouj held him off, winning in 3 minutes, 34.18 seconds -- 12-hundredths of a second ahead of Legat.

El Guerrouj has lost just four races in the last eight years, but two of those defeats came at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics. He stumbled and fell on the final lap to finish last at Atlanta, then blew a lead in the final meters at Sydney and later confessed he had been overcome by pre-race stress.