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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian Stuns Field in Men's 800

ATHENS -- Yury Borzakovsky has been branded with having a moody, unpredictable character, and for a long time, the Russian found it impossible to turn his brilliant promise into a gold medal.

When two Russian planes went down in a possible terrorist attack last Tuesday, it unsettled the whole Russian team to the extent that there was no telling how the 800-meter runner would perform.

On Saturday, his response was brilliant -- sweeping past four opponents with an unmatched kick in the finishing straight to take Olympic gold.

His win was the highlight of Russia's most successful day of the Games -- the team winning a total of six gold medals Saturday to claim third place on the medals table behind the United States and China.

"It was a real shock," Borzakovsky said of learning about the disaster, which killed 90 people. Even if some athletes considered quitting, Borzakovsky said it only steeled his determination. "We decided we should be worthy representatives of the nation."

And the 23-year-old proved his worth in his inimitable style.

As always, he hung well back after the first lap and had a clear view of how his competitors were doing. World champion Wilson Kipketer of Denmark was surging in the back straight, but the Russian still bided his time.

He still had four racers in front of him when he came into the final straight and then proved he had learned from his failure at the Olympics four years ago, when faulty tactics left him winded and in sixth place.

"At the Sydney Games in the last 100 meters, I lost out. Here I knew it would be a key point," he said.

And with his hands outstretched and a wide smile, he crossed the line, leaving South African Mbulaeni Tongai Mulaudzi in second and Kipketer in third place.

Triple world champion Kipketer, a brilliant middle-distance runner who will likely go into history now without an Olympic gold, long looked to keep the edge but slumped at the end.

At 31, he knew the difference eight years can make. "My finish was not as strong as when I was younger," he said.

For Borzakovsky, it finally proved he had come of age.

"I won because I was mentally and physically ready," he said.

After Borzakovsky's triumph, Russia's Yelena Slesarenko deprived South Africa's Hestrie Cloete of Olympic gold by flying to the women's high jump title with a display bordering on perfection on the final day of action at the Olympic Stadium.

The 22-year-old Slesarenko won with a clearance of 2.04 meters then celebrated with yet another first-time clearance of 2.06, a personal best. The world record proved just out of reach.

Earlier in the day, Russia underlined its superiority in rhythmic gymnastics by winning the group gold medal with an alluring synchronized performance. The defending champions easily outclassed their challengers with their two dramatic routines to earn 51.100, an impressive 1.65 points ahead of second-place Italy.

"The Russian team is very pleased to win gold again as it has repaid all the sacrifices the girls have made," said Russian coach Valentina Ivanitskaya.

Two Russians boxers also won golds. Alexei Tishchenko beat Kim Song Guk of North Korea 39-17 at featherweight, while Gaidarbek Gaidarbekov beat Gennady Golovkin of Kazakhstan 28-18 in a middleweight bout.

Gaidarbekov said he would likely retire after winning his gold.

"I don't like to use words like 'dreams,' because I believe there's a destiny that awaits everybody," he said. "At the same time, you have to seize it. Winning in the Olympic Games is a dream, though."

In the freestyle wrestling event, Mavlet Batirov won the gold in the 55-kilogram division, thrashing Stephen Abas of the United States 9-1 on points in a one-sided bout.

(AP, Reuters)