LONDON—Only a few races after Rene Herrera got the biggest ovation for his last place finish in the men’s 5,000-meter run, he was upstaged as the darling of the crowd of 80,000 by a pioneering woman running in the heats of the women’s 800-meter run.
Sarah Attar was also dead last in her race, but she got an even bigger applause at the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday for a different reason.
She is the first Saudi woman to compete in Olympic athletics and she and Wojgam Shaherkami are the first women from the oil-rich kingdom to compete in the Olympics.
The 19-year old Attar has a dual citizenship, having been born and raised in California where she is an art student. Last month, a couple of weeks before the Olympics, she was featured in the New York Times which quoted her as saying:
“A big inspiration for participating in the 2012 Olympics for me is being one of the first women for Saudi Arabia to be going. It’s such a huge honor and I hope that it can really make some good strides for women over there to get more involved in the sport. I definitely think that my participation in this Olympic Games can increase women’s participation in sports in general. I can only hope for the best for them and that we can really get some good strides going for women in the Olympics further and just in sports in general.”
On Wednesday, she ran a slow and steady pace—more like a marathon than an 800-meter pace—as the rest of the women exploded at the start. Donning a white head scarf after the International Olympic Committee backed down on its earlier decision to ban the head gear and wearing long-sleeves and long running tights, Attar stuck to her pace throughout the race, finishing in 2:44:95—almost 33 seconds behind the heat’s winner, Janet Jepkongti of Kenya who clocked 2:01:04. She was about 200 meters behind when the Jepkongti crossed the finish line.
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The Philippine flag flew proudly among several others atop the grandstands of the BMX cycling venue at the Olympic Park in London as Daniel Caluag kicked off the action in men’s BMX cycling on Wednesday.
He was first to go among 32 competitors in the time-trial seeding round which determined the starting list of the four groups in the quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon. His name was on the leaderboard very briefly as the first rider, but one by one, all the other riders clocked better times. That put him at the bottom of the seeds. That means he will always have the outside track in the quarterfinals.
Short for “bicycle motocross,” BMX cycling, the newest event in the Olympic progam, was introduced in the Beijing Olympics in 2008. BMX uses single-gear bikes usually made of aluminum. In the London Olympics, riders start from a platform eight meters high, down an almost 45-degree ramp, through jumps, twists, turns, two more ramps and a tunnel. The track is 470 meters long for men and 430 meters for women. Each run is usually over in 40 seconds.
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Twelve of the richest athletes in the Olympic Games did what most other people do everyday—commute. Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and the rest of Team USA basketball team crammed their oversized bodies into the trains, buses and the Tube to get to where they were going.
The multi-millionaire stars of the National Basketball Association have shunned their Spartan accommodations at the fortress-like Athletes Village of the Olympic Park and are instead billeted at a hotel in Central London. They rode the late-night javelin, an express train that travels from the Stratford station outside the Olympic Park to the St. Pancras station in just six minutes and posted pictures of themselves inside the train.
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