Isinbayeva, Jelimo light up Beijing
A world record pole vault for Russia's Yelena Isinbayeva and an electrifying 800 metres run by 18-year-old Kenyan Pamela Jelimo lit up the Bird's Nest Stadium yesterday evening.
Isinbayeva, with the gold secured, cleared 5.05 metres to beat her own mark of 5.04 and follow Usain Bolt in the 100 metres and Gulnara Galkina-Samitova in the women's steeplechase as world record breakers at the Games.
"It was really great because I felt I'm an actress and all the stadium was just for me," she said.
Brimin Kiprop Kipruto gave Kenya a seventh successive victory in the 3,000 metres steeplechase and Jelimo streaked to the 800 metres title.
The United States, who had endured a miserable weekend, roared back when Angelo Taylor led a sweep in the men's 400 metres hurdles and Stephanie Brown Trafton took an unexpected women's discus gold.
Irving Saladino earned Panama's first-ever Olympic gold when he won the long jump.
Defending champion Isinbayeva came into the Games as one of the hottest athletics favourites and spent most of the pole vault competition dozing under a towel.
"I love to be alone at the top it's so cool I'd like to keep my position as long as possible," she said.
When she emerged she needed only two jumps to win it with 4.85m but then played her part by clearing the new record height at the third attempt.
Jennifer Stuczynski of the United States won silver and Svetlana Feofanova of Russia took bronze.
Kipruto, the meat in a Kenyan steeplechase sandwich four years ago, went one better this time when he held off fast-finishing French outsider Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad to maintain his country's 24-year grip on the event. Richard Kipkemboi Mateelong took bronze for Kenya.
The US have been similarly dominant in the 400 hurdles and Taylor's second Olympic triumph in a personal best of 47.25 seconds, eight years after his Sydney win, made it 18 golds in the event.
Kerron Clement took silver and Bershawn Jackson bronze in the first US sweep since 1960.
"It's definitely the sweetest thing," Taylor told reporters.
"It's an honour to be mentioned in the same breath as Ed Moses, he's a legend. It's all been about keeping the faith and staying strong over the last few years.
"To lead the sweep means so much. The US hasn't had a great showing so far so we wanted to prove something. It was a great run. I haven't run fast since 2001. I feel on top of the world."
Jelimo added a golden lustre to her all-conquering season when she won the 800 in 1:54.87, a world junior record for the 18-year-old.
"I'm happy I managed it... I did my best, I didn't expect it to be so fast," she said.
With her victory, Jelimo becomes the first Kenyan woman to win an Olympic athletics gold and some of her rivals expect her to attack the 25-year-old world record next.
"Look at her time, 1:54 is very, very fast, especially from someone who is 18 years old and I'm sure she will break the world record," former Olympic champion Maria Mutola of Mozambique said.
Team-mate Janeth Jepkosgei Busienei took silver ahead of Morocco's Hasna Benhassi.
"For me, getting the silver was like winning the gold," Jepkosgei, said. "I think we did our best, that's what we wanted to do."
Saladino dealt with the pressure of favouritism and stiff competition from South African Khotso Mokoena to win with his fourth-round jump of 8.34 metres.
Brown Trafton's 64.74-metre throw was enough to earn the US their first women's discus gold for 76 years.
"I came to the Bird's Nest to lay a golden egg, and that's what I did," she told reporters. "I asked God for relaxation, and I won gold.
"I'm surprised we haven't won more golds. This is the first gold medal for the American women in the discus since 1932 ... we need as many golds as we can get."
The 28-year-old former basketball player, who failed to reach the final in her first Olympics in Athens four years ago despite the extraordinary leverage her height gives her, was even able to foul half her throws.
"I'm just happy my first throw was a gold medal throw," she added. "I have a lot of people behind me ... a lot of people to thank. I've got awesome coaches, and you have to have that confidence."
The highlight of today's programme should be the men's 1,500 metres and Bolt continues his bid for a sprint double in the 200 metres semi-finals.