SYDNEY (JTA) – Australian sprinter Steven Solomon ran out of steam in the 400 meters Olympic final.
Solomon trailed the pack on Monday night in London, finishing eighth in 45.14 seconds — his second fastest time and just 0.17 seconds off his landmark semifinal time. The 19-year-old runner had posted two personal best times on his way to becoming the first Australian man in 24 years to qualify for a 400 meters Olympic final.
Kirani James, also 19, won the gold in 43.94 seconds to give Grenada its first medal ever.
Solomon, who played soccer at the 2009 Maccabiah before taking up sprinting, said he was thrilled just to make the final.
"I’m really happy," he told Australia’s Channel Nine TV. "Although I came last in the final, I got to the final. I gave it absolutely everything I had."
And he heaped praise on his Jewish Ukrainian coach, 78-year-old Fira Dvoskina, who could not travel to London but was coaching him via Skype.
"It just shows what a master she is," he said. "She can still get a 19-year-old into the final."
His father, South African-born Dr. Michael Solomon, wrote in an email to supporters after the thrilling semifinal, "I don’t care who it is that makes it onto the podium. Today I witnessed and experienced scenes that will live with me forever."
Solomon is scheduled to race in the 4×400-meter relay later this week alongside John Steffensen, the black South African-born sprinter who triggered a race row when he was overlooked in favor of Solomon for the 400 meters.
Australian media has widely reported that Athletics Australia’s decision to select Solomon was vindicated by his qualification for the final.