As part of her linguistics degree at University College London, Christine Ohuruogu wrote a thesis on swearwords and swearing.

It might have helped her understand some of the words that were coming out of British supporters' mouths when she came storming past Sanya Richards down the home straight on Tuesday night to win Olympic 400m gold.

What a run. What a final 60 metres. What a 49.62 seconds.

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There have been some wonderful displays from British athletes at these Games, but for tactical brilliance, mental strength and sheer determination against an opponent some thought couldn't be beaten, Ohuruogu's storming performance on Tuesday takes the Beijing biscuit.

Ohuruogu just doesn't do silver in major finals.

In her big three finals so far, she's won at the Commonwealths in Melbourne, the Worlds in Osaka and now Olympic gold on a balmy night in Beijing.

On the blocks, the stadium hushed, the blue-sleeved Richards was crouched three lanes outside her, stony-faced and focused.

If the thought of the watching world wasn't enough, that sight alone should have scared here. Richards' personal best is almost a second faster than Ohuruogu's.

Instead, it was the world number one who cracked.

What Ohuruogu seems able to do, better than any of her rivals, is execute perfectly the plan her coach Lloyd Cowan sets her, no matter what the circumstances.

Cowan breaks her race down into sections. He tells her the exact splits she needs at each point, at 100m, 200m and 300m.

The strategy here was to run the first 200m about half a second faster than she had in the semi-final, and then run the second half of the race at exactly the same pace as she had previously.

Even in front of 91,000 people in an Olympic final, Ohuruogu ran those splits to perfection.

Richards, by contrast, threw her coach Clyde Hart's tactics out of the window. Instead of running the first 80m hard, throttling back for the next 100, pushing again round the bend and then piling it on to the finish, she went off like a rocket over the first 300m and had nothing left in the final stretch.

A few weeks back, Michael Johnson criticised Ohuruogu for not competing on the Grand Prix circuit against Richards on a regular basis, saying the lack of regular competition would leave her like a "rabbit in the headlights" out here.

For once, the greatest 400m runner of them all got it wrong. As at the world championships last summer, she timed both her season and her biggest race to perfection.


Ohuruogu knew what she was doing, and the delight when it all came together was there for all to see.

When she was called to the medal podium, the former under-17 and under-19 netball international jumped around with arms raised like a goal defence on a trampette.

"You have to believe in yourself," she said afterwards. "It's not about who is the fastest or the strongest, it's the person who can hold it together when it matters.

"You train for these three days - you don't train for the Grand Prix. You work all year for three days.

"It's all about getting to the final, and once you're there, it's all about who has the greatest will to win."

Richards had said in the run-up to this final that Ohuruogu was "lucky" to be here, a reference to the one-year ban the Briton served after missing three out-of-competition drugs tests in 2006.

When the question was asked again in her victory press conference, Ohuruogu reacted with a mix of resignation and anger.

"I don't care what people think or say," she said. "I'm happy, I've won a gold medal, and that's all that matters to me."

It was hard to not to feel a little sympathy. She'd already explained herself a hundred times, not least in the wake of her win in Osaka.

Out in the bright lights of the stadium, jogging slowly round on her victory lap while towing a Union flag and waving wildly to the pockets of British fans dotted around the three tiers, the happy smile had never left her lips.

British women have a long proud tradition in Olympic 400m finals, from the silvers won by Anne Packer and Lillian Board in 1964 and 1968 to the bronzes of Kathy Cook in Los Angeles and Katherine Merry in Sydney.

Ohuruogu has now topped them all. Not since Eric Liddell in Paris in 1924 has a British athlete won an Olympic 400m title.

Merry was just metres away from the finish line in the Bird's Nest as her successor came home, shouting her on in the final few strides.

She believes that the victory had its roots in Ohuruogu's decision to spend the first half of the year working on her one big weakness.

"For a world-class 400m runner, the quicker you can do a one-off 200, the better," said Merry. "For her that means well under 23 seconds.

"Going into this season, Christine didn't have that. Her strength was never in doubt, but her base speed was.

"So this season she's worked more on her short sprints, her 100m and 200m, and got quicker over the shorter distances.

"Therefore, when she comes to run the first 200m of her 400m, she's not wasting as much energy. It actually feels easier for her."

Ohuruogu will return home to London as the poster-girl for the 2012 Games.

Brought up with her seven siblings just a few miles from the Olympic site in Stratford, east London, she will now have to deal with the same sort of expectations and pressures that faced another 400m great, Cathy Freeman, in Sydney.

But that's for another day. Tonight, she has a gold medal in her pocket. Mission accomplished.

Tom Fordyce is a BBC Sport journalist covering a wide range of events in Beijing. Our FAQs should answer any questions you have.

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