Born in New York and raised in California by parents from the Dominican Republic, Félix Sánchez loved baseball as a boy, but when he broke his wrist in his teenage years he was forced to look for another sport. When he discovered the 400m hurdles he never looked back.
Sánchez opted to compete for the Dominican Republic and came into these Games fuelled by a combination of disappointment and success. The disappointment came from his performance in the 2000 Games in Sydney, where he failed to make the final and left promising to never such a setback again. However, he had won gold at the two intervening world championships in 2001 and 2003, and he arrived in Athens on the back of 35 final victories in a row.
His chances of Olympic gold were further improved by the surprise elimination of all three medallists from 2000, including reigning champion Angelo Taylor, who went out in the semi-finals.
Meanwhile Sánchez was the fastest qualifier for the final. He recovered from a false start to lead over the first six hurdles, with the USA’s James Carter, who had also had a false start, alongside him. Carter had finished fourth in Sydney, and he began to open a slight lead as the pair went over the seventh and eighth hurdles. Sánchez, though, was a master of timing. He knew that the key to success over the one-lap hurdles was control and tempo, and he was sticking to his plan. He pounded away with his familiar style, maintained his tempo and surged into the lead as Carter began to tire.
The Dominican could see the finishing line now and know that the gold medal was there for the taking. He sprinted away and kept his composure to take the title by a clear 0.5 second margin and give the Dominican Republic its first ever Olympic gold. Meanwhile, Carter was passed by both Jamaica's Danny McFarlane and France's Naman Keita and finished outside the medals once again.