The long-striding Clement led down the home but had to lean into the finishing line to deny Kenya’s Boniface Tumuti, who was charging up fast two lanes to his right. Yasmani Copello of Turkey took the bronze to complete the podium.
“I came out here with one mindset and that was to execute my race plan and trust my fitness and just believe in myself,” said Clement, who clocked 47.73 seconds to win by a mere 0.05 secs. “I knew the last 100 metres would be tough, and those guys would be coming in the last 50 metres. The last few metres I just dug down deeper.”
It was Clement’s first major championship medal since he won the 2009 world title, having taken the silver at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing the year before. At London 2012 he came eighth after battling back from injury.
“Coming out here in 2016 is a redemption year for me. I’m just really honoured to get the gold medal,” said the 30-year-old, who added that he was still young for a hurdler and planned to return to the Olympic stage in Tokyo in four years' time.
One of Clement’s leading rivals, Puerto Rico’s Javier Culson, was disqualified for a false start. Bronze medallist in London in 2012, 32-year-old Culson jumped the gun to find himself ruled out. “When he false-started I just said to myself: ‘Refocus’,” Clement said. “I tried not to let it affect me and just focused on the 10 hurdles in my lane again.”
Tumuti said he had “lost the gold dream” with a miscalculation on the approach to the seventh hurdle, and dedicated the silver medal to his daughter, who was born last week. “This is my first medal in the Olympics, and I missed the gold by a whisker,” he mused.
Turkish bronze medallist Yasmani Copello was delighted to claim a podium finish, saying: “I’m happy for my country, my club, my family. I think my mother will be crying a lot.”