Britain's Lawrence Clarke, who was educated at Eton and is a distant relation of former US president Theodore Roosevelt, has admitted he was stunned by his "amazing journey" after finishing fourth in the 110 metre hurdles final.
Clarke, nicknamed 'toff of the track' due to his privileged background, set a personal best of 13.31 seconds to reach the final as the eighth-fastest qualifier.
And the 22-year-old returned to the track two hours later to finish just outside the medals as Aries Merritt led an American one-two ahead of team-mate Jason Richardson.
Merritt's time of 12.92secs was just 0.01s outside the Olympic record set by Liu Xiang in Athens in 2004, with Richardson clocking 13.04 and Jamaica's Hansle Parchment claiming a surprise bronze in a national record of 13.12.
Clarke was fourth in 13.39s as defending champion and world record holder Dayron Robles pulled up midway through the race with an apparent hamstring injury.
"I can't believe I came fourth in the Olympic Games. I didn't expect to reach the final," said Clarke, who won the European junior title in 2009 and Commonwealth bronze in Delhi in 2010.
"I clashed arms with the South African (Lehann Fourie) who's a big guy, he looks like an American football player; maybe I would have run a PB but I wouldn't have got a medal - 13.12 for bronze is ridiculous.
"The last four years has been an amazing journey. Malcolm Arnold, my coach, has taken me from running 15.3 to 13.3 and I can't thank him enough. UK Sport and the Lottery-funding system has been remarkable as well.
"It hasn't sunk in and I don't think it ever will. That crowd was unbelievable, 80,000 people going nuts and they were doing a Mexican wave beforehand, I just felt like it was building up and building up and building up.
"It's been a dream come true to just come to this stage. I was going to make the most of it. The support in Britain I just can't believe and I just wanted to give them a last hurrah because this is going to be my last time in this stadium until 2017 probably (for the World Championships)."