Phelps on crest of a wave
By finishing ahead of compatriot Ryan Lochte (by 63/100ths of a second) and Hungarian Laszlo Cseh in the 200 metre individual medley at the Aquatics Centre, American Michael Phelps became the first swimmer to triumph at the same distance in three consecutive Olympic Games, increasing his tally to 16 golds and 20 medals overall. It was also his first individual title of London 2012. In the women’s 100m freestyle, Dutch powerhouse Ranomi Kromowidjodjo collected her second Olympic gold (she was a member of the Netherlands team that won the 4x100m relay at Beijing 2008), completing the two lengths of the pool in an Olympic record of 53.00, a time which left Aliaksandra Herasimenia (BLR) and Tang Yi (CHN) in her wake. There was a tight finish in the men’s 200m backstroke, as the leading triumvirate – Tyler Clary (USA), with an Olympic record of 1:53.41, Ryosuke Irie (JPN) and Lochte – all touched the wall within half a second of each other. Last but by no means least, American breaststroke specialist Rebecca Soni defended her 200m title in style, setting a new world record of 2:20.00 at the semi-final stage, which she subsequently improved to 2:19.59 during a dominant display in the final, relegating Satomi Suzuki (JPN) and Iuliia Efimova (RUS) to a distant second and third.
Italian foil team strikes gold
After having recorded a one-two-three in the individual women’s foil event, the Italian trio of Elisa Di Francisca, Arianna Errigo and Valentina Vezzali, supported ably by Ilaria Salvatori, combined to land the team gold as well. After disposing of Great Britain in the quarter-finals and France in the semis, Italy overcame reigning champions Russia in the final by a resounding score of 45-31. The victory was of special significance to Vezzali, who earned her sixth gold since Atlanta 1996 and her ninth medal overall to become the most successful female fencer in Olympic history.
Douglas raises the bar
Gabrielle ‘Gabby’ Douglas (USA) belied her tender age of 16 to put in a display in the individual all-round artistic gymnastics final that more than matched her fine achievements in the team event. Top performances in the vault and balance beam allied to solid showings on the uneven bars and floor saw her amass 62.232 points, a total which proved sufficient to keep her above the Russian pair of Victoria Komova and Aliya Mustafina in the standings. Douglas consequently became the first American gymnast to capture gold in the individual all-round and team events at the same Games, gaining national stardom in the process.
Tuvshinbayar goes down fighting
Crowned Mongolia’s first-ever Olympic champion at Beijing 2008, judoka Naidan Tuvshinbayar set about trying to repeat the feat on the tatami mats of the ExCeL Centre. During the semi-final of the men’s 90-100kg (half-heavyweight) competition, he suffered a serious injury to his left knee, but still dug deep to oust his South Korean opponent, Hwang Hee-Tae. He fought through the pain barrier to lock horns with Tagir Khaibulaev in the final, but could not prevent the Russian from securing a predictable victory with a match-ending ippon throw after just two minutes of combat. Tuvshinbayar’s unfortunate defeat nevertheless sealed his place in his nation’s sporting history as the first Mongolian to win medals at two different Olympic Games. In the women’s 70-78kg event, Kayla Harrison claimed gold, becoming the first American female to do so. In the final, she silenced a raucous home crowd by overwhelming British challenger Gemma Gibbons, while the bronze medals went to Audrey Tcheuméo (FRA) and Mayra Aguilar (BRA).
Series of British successes
In the tempestuous waters of the Lee Valley White Water Centre, Great Britain pulled off an astounding and unprecedented one-two in the canoe slalom C-2 competition, as Timothy Baillie and Etienne Stott scooped the gold ahead of compatriots David Florence and Richard Hounslow. Slovakian twin brothers Pavol and Peter Hochschorner , three-time gold medallists in the event, had to content themselves with bronze. At the Royal Artillery Barracks, meanwhile, sport shooter Peter Wilson won the double trap with a score of 188 out of a possible 200 hits. Håkan Dahlby (SWE) and Vasily Mosin (RUS) made up the rest of the podium. Across at the Velodrome, Philip Hindes, Jason Kenny and Chris Hoy (GBR) had the partisan crowd in raptures as they saw off France in the final of the men’s team sprint with a world record time of 42.67 seconds. In contrast, their female counterparts did not enjoy the same success, suffering a disqualification in the first round for an overtaking violation, leaving the way open for Germany to take gold at the expense of China.
Plethora of champions
French slalom canoe specialist Emilie Fer emerged victorious from the women’s K-1 event, prevailing over Jessica Fox (AUS) and Maialen Chourraut (ESP) in a closely contested final. The men’ s singles table tennis final saw China’s Jike Zhang, the top-ranked player in the world, take on his countryman and main rival Hao Wang. It was Zhang who came out on top of a pulsating match, defeating his opponent in five sets. Dilmitrij Outcharov (GER) gained the bronze medal. At Lord’s Cricket Ground, South Korean archer Ki Bo-Bae, who had already contributed to her country’s success in the team event, seized the women’s individual gold during a dramatic sudden-death shoot-out with Mexico’s Aida Roman. The Korean kept her nerve to dispatch an arrow that was slightly closer to the centre of the target than her opponent’s effort. New Zealand rowers Nathan Cohen and Joseph Sullivan bagged gold in the men’s double sculls at Eton Dorney, finishing ahead of the Italian and Slovenian pairings, while South Africa’s James Thompson, Matthew Brittain, John Smith and Siswe Ndovlu pipped the British and Danish quartets at the line in a thrilling lightweight coxless four final. In the women’s eight with coxswain, the USA got the better of Canada and the Netherlands in another hard-fought final.
US basketball team sends records tumbling
The clash between the USA and Nigeria in the men’s basketball provided a memorable climax to the day’s preliminary round matches played across the various team sports. A 156-73 victory for the Americans saw three Olympic basketball records broken. With 37 points, including 10 three-pointers, Carmelo Anthony set a new scoring record for an American player at the Games, while the team’s half-time and full-time points totals of 78 and 156 respectively also constituted new Olympic benchmarks.