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For the first athletics final on the Olympic Stadium track, the spectators witnessed a fantastic run by Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana in the 10,000m final. She won gold in 29.17:45, more than 14 seconds faster than the previous world record (29:31.78), which had been set on 8 September 1993 in Beijing by China’s Wang Junxia. “I train specifically for the 10,000m. And the Lord is giving me everything,” said the new Olympic champion, who was accompanied on the podium by Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot (29:32.53, a national record) and her compatriot Tirunesh Dibaba (29:42.56, who improved her personal best by 12 seconds), the double title-holder.
China’s Wang Zhen was crowned Olympic champion in the 20km walk, in 1 hour 19 minutes 14 seconds, ahead of his compatriot, Cai Zelin (1h 19:26), and Australia’s Dane Bird-Smith (1h 19:37), in the day’s second final at the Olympic Stadium. Lastly, America’s Michelle Carter deprived New Zealand’s Valerie Adams of an Olympic hat-trick by beating her with a final throw of 20.63m. Adams took silver with 20.42m, and Anita Marton of Hungary got the bronze, with 18.87m. At the same time, the heptathlon got under way, with Britain’s Jessica Ennis leading after four events, while the competitors in the women’s 100m, and the men’s 400m, 800m, long jump and discus were in action in their heats.
Michael Phelps won his 27th medal in the Olympic pool, but it was not a gold one. It was nonetheless a great emotional moment for him to stand on the second step of the 100m butterfly podium with his greatest rivals, Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh and South Africa’s Chad Le Clos. In 51.14, all three were beaten by a young swimmer from Singapore, Joseph Schooling (50.39), who in doing so won his country’s first-ever gold medal! Schooling got the best of his idol and asked him if he’d be back in another four years. “No way!” replied Phelps. That was his last individual race at the Games.
Michael Phelps could nonetheless console himself with the US team’s superb results. Katie Ledecky produced a textbook hat-trick. She led from the start in the 800m freestyle, and in so doing knocked two seconds off her own world record (8:04.70). At the age of 19, she became the first woman to win the 200m, 400m and 800m since her compatriot Debbie Meyer in 1968. She was more than 11 seconds ahead of Britain’s Jazz Carlin (8:16.17) and Hungary’s Boglarka Kapas (8:16.37). Meanwhile, the men’s 50m freestyle was won by an old hand. With a time of 21.40, America’s Anthony Ervin, 35, beat French title-holder Florent Manaudou (21.41), 16 years after his victory over the same distance in 2000 in Sydney. America’s Nathan Adrian won his eighth Olympic medal by taking the bronze in 21.41.
For the final day of judo on the tatami in the Carioca Arena 2, with the heavyweight competitions (+100kg men’s and +78kg women’s), France took everything! The women’s event produced an unexpected result. Despite not being among the favourites, Emilie Andéol, 28, beat the reigning Olympic champion, Cuba’s Idalys Ortiz, after a nail-biting contest in the final. Forced to go into a golden score period, France’s double world champion pinned her to the ground and won. So suddenly there was this very emotional woman, capable of tears before and after a fight, shouting for joy and raising her fists in the air, with the look of not being able to believe her victory at her first Games. “At the start of the day, I’d never have imagined becoming an Olympic champion. Winning a medal yes, but Olympic champion, no. But now I’ve done it,” was Andéol’s reaction.
Among the men, there was Teddy Riner, and there was everyone else. The eight-time world champion and Olympic title-holder, unbeaten since 2010, was untroubled throughout the competition, apart from hurting a nail in the quarter-final and having a finger in the eye in the semi-final. In the final, he made use of penalties (2-1) to beat Japan’s Hisayoshi Harasawa, who had previously announced his wish to be the first to defeat Riner. With this second gold medal, Riner joined the elite ranks of judokas with three Olympic medals, as he had already won bronze in 2008 in Beijing. “I’m pleased because my hard work has been rewarded. I had a difficult four years with operations and challenges, so I’m pleased it’s all worked out,” said the winner of his category and France’s flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony.
After winning medals at all the Summer Games since Sydney in 2000, and with more than one gold medal around his neck since Athens in 2004, the only cyclist ever to win world and Olympic road and track titles, Britain’s Bradley Wiggins added to his collection on the track of the Olympic velodrome. Aged 36, he joined Ed Clancy, Steven Burke and Owain Doull to beat New Zealand in the team pursuit final, with a new world record of 3:50.265 to boot. This was the fifth title and eighth medal for “Wiggo”, making him Britain’s most decorated Olympic athlete.
The Chinese duo, Gong Jinjie and Zhong Tianshi, won gold in the women’s team sprint, four years after narrowly missing out on the Olympic title. Gong Jinjie and Zhong Tianshi thus won China its first-ever gold medal in Olympic cycling. In the final, the Chinese beat the Russian duo, Daria Shmeleva and Anastasiia Voinova, by 0.3 seconds. Germany’s Miriam Welte and Kristina Vogel, the Olympic champions in London, took the bronze medal. At the same time, Britain’s Jason Kenny was dominating the men’s individual sprint heats.
Spain’s Rafael Nadal and Marc Lopez became Olympic men’s doubles champions thanks to their victory over Horia Tecau and Florin Mergea of Romania in three sets (6-2, 3-6, 6-4), after a closely fought final lasting two hours 30 minutes. Nadal, singles gold medallist in 2008, world number one for many months and winner of 14 majors, came back from injury in time to carry the Spanish flag at the Opening Ceremony and take his chance on the Barra de Tijuca Olympic Park courts. After qualifying the same day for the men’s singles semi-finals, an emotional Nadal said: “It was an amazing experience, especially doing it with one of my best friends. It’s something unforgettable for both of us. It’s a dream to win for my country. I didn’t come here just to carry the flag at the Opening Ceremony!”
There was no discussion in the coxless fours final on the second day of the rowing finals on the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon. Just as in Sydney in 2000, Athens in 2004, Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012, it was the British crew who won, leading from start to finish. No country had ever previously racked up as many consecutive wins in a rowing event. An exceptional achievement. The Team GB four was this time made up of Alex Gregory, Mohamed Sbihi, George Nash and Constantine Louloudis, who won their race in 5.86.61 ahead of Australia and Italy. Meanwhile, their compatriots, Helen Glover and Heather Stanning, exercised the same domination in the final of the women’s pairs, brilliantly defending their London 2012 title with an easy win over the boats from New Zealand and Denmark.
In the lightweight category, Jérémie Azou and Pierre Houin won the lightweight sculls to give France its first rowing gold medal since the 2004 Games in Athens. But they had to pull out all the stops to fend off the Irish and Norwegian pairs. With their silver, Gary and Paul O’Donovan won Ireland’s first rowing medal. In the women’s race, the Dutch 2016 European champions Ilse Paulis and Maaike Head won by moving up a gear in the final quarter of the race, to beat Canada’s Lindsay Jennerich and Patricia Obee, followed by China’s Wenyi Huang and Feihong Pan.
Germany won the team dressage gold medal at Deodoro, easily beating their main rival, the British team led by Charlotte Dujardin. Isabell Werth thus won her ninth Olympic medal and her fifth team title since 1992! The German team also rediscovered their winning streak, after their back-to-back wins since 1984 were halted by Team GB in London in 2012. This affront was quickly forgotten thanks to an impressive performance by Kristina-Broring Sprehe, Isabell Werth, Dorothee Schneider and Sonke Rothenberger, who produced an average score of 81.936%, with three scores over 80%. Way ahead of the British riders (78.602%). “To be honest, we knew we were capable of winning the gold, because I can’t remember ever having seen a Germany team like this one, with four horses capable of scoring 80%,” said Werth. “I am really proud of the team. It’s been a great team job and it’s given us a lot of confidence. It’s a great day.”
Canada’s Rosannagh “Rosie” MacLennan won her second successive gold medal on the trampoline with a fiendishly difficult aerial performance which, just as she had done in London, in 2012 allowed her to beat the Chinese favourites, Li Dan and He Wanna, the Olympic champion in 2008. She thereby gave her country its second gold medal of the Games in Rio. Britain’s Bryony Page also produced a great performance, and was surprised to find herself receiving the silver medal ahead of Li and He. “It’s a bit surreal,” Rosie MacLennan declared. “I’m so excited and really proud. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to come out here to compete at the Olympics again. I can’t even describe it.”
Russia won the Olympic team foil title in the Carioca Arena 3 by beating France in the final, 45 hits to 41, with the Americans taking the bronze medal. Timur Safin, Alexey Cheremisinov, Artur Akhmatkhuzin and Dmitry Zherebchenko offered Russia its third fencing title after the wins by Yana Egorian in the sabre and Inna Deriglazova in the foil. And the French could certainly rue this loss! They were leading 25-16, then 30-25, before substitute Jean-Paul Tony Helissey suffered 10 hits to 3 against Artur Akhmatkhuzin, which allowed the Russians to move ahead with a score (40-38). And after that, they didn’t look back! “You haven’t lost until the very last hit,” Artur Akhmatkhuzin observed.
Ku Bonchan (Republic of Korea) dominated the men’s archery final at the Sambadrome, beating Frenchman Jean-Charles Valladont (7-3). This was the second gold medal in Rio for Ku, who had already won the team event. The Republic of Korea thus won gold in every archery competition in Rio! The bronze went to Brady Ellison, who beat Sjef van den Berg from the Netherlands (6-2) in the match to decide third place. The American thus went home from Rio with two consolation prizes, having won silver in the team competition. Ku Bonchan showed everyone why he is the world number one. “I’m so happy tonight is beautiful!” Ku said. With his coach, he kneeled to face the audience after his win. “It was the most respectful way to give thanks to the spectators who cheered for me!” he explained.
To begin with, Kimberly Rhode produced an achievement never before seen in an individual event at the Summer Games. In the women’s skeet, she won the bronze in a shoot-off against China’s Wei Meng. That was her sixth medal at six editions of the Games for the American, who won gold in the double trap aged 17 in 1996 in Atlanta, and then in the skeet in London in 2012. The final was between two Italians: the experienced Olympic champion from 2008, Chiara Cainero, and the younger Diana Bacosi. It was Bacosi who won by shattering 15 targets, compared with 14 for her team mate. Among the men, German debutant Henri Junghaenel scraped into the final of the 50m rifle prone, by taking the eighth and last qualifying spot; but then he went out all guns blazing, finishing with a score of 209.5 from 20 shots. For the silver medal, Kim Jonghyun (Republic of Korea) produced a dazzling 10.9 in the shoot-off against Russia’s Kirill Grigoryan, leaving the bronze to this 24 year-old athlete, for his country’s first-ever medal in this event.
Iranian weightlifter Kianoush Rostami beat his own world record to win the 85kg category in the Riocentro Pavilion and win his country’s first gold medal in Rio. His total was 396kg, beating China’s Tian Tao (395kg) and Romania’s Gabriel Sincraian (390kg).
Among the women, in the 75kg category, Rim Jong-Sim got the DPR Korea on the medals table by winning her second consecutive Olympic title and becoming her country’s first-ever athlete to win two Olympic gold medals. Her winning total was 274kg, 16kg ahead of Darya Naumava from Belarus (258kg) and Spain’s Lidia Valentin Perez (257kg). Valentin Perez thereby won her country’s first-ever weightlifting medal.
Since women’s football made its first appearance at the Games, in 1996, the US had never once failed to make the podium, with four victories and a silver medal. The Swedish team put a stop to that in the quarter-final played on the grass of the Estádio Nacional Mane Garrincha in Brasilia. The two teams were 1-1 at the end of normal time, and the Scandinavians won the penalty shootout 4-3. The USA ultimately had to settle for fifth place.