Simone Biles won her fourth gold medal in Rio, in her favourite event: the floor exercise. The graceful American was accompanied on the podium by her team mate and good friend Aly Raisman, the title-holder, and Great Britain’s Amy Tinkler. Simone Biles thus equalled the record for women’s artistic gymnastics titles at one edition of the Olympic Games. Her routine represented the perfect opportunity to display her talents in her favourite exercise. In Rio, it was only appropriate that there should be a samba feel to the performance, and she added a playful edge to her typical combination of power and agility. There was also her special feature, her calling card: a double layout with a half-twist and a blind landing, which is now named after her. This earned her a score of almost 16 (15.966), way above her rivals. Aly Raisman, performing to the famous Russian song Kalinka, also pulled out all the stops with series of perfect jumps, producing a level of enthusiasm almost as great as that created by the world’s best gymnast. At the end of her week in Brazil, Simone Biles commented: “I'm a little bit relieved because it's been a long journey. I've enjoyed every single moment of it and I know our team has too. It's been very long and, competing so many times this week, it kind of got tiring. We just wanted to end on a good note.”
Ukraine’s Oleg Verniaiev won the gold medal in the parallel bars ahead of America’s Danell Leyva and David Belyavskiy of Russia. Verniaiev thus earned his second medal in Rio, after the silver he had won in the individual all-around, where he had been narrowly beaten by Japan’s living legend Kohei Uchimura. Verniaiev produced a spectacular and faultless routine, with a perfect landing, earning himself the score of 16.041, while Leyva achieved 15.900 and Belyavskiy 15.783. “I'm extremely happy. I'm delighted,” he beamed. At long last, I've brought the first gold medal to my country, Ukraine. I thank my team, I thank my fellow athletes who came from the different sports to cheer for me. I still cannot relax. I'm so thrilled,” Verniaiev added.
Lastly, Fabian Hambüchen retired with a gold medal on the horizontal bar. Already on the podium in Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012, the German ended his career with a title won by a perfect routine and a score of 15.766, which put him ahead of Danell Leyva (the day’s second silver medal), on 15.500, and Great Britain’s Nile Wilson, with 15.446. “It is a great story but should be the other way round, starting with gold, then silver, then bronze. That is something I could imagine. But I need some time to realise what happened today.”
Christian Taylor held onto his Olympic triple jump title with a 17.86m leap on his first attempt, to beat his compatriot Will Claye (17.76m), just as he had in London, with China’s Dong Bin (17.58m) the third man on the podium. “It's the morning session and I'm not really a morning person. On the bus I said: ‘Leave it all out there’. I wanted it so much. It came together, the stars were aligned!” That was the comment from America’s two-time Olympic triple jump champion on the warm-up track of the Olympic Stadium, for what was an early start for him: the 12 finalists began their event at 9.50 a.m. local time.
Croatia’s Sandra Perkovic came close to disaster before achieving her second consecutive Olympic victory in the discus: just one of her six attempts (the second) was valid, the 69.21m winning throw. France’s Mélina Robert-Michon, 37, took the silver medal with 66.73m, a national record; and Cuba’s Denia Caballero finished with the bronze thanks to a 65.34m throw. “I came to this competition really prepared, and after London I started dreaming about this moment. All that was in my head was the only thing I have been doing in the past four years and the people who have believed in me. All my anger was in that throw, and after that throw I started competing,” Perkovic explained.
World champion Derek Drouin succeeded Duncan McNaughton as Canada’s second Olympic high jump champion. A leap of 2.38m on his first attempt allowed him to stay clear of his two main rivals, Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim (2.36m) and Ukraine’s Bohdan Bondarenko (2.33m). “The Olympic Games isn’t like the world championships. I really enjoyed my world championship win in Beijing in 2015, but I’m going to cherish this one even more! said Derek Drouin, Canada’s first Olympic high jump champion since Duncan McNaughton in Los Angeles in 1932. “I didn’t realise that!” he smiled. “Canada has a pretty strong history in track and field, so it's been awesome to try and find my place in history.”
Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon produced a devastating spurt in last lap to beat the Ethiopian favourite Genzebe Dibaba in the final of the women’s 1,500m. Kipyegon won the race in 48:02.92 after her burst of speed over the final 250m, to defeat world record-holder Genzebe Dibaba, who took silver in 4:20.27, with America’s Jennifer Simpson taking home the bronze in 4:10.53. “I knew it would be a quick race. I really had to kick on in the last lap,” the Olympic champion explained. “I was well prepared for this race and I’m really proud to win for my country. It’s just fantastic. I’m so happy to have won my first Olympic medal. It was a good, tactical race.”
Omar McLeod won Jamaica’s first-ever 110m hurdles gold medal! Having long dominated the sprint with Usain Bolt, Jamaica extended its reach to the hurdles thanks to this 22 year-old athlete; a first for his island, which had never had an Olympic podium finish in this discipline. He finished in 13.05 ahead of Spain’s Orlando Ortega (13.17) and Dimitri Bascou (13.24), the first French medallist in this discipline since Guy Drut in 1976. Inspired by his country’s sprinters, McLeod commented after his win: “You just feed off them, Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser, you see them go out and represent their country and they have fun and win. They harvest medals and you just want to do the same thing. It’s contagious, you just want to go out and experience it!”
Like Sir Chris Hoy in Beijing in 2008, Jason Kenny ended his Games in Rio with a third gold medal, winning the Keirin after his team and individual sprint titles in the Barra da Tijuca velodrome. He also equalled his glorious predecessor’s achievement of becoming Great Britain’s most decorated athlete, with six gold medals and a silver from three editions of the Olympic Games! The Englishman, aged 28, gave everything in the final straight, to win by 0.4 seconds against Dutchman Matthijs Büchli. Malaysia’s Azizulhasni Awang, a fantastic rider despite his small stature, took third place. “I was in Beijing when Chris Hoy became a star by winning his three medals,” Kenny recalled. “That moment was just fantastic, and for me to achieve the same thing eight years later is incredible.”
Kenny’s win was watched by his girlfriend and future wife, Laura Trott, who had won her second consecutive Olympic omnium an hour earlier. As the event was introduced only in 2012 in London, Trott is thus the sole Olympic champion. She thus won her fourth gold medal, adding this to those she had won in the team pursuit in 2012 and 2016. As she had done in the British capital four years earlier, she easily beat America’s Sarah Hammer, by 24 points. Belgium’s Jolien D'Hoore took the bronze medal. Trott dominated the competition from start to finish. Her results: 2nd in the scratch race, 1st in the individual pursuit and the elimination race, 2nd in the time trial, 1st in the flying lap and 24 points in the points race: 1st in the final ranking.
To conclude the track cycling events at the Games in Rio, Germany’s Kristina Vogel won the women’s individual sprint title, beating Great Britain’s Rebecca James. Vogel, 25, lost her saddle as she crossed the finish line! She thereby offered Germany its only track title in the Barra da Tijuca velodrome. In the final, James tried to control the race and force her opponent into a very long sprint. But Vogel managed to pass her before the line. In the second, closely-fought heat, the German won by four-thousandths of a second. “It’s not just the fact of beating the British... Winning the Olympic title itself is incredible. I managed to win the second heat without a saddle. I was just trying not to fall off,” Kristina Vogel explained.
Brazilian boxer Robson Conceiçao won the Olympic under 60kg title and his country’s third gold medal. In the final, he beat Frenchman Sofiane Oumiha with a unanimous decision by the judges (3-0), and secured Brazil’s first-ever Olympic boxing title. The bronze medals went to Cuba’s Lazaro Alvarez and Mongolia’s Dorjnyambuu Otgondalai. In a pumped-up atmosphere in the Riocentro Pavilion 6, Conceiçao enjoyed the full and vocal support of the crowd, who were counting on him to go all the way after flooring Cuba’s Lazaro Alvarez, the number one seed in this Olympic tournament, in the semi-final. As he was standing on the top step of the podium with the gold medal around his neck, the whole crowd stood up to sing the national anthem. “Of course my life has changed, it is the most incredible day in my life,” Conceiçao exclaimed. “This medal is not only for my coach but for myself and family... I'm Olympic champion! It was an amazing day.”
In the course of a particularly busy programme in Guanabara Bay, Dutchwoman Marit Bouwmeester won gold in the Laser Radial; Australia’s Tom Burton took the men’s Laser title; the Nacra 17 title went to Argentinean pair Santiago Lange and Cecilia Carranza Saroli; and Great Britain’s Giles Scott won the Finn class.
All Marit Bouwmeester needed to do was place seventh in the medal race, such was her domination of the 10 previous races. For Tom Burton, everything depended on the right tactics at the start of the last men’s Laser regatta. This allowed him to beat Croatia’s Tonci Stipanovic, who had been ahead in the 10 previous races, but had to make do with the silver medal. For his part, Argentina’s Santiago Lange had had to wait until the age of 54 and six Games to win a gold medal, on his Nacra 17 catamaran, alongside Cecilia Carranza Saroli, 25 years his junior. The pair finished sixth in the final race, which was enough to beat Australians Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin.
Lastly, for Great Britain’s Giles Scott, his lead was unassailable by the time of the final race in the Finn class. By taking the title, he continued Team GB’s domination of this class, begun by Iain Percy in Sydney in 2000, and followed by Ben Ainslie at the following three Games. Slovenia’s Vasilij Zbogar took the silver medal, with the winner of the final regatta, America’s Caleb Paine, taking the bronze.
Even if everyone agrees that China’s players are the undisputed masters of table tennis, Li Xiaoxia, Liu Shiwen and Ding Ning gave a brilliant demonstration of this by swiftly dispatching Germany’s Han Ying and Petrissa Solja to take the women’s team title. In a one-sided first section (3-0, 3-0) Liu Shiwen fired down some explosive smashes and prodigious amounts of topspin to destroy Han Ying and Petrissa Solja without losing a game in the singles. The Germans then put up more resistance in the doubles and managed to win the third game. But Liu and her partner, Ding Ning, quickly regained control to complete a resounding win (3-1), and a no-nonsense score of 3 wins to 0. “Losing that game made the competition a bit more exciting, but of course I never want to lose any games,” Liu explained. Despite the one-sided nature of this final, the silver medal represented Germany’s best ever result in women’s table tennis. The country had never won a medal at the Games before beating the Japanese team in a marathon four-hour semi-final.
China continued to amass gold medals in the diving, with its fifth Olympic title in Rio, provided by Cao Yuan in the men’s 3m competition. In the Maria Lenk pool, he beat Britain’s Jack Laugher who, with his partner Chris Mears, had deprived China of a possible grand slam by winning the 3m synchronised event. The bronze medal went to Germany’s Patrick Hausding. Cao had to cope with tremendous pressure, being the only Chinese diver in the final, but was never threatened, taking the lead with his very first dive. “I did feel pressure, but it was all about myself, and I think I was able to let go and really focus on my performance and putting on a show,” said the 21 year-old Olympic champion.
The final of the 66kg Greco-Roman wrestling was between two “foot soldiers” as all the favourites had fallen by the wayside in the Carioca Arena 2. At the end of the first period, Armenia’s Migran Arutyunyan was leading by one point against Davor Stefanek; but the Serb made it 1-1, and as he was the last to win a point, and the score remained unchanged, he was declared the winner at the end of the bout. This was Serbia’s first ever Olympic wrestling title.
In the 98kg category, the favourite, Armenia’s Artur Aleksanyan, made a huge impression in all his matches, and in the final did not have much difficulty in overcoming Cuba’s Yasmany Lugo Cabrera, whom he beat 3-0. Aleksanyan, who had won the bronze in London in 2012, thus became his country’s first multi-medallist. “I came here for the gold and I’m proud that I got it. Since London, I’ve made the final at three world championships and won twice, so many considered me a favourite coming into this competition. There was a lot of pressure, but I was able to cope with it,” the Armenian champion declared.
Ferry Weertman emerged victorious after a hard-fought battle in the men’s 10km open water race at the Copacabana Fort, beating Greece’s Spyridon Gianniotis in a photo-finish. Frenchman Marc-Antoine Olivier took the bronze – in another photo-finish! Weertman triumphed by the smallest of margins, as he and Gianniotis had sprinted for the finish and made contact with the touch plate in the same tenth of a second. And the pair were given the same finishing time of 1h59:59.8. Weertman’s win followed that by his compatriot Sharon van Rouwendaal the previous day, for a Dutch grand slam in the event in Rio, even if her win was totally different, as she beat her nearest rival by more than 17 seconds! “Even after touching the board, I wasn’t sure if I’d won it,” said Ferry Weertman. “It’s going to take a little while for it to sink in. I called my friends at home and they said to me: ‘You’ve won. You’ve won’. And I was like: ‘Oh yes, really?’ I can’t believe it. I still can’t believe it.”
Three Olympic and world records were broken on Tuesday 16 August in the final evening of weightlifting at the Rio 2016 Games, which saw Georgia’s Lasha Talakhadze win the Olympic over 105kg title. In a thrilling contest, he first set a new world record by snatching 215kg, but this was promptly beaten by the Iranian title-holder Behdad Salimi Kordasiabi with 216kg! Unfortunately, Kordasiabi failed all three attempts to clean-and-jerk 245kg. Talakhadze ended with 258kg to make a total of 473kg, a new world record. Armenia’s silver medallist Gor Minasyan finished 22kg behind Talakhadze with 451kg, while Talakhadze’s compatriot Irakli Turmanidze secured a total of 448kg for a bronze and an Olympic first: two Georgian athletes on the same podium!
In the C-1 1,000 m, Sebastian Brendel successfully held off Brazil’s Isaquias Queiroz dos Santos to retain the crown he won in London in 2012. Although the home crowd favourite paddled faster, his more experienced rival led from start to finish, and the German champion’s strength was decisive in the final. Moldova’s Serghei Tarnovschi took third place. The consolation for Queiroz was that this was Brazil’s first medal in this discipline!
In the women’s 200m kayak final, New Zealand’s Lisa Carrington recovered from a poor start to overtake her rivals and cross the finish line first, in under 40 seconds. She thus continued her domination over this distance, after becoming the very first female Olympic K1 200m sprint champion in London. Unbeaten in her 13 previous major races, the Kiwi paddler was on the top step of the podium ahead of Poland’s Marta Walczykiewicz and Azerbaijan’s Inna Osypenko-Radomska.
In the kayak events, the K-1 1,000 m race was fascinating. Spain’s Marcus Walz produced a spectacular last-ditch effort to take the gold medal just 698/100ths of a second ahead of the Czech, Josef Dostal, with Russia’s Roman Anoshkin crossing the finish line 1.916 seconds behind for the bronze. But there was an even closer finish on this first day of the canoe-kayak sprint finals on the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon, in the women’s K2 500m. A photo-finish was needed to separate Hungary’s Gabriella Szabó and Danuta Kozak from Germany’s Tina Dietze and Franziska Weber, the London 2012 Olympic champions. Danuta Kozak thus added her first gold medal in Rio to the two she had already won in London. Poland’s Karolina Naja and Beata Mikolajczyk finished third.