Double gold medal joy as Oleksiak and Manuel finish in dead heat
Canadian Penny Oleksiak and Simone Manuel of the United States could not be separated at the finish after a stunning women’s 100m freestyle final ended with the two athletes being handed gold medals at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on 11 August.
Sixteen-year-old sensation Oleksiak and 20-year-old Manuel, both very much part of a new wave in swimming, touched the wall in 52.70 secs as the crowd gasped at the times flashing up on the scoreboard. Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom, the Olympic 100m butterfly champion, took the bronze in 52.99 secs.
It was only the third time in an Olympic swimming final that a title has been shared, although remarkably not the first time it has happened in the women’s 100m freestyle. At the 1984 Los Angeles Games this event ended in the same fashion when Americans Nancy Hogshead and Carrie Steinseifer tied in a time of 55.92 secs.
Oleksiak became the first athlete born in the new millennium to win an individual gold medal and is Canada’s youngest-ever Olympic champion. She was only seventh at the turn but powered back on the final 50 metres with a frenzied, head-down last 15 metres to the wall.
“It’s amazing to tie for gold. I never thought I’d win. She [Manuel] deserves it as much as me. I’m only 16 so it’s pretty insane to win a gold medal in your first Olympics,” she said. Oleksiak has now collected four medals at Rio 2016 – the most by a Canadian at a summer Games – winning a 4x100m freestyle bronze, followed by a 100m butterfly silver and another bronze in the 4x200m freestyle.
Manuel’s first gold also comes at her first Olympics where she too, as an African-American swimmer, also carried a particular resonance. “This medal is not just for me, it’s for some of the African-Americans that have come before me and been inspirations and mentors to me,” she said.
There was disappointment for Australia’s Campbell sisters with world champion Bronte finishing fourth and world record holder Cate leading in world record time at the turn but fading at the finish to sixth.
Kaneto triumphs in women’s 200m breastroke
Japan’s Rie Kaneto won the Olympic gold medal in the women’s 200 metres breaststroke final, edging out Russian Yulia Efimova who won her second silver of the Games.
After biding their time in the first 50 metres, the Japanese and Russian climbed steadily through the field. Kaneto led at the final turn and pulled away from Efimova to touch first in 2 mins 20.30 secs, a comfortable winning margin of 1.67 seconds.
On her victory, Kaneto said: “This was a lifetime ambition. I feel grateful to all who supported me and I really hope I have a chance in the near future to respond to their support and thank them. All I want now is to cheer the rest of my team-mates.”
Murphy completes backstroke double
On a triumphant night for the US team Ryan Murphy won his second backstroke gold medal of Rio 2016, producing a dominant performance in the 200m to add to the 100m backstroke title he won earlier in the week.
Murphy took over at the halfway point from pacesetter Mitch Larkin (AUS), winning in 1 min 53.62 secs. Admitting he had pushed himself to the limits, Murphy said: “That one was very painful but I wanted it really bad. The 100m backstroke is actually the one that comes more naturally to me so that’s the one I was really gunning for.”
He had a word of thanks for his family, saying: “They are my biggest supporters. My whole family is here – my sister, brother and both of my parents. They have made so many sacrifices for me. That support system has been huge.”