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Kenya’s David Rudisha held on to his 800m title on the blue track of the Olympic Stadium, winning in 1:42.15, comfortably ahead of Algeria’s Taoufik Makhloufi (1:42.61) and the young American, Clayton Murphy (1:42.93). Rudisha, 27, had already won gold in London in 2012 by dominating the race and improving on his own world record (1:40.91). The young Kenyan, Alfred Kipketer, who ultimately finished seventh, was in the lead after 150 metres, with Rudisha just behind ahead of France’s Pierre-Ambroise Bosse; and the first 400 metres were covered in 49.23. Rudisha then took the initiative and created a gap. The 1,500m champion in London, Makhloufi put his endurance and fast finish to good use to take the silver medal, with a new national record. Pierre-Ambroise Bosse had tried to follow Rudisha in the final bend, but Clayton Murphy produced an impressive final spurt to leave the Frenchman in his wake and take the bronze for the United States in 1.42.93. “To defend my title was difficult,” David Rudisha explained.
The women’s hammer throw world record was broken thanks to Poland’s Anita Wlodarczyk, whose third throw in the final travelled 82.29m. She was already the first female athlete to throw further than 80m, but this time reached undreamt of heights by exceeding the mark three times (80.40m, 82.29m and 81.74m), as many as in her entire previous career. Wlodarczyk was the silver medallist in 2012 in London. “It's the world record and I believed I could get the gold medal but wasn't sure about the world record,” she said about her third throw. “Before the third throw I felt the power and knew it would be the best moment. After many years of hard work I’m on top!” China’s Zhang Wenxiu won the silver medal (76.75m), and Great Britain’s Sophie Hitchon took the bronze (74.54m).
Shaunae Miller from the Bahamas prevented America’s Allyson Felix from becoming the first female athlete to win five Olympic gold medals by diving over the line to win the 400m. In 49.44, Miller beat Felix by 0.07 seconds, and thereby avenged her 2015 World Championship defeat in Beijing, where she had finished second to Felix. Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson was the third runner on the podium (third in 49.85), as she had been at the previous World Championships. In lane 7, running almost blind, Miller got a fast start and was first coming out of the bend. Felix gradually caught up with her on the final straight, but the Bahamian managed to hold onto her lead by diving across the finish line. “I’ve never done it before,” declared the 22 year-old athlete, repaying the honour of being chosen as the flagbearer for the Bahamas. “I think the dive was just a reaction, my mind went blank, the next thing I knew I was lying on the ground. I didn’t know if I’d won.”
Ruth Jebet (Bahrain) won the gold in the 3,000m steeplechase in 8:59.75, an Asian record, finishing just 94/100ths of a second shy of Russia’s Gulnara Galkina’s world record. Ruth Jebet, 19, beat
Le Kenya’s Hyvin Jepkemoi (9:07.12) and America’s Emma Coburn (9:07.63, a continental record). The Kenyan-born Jebet broke away from the pack shortly before the halfway point, well ahead of the record time set by Galkina in the Beijing 2008 Olympic final (8:58.81). But Jebet seemed not to realise that she had the record within her grasp. “This is the second time that I missed the world record. I admit it was too easy for me but nobody told me about the record. I wanted the gold medal,” the 2016 Olympic champion explained.
Later in the evening, the drama level had notched up to maximum in the men’s pole vault final. France’s title-holder and world record-holder (6.17 m), Renaud Lavillenie, thought the hard part was over after clearing all his heights at the first attempt, right up to the bar placed at 5.98m, which allowed him to beat the Olympic record he had set in London in 2012. But Brazil’s Thiago Braz Da Silva, who was still in contention, gave this height a miss and bet everything on an attempt to clear 6.03m. He managed this on his second attempt, while Lavillenie failed twice and went for a final attempt at 6.08m. When he knocked the bar off, the Carioca stadium erupted. Thiago Braz Da Silva was thus crowned Olympic champion, beating his personal best by 10cm! “To take a medal for Brazil, it’s amazing. I try to do my best for the people because they believe in me. It’s incredible. My first time over six metres! My home town wanted me to win.” Lavillenie took silver with 5.98m, with the bronze going to America’s Sam Kendricks with 5.85m.
There was a dramatic turn of events at the Rio Olympic Arena! Dutchwoman Sanne Wevers won gold on the beam with a brilliant performance, as the favourite, Simone Biles, stumbled and had to make do with the bronze medal. Her compatriot, Lauren Hernandez, accompanied them on the podium, with the silver. Biles, who had won everything on the beam and dominated the previous three programmes in Rio, missed her footing after a punch front tuck and was forced to grab the beam to avoid falling. The verdict came: 14.733. Sanne Wevers then floated over the beam to achieve a score of 15.466, which meant the gold medal. “Oh my God, this is so amazing! The final was just nerve-wracking,” the Dutch gymnast confessed.
Eleftherios Petrounias of Greece won on the rings, dethroning the Brazilian titleholder Arthur Zanetti. Russia’s Denis Ablyazin took the bronze. Petrounias (25), the reigning world champion, earned the excellent score of 16.000 in the final of his first Games. He thus became the third Greek Olympic champion on this apparatus, the two others being in Athens in 1896 and again in 2004. “We worked very hard for this result. It’s what I was expecting. I think we worked a lot in the details, to be stable. It is difficult to move, to hold all your positions a little bit more than normal. And if you have a good landing, as I had, I think I might have been the only one who stuck it, that's how the 16 came!” Petrounias explained.
The DPR Korea gymnast Ri Se-gwang won the gold medal on the vault, ahead of Denis Ablyazin, making his second podium finish, but a step higher this time, and Japan’s Kenzo Shirai. Ri Se-gwang obtained a score of 15.691 for the vault named after him. "This gold medal is a joy for my country,” he said.
Russian boxer Evgeny Tishchenko won the Olympic heavyweight title (-91kg) by beating Kazakhstan’s Vassiliy Levit in the final, with a unanimous decision by the judges. Uzbekistan’s Rustam Tulaganov and Cuba’s Erislandy Savon took the bronze medal. In the ring of the Riocentro 6 Pavilion, the two finalists engaged in a hard-fought contest: the judges gave Evgeny Tishchenko a lead of just one point in each round (three times 29-28), for a 3-0 victory. “It means a lot to me because I've been going for this result for all my life. The fight was really hard and I gave all my power to win and I'm really proud to earn my gold medal for Russia,” the winner explained.
Italy’s first cyclist to win gold in the 21st century, Elia Viviani was crowned king of the Olympic omnium, the most all-round track cycling competition. Great Britain’s Mark Cavendish took second place to win his first Olympic medal, ahead of the previous Olympic champion, Denmark’s Lasse Hansen. And yet Viviani only narrowly escaped disaster in a crash caused by Mark Cavendish, in the first part of the points race, the last of the six events which make up the omnium. Once the race restarted, the Italian refocused and amassed the points he needed to win. His results: 7th in the scratch race, 3rd in the individual pursuit, 1st in the elimination race, 3rd in the time trial, 2nd in the flying lap and, 29 points in the points race.
British rider Charlotte Dujardin won a second successive crown in the individual dressage event, setting a new competition record in the process with a freestyle mark of 93.857%. By taking silver, Germany’s Isabell Werth collected her 10th Olympic medal, an equestrian record! Dujardin, 31, gave her 14-year-old gelding, Valegro, a golden send-off into retirement, close to the world record the pair of them set in 2014 (94.30%). This was the fourth Olympic medal for Dujardin and Valegro, who had already won individual and team gold medals in London (2012) and a team silver in Rio. Germany’s Kristina Bröring-Sprehe (87.142%) was the third rider on the podium. “It was just magical. I got really emotional down the last centre line. He always goes in to give me his very best. It felt absolutely effortless,” Charlotte Dujardin recalled, “overwhelmed” with happiness.
Dutchwoman Sharon Van Rouwendaal swam brilliantly to her gold medal at Copacabana, finishing far ahead of her opponents in the 10km open water event, with Italy’s Rachele Bruni taking the silver medal behind her after France’s Aurélie Muller was disqualified. Brazil’s Poliana Okimoto claimed the bronze. Aged 22, Sharon Van Rouwendaal, who had already made a name internationally in the 50m pool, demonstrated her speed, endurance and versatility to produce a superb win. She was on her own for almost half of the distance, after breaking away from the leading group at around the six kilometre mark. The Dutch champion ended up finishing in 1h56:32.1, a massive 17.4 seconds ahead of the next swimmers. “If you’d have asked me before the race, I’d have never dreamed I’d win by 17 seconds. I knew the last 100m I could finish strong, but I don’t like the feeling of being in front. I was swimming so easily at the beginning. There were six of us swimming together, watching each other. I was watching all the time to see if they were going to catch me,” Van Rouwendaal explained.
Cuban heavyweight Mijain Lopez Nuñez reinforced his claim to be one of the greatest wrestlers in history by winning his third consecutive Olympic Greco-Roman title to equal the legendary Aleksandr Karelin. The 130kg gold medal final in the Carioca Arena 2 was a remake of the 2015 World Championships final between Lopez Nuñez and Turkey’s Riza Kayaalp, who won at the time. The flagbearer for his team at the Opening Ceremony, the Cuban colossus had made up his mind to gain revenge, and wasted no time in up-ending his opponent after just 20 seconds of the first period, to win four technical points immediately. By the end of the first act, he had increased his lead to 5 points, then easily dominated the second period to achieve a final score of 6-0. Mijain Lopez Nuñez celebrated his win with a samba-style dance, to the delight of the many Cuban and Brazilian fans in the stands. Azerbaijan’s Sabah Shariati and Russia’s Sergey Semenov took the bronze medals in this category.
In the 85kg Greco-Roman final, Russia’s Baku 2015 European Games winner, Davit Chakvetadze, was 2-0 down to his Ukrainian opponent, Zhan Beleniuk, after the first period, but he came storming back in the second period to lead 9-2 on technical points, and wrapped up his win with a score of 3-1. “The first period was a bit tough for me,” Chakvetadze admitted, “But in the second period I was able to concentrate and win. I pulled myself together, focused and finished the match. I am the happiest man on earth. I want to thank everyone who supported me.” Javid Hamzatau of Belarus and Germany’s Denis Kudla mounted the podium to receive their bronze medals.
Ruslan Nurudinov won the 105kg title with an impressive 14kg margin over the second-placed Simon Martirosyan, from Armenia. Kazakhstan’s Alexandr Zaichikov took the bronze medal. Despite already being assured of the gold medal with his successful second attempt to clean-and-jerk 230kg, Nurudinov chose to entertain the crowd in the Riocentro Pavilion 2 by trying to beat the Olympic record in the 105kg category, which was 236kg. To the applause of those watching, the Uzbek lifted a 237kg bar over his head, to add an Olympic record to his country’s first Olympic weightlifting gold medal. Nurudinov is well known for smiling and poking his tongue out each time he lifts the bar. “I’ve never bitten it yet,” he laughed. “It helps to fight the stress.” Already leading after snatching 194kg, then way ahead in the clean-and-jerk with his 237kg lift, for a total of 431kg, Ruslan Nurudinov easily dominated the final.