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As the swimming events at the Rio Games reached their conclusion, the final curtain fell on the glittering career of Michael Phelps. A career that ended, naturally, with another gold medal, in the 4x100m medley relay – Phelps’s 23rd gold and 28th podium finish in total. He made a telling contribution to the victory of the American quartet with two supersonic lengths of butterfly. “This all started with one little dream as a kid to change the sport of swimming and try to do something nobody has ever done. Being able to cap it off with these Games... it's just the perfect way to finish. I'm looking forward to starting a new chapter,” said the American star, who won six of his medals in the Carioca pool.
The final evening of swimming competition also saw Denmark’s Pernille Blume take the 50m freestyle title (in 24.07), beating the USA’s Simone Manuel by 0.02 seconds, with Belarus’s Aliaksandra Herasimenia winning bronze in 24.11. The women’s 4x100m medley relay was won by the USA (Simone Manuel, Lilly King, Dana Vollmer and Kathleen Baker) in 3:53.13, ahead of Australia and Blume’s Denmark. Finally, Gregorio Paltrinieri took gold in the 1,500m freestyle – one year after being crowned world champion – to claim Italy’s only victory in the Carioca pool. With a time of 14.34:57, the 21-year-old Italian beat off competition from the USA’s Connor Jaeger (14:39.48) and compatriot Gabriele Detti (14:40.86). Overall in Rio, the USA scooped 16 golds out of a possible 32 – 9 of them involving Phelps or Katie Ledecky – for a total of 33 medals out of 97.
The women’s 100m title was once again won by a Jamaican, but it was Elaine Thompson who came out on top, denying Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who ended up taking bronze, a historic triple. With a time of 10.71, Thompson, who had been the best performer of the season, edged out the USA’s Tori Bowie (10.83), with Fraser-Pryce clocking 10.86. “When I crossed the line and glanced across to see I was clear, I didn't know how to celebrate,” explained Thompson. “Of course, I used to watch Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce when I was younger and I remember seeing her at London 2012. I’m from a place that isn’t particularly well-known in Jamaica, but I’m proud of that.”
Great Britain’s Mo Farah, with a blistering sprint finish, retained his 10,000m crown in 27:05.17, beating Kenya’s Paul Tanui (27:05.64) and Ethiopia’s Tamirat Tola (27:06.26). “It’s just crazy. It’s incredible to win medals for your country,” said Farah. “That’s the reason I train and make so many sacrifices. I’m delighted to make history and make my country proud.”
The women’s heptathlon had a twist in the tail on the second day of the competition. In the lead after the first day of (four) events, reigning champion Jessica Ennis from Great Britain was overtaken by Belgium’s Nafissatou Thiam after the long jump and the javelin. Ennis needed an exceptional performance in the 800m, but ultimately could only beat Thiam by seven seconds, and had to make do with the silver medal. Thiam claimed victory with a total of 6,810 points, improving on her personal best by more than 300 points. Bronze was won by Canada’s Brianne Theissen-Eaton, the wife of the world’s number one decathlete, who was there to support her.
In the discus, one Harting took over where the other left off. Robert was unable to defend the title he won in London in 2012 after injuring himself in his room in the Olympic Village, and left it to his younger brother Christoph to take gold in Rio with a final throw of 68.37m, which saw him overtake Poland’s Piotr Malachowski (67.55m), the 2015 world champion, and fellow German Daniel Jasinski (67.05m). Finally, the USA’s Jeff Henderson was crowned Olympic champion in the long jump after leaping 8.38m on his final attempt to beat South Africa’s Luvo Manyonga (8.37m). The winner of the event in 2012, Great Britain’s Greg Rutherford, took bronze (8.29m). Usain Bolt, meanwhile, eased through the men’s 100m heats.
Monica Puig gave Puerto Rico its first-ever Olympic gold medal after a surprise victory in the final of the women’s tennis singles out on the hardcourt in Barra da Tijuca, where she came out on top against world number two Angelique Kerber from Germany, winning 6-4, 4-6, 6-1. A remarkable achievement! An inspired Puig, ranked 34th in the world, was making every shot with her bold, powerful style of play, and produced an upset against Kerber, who had won the 2016 Australian Open and finished as runner-up at Wimbledon. “This medal gives me a lot of confidence about what I can do. I hope I can build on this to rise up the rankings, but for now I just want to savour the moment,” said the Puerto Rican. The Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova – the two-time Wimbledon champion who was eliminated by Puig in the semi-final – went some way to making up for her defeat by beating the USA’s Madison Keys (7-5, 2-6, 6-1) to clinch the bronze medal and take her place on the podium beside Kerber and Puig for a historic moment: the first-ever playing of the Puerto Rican national anthem at the Olympic Games.
Argentina’s comeback kid Juan Martín Del Potro earned a place in the final of the men’s singles after a Homeric battle that lasted more than three hours against Spain’s Rafael Nadal (5-7, 6-4, 7-6), who had been crowned men’s doubles champion with Marc López the night before. Great Britain’s Andy Murray beat Japan’s Kei Nishikori (6-1, 6-4) to join Del Potro in the final and remain on course for a famous Olympic double.
In the women’s keirin at the Olympic Velodrome in Barra da Tijuca, victory came down to the finest of margins. Dutch cyclist Elis Ligtlee edged out Great Britain’s Rebecca “Becky” James by 0.033 seconds. Australia’s Anna Meares, who finished third, won her sixth medal at the Games. “This is my first Olympics, so I came here and my dream was always to have the gold medal,” said Ligtlee. “I saw Becky at the finish line so I was thinking that I had silver, but then I saw the screen and there was a ‘one’ before my name – that was ahhhhh, yeah crazy!”
The quartet from Great Britain won gold in the women’s team pursuit after smashing the world record over four kilometres. Katie Archibald, Laura Trott, Elinor Barker and Joanna Rowsell-Shand beat the US team (Kelly Catlin, Chloe Dygert, Sarah Hammer and Jennifer Valente) in the final, as they had done in London four years earlier. The British team, who clocked an average speed of 57.547km/h, won in a time of 4.10:236 – nearly two seconds quicker than their previous record, which they had set that same morning (4:12:152). Canada (Allison Beveridge, Jasmin Glaesser, Kirsti Lay, Georgia Simmerling and Laura Brown) won the bronze medal.
In the final of the women’s single sculls, Kimberley Brennan, the reigning world champion who had dominated this class since London 2012, won with a time of 7:21.54, beating the USA’s Genevra Stone by 1.38 seconds and China’s Duan Jingli by 2.59 seconds, while New Zealand’s Emma Twigg, who had been expected to be Brennan’s strongest challenger, came in fourth. The new Olympic champion, however, almost went crashing out in the heats, finishing 14th to scrape through to the quarter finals!
In the men’s competition, the five-time single sculls world champion and defending Olympic champion, 37-year-old Mahé Drysdale from New Zealand, beat Croatia’s Damir Martin in a photo-finish, after both recorded a time of 6:41.34 – an Olympic record. The race had been billed as a showdown between Drysdale and his arch-rival Ondrej Synek of the Czech Republic, but Synek could only take bronze, finishing 2.76 seconds behind the other two. “I got the feeling [Martin] just passed me and I just chucked in a few short ones in desperation,” said the triple Olympic medallist. “It was not the way you want to finish, but to come away with that result was fantastic.”
The American women’s eight – Emily Regan, Kerry Simmonds, Amanda Polk, Lauren Schmetterling, Tessa Gobbo, Meghan Musnicki, Ellie Logan, Amanda Elmore and Katelin Snyder – took the lead halfway through their race and claimed victory to clinch the USA’s third consecutive title and extend the country’s invincible streak in this class to 10 years. They won in a time of 6:01.49, 2.49 seconds ahead of the British boat, with the Romanians taking bronze. The British men’s eight went one better than their female compatriots in the last final of the Olympic regatta on the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, managing to defeat the German team, who were champions in London in 2012. Scott Durant, Tom Ransley, Andrew Triggs Hodge, Matthew Gotrel, Pete Reed, Paul Bennett, Matt Langridge, William Satch and Phelan Hill crossed the finish line in 5:29.53 – 1.33 seconds ahead of the German eight – with the Dutch boat taking the bronze medal after coming in 1.96 seconds later. The British eight led from start to finish – by as much as 2.54 seconds at the 1,500m stage – which, according to Satch, was exactly what they had planned. “That was our plan, to not look back and keep going and going. I couldn't believe we had actually done it when we crossed the line.”
Russia extended its reign in women’s world sabre with its first Olympic title in the women’s team event, beating Ukraine in the final. Yana Egorian, who had already taken gold in the individual competition, was part of the Russian team and secured a golden double. The USA took the bronze medal. The victory of Egorian, Yuliya Gavrilova and Sofya Velikaya in this final was never in doubt, and they claimed victory by 15 hits (45-30). For Velikaya, who was beaten by Egorian in the individual final in Rio and, at 31, was competing in her final Olympic Games, the title came just at the right time. “It's very important that we all won,” she said. “It's a big effort together. When you're fighting personally, you have more time, but here it's just five hits and then off you go, you have to change again. I'm feeling like the happiest person in the world. I can't describe this; I don't have the words.”
Belarus’s Uladzislau Hancharou upstaged world champion Gao Lei and 2012 Olympic gold medallist Dong Dong, both of the People’s Republic of China, to soar to the Olympic trampoline title. Hancharou, who had never previously won an international competition, delivered a spellbinding performance at the Rio Olympic Arena, with three high-flying triple somersaults, to become the first gymnast from his country to win a trampoline medal of any colour. He did not receive the highest score for difficulty (17,300 compared to 18,400 for Gao and 17,800 for Dong), but he was by far the highest scorer for execution (26,400) and time of flight (18,045). Although his bid to win back-to-back Olympic golds was thwarted, Dong, 27, did become the first man to win trampoline medals at three different editions of the Games (having also won bronze in Beijing in 2008). Gao had to settle for the bronze medal.
Proving himself to be a reliably steady shot, never missing more than one target in each round, Germany’s Christian Reitz reigned supreme in the 25m rapid fire pistol event.
Upon winning his first gold in three editions of the Olympic Games, 29-year-old Reitz walked across the range to hug his training partner, 20-year-old Jean Quiquampoix from France, who won silver after a thrilling shoot-off with China’s Li Yuehong, who ended up taking bronze. Reitz’s victory brought Germany’s Olympic tally to five golds and nine medals in total in rapid fire shooting events, more than any other nation. This was also their third shooting gold in Rio, after victories by Henri Junghänel in the 50m rifle prone and Barbara Engleder in the women’s 50m rifle three positions.
Gabriele Rossetti ensured that Italy won both the men’s and women’s skeet events, after Diana Bacosi’s victory in the final the previous day against Chiara Cainero. It was also Italy’s third gold medal at the shooting range in Deodoro. Police officer Rossetti, 21, who was making his Olympic debut, registered perfect scores of 16 against 26-year-old Marcus Svensson of Sweden, who missed just one shot. “I am the champion. I am the champion, that's all. I am happy,” said the Italian, whose father Bruno won bronze in the same event in Barcelona in 1992. “I always imagined I could win gold. My dad won the bronze; and now I’ve the gold at my first Olympic Games. I will sleep well tonight!” Abdullah Al-Rashidi, 52, an Independent Olympic Athlete who had become something of a crowd favourite in Rio, won the bronze – his first medal in six Olympic Games – after beating Ukraine’s Mikola Milchev in the third-place final.
Sohrab Moradi won Iran’s second gold medal in two days at the Riocentro Pavilion 2 weightlifting arena. He finished well clear of his rivals in the men's 94kg – lifting a total of 403kg (182kg in the snatch, 221kg in the clean-and-jerk) – for a winning margin of 8kg over Belarus’s Vadzim Straltsou (395kg) and 11kg over Lithuania’s Aurimas Didzbalis, and did not need to succeed with his final two attempts at a world-record clean-and -jerk of 234kg.