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Jamaican sprinting superstar Usain Bolt bowed out of his last-ever individual race at the Olympic Games in a blaze of glory, taking gold in the 200m in 19.78 seconds. Having already secured the triple over 100m, he repeated the feat over his preferred distance. A triple double that cemented even further the legendary status of the greatest sprinter of all time and an achievement that is unlikely to be repeated at the Games any time soon! Canada’s Andre De Grasse (20.02) and France’s Christophe Lemaitre (20.12) accompanied His Majesty Bolt on the podium. Bolt’s clear victory was very much on the cards when he took the lead straight out of the blocks. Unusually for him, he had to give every ounce of effort until the end, and grimaced as he approached the finish line, recording his least successful time in a major event. “I'm getting older and my body is ageing. Personally I think this is my last 200 but my coach may beg to differ. I wasn't happy with the time, my body just wouldn't respond in the straight,” he said. Before adding: “I am trying to be one of the greatest... to be among Ali and Pelé.”
The two 400m hurdles finals took place the same day, with the men up first. The USA’s Kerron Clement claimed victory, keeping Kenya’s Boniface Tumuti at bay. Clement’s impressive performance saw him win in 47.73 seconds, with second-placed Tumuti clocking 47.78 and Turkey’s Yasmani Copello taking bronze in 47.92. Ultimately, four runners achieved times of under 48 seconds! “I had one goal in mind and my mindset was to come here and get a medal. In 2008 I fell short and got a silver. In 2012 I was battling injuries and surgeries. Coming out here in 2016 for me was a redemption year. I'm just honoured to get a gold medal,” said Clement.
In the final of the women’s 400m hurdles, the USA’s Dalilah Muhammad led from start to finish. Muhammad, 26, finished in 53.13 in the pouring rain, beating Denmark’s Sara Petersen (53.55) by 0.42 seconds, with fellow American Ashley Spencer taking bronze in 53.72. Explaining the USA’s success in both the men’s and women’s 400m hurdles, Muhammad said: “The USA is really strong in the hurdles. Two of my teammates I train with side by side every day. We have the same coach, and doing it that way really pushes me. This is just one of those events we excel at because of the work we all put into it.”
Ashton Eaton confirmed his status as one of the greatest decathletes in history and as the best of his era. The American retained his title after 10 Herculean events – equalling the Olympic record (8,893 points) just for good measure – but had to fight off competition from France’s Kévin Mayer, who came dangerously close to victory after the javelin and the pole vault. With one final effort, in the 1,500m event, the world record holder (9,045 pts in 2015) overtook his young rival on the track to secure the gold. Mayer ended with 8,834 pts and took silver, while Canada’s Damian Warner claimed the final place on the podium (8,666 pts). “It’s great that our sport has got such a charismatic ambassador,” said Mayer of the double Olympic champion, who mentioned the possibility that he would retire from sport.
Croatia’s Sara Kolak secured a surprise victory in the javelin throw, improving on her personal best – which was also a national record – with a throw of 66.18m on her fourth attempt. She beat South Africa’s Sunette Viljoen, who had taken the lead after her first throw (64.92m), while the favourite, reigning double Olympic champion Barbora Spotakova from the Czech Republic, who was hoping to become the first woman to win the same athletics event three times in a row, had to settle for the bronze medal, throwing 64.80m on her fifth attempt. “It is a big surprise,” said Kolak. “It feels amazing. It’s what I have been working for my whole life. I am 21 and I’m an Olympic champion. I did everything I could and I am so proud of myself.”
Ryan Crouser had a field day in the shot put, with three throws of over 22m – including an Olympic record of 22.52m on his fifth attempt – to comfortably beat fellow American Joe Kovacs (21.78 m) and New Zealand’s Tomas Walsh (21.36m). “When the competition started, everything just fell into place and worked perfectly. The atmosphere was electric; words can’t describe how I’m feeling,” said Crouser, whose father (in the discus) and uncle (in the javelin) had also competed in the Games and were present in the stands – members of what Ryan called Team Crouser. “It’s been an amazing experience to share this title with them.”
Great Britain’s Alistair Brownlee retained his Olympic title in the triathlon at Copacabana Beach, beating his brother Jonathan, who won bronze in London, and South Africa’s Henri Schoeman. Alistair was among the leaders throughout: he was fourth after the 1,500m swimming, which he completed in 17:24 minutes; and second after the 38.49km cycling, which took his time to 1:13.52. This set him up for a head-to-head family duel with his younger brother for the four laps of the circuit in the 10km run. He finally managed to break away and ran into a clear lead for the final lap, cheered on by the masses of spectators gathered along the course at Fort Copacabana, finishing in 1:45.01, six seconds ahead of Jonathan. Four years on, the Brownlee brothers had achieved what they had set out to achieve in Rio: gold and silver. “We wanted to get gold and silver four years ago, but this time we pulled it off,” said a delighted Alistair, who became the first triathlete to defend an Olympic title. “When Jonny crossed the line, I said to him, ‘We’ve done it’. To see your little brother come over the line 10 seconds after you is phenomenal. It’s so satisfying.”
Like her compatriot Kaori Icho, Japanese wrestler Saori Yoshida, the 13-time world champion who had gone unbeaten for 14 years, arrived in Rio in search of a fourth consecutive Olympic title. But while Icho was successful in her bid for gold in the -58kg, Yoshida stumbled at the last hurdle in the -53kg category, losing 4-1 to the USA’s Helen Maroulis. “I’ve dreamed of this my whole life. I put her on a pedestal,” said Maroulis, who heaped praise on Yoshida. “I’ve been dreaming about wrestling Saori for so long. She’s my hero; she’s the most decorated wrestler ever. It is such an honour to have wrestled her.”
In the -63kg category, Risako Kawai, 21, gave Japan its fourth gold medal in women’s freestyle wrestling in Rio. She won comfortably against Belarus’s Maryia Mamashuk, who won her country’s first ever medal in the discipline. Finally, Canada’s Elizabeth Wiebe took gold in the -75 kg with a 6-0 victory against Kazakhstan’s Guzel Manyurova, who achieved her third podium finish at the Games (after winning silver in 2004 and bronze in 2012). “I didn’t even think about who I was fighting. I didn’t think about who it was. I just concentrated on what I needed to do in that moment and I still can’t believe it,” explained Wiebe following her victory.
The reigning world champions, Brazil’s Alison Cerutti and Bruno Oscar Schmidt, got the better of Italian pair Paolo Nicolai and Daniele Lupo in the beach volleyball final, winning by 2 sets to 0 in a fiery atmosphere at the Copacabana Stadium, to win a gold medal that was celebrated by an entire country. Roared on by a sell-out crowd that made light of the driving rain, Cerutti and Schmidt landed Brazil’s first Olympic gold in the sport in 12 years. The home favourites were made to work hard for their victory, with the Italians starting both sets strongly, but came back well to win 20-19, 20-17. “The difference in this Olympics has been the crowd,” said an emotional Cerutti. “They’ve been at our side through difficult moments. Winning here on Copacabana is incredible. It hasn’t sunk in yet.”
Argentina won hockey gold for the first time ever, beating Belgium 4-2 in Deodoro. Bronze was won by Germany after victory over the Netherlands on penalties (1-1, 4-3 on penalties). In the gold medal match, Belgium took the lead thanks to a goal by Tanguy Cosyns. But Argentina struck twice in the first quarter through Pedro Ibarra and Ignacio Ortiz, before putting some daylight between themselves and their opponents with a goal by Gonzalo Peillat in the second period (3-1). Gauthier Boccard brought the score back to 3-2 in the third quarter to put his team back in the hunt, and the Belgians then threw caution to the wind by swapping their goalkeeper for an outfield player in the closing seconds, leaving their goal unguarded and allowing Agustin Mazzilli to stroke the ball home and seal the victory. Argentina’s Peillat said: “It’s like touching the sky with your hands! We won the tournament and it was the first time in the history of Argentina. It’s my dream. When I started playing hockey I always was thinking about this dream and now it came true!”
An incredible final in the women’s doubles saw Japan’s Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi – the world no.1s – fight for every point against Denmark’s determined duo Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl and draw on every ounce of their ability to dig themselves out of a hole and win a 18-21, 21-9, 21-19 thriller at the Riocentro Pavilion 4. Pedersen and Rytter Juhl were leading 19-16 in the final minutes, but the Japanese pair won five successive points to crush their hopes and give Japan its first-ever Olympic badminton title. “In the end, all the practice and effort we have put in has paid off,” said Matsumoto.
At 15 years and 180 days, China’s Ren Qian became the youngest champion at the Rio 2016 Games in the 10m platform at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre. Born on 20 February 2001 in Chengdu, Ren performed three magnificent final dives – all of which received over 91 points – to record a total of 439.25 points and secure a comfortable victory over her team mate, Si Yajie (419.40 points), who had just turned 17, and 27-year-old Canadian Meaghan Benfeito (389.20 points), who had already taken bronze in the synchronised 10m platform event. On winning gold at 15, Ren said: “I feel quite good about it. I’m young but I got the medal. I think I’ll train and work harder from now on so I can focus on my future.”
There was high drama and high emotions on the final day of the Rio 2016 sailing regatta at Guanabara Bay, which saw four medal races. Martine Grael and Kahena Kunze provided the 10-day sailing programme on Guanabara Bay with a heart-stopping finale, as they claimed a surprise gold for Brazil in a tightly contested women’s 49er FX class. Four teams were still in the running for gold ahead of the final race. Grael and Kunze sparked wild celebrations among the spectators as they crossed the finish line first. They were joined on the podium by New Zealand’s Alex Maloney and Molly Meech and Denmark’s Jena Hansen and Katja Salskov-Iversen.
In contrast to the women’s event, the winners of the men’s 49er class were known ahead of the medal race, with New Zealand duo Peter Burling and Blair Tuke having opened up a comfortable lead over their nearest rivals. Burling would go on to steer the Team New Zealand catamaran to victory in the America’s Cup in June 2017. Australia’s Nathan Outteridge and Iain Jensen took Olympic silver, while Germany’s Erik Heil and Thomas Plössel won bronze.
In the women’s 470 class, Great Britain’s Saskia Clark and Hannah Mills, who were silver medallists in London in 2012, held a 20-point lead going into the last day, and so only needed to finish the medal race to be sure of gold. In the end they finished eighth, which was enough for a 10-point victory margin. New Zealand’s Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie won silver, while French duo Camille Lecointre and Hélène Defrance took bronze.
In the men’s 470 class, Sime Fantela and Igor Marenić won Croatia’s first-ever Olympic sailing gold, overcoming a stiff challenge from rivals Mathew Belcher and Will Ryan from New Zealand, who took silver, while Pavlos Kagialis and team mate Panagiotis Mantis claimed a long-awaited bronze medal for Greece.
Julio César La Cruz was crowned Olympic champion in the -81kg category after beating Kazakhstan’s Adilbek Niyazymbetov in the ring at the Riocentro 6 Pavilion. The triple world amateur champion for this category, La Cruz, 27, was the big favourite going into the tournament. The Cuban’s boxing style – quick and light on his feet – had made him a force to be reckoned with, and Niyazymbetov was made to pay the price, losing in three rounds. This victory meant that Cuba had now won a gold medal in all 12 categories in Olympic boxing. But this was Cuba’s first boxing gold in Rio and its first medal in this event since 1980. “I know my opponent well and he’s one of the best boxers in the world. Today I enjoyed the battle and you can see the results right now: I have the medal in my hand,” said La Cruz. France’s Mathieu Bauderlique and Great Britain’s Joshua Buatsi took the bronze medals.
Aside from Hungary’s Danuta Kozák’s clear victory in the K1 500m, the three other canoe/kayak sprint finals on the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon went right down to the wire. In the first gold medal race of the day, Germany’s Max Rendschmidt and Marcus Gross won in a time of 3:10.781, doing enough to maintain their early advantage, although a late surge by Serbia’s Marko Tomićević and Milenko Zorić saw them finish hot on their tails, 0.188 seconds behind. Australia’s Ken Wallace and Lachlan Tame took bronze, coming in 1.812 seconds later.
In the following final, Ukraine’s Yuriy Cheban retained his C1 200m title. He won in dramatic style and set a new Olympic record, launching himself at the finish line to win in 39.279 seconds – a manoeuvre that saw his boat capsize. He finished 0.214 seconds ahead of Azerbaijan’s Valentin Demyanenko, who took silver, and 0.349 seconds ahead of Brazil’s Isaquias Queiroz dos Santos, who claimed bronze. “At the finish line, every athlete wants to put the nose of the boat as far as possible to maximise the chance of being first. My body weight got to the back of the boat and I capsized. It was a golden trick!” said the double Olympic champion.
Spain’s Saul Craviotto and Cristian Toro won Olympic gold in the K2 200m in the third final of the day. The Spanish duo finished the race in 32.075 seconds, beating Great Britain’s Liam Heath and Jon Schofield by 0.293 seconds. Lithuania’s Aurimas Lankas and Edvinas Ramanauskas took bronze, coming in 0.307 seconds later. The victory gave Craviotto his third Olympic medal; he won gold in the K2 500m with Carlos Pérez in Beijing in 2008, and silver in the K1 200m in London in 2012. “I never dreamed I could have three medals, and two of them golds. So for me this is truly a dream,” he said.
Finally, Kozák confirmed her status as queen of the canoe/kayak sprint events on the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon. Having already taken gold 48 hours earlier in the K2 500m with Gabriella Szabo, the Hungarian champion won her second successive K1 500m title, after victory in London in 2012. She won comfortably in the end in 1:52.494, but it was a photo finish in the battle for second place, almost two seconds behind her. Denmark’s Emma Jorgensen ultimately took the silver medal and New Zealand’s Lisa Carrington, the K1 200m champion in Rio, won bronze.