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Before defending his 100m title, Usain Bolt did not miss a single moment of Wayde Van Niekerk’s achievement in the 400m final. The South African, flying along despite running “blind” in lane 8, did not let up for an instant in his fantastic race to a world record of 43.03, eclipsing the one (43.18) set 17 years previously by Michael Johnson at the 1999 World Championships in Seville. The previous two Olympic champions, Grenada’s Kirani James (2012) and the USA’s LaShawn Merritt (2008), who took silver and bronze respectively in 43.76 and 43.85, were in the best place to witness this fantastic feat and were very proud to have competed in this historic race.
The start of the 100m final was scheduled for 10.25 p.m. local time. The crowds in the stands fell silent, then exploded when the sprinters leapt from the starting blocks, the decibels rising 9 seconds and 81 hundredths later. Less impressive than in his previous two Olympic triumphs, Usain Bolt had to dig deep to catch up with the leaders in the acceleration phase, draw level with American Justin Gatlin in the last 30 metres, then pull ahead over the finish line for an outstanding triple at the Games over the distance that no one else has managed before. Gatlin crossed the line just ahead of the young Canadian Andre De Grasse to take the silver medal. “Someone said at a press conference last year that if I win these three gold medals, I will be immortal. And I kind of liked it. So I’m going to run with that: immortal,” said Usain Bolt, who knows how to make the crowds roar like no one else.
Triple jumper Caterine Ibargüen won the first Olympic title for Colombia in athletics, four years after winning her silver medal in London. Jumping 15.17m in the fourth round, she was able to step up to the top of podium ahead of Venezuela’s Yulimar Rojas (second with a jump of 14.98m, fourth round) and Kazakhstan’s Olga Rypakova (third with a 14.74m jump, fifth round), the Olympic champion in London in 2012.
Jemima Sumgong won Kenya’s first gold medal in the women’s marathon, which finished under the arch of the Sambadrome. She picked up the pace six kilometres from the end, and beat Bahrain runner Eunice Kirwa by nine seconds and reigning world champion, Ethiopia’s Mare Dibaba, by 26 seconds. “I was never worried that I'd lose this. At the 40km mark I knew the gold was mine,” commented Jemima Sumgong.
Great Britain’s Justin Rose had already made Olympic golf history when he hit the very first hole-in-one of the Games, in the first round – a superb 172m shot on the par 3 hole no. 4. He took command of the event after the second round and found himself in the third round in a “back-and-forth” match with Sweden’s Henrik Stenson. The two champions were neck-and-neck up until the 18th and last hole! Rose produced a birdie while Stenson made a bogey, and the Briton thus succeeded Canada’s George Lyon, the winner in St Louis in 1904, with a total of 268 shots (-16), ahead of Stenson (270) and the USA’s Matt Kuchar (271). “Oh my God. That felt better than anything I've ever won. It was the best tournament I've ever done,” said Justin Rose. “It felt like a cross between a golf tournament and a carnival! It was unique, incredible. Coming up with that last pitch when I needed it was magical. Hopefully we've shown Brazil what golf is about. I'm glad it was close, not for my nerves, for golf!”
Great Britain’s Max Whitlock excelled to dust off the Olympic history books. On Sunday 14 August 2016, he became not only the first British victor in artistic gymnastics, but also a double gold medallist! He began by impressing in the floor event, beating two Brazilians, Diego Hypolito and Arthur Mariano, most unexpectedly. Less than two hours later, he triumphed in his speciality, the one that had made him the first British world champion in Glasgow in 2015: the pommel horse. His highly agile performance, full of finesse, saw him move ahead of his teammate Louis Smith and the USA’s Alexander Naddour.
In the women’s events, Simone Biles was untouchable on the vault. Another excellent routine by the already two-time Olympic medallist (team and individual all-around), who won her third medal with a solid score of 15.966. Simone Biles completely outperformed Russia’s Maria Paseka, the reigning world champion, and Switzerland’s Giulia Steingruber, who came in second and third respectively. Fourth place went to Dipa Karmakar, the first female Indian gymnast to compete in an Olympic gymnastics final.
On the uneven bars, Russia’s Aliya Mustafina retained her title ahead of the USA’s Madison Kocian and Germany’s Sophie Scheder. Mustafina earned a total of 15.900 points, with the highest score for difficulty (6.800), while Kocian obtained 15.833, with the best score for execution (9.100). Sophie Scheder finished just behind them (15.566).
Great Britain’s Andy Murray became the first tennis player to win two consecutive singles gold medals – in either the men’s or women’s events – thanks to his 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 triumph in the final against Argentina’s Juan Martin Del Potro. At the of end of a gripping match full of twists lasting 4 hours 2 minutes, Murray (world no. 2) beat the “threat” of the tournament, who had created an upset by knocking out world no. 1 Novak Djokovic in the first round, and Rafael Nadal the day before in the semi-final.
“Emotionally, it was tough. Physically, it was hard. There were so many ups and downs. in the match. We both had our chances and it was one of the toughest matches that I’ve played to win a big event, for sure. I’m just happy I came out on top,” said Andy Murray. “I’ve had some tough defeats in these last couple of years, losing Grand Slam finals. Obviously, I’ve also managed to win a few big tournaments, which says a lot about my game.” He also paid a heartfelt tribute to his Argentinean opponent, who had won bronze in 2012 in London, and who had spent almost all of the previous four years out of action with an injured wrist. Japan’s Kei Nishikori took the bronze medal, thanks to his 6-2, 6-7, 6-3 win over Rafael Nadal.
Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina took the Olympic ladies doubles title for Russia, beating (6-4, 6-4) the Swiss duo Timea Bacsinszky and Martina Hingis, who had dreamt of a golden return after a 20-year absence from the Games (6-4, 6-4). The day before, in a 100 per cent Czech match, Lucie Safarova and Barbora Strycova were victorious over Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka to take home the bronze medal. Finally, Americans Venus Williams and Rajeev Ram came to grief in the mixed doubles final against their compatriots Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jack Sock (6-7, 6-1, 10-7), thus depriving Venus of a record fifth title, after her wins in the singles (2000) and ladies’ doubles with her sister Serena (2000, 2008 and 2012). She did manage to equal the medal tally of Great Britain’s Kathleen McKane (five medals between 1920 and 1924), who had, however, won only one gold.
Great Britain’s Jason Kenny triumphed once again, effortlessly taking the most prestigious title in track cycling at the Barra de Tijuca Velodrome in the men’s sprint against his fellow countryman Callum Skinner. In two clean races, Jason Kenny, 28, took his fifth Olympic gold medal. For Kenny, the wheels were perfectly in motion on the wooden track in Barra da Tijuca. In the final, he easily outflanked Skinner coming out of the last bend to take the first race. The second race looked more like a formality. Authoritatively, the reigning title-holder was always in control and led the sprint. A finalist in Beijing in 2008 against his teammate Chris Hoy, and the winner in London in 2012, Kenny was the first person since Germany’s Jens Fiedler (1992 and 1996) to win the flagship event of the Olympic track programme on two consecutive occasions. This was his fifth Olympic title, and the second in Rio after the team sprint.
Hasanboy Dusmatov provided Uzbekistan with the first boxing gold medal of the Rio Games, winning the 49kg category against Colombia’s Yurberjen Martinez on points. The bronze medals went to Cuban Joahnys Argilagos and American Nico Hernandez. “I did everything that was planned before the fight, all the tactics and techniques I have been taught by my coach. I used everything I could,” explained Dusmatov, to whom the judges granted victory, with no appeal, 3-0. Stepping down from the ring at the Riocentro Pavilion 6, Dusmatov, a 1.56m dynamo, was paraded around the room riding on the back of one of his coaches, draped in the flag of Uzbekistan.
The French world and European champion, Charline Picon, took the women’s Olympic windsurfing title following a medal race in which she gave it her all. Never has an Olympic windsurfing final been so unpredictable: the start featured six competitors, from Italy’s Flavia Tartaglini, the leader, to Spain’s Marina Alabau Neira, the reigning Olympic champion, with five points between them. In light conditions, even though the start had been delayed by over an hour because of the wind, the Frenchwoman finished in second place in this last round, but ahead of her two main rivals for the title. China’s Chen Peina, who had had the same number of points as the Frenchwoman before the climax, took the silver, while Russia’s Stefaniya Elfutina won the bronze. “Together we cried with my coach Cédric Leroy. He was also full of emotion, he told me I was great,” said Picon, with a French flag around her shoulders. “For four years, despite the titles, I didn’t show any emotion, didn’t shed a tear, always a stiff upper lip. And then there, you want to know? I cried. It’s a truly great adventure.”
On the other hand, in the men’s windsurfing, everything was decided before the medal race. Dutchman Dorian van Rijsselberghe’s lead following the race on Friday 12 August was enough to retain his Olympic title. He could not be caught in the medal race, which brought together the best 10 windsurfers and in which the points were doubled. Great Britain’s Nick Dempsey, his runner-up in London, occupied second place again, and could not be caught either. But Dorian van Rijsselberghe, virtually untouchable in Guanabara Bay in full control of his RS:X board, still had the luxury of winning this last race, which theoretically counted for so much, but in which he was in reality already a two-time Olympic champion. “I'm very happy,” he said. “We had a wonderful week sailing and today it was only a kind of show, but I'm glad that I pulled off another first place and another win.” Was it easy to win a medal race in which nothing was at stake? “It's never easy, but when you make it look easy, that’s always good!” The battle for bronze, on the other hand, was extremely intense, and it was France’s Pierre Le Coq who ended up the winner.
Reigning Olympic champion, Italy’s Niccolo Campriani retained his shooting crown in the 50m rifle 3 positions. The Deodoro shooting centre became his special place, as it was there he won his second gold medal after winning the 10m rifle event on 8 August! With 458.8 points, Campriani, who had been led for a long time by Russia’s Sergey Kamenskiy (458.5 points), finally snatched the gold with the last shot, in a breath-taking final. He had had a shaky start in the qualifying round, finishing 8th. France’s Alexis Raynaud (448.4 points), aged just 21, took the bronze medal. “The last shot was the last for everyone, not just for me,” explained Niccolo Campriani. “I have a few bad memories and it’s hard for everyone. I’m sorry that happened to Sergey Kamenskiy today but I could have ended up with silver as well, I was already happy with my performance. Gold is almost too much!”
The first day of wrestling on the mat of the Carioca 2 Arena saw Cuba’s Ismael Borrero Molina and Russia’s Roman Vlasov take the honours, winning gold in their respective categories of 59kg and 75kg in Greco-Roman. Ismael Borrero Molina, the reigning world champion in the 59kg, won the first gold medal of the wrestling competitions in Rio, surprising Japan’s Shinobu Ota 4-0 in the final. Olympic 74kg champion in London in 2012, Roman Vlasov again climbed up to the top step of the podium, beating Denmark’s Mark Overgaard Madsen 3-1 in the last bout of the day. “It is a pleasure to be here. Not only me but a lot of people tried to get this [medal],” said Roman Vlasov. “And now the dream came true and we are here. There are a lot of emotions. I have so much to say but I don’t have enough words to say it. Just, I am so happy now!”
Shi Tingmao gave China a fourth Olympic gold medal in five diving events, when she won the women’s 3m springboard at the Maria Lenk Pool. It was her second gold medal in Rio after her victory in the women’s synchronised 3m springboard event with Wu Minxia. He-Zi, who had a marvellous surprise on stepping down from the podium, completed the Chinese double in this event, while Italy’s Tania Cagnotto won her second medal in Rio, the bronze, after taking silver in the synchronised 3m springboard with Francesca Dallape. Shi, the reigning world champion, was equal with He-Zi after the first two dives, before obtaining 84 points in her third magnificent dive to take the lead in the competition. Her final total of 406.05 gave her a huge lead of 18.15 points over her compatriot and allowed her to become the third diver – after Wu Minxia and Guo Jingjing – to achieve the synchronised and individual springboard double at the Olympic Games.
As for He-Zi, she received a marriage proposal live on TV! Her partner, Qin Kai, a diver on the Chinese national team, went down on one knee as she stepped down from the podium clasping an engagement ring. Extremely touched, He-Zi accepted to the applause of the crowd, and indeed all those present in the pool! This image immediately went viral.
France’s Gauthier Grumier, Yannick Borel, Daniel Jérent and Jean-Michel Lucenay took the Olympic team epée title, the last fencing competition on the piste of the Carioca 3 Arena, taking on the best: Italy. In the final, the French let nothing slip against their eternal trans-Alpine rivals (Enrico Garozzo, Marco Fichera, Paolo Pizzo and Andrea Santarelli). They led from start to finish, maintaining a huge lead in the number of touches to conclude with 45-31. The bronze medal went to Hungary, who beat Ukraine (39-37) in the third-place play-off. “Well this is truly a big day, maybe the best, maybe the best day of my life. It’s brilliant, it’s great for me,” declared Jean-Michel Lucenay after this win, which saw France, the gold medallists in 2004 and 2008 in this event, come back in style.