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Early in the morning, American teenager Virginia Thrasher won the first gold medal of the Rio Games at the Deodoro shooting range in the women’s 10-metre air rifle event. She started strongly with her first shot in the eight-shooter final, achieving the top score of the competition: 10.9! She then continued where she had left off, setting an Olympic record of 208.0 ahead of the Olympic champion in 2004 and 2008, China’s Du Li. “I’m so happy to kick off the Rio Games with a gold medal for my country,” exclaimed the American.
In the afternoon, Hoàng Xuân Vinh also produced a historic achievement by winning Vietnam’s first-ever Olympic gold medal. Hoàng was victorious in the suspense-filled men’s 10m air pistol event, overcoming his nerves to beat Brazil’s Felipe Almeida Wu with the last shot of the final. “Making this gold medal is a life memory, never forget this,” observed the delighted Vietnamese champion.
The first day of swimming competition in the Barra de Tijuca Olympic pool was rich in emotion. Australia got off to a strong start, with Mack Horton’s victory in the 400m freestyle, holding off the Chinese title-holder Sun Yang; and the Aussie quartet of Madison Wilson, Brittany Elmslie, Bronte and Cate Campbell overcame their American rivals and the final swimmer Katie Ledecky in the final of the 4x100m freestyle relay, setting a new world record of 3:30.65.
Two other world records were broken on Saturday 6 August. Hungary’s “iron lady”, Katinka Hosszu, began her medal harvest in Rio by smashing the women’s 400m medley world record (4:26.36), leaving America’s Maya DiRado trailing almost five seconds in her wake. Over the same distance in the men’s competition, victory went to Japan’s Kosuke Hagino, with the third-best performance of all time (4:06.05).
In the 100m breast stroke, Britain’s Adam Peaty set a new world record in 57.55. Then Syria’s Yusra Mardini became the first member of the Refugee Olympic Team to compete at the Games in Rio. She finished first in her 100m butterfly heat, cheered on by the watching spectators.
At the age of 31, Belgian cyclist Greg Van Avermaet produced the greatest win of his career, beating the two other breakaway cyclists, Denmark’s Jakob Fuglsang and Poland’s Rafal Majka, who had been alone at the front before being caught just 1,400m from the finish line.
The Republic of Korea archers wasted little time in achieving their 20th Olympic title in the sport. Eliminated by the USA in the semi-final in London in 2012, they got their revenge in the final at the sun-drenched Sambadrome, not losing a set all day. Americans Zach Garrett, Brady Ellison and Jake Kaminski shot accurately enough to beat Indonesia in the quarter final, and then China in the semi-final; but against Kim Woojin and Ku Bonchan, respectively world number 1 and 2, and Lee Seung-yun (number 6), there was nothing to be done. The Koreans thrashed their opponents right from the first set, with some perfect shooting: six arrows in the 10! Ku went one better in the temple of Carioca culture by putting all his arrows in the 10 in all three sets! Before securing the top spot, the trio swept aside the Netherlands in the quarter-final, then Australia in the semi-final.
On the tatami in Carioca Arena 2, the women’s -48kg 2015 world champion and Beijing 2008 bronze medallist, Paula Pareto, achieved her dream at the age of 30, winning the first gold medal in the history of Argentinean judo. Among the men, in the -60kg category, the gold medal went to Russia’s Beslan Mudranov thanks to a waza-ari in the “golden score” extra time against his Kazakh opponent Yeldos Smetov, offering Russia its first win in Rio.
The first fencing competition on the five-piste star in the Carioca Arena 3 was the women’s épée, in which Hungarian veteran Emese Szasz dominated her way to a hard-fought final against Italy’s Rossella Fiamingo. It was she who started off more strongly, before Szasz made it 12 all, and went on to finish strongly with a double hit and a final score of 15-13. At 34, she had reached the pinnacle of her career.
On the stage of the Riocentro Pavilion 2, Thailand’s 21-year-old Sopita Tanasan lifted a total of 200kg, with the two best performances of the day: 92kg in the snatch and 108kg in the clean-and-jerk, to win the first weightlifting title in Rio. “I was very confident I was going to win. I hoped I would, and I’m very proud to have won gold,” Tanasan declared. “I’m really happy, because this is the first win for Thailand at these Olympic Games. I’m very proud to have won it for my country.”
The tennis competitions began with a shock result, which saw number five seed Venus Williams, knocked out by Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens in three sets. The USA with Kevin Durant (25 points) got their campaign off to a flying start by beating China 119-62 in Group A, in the first round of the men’s basketball tournament. In the women’s handball, the Norwegian title-holders were beaten in the first Group A match by their Brazilian rivals (31-28). On the mats of the Rio Olympic arena, the gymnasts were competing to determine the best eight teams and the top 24 individual competitors who would go on to the finals. Title-holder China finished first ahead of the USA, Russia, Japan, Great Britain, Brazil, Ukraine and Germany. Ukraine’s Oleg Verniaiev dominated the individual qualification round ahead of Japan’s London 2012 Olympic champion Kohei Uchimura and Russia’s David Belyavskiy. It was also the first day of the eventing competition, with the dressage section which saw Germany head the team standings, followed by France and Australia. In the other venues, the women’s rugby sevens, volleyball, water polo, table tennis, boxing and rowing competitions also got under way.