Was it ever in doubt? Usain Bolt won the 100-metre final on Sunday night to become the first man to win the Olympic title three times.
In the quadrennial race to find the world’s fastest man, the Jamaican won in a time of 9.81 seconds. His main rival, Justin Gatlin of Team USA, started more quickly but Bolt chased him down with 50m to go and crossed the line first.
The result will have been a mighty relief to Rio 2016 organisers. In a games overshadowed by arguments over doping, Gatlin’s mere presence on the starting blocks was controversial. He has twice served suspensions for drugs violations. The crowd booed the American throughout the night — and the champion was received rapturously, with chants of “Bolt, Bolt, Bolt” ricocheting around the Olympic Stadium as he took a lap of honour in what is likely to be his final Olympic 100m race.
Earlier in the night, Wayde van Niekerk won the 400m in an astonishing run that broke the world record set 17 years ago by the man dubbed “Superman” — the USA’s Michael Johnson. The South African destroyed the field to finish in 43.03 seconds. It was a feat that surprised many. Even Johnson himself, speaking to the Financial Times earlier this week, had said: “Records are always possible, but rarely broken”.
Murray caps off Britain’s best day
Wimbledon, it was not. A partisan crowd packed the Olympic tennis centre for the men’s singles final between Great Britain’s Andy Murray and Argentina’s Juan Martin Del Potro. Argentines bounced in their seats and sang songs. Brazilians sided with Murray, booing the Argentine fans and cheering “Andy, vamos” and “Let’s go Andy, let’s go”.
In a match that lasted just over 4 hours, Murray won 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 to become the first man to win the Olympic tournament twice, retaining his 2012 title.
It also meant Team GB won five gold medals on Sunday — with victories in gymnastics, track cycling and golf — making Sunday the best ever day for the nation at an overseas games and pushing it to second position in the medal table.
Vaulting into history
The quintuple is on. Simone Biles was aiming for five of the six titles available to female gymnasts at the Olympics. The American, who already won golds in the individual and team all-around competitions, added another in the vault final.
It was the one apparatus thought likely to stymie her. But Biles’s mere reputation forced mistakes from opponents. Her greatest challenger was North Korea’s Hong Un-jong, who attempted a move never seen before in competition — a triple-twisting “Yurchenko”. Biles can perform the move but twists only twice. The North Korean almost managed the tumble, getting through all three twists, but fell backwards on landing. When Biles successfully completed her second vault, she took gold. On the final two pieces of apparatus — the beam, and particularly the floor — Biles is thought to be untouchable.
The battle to win the other women’s gymnastics title on offer was won by Russia’s Aliya Mustafina. On the one piece of apparatus on which the US athlete is (relatively) weak — the uneven bars — the Russian took gold. In the Biles era, rivals will need to take every crumb they can get.
In the men’s apparatus competitions, Max Whitlock became the first Briton to win a gymnastics gold. He then secured a second on the pommel horse, relegating teammate Louis Smith to silver.
It was just reward for the British men, following the men’s team all-around event in which Smith fell off the pommel attempting a difficult routine to try and drag his team into the medal places. Talk about getting back on the horse.
Neymar arrives in Rio, pressure on
Brazil’s football team arrived in Rio on Sunday for their Olympics semi-final against Honduras on Wednesday in the Maracanã Stadium, having played their qualifying games in other cities.
The pressure on the Seleção could hardly be greater. If Barcelona star Neymar and his side can defeat Honduras and Germany can overcome Nigeria in the other semi-final, they will meet in the gold match. This will give Brazil its first chance at an Olympics gold for the sport — and in the spiritual home of football, the Maracanã, to boot.
Much of the chance to avenge its 7-1 defeat by Germany in the 2014 World Cup will depend on Neymar maintaining the form of the quarter-finals, where he finally scored in the tournament for the first time.
There was more good news for Brazil in the gymnastics. Diego Hypolito and Arthur Mariano took silver and bronze in the men’s floor exercise final of the artistic gymnastics. Not gold, but the twin medals cheered up the host nation, which has been flagging on the medal count.
Once in a century
In the first Olympic golf tournament for more than a century, Great Britain’s Justin Rose was victorious after an exciting finale that was settled on the final hole. He and his Ryder Cup teammate, Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, were level on 15-under-par after 71 holes. On the last, Rose’s approach to the green left him with two attempts from a three-foot putt to secure the gold. He only needed one.
However, Rose won a diminished tournament. The world’s top four ranked male golfers declined to compete, citing health concerns from the outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus. Women golfers have proved less perturbed and almost all the best will play; first round begins on Wednesday.
Suspicions have been raised that the absent men preferred to rest in the midst of a busy golfing calendar. That could cost golf its place in Tokyo 2020, which is still under discussion.
“The people who doubted golf are absolutely wrong,” said Rose. “Every player who came here has had the most amazing week of golf. It is unique, totally different but the competition was first class.”
Protester not welcome
According to the BBC, Darya Safai, an Iranian woman who lives in Belgium, was asked to remove a banner during an Olympic volleyball match and asked to leave by security staff. Pictures from the event show her sign read: “Let Iranian women enter their stadiums.”
Women have been banned from or restricted from attending all-male sports events since the 1979 Iranian revolution. The IOC has a ban on political gestures and statements being made during the Olympics.
“It hurts to explain again and again that this peaceful action is not a political message, but a positive message of peace and human rights,” she told the British broadcaster.
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