Coronation for Sir Bradley
Sir Bradley Wiggins has few awards left to receive. Knighted after becoming the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France, he has become the most decorated Olympian in country’s history.
In the men’s track cycling team pursuit final on Friday, the British group of Sir Bradley, Ed Clancy, Steven Burke and Owain Doull beat Australia in a thrilling ride-off. The four were trailing their Australian counterparts until the final three laps of the 4km race. But by the time they crossed the finish line in a time of 3 minutes, 50.265 seconds, they had set a new world record.
“When you are with guys like that on the line it makes your job a hell of a lot easier,” Sir Bradley told reporters after the race. “In some ways I realised what we were going into and that adds nerves to it. These guys [were] bouncing off the ceiling all afternoon in the apartment.”
Sir Bradley had discussed retiring after the Rio Games, only to reconsider the plans. If this was his last race, it would be a fitting end to the career of one of the most charismatic figures in British sport, He once saw the crowds lining the Champs-Élysées in Paris to honour Tour de France victory, he joked: “Right, we’re going to draw the raffle numbers now.” We shall wait and see if his number is up.
The fastest human through water . . .
The race to decide the fastest man in water was decided in the aquatics centre, when USA’s Anthony Ervin won the men’s 50m freestyle. He celebrated in true alpha male style — screaming into the air, flexing his biceps and punching the water.
US swimmer Michael Phelps was unable to build on his haul of 22 Olympic gold medals, beaten in the men’s 100m butterfly final to Singapore’s Joseph Schooling. Phelps finished in a tie for silver with South Africa’s Chad Le Clos and Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh. The three men stepped on to the second tier of the podium together hand-in-hand, each bearing their silver medals.
There were no such problems for American teammate Katie Ledecky in the women’s 800m freestyle final, beating her opposition by half the length of the pool to collect her fourth gold of the games. Ledecky broke her own world record over the distance by around two seconds. Great Britain’s Jazz Carlin gained the silver.
But there was a shock when the USA’s Maya Dirado won the women’s 200m backstroke, taking the lead in the final metre to beat Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu. The favourite had visibly tired at the climax of the race, understandable given Hosszu had already won three golds and a silver in Rio.
. . . as foot races begins on land
During the first day of athletics competition, Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana broke the world record in the women’s 10,000m to the first gold medal available in the athletics competition. Her time of 29:17.45 beat the previous best mark — set by her fellow countrywoman Tirunesh Dibaba in 1993 — by 47 seconds. Meanwhile, China’s Zhen Wang won gold in the men’s 20km race walk.
The competition got under way to rows of empty seats in the Olympic athletics stadium, despite track and field traditionally being a favourite for crowds at most previous Olympic Games. The scene raised further questions about local enthusiasm for the games, the high price of tickets and large amount of unused seat allocations by Olympic dignitaries. It will come as a big shock if the stadium is not close to full later this weekend, such as when the men’s 100m final takes place on Sunday night.
In the quarter-finals of the women’s football competition, USA had drawn 1-1 with Sweden, leaving the game to be settled with a penalty shoot out.
With the decisive penalty, Sweden’s Lisa Dahlkvist stepped up to take the kick. But US goalkeeper Hope Solo decided that she needed new gloves and forced her opponent to wait. If the tactic was meant to “ice” the midfielder — attempting to make her freeze at the crucial moment — it failed. The Swede coolly dispatched her strike and knocked out the defending Olympic champions.
After the game, Solo was upset with the loss and Sweden’s style of play. “I also think we played a bunch of cowards,” she told reporters. “The best team did not win today.”
The result was a more popular with Brazilians, as Solo had not enamoured herself with local fans before the games. Concerned with the Zika outbreak, the mosquito-borne virus known to cause abnormalities in unborn babies, the US goalkeeper had tweeted pictures of herself with an huge amount of anti-mosquito gear that she planned to take to Rio.
Crowds booed her frequently and could be heard shouting “Zika” when she took goal kicks. In the midst of the Brazilian winter, mosquitoes have proved little threat, so Solo may need to pack up a largely unused arsenal of insect repellent for the early flight home.
Funding pays off for Britain
The lagoon at Lagoa was always likely to look golden for Great Britain and so it has proved. On Saturday, the boat of Alex Gregory, Constantine Louloudis, George Nash and Mo Sbihi won the men’s four. British teams have won the event for five consecutive games. Such rowing dominance has been earned — with hard cash. Rowing is the best-funded British sport, with its elite athletes receiving £32.6m in the past four years.
The added funding that British gymnasts have received in recent years, worth around £10m over the last Olympic cycle, is also paying off in Rio. Bryony Page won the country’s first trampolining medal, the 25-year-old bouncing to silver in the women’s event with a score of 100.075 from her two routines. Rosannagh MacLennan of Canada took gold.
For the glory of the Beloved Leader
Most Brazilians have never seen someone from North Korea in the flesh before, let alone a female weightlifter from the Hermit Kingdom. It was with shrieks of disbelief that the crowd watched the country win its first gold medal of the Rio Olympics with Rim Jong Sim dominating the women’s 75-kilogram weightlifting class.
The 23-year-old was the clear leader from the start, lifting 121kg in the snatch and 153kg in the clean and jerk, lifting a total of 274kg, far ahead of Belarusian silver medallist Darya Naumava’s 258kg. Spain’s Lidia Valentin was close behind, winning the bronze medal with a total of 257kg.
“The first thing I thought when I knew I had won was that I had made our beloved leader [Kim Jong Un] happy,” Rim later told reporters, after breaking down during the national anthem.
Egyptian refuses to recognise Israeli
A breach of etiquette occurred on the judo mats, as Egypt’s Islam El Shehaby was defeated by Israel’s Or Sasson in the first round of the men’s over-100kg category. After the fight, the Egyptian seemed reluctant to perform the traditional bow to his opponent, nodding quickly before trying to leave the mat. The judges urged him to return. When Sasson approached with an outstretched hand, the Egyptian backed away. The Israeli went on to win bronze.
There have been a number of incidents in Rio between Israeli athletes and Middle Eastern counterparts. At the opening ceremony, there were reports that Lebanese athletes stopped Israelis from boarding a bus. The Lebanese team later said they behaved this way because their vehicle had been reserved for its team. A Saudi judoka forfeited a match earlier this week, saying she was injured. Israeli media claimed that a reason could be that she would have faced an Israeli fighter in the next round.
Hard to call
Poor Elliotte Friedman, a much loved commentator on the CBC channel in Canada. On Thursday, he described the marquee swimming race of the night — the 200m individual medley final. It featured two of the sport’s superstars, the US swimmers Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps. The battle between two multiple gold medal winners was enough to get anyone excited.
Friedman reached fever pitch during the final stages of the race, amazed by the sensational finish. “Ryan Lochte is going to beat Michael Phelps in this event in the games and Phelps might not even make the podium,” he shrieked at the climax. But Friedman had mistaken the lanes that either men were swimming in, an error he realised when Phelps was seen celebrating victory. By Saturday, his commentary has become a viral sensation. Friedman tweeted: “I’m sorry everyone. I blew it. No excuses.”
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