Victory At Last

Rio 2016 Review of Day 16

Boxe Preliminares 101kg - Gaibnazarov vs Kumar

A new power emerged in Uzbekistan. It almost doubled its all-time gold medal count in Rio, and was the most successful nation in boxing. Uzbekistan’s neighbour Kazakhstan has also had great success in recent years, assisted by a state capitalist funding model.

It overtook Cuba’s tally in its final bout, featuring Fazliddin Gaibnazarov (above. in red) against Lorenzo Sotomayor of Azerbaijan, ironically born in Cuba. Sotomayor was taller but less accurate and, though he took the first round, Gaibnazarov won a split decision.

The final day also saw a number of long overdue victories. Denmark, where handball originated, won men’s Olympic gold for the first time, its first global title after several recent near misses. Nino Schurter of Switzerland finally won mountain bike gold after his bronze medal in 2008, and a silver after being pipped to the finish at London 2012.

Eliud Kipchoge won the men’s marathon, which was surprisingly only Kenya’s second title, while Galen Rupp took bronze, the first medal for the United States since 2004.

Team World

The one the hosts wanted was men’s volleyball, which Brazil had not won since 2004, having lost the last two finals. After struggling in the pool, including a defeat by Italy, it had no such trouble this time and won in straight sets, to add to its football gold medal.

The final total can be announced. Team World won seven gold medals, six silver medals and one bronze medal. It experienced everything: a surprising victory, a shock defeat, an injury drama, controversial judging, and even, but perhaps inevitably, a doping scandal.

Following Team World certainly changed my experience of the Games. Without it, I may have learned about the Olympic Nan but not about the other Mavis, the one who grew up in an orphanage in Zimbabwe. I might well not have witnessed an exciting race walk.

And had I not been following Elisa di Francisca, I would have missed one of my favourite hidden stories of Rio 2016, the tale of Tunisia’s first ever Olympic medallist in fencing.

That’s it for the blog. It is time for me to get back to my day job. And, as for Toyko 2020, I am hoping to be there to watch it in person. But it’s been a lot of fun. Thanks for reading.




Natural Talent

Review of Rio 2016 Day 15

Caster Semenya London 2012

Caster Semenya of South Africa (above) won gold in the 800m, one of several dominant performances over the past two weeks. In effect, she retained her Olympic title because the Russian who finished ahead of her in London is in the process of being disqualified.

Mo Farah was victorious in the 5000m, to add to his 10,000m and to complete a double double only previously achieved by Lasse Viren of Finland. But one distance race which had a surprising outcome was the 1500m, won by Matt Centrowitz of the United States.

Team World

Julius Yego of Kenya took an early lead in the javelin competition with a throw of 88.24 but injured himself during his fourth round throw. While he was out of action, Thomas Rohler of Germany threw 90.30 to take gold from him, but he held on for a silver medal.

Flora Duffy of Bermuda stayed with the lead pack for the cycling stage of the triathlon but could not keep up as Gwen Jorgensen of the United States and Nicola Spirig pressed on during the run. Spirig threatened to hold on until the end and win in a sprint finish, as she had in 2012, but Jorgensen finally shook her off on the final lap to beat her for gold.

Michael Conlan’s conqueror, Vladimir Nikitin, was too injured to fight in the following round, raising further questions about the points decision in his favour. The beneficiary, Shakur Stevenson of the United States, lost in the final to Robeisy Ramirez, giving Cuba its third boxing gold medal of the Games. The US men have failed to win any since 2004.

Kozák Danuta

Usain Bolt, Simone Biles, Katie Ledecky, Jason Kenny: To this roll of honour of 2016 we should add the name of Danuta Kozak of Hungary (above). She became the first woman to win three canoeing gold medals at a single Games, adding victory in the K4 500m to her titles in K1 and K2. But Germany finished ahead of Hungary overall with four golds.

Two dominant nations won golds in team events but with very different histories. The US women’s basketball team took its sixth title in a row and its final against Spain was its 49th consecutive game unbeaten. Serbia has dominated men’s water polo at world and European level but its victory in the final against Croatia was its first Olympic gold.

The Maracana Stadium saw a dramatic conclusion to the men’s football competition, as Brazil drew 1-1 with Germany causing a penalty shootout. When Nils Petersen missed Germany’s fifth penalty, Neymar had a chance to make himself a hero, and duly obliged.

Running, Walking and Jumping

Rio 2016 Review of Day 14

Usain Bolt Rio 100m final 2016

Jamaica won the men’s 4 x 100m relay to give Usain Bolt his ninth Olympic gold medal, a tally he shares with Paavo Nurmi and Carl Lewis. Japan finished an impressive second.

Jamaica’s women’s team was defeated by the United States and so Elaine Thompson did not match the three gold medals of Bolt in Rio. But two golds and a silver is a great total.

Thompson must surely now be given the title of woman of the meet after her main rival, Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia, suffered a shock defeat in the 5000m. Running from the front in her customary style, Ayana blew up and was overtaken by Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya.

Another two countries won their first gold medals in history, Tajikistan through Dilshod Nazarov in the hammer, and the Ivory Coast through Cheikh Sallah Cisse in taekwondo.

Team World

There was a thrilling race in the 50km walk in which defending champion, Jared Tallent of Australia, hoped to win gold without having to wait four years for a disqualification. The contest was greatly helped by the absence of Viktor Chegin’s walkers from Russia.

The world record holder, Yohann Diniz of France, made an early break and led by nearly two minutes at one stage but, like Ayana, he could not sustain the pace and was caught by the pack. Evan Dunfee of Canada briefly took over the lead, as did Tallent, until Matej Toth of Slovakia went ahead to win gold. Tallent added a silver to his gold from London.

Brazil’s men’s volleyball team hit form at exactly the right time to beat Russia in straight sets, and qualify for the final on Sunday. It will be one of last gold medals to be decided.

Connor Fields - Rio 2016

Connor Fields of the United States (above) won gold in the BMX cycling. Mariana Pajon of Colombia retained her title in the women’s event. She is still the only Olympic cycling gold medallist from the bike-loving country, which is yet to win on the road or the track.

Russia won the synchronised swimming team competition, its tenth gold in five Games.

In showjumping, Nick Skelton of Great Britain, won his first individual medal, a gold, in his seventh appearance at the Olympics, at the age of 58. He now says that he will retire.

Around the Venues

Rio 2016 Review of Day 13

119 ashton eaton (26095088005)

The United States won four gold medals in track and field. Ashton Eaton (above) kept the American decathlon tradition going, and matched Daley Thompson in retaining his title. Kerron Clement and Dalilah Muhammad won the two golds in the 400m hurdles.

The shot put was won by a rising star, Ryan Crouser, but there was no US victory over 200m, inevitably giving Usain Bolt his third win in the event, and an eighth career gold.

There has been much discussion of low attendances, as many Cariocas appear to have been priced out of the Olympics. But there is strong support for the events which are free to watch, including triathlon, where GB’s Brownlee brothers won gold and silver.

Crowds also gathered on Flamengo Beach for the most exciting race of the day, in the 49er FX sailing. With four crews separated by a single point, New Zealand led Brazil until the final leg, only to be overhauled, much to the delight of those on the shoreline. Brazil’s skipper, Martine Grael is the daughter of the five-time medallist Torben Grael.

Jordan emulated Kosovo and Fiji in winning its ever first Olympic medal and, just like them, it was a gold one, claimed by Ahmad Abughaush in the 68kg taekwondo event.

Alemãs levam ouro no vôlei de praia em Copacabana 1038669-18.08.2016 ffz-001a

Team World

Late last night, after Walsh Jennings and Ross won their bronze medal, the gold medal in beach volleyball went to Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst of Germany, who beat Agatha and Barbara of Brazil in the final. But all the medallists seemed happy (above).

Though India did not win a long-awaited medal, history was still made in men’s hockey. Argentina won its first ever gold, 4-2 over Belgium, which won a first medal since 1920.

Saori Yoshida suffered her first major championship defeat for fourteen years, against Helen Maroulis of the United States. Yoshida narrowly led 1-0 after the first period but Maroulis scored a takedown in the second and never looked back. There were shades of Aleksandr Karelin who, like Yoshida, lost in the final while chasing four golds in a row.

But one wrestler who did achieve four consecutive golds was Kaori Icho, who yesterday became the first woman to do so in an individual event. Japan won four of the six events in women’s wrestling so, with a gold in badminton too, it is now sixth in the medal table.

Heroes of Four Continents

Rio 2016 Review of Day 12

SGT Hillary Bor runs 3K steeplechase at Rio Olympic Games (28429853634)

Conseslus Kipruto won the 3000m steeplechase to maintain Kenya’s run in the event. But double gold medallist Ezekiel Kemboi was controversially disqualified from third place for stepping off the track, despite being a long way ahead of the runner behind.

The United States swept the medals in the 110m hurdles with Brianna Rollins, Nia Ali and Kristi Castlin – world record holder Keni Harrison had failed to make the US team. It also took gold and silver in long jump through Tianna Bartoletta and Brittney Reese.

Elaine Thompson of Jamaica completed a sprint double with victory in the 200m, just ahead of Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands. Usain Bolt could emulate her tomorrow.

Team World

Julius Yego narrowly managed to qualify for the javelin final on his third and final throw.

In badminton, Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir won their mixed doubles final easily against Chan Peng and Soon Goh Liu Ying of Malaysia. The Indonesian pair played the whole tournament without dropping a set, to win their country’s first gold since 2008.

And it was bronze for Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross as they defeated Larisa and Talita of Brazil. It is a record fourth Olympic beach volleyball medal for Walsh Jennings.

After a shaky start, where it almost failed to get out of its pool, Brazil’s men’s volleyball team is just a match away from a medal, having beaten Argentina in the quarter-finals.

Brasil x Iraque - Futebol masculino - Olimpíadas Rio 2016 (28553935690)

Brazil has won seven Olympic medals in football but it has never won either the men’s or the women’s title. After its women lost to Sweden on penalties yesterday, its hopes rest with its men’s team, which includes Neymar (above) as one of its overage players.

Neymar was dramatically involved in the semi-final with Honduras. He scored in less than thirty seconds and appeared to injure himself in the process. He returned to the action and scored a penalty at the very end of the match, the final goal in a 6-0 victory.

Brazil has its eighth football medal and a chance for its first gold but, in the final, it will face Germany, its famous conquerors in 2014, in another match with a six goal margin.

Honduras will play Nigeria for bronze as it searches for its first ever medal in any sport.

The Usual Suspects

Rio 2016 Review of Day 11

Christian Taylor Beijing 2015

It was a day in which the traditional powers asserted their dominance. At the top of the medal table, the United States added two more to its tally with a triple jump gold from Christian Taylor (above), and a fourth gold medal for Simone Biles, in the floor exercise.

The best hope for a new country to win gold came from Mutaz Esha Barshim of Qatar in the high jump but he was beaten into silver by world champion Derek Drouin of Canada.

On the track, Jamaica and Kenya each claimed their third titles of the Rio Olympics with victories for Omar McLeod in the 110m hurdles, and for Faith Kipyegon in the 1500m.

Team GB had another super day, in two of its best sports. Cycling’s power couple, Jason Kenny and Laura Trott, won the keirin and the omnium respectively, and have a career total of ten golds between them. Sailor Giles Scott followed Ben Ainslie as champion in the Finn class, while Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark clinched 470 gold with a race to go.

China, in the unusual place of third in the medal table, won golds in women’s team table tennis and from diver Cao Yuan. But it is struggling elsewhere – after its clean sweep in badminton at London 2012, it has only one of the finalists in the three doubles events.

After a slow start, Germany is up to fifth with three gold medals in a day, from Sebastian Brendel in 1000m C1 canoeing, Fabian Hambuchen on the high bar and Kristina Vogel in sprint cycling. Laura Ludwig and Kira Walkenhorst beat Larissa and Talita of Brazil in the semi-final at Copacabana, to guarantee themselves at least a silver in beach volleyball.

Team World

They will not face Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross, who lost to the other Brazilian pair, Agatha and Barbara. But bronze is still a possible fourth medal for Walsh Jennings.

There was also disappointment for Irish boxer, Michael Conlan, who lost a quarter-final to Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin in a controversial decision. After an even more questionable call in favour of Evgeny Tishchenko yesterday, and knowing what Russia is capable of, it is hard not to be deeply troubled. Russia’s Olympic success is the most ominous of all.

Rising Above the Rain

Rio 2016 Review of Day 10

Anita Włodarczyk Berlin 2009

The evening session of athletics was disrupted by pouring rain so Anita Wlodarczyk of Poland (above) would have been glad to have been competing in the morning. She won the hammer as the de facto Olympic champion, with Tatyana Lysenko of Russia due to be disqualified for doping offences. Therefore, her gold will be the second of her career.

It became a day of winners from London 2012 coming back for more as Kenya’s David Rudisha also retained his title in the 800m. There was no defending champion taking part in the women’s 400m but Allyson Felix was hoping to add to her four gold medals. Instead, Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas dipped to beat her, even falling over the line.

The host nation has had a disappointing Games, with judoka Rafaela Silva its only gold medallist so far. That all changed when another returning champion, Renaud Lavillenie of France, was shocked by local favourite Thiago Braz de Silva, with a massive personal best and an Olympic record, in what will surely be one of the moments of these Games.

Team World

During the pole vault, Brazil was also competing against France in a vital winner-takes- all pool match for a quarter final place. The result was the same as Brazil won 3 sets to 1.

Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir of Indonesia beat a Chinese pair to reach the final of the mixed doubles, as did Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying of Malaysia. Having won all five badminton golds in 2012, it is possible that China will be left without any this time.

The omnium came to a conclusion with a dramatic points race. Denmark’s Lasse Hansen stole an early lap to put pressure on leaders Elia Viviani of Italy and Mark Cavendish of Great Britain and, despite an incident in which Cavendish brought down Viviani, it did not matter, as Viviani won enough of the decisive sprints to hold them both off for gold.

Fernando Gaviria stole a lap as well but it was too little too late and he finished fourth.

Arthur Zanetti Rio 2016b

As with Braz da Silva, there were high hopes for Arthur Zanetti (above), the defending champion in the rings. He did not quite retain his title but he won an impressive silver, to add to the two medals claimed by Brazilian gymnasts in the floor exercise yesterday.

The Netherlands also had a good day as Sanne Wevers won gold on the beam, following a mistake by Simone Biles which left her with a bronze medal. Sharon van Rouwendaal also won an Olympic title in the 10km marathon swimming, and there might have been a third had the Laser Radial medal race, led by Marit Bouwmeester, not been postponed.

Brazil had also hoped for Robert Scheidt to win his sixth sailing medal but was unable to compete without wind, unlike in the pole vault, where it was able to triumph in the rain.

Triple Bolted

Rio 2016 Review of Day 9

Usain Bolt Rio 100m heats 2016b

Usain Bolt made history by beating Justin Gatlin yet again, winning a third consecutive gold in the 100m. Andre De Grasse of Canada took the bronze medal and could succeed Bolt when he retires. Just as impressive was Wayde Van Niekerk’s victory in the 400m, in which he left Kirani James in his wake, and eclipsed Michael Johnson’s world record.

Jemima Sumgong triumphed in the marathon, surprisingly the first title for a Kenyan woman, while Caterine Ibarguen claimed a gold medal for Colombia in the triple jump.

Team World

Sergio Garcia scored an impressive 66 in the final round of the golf but it was too late to reach the medals and he finished joint eighth. Gold and silver were fittingly contested by two golfers who have embraced the Olympic experience, the enthusiastic Justin Rose of Great Britain, and Henrik Stenson of Sweden, who even enjoyed the course’s alligators.

Rose beat Stenson to the title, which followed Rose’s hole in one during the first round.

Fernando Gaviria of Colombia made a poor start in the omnium, and was seventh after two events – Lasse Hansen of Denmark took them both. But Hansen was knocked out first in the elimination race, while Gaviria finished third, throwing the event wide open.

Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir in badminton, and Kerri Walsh Jennings in beach volleyball, both progressed to the semi-finals, and tantalisingly close to a medal. India’s men’s hockey team fell short, losing 3-1 to Belgium, but a Belgian medal could be even more historical than an Indian one. It was last on the Olympic hockey podium in 1920.

Michael Conlan of Ireland won his first bout to reach the bantamweight quarter-finals.

Secretary Kerry Watches As Venus Williams Prepares to Receive a Serve During A Tennis Match (28736162851)

After a tough Games for the Williams sisters, in which they both suffered early defeats in the singles, and in the women’s doubles, there was some redemption for Venus, who reached the mixed doubles final with her partner, the last minute selection, Rajeev Ram.

Although Williams and Ram lost to compatriots Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jack Sock in a super tiebreak, tennis history was made. A fifth medal for Venus gave her more than her sister, making her the most medalled player in history (excluding the 1906 Games).

Andy Murray became the first player to retain the men’s singles title, beating Manuel del Potro – the players broke one another’s serve in almost every game of the final set.

Rose and Murray were part of a day full of British gold medals. Max Whitlock won two in gymnastics, on the floor and on pommel horse, and cyclist Jason Kenny won the the fifth of his career, in the individual sprint, beating teammate Callum Skinner in the final.

Is Phelps the Greatest of All Time?

Rio 2016 Review of Day 8

Michael Phelps conquista 20ª medalha de ouro e é ovacionado 1036413-09082016- mg 6336 01

Michael Phelps now has a career tally of 23 gold medals, 3 silver medals and 2 bronze medals, after being part of the winning US team in the medley relay. He has won more than twice as many golds as anybody else. So can it be said that he is the greatest ever?

The counter-argument is that swimming is the sport where multiple medals are easiest to achieve, which is undeniably true. But while it is not uncommon for swimmers to win four or five gold medals, nobody apart from Phelps has done it more than once. He has four times won four and three times won five. Phelps is distinguished by his longevity.

Indeed, while swimmers have the advantage of many events, they are disadvantaged by shorter careers. This makes it all the more remarkable that Phelps won gold in the same event at four consecutive Games, the 200m individual medley, something that had been previously only achieved by two sportspeople, both athletes, Carl Lewis and Al Oerter.

If Usain Bolt wins three gold medals this week, he will achieve a triple triple, nine golds in total, but I am not convinced that even this will be quite as impressive as what Phelps has done. If he wants to be in the same bracket, Bolt would have to come back in Tokyo.

If only individual title are included, Phelps has thirteen golds, but that is still enough to beat Leonidas of Rhodes, the record holder from the Ancient Olympics. Leonidas took three laurel wreaths at four Games and is noteworthy for the fact that he won two short events and a distance event in full armour. He combined the consistency of Bolt and the longevity of Lewis with the versatility of Katie Ledecky. My conclusion therefore is that Phelps is indeed the greatest Modern Olympian but he loses out to Leonidas for the all- time title, if only because he would struggle to swim an individual medley in full armour.

Mo Farah Beijing 2015

Four years ago, Great Britain won three track and field gold medals in little more than an hour, on a day dubbed Super Saturday. All of its champions were scheduled to compete once again at the same session in Rio. Mo Farah (above) retained his title in the 10,000m despite a fall, his third gold in all, but there was no repeat for Greg Rutherford, who had to settle for bronze. The long jump competition was won by Team USA’s Jeff Henderson.

Jessica Ennis-Hill ended with silver in the heptathlon where the gold was won by rising star Nafissatou Thiam of Belgium, who scored personal bests in five of the seven events.

Tennis history was made as Monica Puig became the first unseeded champion in singles, having never reached a Grand Slam quarter final. It was Puerto Rico’s first Olympic gold.

Team World

It was all change at the top of the golf leaderboard at the end of the third round. Justin Rose of Great Britain is twelve under par to lead by a single shot from Henrik Stenson of Sweden. Former leader, Marcus Fraser of Australia, is a further two shots behind. Sergio Garcia is on two under par, so a medal is unlikely but not completely out of the question.

There was another victory for Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir in badminton, who beat Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying of Malaysia. But there was disappointment for Brazil’s men’s volleyball team, as it lost to Italy. It must beat France to ensure progress.

Shattering Barriers

Rio 2016 Review of Day 7

Almaz Ayana, Beijing 2015 cropped

The women’s 10,000m will go down in history as one of the most memorable race of all time. Rather than adopting the cautious tactics which are typical of such championship races, Alice Aprot of Kenya led the pack round at a blistering pace, until Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia (above) took over at the halfway point. Overall, 7 national records were set and 11 runners registered personal bests. Ayana smashed the world record by 14 seconds.

Valerie Adams of New Zealand narrowly failed to win a third consecutive shot put title, being pipped to the gold medal by Michelle Carter of the United States. There was Kiwi disappointment in rowing as well, as the world champions in the women’s lightweight double sculls finished in fourth place, out of the medals, and the Netherlands won gold.

New Zealand’s pair succumbed to Helen Glover and Heather Stanning of Great Britain, five years unbeaten. Their win was followed minutes later by GB’s fifth gold in a row in the men’s four. Ireland won a first rowing medal, silver in the lightweight men’s double.

Team World

Canada has a tradition in trampolining, which was preserved when Rosie MacLennan retained her Olympic title. Its women have now medalled at every Games since 2000.

Three Team World teams reached their respective quarter finals. India’s men’s hockey team drew 2-2 with Canada to finish fourth in its pool. Surprise package, Belgium, is its next opponent. Indonesia’s badminton pair won a second match  to guarantee progress in mixed doubles. In beach volleyball, Walsh Jennings and Ross overcame Italian rivals.

Bradley Wiggins - Beaumont Trophy 2009 AB1

Great Britain overcame Australia in the men’s team pursuit final and Bradley Wiggins (above) won his eighth medal, a record for a cyclist. It was a dramatic race where both teams went down to three riders and struggled to keep them together to cross the line.

Michael Phelps won the 27th medal of his career in the 100m butterfly, but it was silver this time as he finished in a three way tie for second place. Joseph Schooling claimed the victory to secure the first ever Olympic gold medal for Singapore, and the first medal of any colour for a Singaporean actually born in Singapore (the others were born in China).

Katinka Hosszu of Hungary suffered a surprise defeat to Madeline DiRado of the USA in the 200m backstroke, a result which confirmed Katie Ledecky as top woman of the meet. Ledecky’s fourth gold came in 800m freestyle, by a massive margin and a world record.

The irony is that, although Ledecky’s performances are more out of the ordinary than Ayana’s, they are now so common that they no longer produce the same level of shock.