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.


Six of the Best

Rio 2016 Review of Day 6

Simone Biles Rio 2016b

Simone Biles never looked as though she would not win the all-around competition but she did look as though the margin might be smaller than expected, when she trailed at the halfway stage to Aliya Mustafina of Russia. However, in the end, she was a massive two points ahead an emotional Aly Raisman, who won the silver medal to complete a 1-2 for the United States. Raisman had narrowly missed out on a medal four years ago.

Superlatives are running out for Michael Phelps who took his fourth consecutive title in the 200m individual medley. His career tally increases to an incomprehensible 22 golds.

Team World

There was another gold medal for Team World as Fiji took the men’s rugby sevens. Its performance in the final was the most dominant of them all, 43-7 against Great Britain.

The first Olympic golf tournament since 1904 got underway. Sergio Garcia was even par when he arrived at the 18th hole of his first round, but shot a brilliant eagle to finish two under par. Marcus Fraser of Australia has a three shot lead overnight, at eight under. A piece of history was also made by Justin Rose of Great Britain, who scored a hole in one.

Brazil lost to the United States 3-1 in volleyball, leaving Italy as the only unbeaten team in the pool. There was an easier time for Indonesia’s Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir in badminton, who beat Robin Middleton and Leanne Choo of Australia in their opener.

Mondial Ping - Men's Singles - Round 4 - Ma Long-Koki Niwa - 09

Ma Long of China (above) won the gold medal men’s table tennis and has now won every title which it is possible for him to win. It is a measure of the strength in depth of table tennis in China that he was not even selected for the individual event at London 2012.

As track cycling got underway, Great Britain beat New Zealand to retain its men’s team sprint title, despite never having won world championship gold in the years in between. If it does the same in other events, it could come close to its 2012 record of eight golds.

There was consolation for New Zealand in rowing, as Hamish Bond and Eric Murray continued their eight year long winning streak to win the gold medal in the men’s pair.

Queen of Swords

Rio 2016 Review of Day 5

Ines Boubakri 2014 Saint-Maur WC t103057

The reason for writing this blog is that the Olympics throw up so many stories, some of which are missed while focusing on national medal tallies. Ines Boubakri is such a story.

Representing Tunisia, she got to the quarter finals of the individual foil at London 2012, but she lost in sudden death to the great Valentina Vezzali, from the Italian town of Jesi.

This year, she faced Elisa Di Francisca, another Italian from Jesi, in the semi finals, and took an early lead in a tight first period. But as time wore on, it took its toll, and there was a long break in which she received treatment for a back injury. She struggled after the match resumed and the empathic Di Francisca was clearly pained about her plight.

Boubakri lost and had little more than an hour to recover before the bronze medal was decided. It showed as she went 6-1 down but she then brought it back to 7-4 by the end of the first period. She fought to a lead of 13-11 by the end of the second and screamed when she struck what she hoped was the final blow in the third. After a short pause, the referee awarded the point and she screamed again. Tunisia had its first medal in fencing.

Boubakri trains in France, a traditional fencing power, but there are signs that the sport is growing in North Africa, inspired by Alaaeldin Abouelkassem, the silver medallist at London 2012 from Egypt. It is becoming popular among Muslim women because of its conservative dress – US sabrist Ibtihaj Muhammad will fight for team gold on Saturday.

Team World

Di Francisca’s final against Inna Deriglazova from Russia was just as dramatic. She went from a 3-0 lead to a 7-3 deficit and she staged a remarkable comeback in the final period. Four points down with seconds to spare, she reduced the margin to 12-11 with just 2.5 on the clock. It was not quite enough time so she added a silver to her gold from London.

Fiji topped its pool in men’s rugby sevens but it was rewarded with a tough draw against the New Zealand All Blacks. But Fiji managed to knock its rivals out of the competition.

Women's Elite Time Trials - USA (21449930590)

Kristin Armstrong (above) won the women’s time trial in road cycling for the third time in a row, a day before her 43rd birthday. Fabian Cancellera of Switzerland won a second title in the men’s race. Kohei Uchimara won the gymnastics all-around but by a smaller margin than expected from Oleg Verniaiev of Ukraine and Great Britain’s Max Whitlock.

It was a first all-around medal since 1908 and Team GB also broke new ground with its first ever gold medal in diving, from Jack Laugher and Chris Mears in the synchronised springboard event, breaking the near monopoly that China has enjoyed in recent years.

In shooting, Jin Jong-oh of South Korea won the air pistol for the third time, his fourth gold in all. Fehaid Al-Deehani won what would have been the first ever gold medal for Kuwait, were it not banned by the IOC. Instead, he competed under the Olympic flag.

The Michael and Katie Show

Rio 2016 Review of Day 4

Swimming 4x100m freestyle relay 2017-08-07 21

Michael Phelps won the 20th and the 21st gold medals of his unique career in the 200m butterfly and the 4 x 200m freestyle relay. The butterfly was a particularly thrilling race where Masato Sakai of Japan was beaten to the touch by fractions and Tamas Kenderesi of Hungary was chasing hard and finished with bronze. Chad le Clos of South Africa was outside the medals and Laszlo Cseh was seventh. Cseh is still without an Olympic gold.

Katie Ledecky has far fewer medals than Michael Phelps but has an impressive range of distances. In the 200m freestyle, which is likely to be by far her closest race, she won her duel with Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden. The 800m freestyle will look easy by comparison.

The only non-US winner of the night was Katinka Hosszu but she was not as dominant as in her previous races. Siobhan Marie O’Connor of Great Britain was not far behind.

Katie Ledecky could become the top female star of the Games but another candidate is surely Simone Biles. She was part of the US team which won the team competition in gymnastics by a massive margin of more than eight points. Many more golds are likely.

But one American superstar had an unhappy day. Serena Williams was knocked out of the women’s singles by Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, throwing the competition wide open.

Zimbabwe football team 2016 Olympics women

Team World

Zimbabwe’s Mighty Warriors played their last match in Brazil, losing 6-1 to Australia, but maintaining their record of scoring in every one. With their excitement to be there and, in some cases, exuberant hair, they have been as much a part of it as the medallists.

In a hectic day for Team World, it won three medals. Michael Jung clinched gold in the three day event, with two clear rounds in the showjumping phase, while also riding for Germany, which won team silver. Matej Benus was also second in the C1 canoe slalom, but gold went to Denis Gargaud Chanut, as Slovakia and France’s tradition continues.

India beat Argentina 2-1 in men’s hockey and is just one point away from the knockout rounds. Fiji also beat Argentina, as well as Brazil, as the men’s rugby sevens event got underway. Elsewhere in sevens, Japan shocked one of Fiji’s main rivals, New Zealand.

In volleyball, Brazil’s men won a tightly fought match with Canada, conquerors of the United States earlier in the week. They could still finish their home Games on a high.

Deserving Champions (and Undeserving Ones Too)

Rio 2016 Review of Day 3

Kōhei Uchimura Rio 2016

The gymnastics finals began with the men’s team competition which Japan won for the first time since 2004, having finished second in Beijing and London. It was a first team title for Kohei Uchimara (above), who put in strong performances, as did Kenzo Shirai.

The evening’s swimming was tainted by doping controversy. Sun Yang of China added 200m freestyle to his 400m and 1500m titles in 2012, having served a ban in between.

In the 100m breaststroke, Yulia Efimova’s participation had been in doubt until the last minute, due to the shifting rules of Russia’s punishment for covering up failed tests. But in a surprise result, she was pipped for the gold medal by Lilly King of the United States.

Team World

Alia Atkinson of Jamaica finished eighth in that final, but this would have disappointed the world bronze medallist, who also finished fourth in the same event at London 2012.

Michael Jung moved into second place in the three day event by jumping clear on a hard cross country course. His main challenger will be Christopher Burton of Australia, who also had a clear round. Germany looks to be out of contention for gold in the team event.

Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross comfortably defeated China’s beach volleyball pair, but India’s men lost 2-1 to Germany in hockey, by a goal scored 3 seconds from the end.

Rafaela Silva

The Brazilian hosts found their first Olympic champion of the Rio Games, Rafaela Silva (above) in judo. It is one of Brazil’s most successful sports but gold medals are rare for it.

In the first ever rugby sevens competition, Australia defeated New Zealand in the final to win the women’s title. The men’s teams play tomorrow, including Fiji of Team World.

In trap shooting, Giovanni Pellielo of Italy reached the last two, having won silver twice before. But it was heartbreak again, as he lost a shootoff, to Josip Glasnovic of Croatia.

Weightlifting has suffered numerous scandals, with the result that several countries are banned from competing in Rio, giving the chance for other to shine. Oscar Figueroa won the men’s 62kg category while Thailand took gold and silver in the women’s 58kg event.

But, unfortunately, the stench of doping could not quite be eliminated as the Thai victor, Sukanya Srisurat, has previously been given a ban, which she completed three years ago.

Pool Gods

Rio 2016 Review of Day 2

Kazan 2015 - Adam Peaty wins 100m breaststroke

The swimming finals were the story of three utterly dominant champions, all of whom broke their own world records and obliterated their opponents. One of them was 100m breaststroker, Adam Peaty of Great Britain (above). The other two were Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden in the 100m butterfly, and Katie Ledecky of Team USA in the 400m freestyle.

There is likely to be a battle between Sjostrom and Ledecky to be the star woman of the meet, which could be decided if they race, as planned, in the final of the 200m freestyle.

Almost as a footnote, Michael Phelps won a 19th Olympic gold with an impressive leg for the US 4 x 100m relay team. This absurd level of dominance may never be equalled.

Team World

In the same swimming session, Alia Atkinson reached the final of the 100m breaststroke in a busy day for Team World. In slalom canoeing, Matej Benus (who was selected ahead of Michal Martikan for Slovakia) negotiated the rapids of the preliminary stages as well.

But most dramatic were two gold medals for Team World, from Majlinda Kelmendi of Kosovo, appearing in its first Olympics, and from Wu Minxia who, with her partner Shi Tingmao, took victory in synchronised platform diving, a record fifth gold for any diver.

The dressage phase of the three day event was completed, leaving Michael Jung in fifth place, behind the leader William Fox-Pitt, ahead of the cross country section tomorrow.

La Course by Le Tour de France 2015 (19503617983)

The treacherous cycling course turned from drama to horror as Annemiek Van Vleuten was rushed to hospital after a nasty crash, when leading the race. Her teammate Anna van der Breggen (above) passed her before the ambulance arrived and was inspired to win the gold. Tradition was maintained as it was a fourth road race for a Dutchwoman.

There were shocks galore in the tennis. Venus and Serena Williams lost in an Olympic women’s doubles tournament for the first time ever, to the Czechs Lucie Safarova and Barbora Strycova. Novak Djokovic lost to Juan Martin del Porto in the men’s singles.

China won three gold medals. As well as its divers, it took a victory in shooting and, in the 56kg weightlifting event, the 2008 Olympic champion Long Qingquan recaptured his title and knocked the 2012 winner, North Korea’s Om Yun Chol, into second place.

It was also a great day for Italy which claimed two golds, from Daniele Garozzo in foil fencing, and from Fabio Basile in judo. It took silver in diving, a first medal since 1980.

Tumble in the Jungle

Rio 2016 Review of Day 1

2015 Tour de France team presentation (19361225025)

There was high drama in a brutal men’s road race in the picturesque setting of the Tijuca National Park, a mountainous rainforest area close to Rio. Pre-race favourite Vincenzo Nibali of Italy broke away from the lead group, joined by Sergio Henao of Colombia and Rafal Majka of Poland. But Nibali’s and Henao’s chances came to an end as they crashed on the descent, while Geraint Thomas of Great Britain also fell in trying to close the gap.

Majka was then caught by Denmark’s Jakob Fuglsang and Belgium’s Greg Van Avermaet (above), who outsprinted him and he finished with the bronze, leaving Van Avermaet to take gold. Despite Belgium being the home of the one day race, he is only the second to win the road race from the country, and its first Olympic champion in cycling since 1984.

Team World

In women’s football, after a 6-1 defeat to Germany on Wednesday, Zimbabwe’s women also struggled against Canada, and lost 3-1. But it was still an impressive performance – Zimbabwe’s economic disadvantage was illustrated by goalscorer, Mavis Chirandu, who grew up in an orphanage. And it is not over – beating Australia could send them through.

In men’s hockey, India narrowly won 3-2 against Ireland, in its first Olympics since 1908. It has not been such a long wait for India but it was its first win at the Games since 2004.

Kerri Walsh Jennings, and her new partner April Ross, won their first beach volleyball match, beating Australians Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Nicole Laird in straight sets.

Kazan 2015 - Victory Ceremony Campbell sisters 100m freestyle

Australia won two gold medals in swimming, from Mack Horton in the 400m freestyle and its women’s 4 x 100m freestyle relay team, featuring the Campbell sisters (above). It is already ahead of its count at London 2012, where it won only one event in swimming.

The Aussies top the medal table but Hungary is not far behind, with golds from Katinka Hosszu in the 400m individual medley, and from Emese Szasz in women’s épée fencing.

Elsewhere, South Korea displayed its usual dominance in archery to win the men’s team competition. The first Rio Olympic champion to be decided was Virginia Thrasher of the United States, in the women’s air rifle. Hoang Xuan Vinh was victorious in the men’s air pistol with an incredible final shot to become the first ever gold medallist from Vietnam.

Meet Team World – The Complete List

Here they are, the twenty athletes and teams who this blog will follow during Rio 2016:

Australia – Jared Tallent (Race Walking)
Bermuda – Flora Duffy (Triathlon)
Brazil – Men’s Volleyball Team
Canada – Rosie MacLennan (Trampolining)
China – Wu Minxia (Diving)
Colombia – Fernando Gaviria (Cycling)
Fiji – Men’s Rugby Sevens Team
Germany – Michael Jung (Eventing)
India – Men’s Hockey Team
Indonesia – Tontowi Ahmad and Lilyana Natsir (Badminton)
Ireland – Michael Conlan (Boxing)
Italy – Elisa Di Francisca (Fencing)
Jamaica – Alia Atkinson (Swimming)
Japan – Saori Yoshida (Wrestling)
Kenya – Julius Yego (Javelin)
Kosovo – Majlinda Kelmendi (Judo)
Slovakia – Michal Martikan (Canoe Slalom)
Spain – Sergio Garcia (Golf)
United States – Kerri Walsh Jennings (Beach Volleyball)
Zimbabwe – Women’s Football Team

More details about the selected athletes and teams can be found via the following links:

Part 1 – Africa and Europe
Part 2 – Asia and Oceania
Part 3 – North and South America

Twenty Year Medal Tables – The Complete List

Previews of the sports at Rio 2016, and the top medal winners in the years since 1996:

Archery, Heptathlon and Decathlon, Race Walking, Jumping Events, Throwing Events,

Distance Running, Sprinting, Badminton, Basketball, Boxing, Canoe Sprint,

Canoe Slalom, Cycling, Diving, Equestrian Sport, Fencing, Men’s Football,

Women’s Football, Men’s Artistic Gymnastics, Women’s Artistic Gymnastics,

Rhythmic Gymnastics, Trampolining, Handball, Hockey, Judo, Modern Pentathlon,

Rowing, Sailing, Shooting, Swimming, Synchronised Swimming, Table Tennis,

Taekwondo, Tennis, Triathlon, Indoor Volleyball, Beach Volleyball, Water Polo,

Weightlifting, Wrestling

Twenty Year Medal Table for Wrestling

Summer Olympic Games 1996 – 2012

Olympic Freestyle Wrestling at Excel - 66kg Gold Medal Match

Japan is historically one of the strongest nations in wresting, where the sport has grown out of its sumo tradition. But most of its recent medals have been on the women’s side, where it has won an extraordinary seven out of the twelve gold medals ever awarded. At London 2012, Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu was its first male champion since way back in 1988.

Turkey’s success dates back to the earlier London Olympics, in 1948, from which it took home six gold medals. Iran won its first title back in 1956 in Melbourne. Iran’s neighbour Azerbaijan is a rising power – though they have very different histories, there are many cultural commonalities between them. Azerbaijani government investment also helps.

Soviet wrestling medallists once came disproportionately from Georgia and, to a lesser extent, Azerbaijan. Since the Cold War came to an end, a startling 11 of Russia’s 25 gold medals have been due to Dagestan, a state which looks jealously across the border at its fellow Caucasians. Russia hopes that wrestling will check its independence ambitions.

Russia 25 10 13 48
United States 9 9 10 28
Japan 8 4 8 20
Cuba 5 5 4 14
Iran 5 4 5 14
South Korea 4 6 2 12
Azerbaijan 4 5 5 14
Uzbekistan 4 3 0 7
Turkey 4 1 6 11
Ukraine 3 5 6 14
Poland 3 1 3 7
Georgia 2 4 9 15
Bulgaria 2 3 4 9
Canada 2 3 2 7
China 2 3 2 7
Kazakhstan 1 4 9 14
Hungary 1 3 2 6
Armenia 1 2 3 6
France 1 1 4 6
Sweden 1 1 3 5
Egypt 1 1 0 2
North Korea 1 0 3 4
Italy 1 0 0 1
Belarus 0 3 5 8
Germany 0 2 2 4
Finland 0 2 1 3
India 0 1 2 3
Kyrgyzstan 0 1 1 2
Estonia 0 1 0 1
Puerto Rico 0 1 0 1
Tajikistan 0 1 0 1
Colombia 0 0 2 2
Greece 0 0 2 2
Lithuania 0 0 2 2
Macedonia 0 0 1 1
Moldova 0 0 1 1
Mongolia 0 0 1 1
Slovakia 0 0 1 1
Spain 0 0 1 1