RIO Olympics Day 4




Rio de Janeiro is the first South American city to ever host an Olympic Games. Just like the host nation’s role in Olympic history, day four of athletics action was full of firsts, too.

THREE FIRSTS IN THE HAMMER


Anita Wlodarczyk in the hammer at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Getty Images)


Anita Wlodarczyk wrote history on all fronts this morning. First, of course, there was the small matter of a world record. The giant Pole hurled the implement 82.29m, a whole 1.21m farther than her previous world record.

In the process she became the first woman to throw beyond 80 metres three times in the same competition. Previously she held the record for two throws beyond 80 metres in the same competition.

Thanks to a final-round effort of 74.54m, Sophie Hitchon clinched bronze to take Great Britain’s first ever women’s hammer medal at a senior global championships.

Anita Wlodarczyk in the hammer at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (AFP / Getty Images)

You should never expect a world record, but if any athlete appeared poised to deliver such a feat it was the remarkable Anita Wlodarczyk, who came good on her pre-event promise to land the Olympic title in the ultimate style.

The giant Pole, who is unbeaten in more than two years, launched the hammer out to a monster world record* of 82.29m in round three to add 1.21m to her own mark set last year in Cetniewo. In a further demonstration of her ability, she produced three of the five longest throws in history and she now boasts the top 15 throws of all time (including all marks within series).

Victory also ensured the she has the full cache of titles; Olympic, world and European, and she now becomes the second Pole after the late Kamila Skolimowska to claim this title.

Wlodarczyk is quite simply the greatest women’s hammer thrower of all time.

In the battle for the minor medals, China’s Zhang Wenxiu fired the hammer out to 76.75m to add the silver medal to the bronze she won at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Meanwhile, Sophie Hitchon became the first British winner of an Olympic hammer medal for 92 years, as she clinched a dramatic last-gasp bronze courtesy of a timely national record mark of 74.54m in round six. 

In the first round, Zhang took an early lead with a decent 75.06m opener – a little over half a metre down on her season’s best. However, Wlodarczyk responded with a ‘sighter’ at 76.35m to take the lead she was never to relinquish.

Germany’s 2007 world champion Betty Heidler was the only other woman beyond the 70-metre mark in the opening stanza, recording 71.38m.

The formidable Pole found her groove in round two, unleashing a mighty effort of 80.40m to snare the Olympic record with what was at that point the third-longest throw of all time.

The other major mover was Hitchon, who scuttled up the leader board to third, registering 73.29m, an effort which prompted a triumphant raise of the arm from the Briton, who finished a frustrating fourth at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015.

In round three, Zhang consolidated her hold on silver with a season’s best of 76.19m to put clear daylight between herself and bronze.

However, the third round was all about Wlodarczyk’s thunderbolt – the third world record in the athletics programme at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games – and she celebrated her moment by jogging towards the Polish fans corralled in the stand close to the hammer cage to comprehend the accomplishment.

At halfway it was Wlodarczyk from Zhang followed by Hitchon. With a modest best of 65.18m, world bronze medallist Alexandra Tavernier of France would play no further part in the competition.

The fourth round witnessed a significant move as Zalina Marghieva of Moldova hurled the metal ball out to 73.50m to assume provisional bronze and relegate Hitchon to fourth. US champion Amber Campbell catapulted up to fifth with 72.74m.

Wlodarczyk, with the adrenaline presumably coursing through her veins following her world record throw, pushed it a little too hard and received a red flag her fourth attempt.

There was more change in round five as Heidler, who had been struggling to find her rhythm, took her turn to move into bronze with a 73.71m effort.

Zhang also produced her best throw of the competition with 76.75m while Wlodarczyk tossed the hammer out to 81.74m – the second-longest throw in history.

The main drama in the final round saw Hitchon time her medal-winning effort to perfection as she added 68 centimetres to her British record and celebrated by rushing towards the crowd and leaping on to the top of the photographer’s moat in ecstasy.


FIRST OLYMPIC GLORY FOR BAHRAIN

In a dominant front-running display, Ruth Jebet not only came within one second of the 3000m steeplechase world record, but also secured Bahrain’s first ever Olympic gold in any sport.

Ruth Jebet wins the 3000m steeplechase at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Getty Images)


Having gone out at a pedestrian pace, Jebet picked it up during the second kilometre to stride away from the rest of the field. As she crossed the line in 8:59.75, she also became the first woman in history to go sub-nine minutes on two separate occasions.

Emma Coburn, who took bronze in 9:07.63, secured the USA’s first Olympic medal in the women’s steeplechase since its debut at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Her time bettered her own North American record set at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene earlier this year.


Ruth Jebet of Bahrain gave the women’s 3000m steeplechase world record a scare, coming within a second when running 8:59.75 for gold.

As it was, the race played out perfectly to form as Jebet, Hyvin Kiyeng and Emma Coburn finished in exactly the order they stood on the 2016 world list coming in to Rio.

Jebet’s 8:59.75 was less than a second from the 8:58.81 set by Gulnara Galkina at the 2008 Olympics and, as a PB and Asian record for Jebet, is the second-fastest 3000m steeplechase ever for women, improving on her previous best of 8:59.97 set at this year's IAAF Diamond League meeting in Eugene.

The race got underway only on the second attempt, after the relative oddity of a false start.

Jebet broke away from the pack after the first kilometre and pushed hard for the remainder of the race. Early leaders Kiyeng of Kenya and Coburn of the USA tried to stick to Jebet when she initially moved to the front but didn’t succeed for long.

The potential for Jebet to improve further is clear, as the first kilometre split was a pedestrian 3:05.93 after the first lap was covered at near-walking pace. Jebet’s change of pace led to the second kilometre being a full 10 seconds faster, the fastest of the race at 2:54.13 (6:00.03).

Jebet wasn’t able to sustain quite that pace, although it hardly mattered by then.

Her third kilometre of 2:59.69 included Jebet allowing her own effort to slacken once she had cleared the final barrier, either through fatigue or relief. The clock stood at 7:49.0 at the bell, so Jebet’s closing circuit of 1:10.7 was still quicker than the overall kilometre pace.

Some drama played out behind her as the Kenyan duo of Kiyeng and Beatrice Chepkoech initially seemed to have a lock on the remaining medals but the latter, although she would finish with a PB, couldn’t hold on to Kiyeng’s pace.

As Chepkoech slipped back, she was overtaken by Coburn with two laps remaining. Coburn worked her way up to challenge Kiyeng on the last lap, but Kiyeng was the stronger of the two and held on for silver in 9:07.12.

Coburn’s bronze medal clocking of 9:07.63 is a North American record, bettering her own mark from earlier this year.

Chepkoech would also run a PB 9:16.05 for fourth. In sixth, world bronze medallist Gesa Krause ran a German record of 9:18.41. In all, seven of the top nine women would run personal best times; the exceptions being Kiyeng and fifth-place finisher Sofia Assefa of Ethiopia.

Tunisia’s 2012 Olympic champion Habiba Ghribi finished a disappointing 12th and was never a factor in the race.

FIRST SUCCESSFUL TITLE DEFENCE IN 52 YEARS

Many had doubted David Rudisha going into these Games, but as the rounds progressed, the reigning Olympic champion and world record-holder slowly but surely silenced his doubters.

David Rudisha wins the 800m at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Getty Images)


In today’s final the Kenyan became the first man to successfully defend his Olympic 800m title since Peter Snell in 1964, recording a world-leading 1:42.15.

Taoufik Makhloufi became the first Algerian to go sub-1:43 when taking silver in 1:42.61, while Clayton Murphy earned the USA’s first Olympic 800m medal since 1992, three years before Murphy was born.


David Rudisha wins the 800m at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Getty Images)

David Rudisha successfully defended his Olympic 800m title in hugely impressive fashion in what was a slightly eccentric race, at least over the first 400 metres, crossing the line in a world-leading 1:42.15.

Starting in lane three, the Kenyan sped away at the sound of the gun and was almost on the shoulder of the man on his outside, France’s Pierre-Ambroise Bosse, within 50 metres.

He unofficially passed 200 metres in a phenomenally fast 23 seconds before his young compatriot and former world junior champion Alfred Kipketer dashed to the front and tried to run away from the field.

Kipketer went through the bell in an audacious 49.23 with Rudisha three metres back. Bosse and USA’s Boris Berian were just behind Rudisha at this stage, running to his left and right. Kipketer desperately tried to hang on in pole position but then started to drift inexorable backwards when Rudisha hit the front with 280 metres to go.

From this point, Rudisha was never headed as he pulled away from his rivals.

Bosse gave chase around the final bend and was in the silver medal position until about 60 metres before the line, when he started to flag and he couldn’t resist the chasing figure of Algeria’s 2012 Olympic Games 1500m champion Taoufik Makhloufi, who overtook him before taking the silver in a national record of 1:42.61.

As Bosse tired, Clayton Murphy was also charging him down from a long way back and the inspired 2016 US champion passed the luckless Bosse 20 metres from the line to take the bronze medal in a personal best of 1:42.93 and get the first US Olympic medal over two laps of the track since Johnny Gray also got the bronze in 1992.

Bosse took fourth in a season’s best of 1:43.41 while Kenya’s Ferguson Rotich also came through strongly in the final 200m after being well to the rear of the pack on the opening lap, and took fifth in 1:43.55

Comparisons will inevitably be made with Rudisha’s triumph four years ago when Rudisha tore the apart with a stunning piece of front running before setting the still-standing world record of 1:40.91.

However, Rudisha’s build up to Rio was nothing like as smooth, suffering slight injury problems and losses, including only coming home third at the Kenyan Olympic Trials.

""It's been very difficult. I have stayed focused and positive. My coach has been great and given me hope," he reflected.

However, in the end, his championship experience and tactical maturity shone through. In addition to how his legs carried him, it seemed that he also out thought his opponents before running his fastest time since his halcyon year of 2012.

"Running 1:42, it's just fantastic. I had no doubts before. The feeling in my body was good. It is great to win such a big competition, my second gold. It's so great. I am so excited. It is the greatest moment of my career," added the 2012 and 2016 Olympic champion, the first man to defend his title in this event since Peter Snell in 1964.

A DIVE FOR FIRST

It was one of the most anticipated finals of the Games. With Allyson Felix being denied a shot at the 200m-400m double through injury, she had to lay all of her eggs in the 400m basket in her pursuit of a record-breaking fifth Olympic gold medal. But it wasn’t meant to be.

Shaunae Miller wins the 400m at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Getty Images)


Not many would have predicted the finish that played out in Rio’s Olympic stadium as Shaunae Miller led for most of the race, with Felix clawing her way back into gold medal contention along the home straight. In a last-gasp effort, the Bahamian launched herself over the line to take gold in a PB of 49.44.

Miller secured The Bahamas’ first individual Olympic title since Tonique Williams-Darling 12 years ago. Felix was second for silver and 

Doing her finest impression of the springboard experts performing at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre here at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Shaunae Miller’s spectacular mid-air dive for the line earned her a thrilling victory from pre-event favourite Allyson Felix.

The Bahamian, who followed in the distant footsteps of her countrywoman Tonique Darling as champion of this event, crossed the line in personal best of 49.44 to finish 0.07 ahead of Felix and deny the US sprinter what would have been a record-breaking fifth Olympic athletics medal for a woman.

The bronze medal went to the fast-finishing Jamaican Shericka Jackson in 49.85, yet the enduring image of this race will be of Miller’s breathtaking golden dive.

A final held around 25 minutes later earlier than schedule because of the early deluge of rain was expected to be a tight tussle between Felix and Miller and so it proved.

With Miller drawn in lane seven and Felix in lane four the Bahamian will have felt the quick starting Natasha Hastings breathing down her neck after the American made her trademark electric start.

Down the back straight, however, Miller’s long legs were greedily eating up the ground, slowly established control of the race with Felix not yet prominent.

Entering the home straight Miller held a clear three-metre advantage from Hastings with Felix back in third having conceded plenty of ground.

Yet midway down the final 100m, Miller’s stride perceptively started to shorten and Felix noticeably found another gear and started to gnaw at the Bahamian’s advantage.

As the line approached it would seem certain the American would edge it but in a final desperate act the 22-year-old Miller made an instinctive dive for the line launching herself off the ground with arms outstretched.

In what looked a desperately close finish, some experts were calling Felix.

Unofficially, the winning time initially flashed up at 49.51. However, as Miller laid prostrate across the track the official result confirmed Miller had taken it 49.44, a new PB by 0.11.

Felix had registered the second best time of her career with 49.51 but this was not enough to deliver her dream of Olympic 400m gold.

Jackson finished with a powerful late surge to grab bronze in 49.85, the same colour medal as won behind Felix and Miller at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015.

The fast-starting Hastings held on for fourth in 50.30 with her US team-mate Phyllis Francis taking fifth in 50.41 while Jamaica’s Stephenie-Ann McPherson crossed the line sixth in 50.97.




THE HOME NATION’S FIRST ATHLETICS GOLD

In a thriller of a competition – which wasn’t just physically but also mentally draining for the athletes because of weather delays – world record-holder Renaud Lavillenie was the man to beat in the men’s pole vault. His main challenger: home favourite Thiago Braz da Silva.

Thiago Braz da Silva wins the pole vault at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Getty Images)


Contrary to what his full name suggests, it was gold for the Brazilian in the end. A gamble at 5.98m – five centimetres higher than his PB going into the competition – paid off and he was the first to clear 6.03m to secure the title.

It was the host nation’s first Olympic athletics gold in a men’s event since Joaquim Cruz in 1984 and their first ever in the pole vault.

It now begs the question: can Fabiana Murer follow in the women’s event?

Thiago Braz da Silva in the pole vault at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Getty Images)

On a tumultuous night inside the Olympic Stadium, Thiago Braz became Brazil’s first men’s Olympic athletics gold medal winner for 32 years with an utterly spellbinding victory, which sent the home fans into ecstasy.

In a competition in which Braz and the defending champion Renaud Laveillnie tackled an absorbing competition like two champion prize fighters, the Brazilian finally delivered the knockout blow with a stunning and unexpected 6.03m clearance deep into the Rio night. 

Lavillenie on this occasion had to settle with silver with a best clearance of 5.97m, although when he has time to reflect on the performance he can look back with enormous pride on the way he competed.

Bronze went to USA’s Sam Kendricks with a best of 5.85m but tonight was all about Braz, the 22-year-old former world junior champion delivered the best night of his career when it mattered most and achieved a feat which he and all of Brazil will remember for the rest of his life.

Latvia’s Paula Pujats was the only casualty at the opening height of 5.50m, failing to register a valid jump. Five men exited the competition at the next height including reigning world champion Shawn Barber of Canada, Czech Republic’s Michal Balner, the former world indoor champion Konstadinos Filippidis of Greece, Argentina’s German Chiaraviglio and Japan’s Daichi Sawano.

The competition started in earnest at 5.75m as Renaud Lavillenie finally made his entrance into the competition – which had been delayed by more than 30 minutes following an earlier deluge of rain – with an emphatic first time clearance. 

Czech Republic’s Jan Kudlicka and Poland’s Pitor Lisek matched Lavillenie’s feat with Da Silva staying alive thanks to a second time clearance. Kendricks missed his first attempt and then passed to 5.85m.

The next height saw the end for China’s Xue Changrui – after two earlier failures at 5.75m - while the eventual three medallists all cleared with their first effort.

After two failures at 5.85m Kudlicka and Lisek gambled and passed to 5.93m, but both find this beyond them.

With the three medallists now decided it was a case of which athlete would take which medal.

Lavillenie seemingly to strengthen his position by successfully negotiating comfortably 5.93m with his first effort while Braz – receiving increasingly passionate backing from the home fans - needed two vaults to equal his South American record.

Kendricks made three valiant attempts at 5.93m, but to no avail and he had to be satisfied , which he clearly was, with the bronze medal.

The defending champion was first up at 5.98m and he continued to apply heavy pressure on his less experienced opponent with yet another first time clearance. 

However, Da Silva refused to buckle in this high stakes game and decided that with nothing to lose and the silver secure to pass at this height and wait until the bar moved up to 6.03m.

Lavillenie, who was receiving some rather unsporting boos from elements of a partisan home crowd , came very close with his first attempt at 6.03m just brushing the bar on the way down.

Braz mistimed his first attempt and must have breathed a huge sigh of relief when Lavillenie narrowly missed his second try.

Hpwever, urged on by the boisterous Brazilian crowd chanting his name, Braz rose to unprecedented heights by clearing 6.03m to set a South American and Olympic record, and climb to equal seventh on the all-time list.

Lavillenie looked shell-shocked.

As Braz and his coach Vitaly Petrov celebrated the moment the Frenchman raised the bar to 6.08m in an effort to produce the perfect counterpunch.

Lavillenie gave the thumbs down on the runway to those in the crowd who chose to jeer him but he was never close to achieving the height needed to wrestle the gold medal from Braz and the local fans were left to celebrate what was their first men’s Olympic gold since Joaquim Cruz took the 800m gold at the 1984 Olympics.

An elated Da Silva said of the win: “I am very happy. We worked really hard for this moment – not for the gold, but to take a medal. For Brazil, it is amazing. I try to do my best for the people, they believe in us.

“It’s incredible. My first time over six metres. My home town wanted me to win.”

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