Rio Olympics Day 6

One sentence that could be overheard multiple times during today’s athletics sessions at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games was: ‘well I wasn’t expecting that’.

Here are six surprises from day six in Rio.


If there was one safe-bet victory before this Olympics other than Anita Wlodarczyk’s hammer gold, it would have been her compatriot Pawel Fajdek. And so the hammer qualifying round should have been merely a formality for the giant Pole. Or so you’d think.

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The two-time world champion has 33 throws beyond 80 metres in his career to his name, but today the auto-qualifying standard of 76.50m was out of reach. Friday’s final will take place without Fajdek and certainly promises to be interesting.


Over the past few seasons there have been two types of decathletes: Ashton Eaton and not-Ashton Eaton.

The world record-holder is the overwhelming favourite for decathlon gold, but this morning we saw something we hadn’t seen in seven years.

His 10.46 opener in the 100m was 0.23 slower than that during his world-record-setting effort in Beijing last summer, but still gained him a respectable 985 points. What was a surprise, however, was Damian Warner’s performance: 10.30, an Olympic decathlon record and a 38-point lead over Eaton.

It was the first time since the 2009 IAAF World Championships in Berlin that Eaton wasn’t leading a combined events competition after the first event. A 7.94m leap in the long jump quickly changed that and with a first-day score of 4621, he is on course to break the Olympic record.

On the subject of surprises, keep an eye out for Kevin Mayer. The Frenchman is following in the footsteps of heptathlon champion Nafissatou Thiam and performing the decathlon of his life with outdoor PBs in the 100m, shot put and the 400m.


It would have been a fairytale ending to Ezekiel Kemboi’s athletics career and made him the most decorated Olympic steeplechaser in history. With nine global medals – six of them gold –Kemboi has proven himself the ultimate championship performer, but the steeplechase gods weren’t on the Kenyan’s side today.

First he had to settle for third as Conseslus Kipruto and then USA’s Evan Jager outkicked him on the final lap, with Kipruto taking victory in 8:21.40.

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Kemboi was happy with bronze in the mixed zone when he announced his retirement, but things took a turn for the worse when a protest was filed. He was disqualified for a lane infringement and France’s Mahiedine Mekhissi upgraded to bronze.

With Kipruto the only Kenyan medallist, it was the first time since 1984 that only one Kenyan steeplechaser was represented on the Olympic podium (excluding the boycotted 1980 Games)
Olympic Debacle: The French Have Forgotten What The Olympics Are Supposed To Be About – Ezekiel Kemboi DQ’d From Men’s Steeple After Protest

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This morning two-time Olympic steeplechase champion Ezekiel Kemboi ran in the final steeplechase of his life. The 34-year-old Kemboi, who was the oldest man in the final, came into today’s race as the most decorated steeplechaser in history having won the last five global titles in the event. Today, in what turned out to be his final race, he was in contention until the final half lap for matching Usain Bolt as just the second man in history to win three gold medals in the same running event. Heading into the last lap. Kemboi and his 22-year-old countryman Conseslus Kipruto as well 27-year-old Evan Jager were more than six seconds ahead of everyone else in the field.
In the end, however, over the final half lap, Kemboi was unable keep pace with the younger competitors and had to settle for third. He jogged across the line disappointed in 8:08.47 – more than three seconds up on the 4th place finisher Mahiedine Mekhissi of France. However, his trademark smile soon came back and he did a victory lap with Kipruto. Once off the track, Kemboi sent shockwaves through the distance world by announcing that he was retiring – immediately.

“I just want to say today that I am officially retiring from athletics. I want to say thanks to all of my fans over the world – to the people in Kenya [and] my family. Today will be the last athletics [competition] of my career. Thank you,’” said Kemboi.
“At this old age, being on the podium is good…Sometimes we need to make the decision ‘Okay, you guys proceed (with the future)’. May the best man win (in London at the World Championships next year),” he added.
A great career had come to an end in fine fashion – even if it wasn’t quite the storybook ending Kemboi fans would have liked. However, the nice ending soon became a nightmare as a few hours later it was announced that Ezekiel Kemboi had been disqualified.
“For what?” was the first thought that went through mind of anyone who had watched the race. The IAAF — the organizing body for track and field — announced that a protest had been filed by the French. It was then determined that Kemboi’s left foot had stepped on or over the line after clearing the second water jump in the race and that he was therefore DQ’d for not running the full distance.
The French should be ashamed. In a race that was nearly two miles long, where their runner was not even close to earning a medal during the actual competition, they think it’s a good idea to file a protest about a guy stepping on a line more than a mile from the finish line? They should be embarrassed and the IAAF and its Jury of Appeal should be as well for not dismissing it.
By upholding the protest, the IAAF is sending the exact opposite message that it needs to be sending. They are supporting the “win at all costs” mantra which is the same mantra that has resulted in the multiple doping scandals that are threatening the popularity of the Olympics.
The IAAF has issued the following statement, “A protest was presented by the French team after the 3000m Steeplechase Men Final against Kenyan athlete Ezekiel Kemboi, bib N. 2678, claiming he had stepped off the track.
“The Jury of Appeal met and examined the video of the race, confirming that KEMBOI, after clearing a water jump, had stepped outside the track on the curved part before the home straight. Kemboi is disqualified under Rule 163.3d (Lane infringement).”
France’s Mahiedine Mekhissi was unashamed to have received the medal via DQ. He was running behind Kemboi when the infraction occurred, saw it and was holding up his three fingers when he crossed the finish line. After the race, he said, “I think I am third. In the middle of the race, he cut the corner after the water jump. He took a shortcut, that is not a 3000m steeple anymore. In my mind, I would DQ him. I am waiting to see the outcome of the protest, but the rule is the rule.”

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Brittney Reese was the favourite going into the women’s long jump final. She was the defending champion, a six-time world champion and there had been talks of a world record in the lead-up to the Olympics.

Three fouls and a modest 6.79m painted a different picture to that of a champion before a 7.09m fifth-round jump eventually secured her the lead. Journalists began typing their reports around the lines of a successful title defence.

They didn’t see Tianna Bartoletta coming. The two-time world champion leapt a 7.17m PB on her penultimate attempt and although Reese managed to improve to 7.15m in her final jump, it wasn’t enough to secure the gold.

Bartoletta now has four global titles to her name and still has the 4x100m relays to come.

The long jump final took a bit of time to get started, but it really came to life in the fifth round and proved to be one of the most exciting contests of the Games so far.

Germany’s Malaika Mihambo was the first to jump. Her 6.83m opener survived as the leading mark for eight more jumps until Ivana Spanovic went out to 6.95m with her opening effort.

After a foul in the first round, world champion Tianna Bartoletta landed at 6.94m with her second jump to challenge Spanovic’s lead. She then jumped 6.95m in the third round to take pole position on countback.

Defending Olympic champion Brittney Reese, meanwhile, wasn’t having the best of starts. She fouled in the first round with a leap that looked to be about seven metres. The three-time world champion then jumped 6.79m in round two – taking off 20 centimetres behind the plasticine – to move into fourth. But she still had ground to make up.

After Bartoletta took the lead in round three, Reese responded with another jump that looked to be in the region of seven metres, but she was two centimetres into the plasticine.

Spanovic then took a turn to challenge Bartoletta’s lead. The Serbian landed way beyond the seven-metre mark, but the red flag was raised and a replay on the big screen showed that her foot was agonisingly one centimetre into the plasticine.

Another round, another big foul for Reese. Her fourth-round leap was this time two centimetres over the line.

But in the next round, Reese finally showed what she was capable of, flying out to 7.09m to take the lead. It was the first seven-metre leap of the night, but they then came thick and fast.

Within a matter of minutes, Mihambo improved to 6.95m while Spanovic came within one centimetre of Reese’s mark, jumping a Serbian record of 7.08m to move back into second place.

Bartoletta, fired up not only by having her lead taken away but also of the memories of missing the 100m final by one place, then charged down the runway. She took off 10 centimetres behind the plasticine yet still landed at a lifetime best of 7.17m to regain the lead.

With just one round left in which to improve, the top three all produced solid final efforts, but none of them were enough to alter the standings.

Spanovic jumped 7.05m, while Reese – with 11 centimetres to spare on the board – sailed out to 7.15m, her best of the night but just two centimetres shy of Bartoletta’s lead.

Having been confirmed the winner, Bartoletta concluded her series with a 7.13m leap.

"I couldn't really celebrate," said Bartoletta, who won her first global title back in 2005. "I kept thinking that at any moment someone can jump something huge. Then, when I won, I realised that I have to be back in the morning for the relay."

Reese, meanwhile, was gracious in defeat.

“I’m not disappointed at all,” she said. “I’ve been through a lot these past two years, emotionally and physically, battling back from surgery. Tianna just outjumped me this time. She deserves it and I’m just glad to be on the podium again.”

Nigeria’s 20-year-old Ese Brume was fifth with 6.81m, while Estonia’s Ksenija Balta was sixth with 6.79m. Australia’s Brooke Stratton took seventh with 6.74m with Britain’s Jazmin Sawyers rounding out the top eight with a best of 6.69m.

In a high-quality competition, it was the first time that 11 women had jumped 6.58m or farther in an Olympic final. The last time 6.69m was good enough for just eighth place was back in 1980.

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A lot can happen in the 100m hurdles. We knew that before the women’s semi-finals. But we couldn’t quite have predicted as much drama as we were presented with.

First, world bronze medallist Alina Talay crashed out in heat one, then NCAA champion Jasmine Camacho-Quinn went flying before Nikkita Holder and Anne Zagre stumbled in the final heat.A lot can happen in the 100m hurdles. We knew that before the women’s semi-finals. But we couldn’t quite have predicted as much drama as we were presented with.

Bronze medallist Kristi Castlin, gold medallist Brianna Rollins and silver medallist Nia Ali after the 100m hurdles at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Getty Images)

Brianna Rollins led a US sweep of the medals in the 100m hurdles, the first such sweep in this event, and only the seventh in any women’s event in Olympic history.

Rollins pulled ahead of the field early and ran smoothly to finish in 12.48, 0.11 seconds ahead of the field – a lifetime in the short hurdles.

“Oh my God, it’s a relief,” Rollins said. “There has been such a lot of anticipation.”

Rollins won this event at the IAAF World Championships Moscow 2013, but finished fourth and just outside the medals last year in Beijing. In March she finished just behind Nia Ali to take silver in the 60m hurdles at the IAAF World Indoor Championships.

Behind her, things were a bit more challenging for the rest of the sweep. Ali, to Rollins’ left, had to lean to secure silver in 12.59.

Kristi Castlin, who seemed to get out of the blocks slowly (even though Rollins had a slower reaction time) was visibly behind and had to work to catch up with Cindy Ofili to her right.

Castlin went stride for stride with Ofili over the last three hurdles and then got her by 0.02, 12.59 to 12.61. Castlin took bronze with her lean, as Ofili lost form in the final strides.

Ali, Castlin and Ofili all finished within 0.05 of one another.

“We are three strong hurdlers,” said Castlin.

Each of the three had won her semi-final heat. Rollins was the only one of the trio to run slower in the final than she did in her semi-final, by 0.01.

The US sweep did not even include world record-holder Kendra Harrison, who finished outside the selection spots at the US Trials.

“I knew it was going to be hard to win a medal,” Ali said. Holding her 15-month-old son Titus, who had joined her for the lap of honour, she went on: “He won't remember this, but he will see photos and see that you can do anything you put your mind to."

Phylicia George of Canada, the only 2012 finalist to return to the final here in Rio, was eighth in 12.89.


Elaine Thompson wins the 200m at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Getty Images)

The stands in Rio’s Olympic Stadium were plastered in orange and Dutch flags. As Dafne Schippers’ name was announced to the crowd, the cheers were so loud, you could have been forgiven for thinking you were in Amsterdam.Winning the 200m was never going to be an easy task for the world champion as newly crowned Olympic 100m champion Elaine Thompson looked in fine form. The Jamaican got out the blocks like a bullet and was in the lead entering the home straight.Elaine Thompson wins the 200m at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Getty Images)Schippers was closing in with meters left, but even a dip-and-dive across the line could not secure Olympic gold for the third-fastest woman in history. It took a while for Thompson to realise she had won in 21.78, beating Schippers by 0.10. Of all the finalists, the 24-year-old looked the most stunned at achieving the sprint double.On the topic of stunned faces in the 200m: the men’s final tomorrow will take place without USA’s Justin Gatlin. The world silver medallist failed to qualify from the semi-finals after his 20.13 clocking left him in ninth overall.

Usain Bolt was the fastest qualifier with a season’s best of 19.78, while 100m bronze medallist Andre De Grasse set a Canadian record of 19.80.

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Ashton Eaton ends day one of the decathlon with a 121-point lead after producing the fastest time of the day in the 400m.

On a hot and sticky evening in Rio’s Olympic Stadium, Eaton dashed around a lap of the track to cross the line comfortably ahead of Germany’s Kai Kazmirek. Eaton’s time of 46.07 in the third heat was almost a second faster than his time from the 2012 Olympics and brought his day-one score to 4621.

Kazmirek equalled his PB from five years ago, clocking 46.75 to move from fifth to second overall with 4500. Canada’s Damian Warner clocked a solid 47.35 to remain in medal contention, bringing his half-way score to 4489.

But Kevin Mayer was once again one of few men to set a PB; the Frenchman clocked 48.28 to take 0.38 from his previous best set in 2011. He placed third in the second 400m heat behind Brazil’s Luiz Alberto de Araujo and Cuba’s Leonel Suarez, who duelled the whole way around. Much to the delight of the home crowd, Da Araujo crossed the line first, clocking a PB of 48.14 to finish 0.01 ahead of Suarez.

Larbi Bourrada convincingly won the first 400m heat in 47.98, crossing the line about 10 metres in front of Adam Sebastian Helcelet of the Czech Republic and Belgium’s Thomas van der Plaetsen. The latter pair clocked season’s bests of 49.51 and 49.63 respectively.

Looking ahead to the second day, Eaton can be expected to double his current leading margin in his quest for a second Olympic title. If Mayer continues to exceed expectations, as he has today, he will not only smash his decathlon PB, but he also has a realistic shot of taking the silver medal.

Warner is still more than capable of securing the silver, though, and he can be expected to bank valuable points in the first event of tomorrow, the 110m hurdles.

Behind Warner and Mayer, the likes of Kazmirek, Bourrada and Abele won’t be far from the medals if they have a good day tomorrow.