Usain Bolt cruises to final but Thiago Da Silva steals show
Heavy rain delayed the start of the fourth evening’s athletics session at the Rio Olympics, but it soon brightened up with the first athletics gold medal for host nation.
In one of the greatest Olympic shock results of this, or for that matter any Games, 22-year-old Thiago Da Silva set an Olympic Games record of 6.03 metres to defeat the defending champion and world record holder Renaud Lavillenie in the pole vault.
United States champion Sam Kendrick was third with a best clearance of 5.85m.
Lavillenie had made four immaculate first-time clearances at 5.75m, 5.85m, 5.93m and 5.98m, to eliminate everyone except the Brazilian who carried with him two fouls recorded at 5.75m and 5.93m. The latter clearance matched his South American record of last year.
The Frenchman failed at 6.03m leaving the door open for Da Silva who gratefully accepted with a clearance at the second attempt leaving Lavillenie needing to clear a higher height if he were to avoid defeat.
The reigning champion had the bar put up to 6.08m, but failed and that triggered unprecedented scenes of celebration as the home crowd greeted a new Brazilian hero.
There was a surprise too in the women’s 400m where another 22-year-old, Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas, dived desperately at finish beam to beat World champion Allyson Felix of the United States by seven-hundredths in 49.44. Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson claimed the bronze in 49.85
Miller, who lay on the ground a long time after her dive, explained afterwards that she had heard the result from her mum shouting from the stands. “So I was like, ‘Ok, I had to have won the race’.”
Felix had been hoping to become the first woman in athletics to win five Olympic gold medals.
She had targeted a 200m/400m double here but failed to qualify for the shorter distance at the US trials meaning that she will not be able to defend her title at that distance later in the week.
However, Kenya’s David Rudisha did successfully his 800m title after compatriot Alfred Kipketer had gone through the opening lap in a crazy 49 seconds.
The world record holder took control shortly afterwards and was never headed as he strode to an immaculate win in 1:42.15.
Defending 1500m champion Taoufik Makhloufi took second in 1:42.61 with the US’s Clayton Murphy a somewhat surprise third in 1:42.93.
Rudisha’s victory means that he is the first to win back to back 800m titles since New Zealand’s Peter Snell, who achieved the feat in 1960 and 1964. His time is the fastest since he won his 2012 gold and only four other men have ever run quicker.
There was a US one-two in the triple jump final at yesterday morning’s session as 2012 gold medallist Christian Taylor edged out Will Claye in the Triple Jump by 12cms with a best effort of 17.86m. In almost windless conditions, China’s Bin Dong took third in 17.58m.
Croatia’s Sandra Perkovic took the discus gold with a throw of 69.21m. France’s Melina Robert-Michon was almost two and a half metres back with a 66.73m with Cuban Denia Caballero grabbing bronze with a 65.34m effort.
After a victory in the 100m on Sunday night, Usain Bolt continued on the path to a possible triple-triple, gold medals in both sprints as well as the 4x100m for third successive Olympics, with a smooth win in his 200m heat.
Ireland’s Tori Pena was in action in the pole vault qualifiers but fell short of going through to the final with a best effort of 4.30m, some 30cms of the height needed. It was the ninth time in as many major championships that the Californian has failed to progress.
Ciara Everard is the only Irish athlete in action today although that may be doubtful as the Kilkenny woman has been injured most of this year.