RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug 15, (Agencies): Usain Bolt stormed to an unprecedented third straight Olympic 100m title as Wayde van Niekerk smashed Michael Johnson’s long-standing 400m record in Rio on Sunday. On a night of high drama, Bolt galloped past drug-tainted US rival Justin Gatlin to cross in 9.81sec and become the first athlete to win the 100m three times in a row. The emphatic victory set the Jamaican showman off on his quest to complete the ‘triple triple’ — 100m, 200m and 4x100m gold medals at three consecutive Olympics. Although well short of his world record, Bolt expressed satisfaction with his performance.
Minutes earlier, jaws dropped as van Niekerk timed a lightning 43.03sec in the 400m, breaking Johnson’s 17-year-old record set in 1999. The fireworks came after an emotional Andy Murray won his second straight men’s singles tennis gold. America’s Simone Biles stayed on track for a record five gymnastics gold medals at a single Olympics when she clocked up her third, on the balance beam. And fears over Rio de Janeiro’s fragile security rose after Ryan Lochte and three fellow US swimmers were robbed at gunpoint by criminals posing as police.
Twenty-four hours after Michael Phelps brought the curtain down on his extraordinary career with a record 23rd gold medal, Bolt took centre-stage. When he entered the stadium, waving and playing to the crowd, fans were still reeling from van Niekerk’s sensational one-lap record. But Bolt, 29, was quickly down to business and he reeled in the fast-starting Gatlin before easing up and thumping his chest as he crossed the line. It was a crowd-pleasing victory over his US rival Gatlin, who has twice served drug bans in his career.
Canada’s Andre de Grasse took bronze. Colombia’s world champion Caterine Ibarguen won the women’s triple jump with a leap of 15.17m which easily outstripped her rivals.
Meanwhile, teenager Ruth Jebet won Bahrain’s first ever Olympic gold medal on Monday, blowing away the competition in the women’s 3,000 metres steeplechase but narrowly missing out on the world record.
The 19-year-old stormed into the lead after a few laps and set a blistering pace to win in 8:59.75 seconds, shy of the 8:58.81 world record set by Russia’s Gulnara Galkina at the 2008 Beijing Games. Galkina and Kenyan-born Jebet, who was the world junior champion, are the only two women to have run a sub-nine minute time. Jebet is the second Kenyan-born runner to win a medal at Rio Games, following Eunice Jepkirui Kirwa’s silver in the women’s marathon on Sunday. A host of athletes from Kenya’s running heartlands have switched allegence to compete for Middle Eastern countries over the past decade, in part due to the dearth of support and financial rewards for aspiring runners in the East African nation. Kenya’s Hyvin Kiyeng Jepkemoi, who won the world title in Beijing last year, was almost 50 metres behind Jebet in second place.
American Emma Coburn won United States’ first ever medal in the steeplechase as she grabbed bronze and a new national record. In related news, Poland’s Anita Wlodarczyk smashed her own world record on her way to victory in the women’s hammer throw on Monday — four years after being denied gold by Russian dope cheat Tatyana Lysenko. Wlodarczyk, widely regarded as the greatest women’s hammer thrower of alltime, heaved a monumental 82.29m on her third attempt to crush the competition at the Olympic Stadium.
Zhang Wenxiu of China took silver with a throw of 76.75m while Britain’s Sophie Hitchon claimed bronze with 74.54. Wlodarczyk’s winning effort was more than one metre further than her own previous world record of 81.08 set in 2015. Meanwhile, Britain’s Justin Rose was listening to “God Save The Queen” and watching the Union Jack rise into the sky Sunday while still trying to fully appreciate the historic Olympic gold medal around his neck.
The 36-year-old Englishman had outdueled Sweden’s Henrik Stenson in a tension-packed Rio final-round thriller Sunday to capture the first Olympic golf title in 112 years and was in the midst of a dream made real while on the podium. “That was a really surreal moment,” Rose said. “It’s a moment we’ve seen in other sports. It felt very different to any other tournament. “Obviously when the national anthem goes up, it’s a very profound moment. It’s a very proud moment when you are able to share this moment with people back home.” Rose pitched the ball 18 inches from the cup on the par-5 18th hole and sank the birdie putt to beat Stenson by two strokes for the greatest triumph of his life. “Oh my God. That felt better than anything I’ve ever won. It was the best tournament I’ve ever done,” Rose said.
“Coming up with that last pitch when I needed it was magical.” Rose fired a closing four-under par 67 to finish 72 holes on 16-under 268. Stenson, whose poor chip left him a nearimpossible putt to stay level with Rose, closed with a bogey to take the silver on 270, one stroke ahead of US bronze medalist Matt Kuchar. “I have no regrets. I did as well as I could,” Stenson said. “I battled pretty well. It was going to come down to who finished better at the end. The golden drought is over for France in fencing. One of the sport’s traditional powers won its first fencing gold medal since 2008, easily defeating Italy 45-31 in the men’s team epee final on Sunday at the Rio de Janiero Olympics. Yannick Borel wrapped the match up for France with a quick touch of opponent Marco Fichera. Borel ripped off his mask and let out a scream to celebrate. Eight years is a long time for France to go without an Olympic fencing gold. “Just the happiest moment in my fencing life,” said Borel, a grin running from ear to ear. “You want to share this with your friends. They are screaming, you are screaming, too.”
Until Sunday, the French team overall managed just a silver and bronze in fencing in Rio. They were left off the podium entirely at the 2012 London Games. The shutout ended with a resounding victory at Carioca Arena 3. Hungary won the bronze after beating Ukraine 39-37. In the final, Borel seemed to let out eight years of frustration for French fencers with a yell in the direction of vocal fans waving the French fl ag and his teammates.
Later, Borel locked arms with teammates Daniel Jarent and Jean-Michel Lucenay, and the team jumped up and down in unison under the spotlights on the piste. Dance music filled the dimly-lit arena before the medal ceremony. There was much to celebrate for France, which was ranked first in the world in men’s epee. The event wasn’t contested in London, but France had won the previous two golds in men’s epee, in Beijing in 2008 and Athens in 2004. Still, a victory on Sunday wasn’t a lock, not against the third-ranked team in the world.
Italy’s team included Enrico Garozzo, ranked second in the world. “We came as a favorite, and they did their job with their performances here,” France coach Hughes Obry said through an interpreter about his team. “This is such a relief for them.” Obry took over the program after London. Getting the team back to the top required tough training every day, he recounted. Once Borel got to Rio, he focused only on looking ahead. “Today, I didn’t look back,” Borel said. “I did this, and London is far away for me.” France became the third country to win three straight golds in the men’s team epee event, following Italy and Hungary. It was France’s ninth Olympic title in the event, breaking a tie with Italy for most golds.
Men’s team epee wasn’t an event in 2012 because the sport’s international governing body has been rotating two team events out of the Olympics since Beijing. Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin retained her Olympic dressage individual gold on Monday, fighting off a two-pronged German challenge. Dujardin, riding Valegro, finished ahead of Isabell Werth on Weiheigold and Kristina Broring-Sprehe on her mount, Desperados. The 31-year-old Dujardin also won silver in the team event last week. Meanwhile, Greece’s Eleftherios Petrounias showed off his superior power in the strongman event as he edged out local favourite and 2012 champion Arthur Zanetti to win the rings gold medal at the Rio Olympics on Monday. Petrounias added the Olympic gold to the world the European titles he currently holds with a score of 16.000. Zanetti lost out on the top prize by just 0.234 of a point while Russia’s Denis Abliazin had to settle for bronze.