10 August 2016 Wednesday. Day 5 of the Rio Olympics
Some interesting developments & amazing performances on Day 5 of the Rio Olympics.
First up, the drama. Over in men's gymnastics, the "Lord of the Rings", Yuri van Gelder is seeking an injunction against the Netherlands Olympic Committee to get himself reinstated to the Dutch team in Rio. The rings specialist, Van Gelder, was kicked off the team this week & sent home after leaving the athletes' village Saturday night, returning early Sunday, admitting he had been drinking alcohol. Van Gelder previously served a year-long ban for cocaine use; the Rio Olympics was supposed to mark his comeback. A hearing is set for Friday at Gelderland Court. Van Gelder is hoping to be reinstated for Monday's rings final.
More doping drama. US Sprinter Justin Gatlin says he's served his doping ban & isn't paying attention to those who say that he shouldn't be competing at the Olympics. He believes that's all in the past. He was reinstated in 2010 after a four-year ban & will take to the track Saturday to begin the men's 100 meters. Gatlin is considered the biggest threat to world-record holder Usain Bolt.
IAAF President Seb Coe was grilled by reporters wanting to know what the track & field governing body planned to do about the systemic doping that has rocked the track & field sports.
Coe was also asked about the International Olympic Committee's decision not to enforce a ban on all Russian athletes despite the country's state-sponsored doping scheme. And why is it that doping whistleblower Yuliya Stepanova couldn't compete in Rio when sprinter Justin Gatlin, banned twice for doping, could.
Coe's response: "It is the IOC's event." Shame on you, IAAF, passing the buck! Take responsibility, you crooks!
Shocking news in men's soccer. Two time Olympics champions Argentina are knocked out by Honduras! Defending London 2012 champion Mexico has been eliminated from the men's soccer tournament after 1-0 loss to South Korea!
In other news, Rio Olympic organizers say that initial findings have shown that stones, not bullets, hit a bus carrying journalists, breaking two windows yesterday. The incident happened as the bus was traveling in the Curicica area of Rio de Janeiro as it traveled toward the Olympic Park on Tuesday. Security has been stepped up, especially in light of the Montenegrin & Aussie federation members being robbed just outside the Olympics venues.
Dirk Van Tichelt, who won a bronze medal in the 73kg judo competition yesterday, was out on Copacabana beach celebrating with friends when a thief stole his training partner's cellphone. He chased down the thief but a man jumped out & punched him, before escaping, allowing the thief to get away. Police are investigating & a smiling Dirk Van Tichelt, sporting a black eye, appeared before a news conference to answer questions from the media.
Robberies of equipment & personal property have also occurred in the athletes' village, causing some teams to choose to stay in hotels for safety reasons. It's a sad commentary on the state of crime & poverty & violence that seems so prevalent in this nation. Here's to hoping that things get better.
Majlinda Kelmendi, who made history delivering Kosovo's first Olympics medal, a gold, has been drawn into a turf war between the International Judo Federation, the judo governing body, versus the French faction of the World Anti-Doping Agency. In June, at a French training camp, a controller was scheduled to test French athletes. Surprised at seeing so many foreigners at the camp, the controller requested samples from all the athletes. The IJF advised the foreign teams that they did not have to submit, given that the tests were scheduled for French athletes, & the IJF saw the controller as doing something not in keeping with procedure. So Kelmendi & other athletes refused.
Nonetheless, a week later, the IJF did collect samples from all those athletes who refused, including Kelmendi, & they all tested negative for doping. They were all CLEAN. But yesterday, for some reason, the French decided that since Kelmendi refused the test initially, even under the advice of the IJF, she is now banned from competing in France!
Could this be a case of French retaliation over the perceived threat to how they run their turf? Sour grapes over how France, a heavy judo favorite, has done so poorly at Rio? Or just plain old miscommunications & misunderstandings? Who knows?
What we do know is that Kelmendi tested clean, & she was following the advice of her sports governing body, who was suspicious of the controller showing up & demanding samples from other athletes without providing proper WADA credentials nor obtaining official/procedural clearance from nor notifying the governing authorities.
I say, let it go. She tested clean! Let Kelmendi & her country enjoy their moment in the sun. They won fair & square. Please don't ruin their well deserved celebration over politics & pissing contests! That only leads to a negative experience for all!
In other news, the pools continue to mysteriously turn green! Yesterday, the women's synchro diving 10m platform pool used by men the day before had turned from clear blue to green the next morning! The dramatic change happened in a matter of a few hours!
Olympics organizers are baffled. They suspect there might have been an introduction of unfiltered water into the pool after the filtration process. Some have theorized that it is algae or microbial growth--the diving arena is open roof, so rain, wind, & sun gets in. FINA, the diving & swimming governing body, says that it is a chemical imbalance from the water treatment & filtration; the pool waters have been tested & deemed safe. I suspect it's from all the divers pissing in the pool everytime they dived! They looked way too relaxed getting out of the pool & seemed quite eager to shower everytime they got out.
Well, now the green has affected the neighboring water polo pool! The pools share the same filtration system. And since there's no spare pool, the water polo players had to play in that mysterious green pool! No word yet on when the waters will return to clear blue. If the waters turns even darker, it will make it difficult for the referees to determine what's going on underwater.
Good news young people! The old people at the International Olympics Committee want you to participate. In an effort to attract more youths & make the Olympics more attractive, skateboarding, karate, baseball/softball, sports climbing, & surfing will officially be a part of the next Olympic Games, which is a huge change, & one that represents the biggest evolution in the Olympics program in recent times. Debuting in Tokyo 2020! It's also the return of baseball/softball, which were dropped after Beijing 2008. The IOC is making an effort to reach a wider audience. May I suggest keeping the Olympics clean as a start? No one likes a cheater! And drug cheaters cheapen & debase the Olympic Games.
Rough weather has led to a cancellation of the rowing events. Several races were on the schedule for Wednesday, including finals in the men's and women's fours, the first medal races of the Olympics regatta. New schedule will be posted, weather permitting. Safety first. The canoe/kayak events did take place. More on that below.
The heavy rains have also postponed all tennis events, since the tennis courts venue has no roof! I'm confused. Why don't the venues have roofs? Does it not rain in Rio? Is this city not located by a rainforest? Or are storms unexpected this time of year? Did no one take into account the weather when they planned the Olympics events?
The blustery winds & hard rain did not stop other events from being contested. The rough weather only made a hazardous course even more dangerous for the individual road race time trials for both the men & the women on Rio's challenging Grumari circuit. That cycling course has seen so many injuries! And that was on a good day, clear with plenty of sunshine!
First up, Annemiek van Vleuten has been released from the hospital following her crash in the Olympic road race Sunday & has been cleared to fly home to the Netherlands on Friday. She suffed a concussion & three spinal fractures in the crash at the final descent of the dangerous Grumari circuit. Currently, she is recuperating in a hotel, rather than the athletes' village. She believes she'll have a better recovery & rest in the hotel.
With so many athletes hurt & seriously injured on the Grumari circuit, the terrible weather made it even more hazardous for the racers who now had to deal with winds, rain, & slick steep roads.
Cycling Olympic Time Trials
Individual Road Race Time Trials Women's
Heavy rains & fierce winds hammered the athletes on the timed race up & down & around the dangerous, grueling Grumari circuit. Yet, digging deep & with skill & determination, Kristin Armstrong of the United States, Beijing 2008 & London 2012 champion, won her third consecutive Olympic time trial on Wednesday. And she becomes the first cyclist, male or female, to achieve this feat in the sport. She also becomes the oldest athlete in cycling to win the event! It is an early birthday for the racer who turns 43 tomorrow, Thursday.
Armstrong was the last racer on the course, & collapsed at the end of the grueling race, where she beat reigning London 2012 bronze medalist Olga Zabelinskaya of Russia by just 5.55 seconds! Zabelinskaya takes silver. And Anna van der Breggen of the Netherlands adds a bronze medal to her gold from the road race Saturday.
Heartbreak for Dutch rider Ellen van Dijk, who slid off the course, likely costing her a medal. She ended up in fourth.
Individual Road Race Time Trials Men's
Tour de France champion & London 2012 bronze medalist Chris Froome of Britain raced last in the men's event. And he repeats a bronze win in the event.
Tom Dumoulin of the Netherlands, who raced despite a broken hand from the Tour de France, claims the silver!
And such a momentous win for Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland, who is finishing his last season in cycling, to cap his career with another gold. He won gold before in the event at Beijing 2008 & a silver in the road race at Beijing 2008. When Froome, the last racer crossed the finish line, Cancellara burst into tears upon learning that he was once more an Olympics champion.
He was disappointed at pulling out of the Tour de France last month, which passed through his native Bern, Switzerland. But with this win, under incredibly difficult & dangerous circumstances, he can hold his head up high. What a fantastic way to end a career! And it's the first gold for Switzerland at the Rio Olympics.
Men's 50-meter Air Pistol
A remarkable comeback for Jin Jongoh of South Korea, who overcame a serious mistake that threatened to eliminate him. Starting again from the bottom, he outshoots the competition to claim his third consecutive gold in the event!
It is the first time a shooter, male or female, has ever won three consecutive golds in the same event. He now adds to 50m a silver Athens 2004, gold Beijing 2008, gold London 2012. And he has a 10m silver from Beijing 2008 & gold at London 2012. Six Olympics medals.
Vietnam's Hoang Xuan Vinh gets silver, adding to his gold from the 10m on Saturday. North Korea's Kim Song Guk takes the bronze; he was leading going into the final, & he was a crowd favorite. Upon winning his bronze, he turned & bowed to the crowd, who cheered even louder.
Men's double trap final
Kuwait's Fehaid Al Deehani, competing as an independent, has captured men's double trap gold by defeating Italy's Marco Innocenti in the final match. Marco Innocenti takes the silver for Italy. It is the first time an independent athlete has won a medal.
Kuwait's Olympics Committee has been suspended by the IOC due to excessive government interference--that's a fancy way of saying corruption. The IOC has allowed Al Deehani & seven other Kuwaiti athletes to compete as independents in Rio. That means they compete under the Olympics flag, & should they win, it is the Olympics anthem that will be played.
A veteran of six Olympics, Al Deehani became the first Kuwaiti athlete to win an Olympic medal with a bronze at Sydney in 2000 & added another in London four years ago. A proud officer in the Kuwait army, Al Deehani dropped to the ground & kneeled after winning the final, then pounded his chest as he walked away. It was a signal of solidarity with fellow Kuwaitis.
He was asked to carry the Olympics independent athletes flag during the opening ceremony, but he felt that conflicted with his support of his fellow countrymen. So he didn't carry the flag.
It was a bittersweet moment for Al Deehani to stand on top of the podium & see not the Kuwait flag but the Olympics flag, to hear not the Kuwait anthem but the Olympics anthem playing for the biggest achievement of his career. But that is the price he paid for the privilege to participate in the Rio Games. It's unfortunate that his government's politics cost them a place in the Olympics.
Steven Scott hit all 30 targets to defeat fellow Great Britain teammate Tim Kneale for the bronze medal.
Men's Kayak Single Slalom Final
In 2004, Joseph Clarke was 11 & started competing in canoeing. Just a few years earlier, kayaking trips with the Scouts sparked his interest. But when he tried to join the local canoe club, they thought he was just too young, so they refused him. He was allowed to join when he turned 11 & started training & competing.
Twelve years later, the British slalom canoeist, Joseph Clarke, 23, has won the kayak gold medal at Whitewater Stadium. He wins Great Britain's second Rio gold.
He was the eighth to run in a 10 man final. His clean run was the fastest so far. He was ahead of Peter Kauzer of Slovenia, a two-time world champion & the world series title holder. The ninth man, Jiri Prskavec of the Czech Republic, the world champion, finished faster, but he was penalized for touching a gate with his head, so he dropped to third. The final man, Jakub Grigar of Slovakia, finished fifth.
With a fantastic clean run, Joseph Clarke of Great Britain wins the gold. Peter Kauzer of Slovenia claims silver. And Jiri Prskavec of the Czech Republic takes the bronze.
Men's synchronized 3-meter springboard
Jack Laugher & Chris Mears totaled 454.32 points for the gold, & Americans Sam Dorman & Mike Hixon took silver at 450.21. It is the best ever finish for the Americans in 3m springboard synchronized diving. China's Cao Yuan & Qin Kai settled for bronze at 443.70, ending their country's bid to sweep the eight diving medals at the Rio Games.
The Chinese had won the first three synchronized diving events. It is a disappointment for Qin, 30, the oldest in the competition, who was expected to win his third Olympics gold medal with a third different partner. But he acknowledged that his competitors were strong, but hey, a bronze medal is better than nothing. Just ask the fourth place & every one after that!
It is Great Britain's first ever diving gold. Jack Laugher & Chris Mears laughed at the "English weather"--the rains & wind that poured into the roofless venue & embraced it. In 2009, Mears nearly died after contracting the Epstein-Barr virus while competing at the Youth Olympics in Sydney. Both feel very lucky to be competing at Rio. Well done on a fantastic job, fellas! Congratulations!
Women's Individual Foil
Russian Inna Deriglazova won gold in women's foil, giving her country its second fencing title of the Rio Games. Deriglazova beat Italy's Elisa Di Francisca, the gold medalist from the London Olympics, to claim a world title for the second year in a row.
Tunisia's Ines Boubakri took bronze, making history as the first African & Arab woman to medal in fencing. She dedicated her medal to all Tunisian, all African, all Arab women & reminded the world that all women have value & are an important, equal part of society.
Men's Individual Saber
Third-ranked Aron Szilagyi of Hungary beat upstart 10th ranked American fencer Daryl Homer to win gold in men's sabre. Homer had done a magnificent job of knocking out his opponents on his way to the gold medal match to face the better skilled Szilagyi.
Despite the loss, Homer earned the second silver medal on Wednesday for the U.S. men's fencing team in Rio. It is a remarkable feat for the American team. Junghwan Kim of South Korea won bronze.
Women's 69-kilogram Weightlifting
China's Xiang Yanmei was superwoman today, winning Olympic gold, even after dropping a 118kg weight on the back of her head!
A favorite for gold in the women's 69-kilogram weightlifting class, she dropped the bar on her third attempt in the snatch. It delivered a glancing blow to her head on the way down. Xiang briefly appeared dazed and admitted to some pain but was fully alert. There were fears for her health. But she managed to finish the event & claim gold with a 116-kilograms in the snatch & 145 in the clean & jerk for a total of 261.
China was worried that another surprise withdrawal might happen in the middle of the competition. Earlier, it lost world-record holder Chen Lijun to a cramp in Monday's men's 62-kilogram class. Xiang said she had not seen a doctor. Let's hope she sees one now that the contest is over.
The silver medal went to Kazakhstan's Zhazira Zhapparkul with a 259 total, while Egypt's Sara Ahmed won bronze with 255 kilos, & made history as the first woman from an Arab country to win an Olympic weightlifting medal. The 18-year-old is also Egypt's first female medalist in its 104-year history at the Olympics.
Even more interesting, Egypt could also receive a silver medal from the women's 75-kilogram class in the 2012 London Olympics, in which Abeer Abdelrahman finished fifth behind three lifters currently under investigation after failing retests of their samples.
Men's 77-kilogram Weightlifting
Some drama over men's 77kg weightlifting. Kazakhstan's Nijat Rahimov broke the clean & jerk world record to take gold in the men's 77-kilogram weightlifting class.
When reigning champion Lyu Xiaojun of China looked set for gold, Rahimov took the bold, risky step of moving up 12 kilograms on his second clean & jerk attempt for a world-record 214.
That gave him a total of 379, equal with Lyu. Rahimov won thanks to weighing in lower for the competition. Lyu took silver.
Here is where it gets interesting. Rahimov served a doping ban between 2013 & 2015. And he had been in doubt for the Rio Olympics after the International Weightlifting Federation tried to exclude the entire Kazakh team over repeated doping positives, but the procedure was not completed in time for Rio! The IOC let them compete anyway! A positive result now can change everything!
Bronze went to Egyptian Mohamed Mahmoud who scored 361. Bad news for Armenia's Andranik Karapetyan, who was second after the snatch, but an arm injury during a lift left him screaming in pain & he had to withdraw. A speedy recovery to him.
Table Tennis Women's Single
Table tennis--ping pong to us regular people--had the women's medal events contested today. Let's face it. This is China's game. China has won all the golds in the past two Olympics, & have claimed 24 of 28 gold medals since table tennis became an Olympic sport in 1988. Chinese women have won every gold singles medal since table tennis became an Olympic sport in 1988. When will air hockey & foosball make the Olympics?
And it's a repeat of London 2012, a rematch between China's Li Xiaoxia, London 2012 champion, versus Ding Ning, London 2012 silver medalist. Four years ago at London 2012, when Ding lost the gold match to Li, she broke down into tears & cried tears of agony.
And she cried again at the end of the match. This time it was tears of joy. The reigning world champ won gold. It's a reversal of London 2012. Ning Ding takes the Rio Olympics gold. Xiaoxia Li settles for silver.
Japan's Ai Fukuhara & North Korea's Kim Song played the bronze match. Kim Song I of North Korea won the bronze medal over veteran Ai Fukuhara of Japan in women's table tennis. It has been an incredible surprise run for the 50th ranked player, who dispatched all higher ranked opponents in her Olympics run.
Gymnastics Men's Individual All Around
Kohei Uchimura is the best gymnast in history! And he proved it again by winning gold in the men's all around, adding to his team gold won yesterday, Tuesday. He now has a total of 7 Olympics medals--2 silvers in Beijing 2008 in team & all around; 2 silvers in London for team & floor exercise plus a gold for all around; now 2 golds for team & all around. With multiple world championships, Kohei Uchimura secures his legacy as the best gymnast ever--& the most humble!
The superstar gymnast from Japan won the men's all-around title on Wednesday, edging Oleg Verniaiev by less than a tenth of the point to capture his second straight Olympics title. He was definitely judged harsher on his rings routine. But his consistently more challenging routines gave him a slight edge, so long as he executed them with excellence.
Uchimura trailed heading into the final rotation but put up a dazzling 15.8 on high bar. It was the best performance of the demanding routine to date. It was the most difficult routine of the event & the highest scoring. Oleg Verniaiev of Ukraine followed with a less challenging routine, made small errors, & hopped forward on the dismount, costing him precious points.
Needing 14.9 to win, Verniaiev instead earned a 14.8! And that was enough for Kohei Uchimura to successfully defend his London 2012 title! A magnificent performance earned Max Whitlock of Great Britain a bronze, just ahead of fourth placed Russia's David Belyavskiy.
Japan sweeps the judo gold in the middle weight division, men's 90kg & women's 70kg.
First up, let's talk about Popole Misenga, a refugee competing at the Rio Olympics. Originally from the Congo, he has not seen his family for 15 years. Yet, he hoped they saw him on tv compete today. A huge Brazilian crowd cheered him on.
Three years ago, Popole Misenga came to Brazil to compete in a world championship, & stayed to train with renowned coach Geraldo Bernardes, the coach of Brazilian judoka Rafaela Silva — who won the country's first gold of the Olympics on Sunday. Say what you will about the boisterous Brazilian crowds, but these people are honest & passionate & enthusiastic in their support. They will boo the cheaters & cheer on those who need their support. And they cheered deafeningly loud for Popole Misenga.
After winning his preliminary fight on Wednesday morning, the Congo refugee faced top-seeded South Korean Donghan Gwak in the second round of the men's 90-kilogram division. After four minutes, Gawk, the current judo world champion - scored an automatic ippon victory. For Popole Misenga, it was an honor to last this long against the best, & he wished his family well, hoping that they were safe back in Congo.
Donghan Gwak would lose on his way to the finals. There was no hope of a gold medal for him. He was disappointed, but his coach reminded him that there was a huge difference between finishing third & finishing fourth. So he had to get his mind together & focus on the bronze match. He would defeat Marcus Nyman of Sweden to take the bronze. Xunzhao Cheng of China would defeat Lkhagvasürengiin Otgonbaatar of Mongolia to take the other bronze.
Second ranked Mashu Baker, whose father is American, trained at the Kodokan, the spiritual home of judo & its most famed dojo, starting judo at age 6. Baker has won four judo Grand Slam titles & won bronze at last year’s world championships. The crowd did boo Baker after it seemed like he was going to quit the gold match in the final minutes. But his one throw was enough to win gold over his opponent who couldn't score. Varlam Liparteliani of Georgia, ranked fifth, gets silver.
Haruka Tachimoto of Japan, penalized for passivity in the early minutes of the final round & working against a very vocal partisan crowd, managed to pin down Yuri Alvear for 20 seconds, scoring an ippon victory that automatically ends the bout.
Yuri Alvear is the London 2012 bronze medalist & three time world champion from Columbia, & was the flag bearer for Columbia. Haruka Tachimoto wins Japan the gold, Japan's third judo gold at Rio. Alvear takes silver. Laura Vargas Koch of Germany & Sally Conway of Great Britain take the bronzes.
Men's 200-meter breaststroke
Dmitriy Balandin pulled off an incredible upset to deliver Kazakhstan its first Olympics swimming medal, a gold in men's 200m breaststroke! No one expected him to win much less be a factor in the race. Yosuhiro Koseki of Japan was favored to win, & he led the race all the way to the final lap. But near the wall, he faded as Balandin surged forward to claim the win.
Josh Prenot of the United States claimed silver, while Russia's Anton Chupkov landed the bronze. Yosuhiro Koseki ends up fifth.
Men's 100-meter freestyle
Kyle Chalmers of Australia, 18, is the new swim king of speed, winning gold! He made an incredible surge at the turn, sprinting towards the wall to take first place. Pieter Timmers of Belgium claimed the silver. And defending London 2012 champion, Nathan Adrian of the United States, settles for bronze.
Women's 200-meter butterfly
Mireia Belmonte Garcia of Spain finally gets her gold in the closely contested women's 200m butterfly. The London 2012 silver medalist in this event & London 2012 silver medalist at the 800m, adds to a 400m IM bronze earned here at Rio 2016.
Madeline Groves of Australia claims the silver. And Japan's Natsumi Hoshi claimed the bronze.
Women's 800-meter freestyle relay
Katie Ledecky, 19, was the fastest swimmer in the pool, & she brought her American teammates along for the ride all the way to the top of the podium, to victory in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay late Wednesday. She wins her third gold & fourth medal overall at the Rio Olympics.
The U.S. trailed through the first three legs of the race, as Sweden, China, & then Australia swapped the top spot. But Ledecky out swam the competition & left them behind as she finished the race first.
The US team of Allison Schmitt, Madeline Dirado, Leah Smith, & Katie Ledecky take gold.
Silver went to Australia's team of Leah Neale, Tamsin Cook, Bronte Barratt, & Emma McKeon.
Bronze was won by Canada's Katerine Savard, Brittany Maclean, Taylor Madison Ruck, & Penny Oleksiak.
And in other exciting news, what a tumultuous group staging playoffs in men's rugby sevens! Heavy favorites, top ranked Fiji & New Zealand were supposed to meet in the gold medal match. But an upstart, outstanding, unexpected Japanese squad did the unthinkable & beat New Zealand, forcing them to fight Fiji for a playoff spot!
It was a desperate do or die moment for the top teams. A loss meant being knocked out of medal contention. And it was a furious, aggressive, fierce match made more challenging & difficult by the rain. The plays were rough, the players even rougher! And when it was all said & done, Fiji has knocked New Zealand out! Oh, the pain & frustration for the Kiwis! To come so close, yet taken out unexpectedly!
And the surprises continue in rugby sevens as South Africa overcomes Australia in their quarterfinal, & will face Great Britain, who defeated Argentina, who was undefeated in their pool. So the semifinals are South Africa vs Great Britain, & those dauntless Japanese, slaying another rugby powerhouse, France, will take on Fiji in the semifinal!
I have to admit, I'm rooting for both Fiji & Japan to medal. Fiji deserves a win, for their hard work & superb skills, bringing joy to a nation who suffered 44 deaths & millions in damages from a hurricane this year. They earned their top ranking the hard way, through hard work, grit, & determination.
And Japan deserves to win, because these upstarts are slaying the higher ranked teams in their quest for Olympics glory! They play hard with all their hearts! And I root for the underdogs! Nobody gave them a second thought. No one believed they would be a factor. But they proved the adage that anything can happen at the Olympics! And I hope wonderful things continue to happen to them!
Apologies to South Africa & Great Britain.
More fantastic action tomorrow. I can't wait to see who wins & makes it to the podium. Anything can happen. I hope it's all good things. Cheers to our athletes. I wish them all the best!