After just one day, athletics at Rio 2016 has given us world records, last gasp winners and four buckets full of tears. Here is what we made of an incredible opening day in Brazil.
The first athletics final of Rio 2016 was one for the early risers. The women’s 10,000m took place in the morning session – the first Olympic final to catch the worm, as it were.
Well give us a slice of that worm.
Almaz Ayana (left) stuck to Kenya’s Alice Aprot, who went out in a furious first five thousand of 14:46.81. Ethiopian Ayana took over from there. Only Vivian Cheruiyot led the chase ahead of Tirunesh Dibaba (right); it was clear that she, the two time Olympic champion in this event, would not be winning an historic third straight crown.
At the end of 25 breathless laps the clock read 29:17.45 – the world record had been devastated by over 14 seconds. Personal bests for the top 13. Seven national records across the board, including a North American area record for Molly Huddle.
Ayana will go again in the 5,000m later this week. The world record holder in that event is Dibaba. As today showed, sparks fly when that great champion’s crown is passed on. There could be more fireworks yet for Ayana.
Shot put is athletics’ hard-act psych out event, and the women’s final was a classic example.
Valerie Adams – going after a first ever third straight individual crown, like Dibaba had earlier in the day – looked on course courtesy of a second round 20.42m.
But then American champ Michelle Carter, the woman with whom Adams had spent the competition having a dead eye stare off with, delivered a killer blow. She hit a last round American record 20.63m that Adams couldn’t respond to.
Even after the mark was announced Carter kept the poker face. She stayed totally 😐 until the moment the gold was confirmed, at which point she was totally 😭. And we were too.
No athlete has ever cleared 1.98m in a heptathlon competition before. Two, Nafissatou Thiam and Katarina Johnson-Thompson (both athletes who, in less bright times, can display pretty stern game faces of their own), did it today. That mark would have won gold in the individual high jump at the last global championships, the Portland world indoors in March.
Both have the ability to finish in the medals, but overhauling defending champ Jessica Ennis-Hill, who tops the pops with 4057 points after a solid day one, will take something special. Mind you, that high jump was pretty special.
It’s not easy
If Ennis-Hill wins she’ll be the first woman to defend the heptathlon title since 1992. That’s an indication of how hard retaining an Olympic gold is.
Robert Harting found that out in cruel circumstances. The 2012 champion failed to advance from the discus qualifiers in rainy conditions, his one legal mark well short of the required distance.
The drizzle didn’t bother his younger brother Christoph, who was third best in qualifying and celebrated by showing off his post card potential to the cameras.
Taking part and winning both count
Sunayna Wahi of Suriname was another athlete clearly having a great time. She enjoyed her run out in the women’s 100m prelims in the morning, bossing her heat to win in 12.09.
Her celebration was exactly what you’d do if you just won a 100m race at the Olympics: head tilted back, screaming in delerium, arms spread wide like Christ the Redeemer up on high.
So far, toe good
Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, sporting dazzling Rio-themed neon locks, dispelled questions over her form a fitness after a toe problem by opening her 100m campaign with 10.96, the fastest time in round one. The performance has ignited thoughts of her stepping up to become the first woman in history to win three straight Olympic individual titles (after Dibaba and Adams came up short, only she and javelin thrower Barbora Spotakova have chances to achieve the feat this week).
There are no shortage of athletes gunning to prevent the Pocket Rocket from doing that, and though no one else dipped below 11-secs in qualifying, the pace will only increase in day two’s semis and final. SAFP will have sterner tests to come.
As we were reminded in the women’s 10,000m this morning, when a great champion is usurped by a rising force, the outcome can provide all new history.