It turns out Rio 2016 and athletics is a match made in heaven. Here’s what had us swooning on day two of the Olympic athletics programme.
First off, shout outs to Michael Rimmer and Adam Kszczot. Neither was able to progress to the 800m final, but at least they ran in the semi finals with their shirts tucked in.
SPIKES and schoolteachers around the globe approve.
If I only had a Hart
Tattooed on the chest of Christoph Harting are 20 words. Four of them are “family”, “athletics”, “friendship” and “insanity”. There was a little bit of each on display as he took discus gold.
The 25-year-old celebrated his lasp-gasp winner in the discus with an impromptu handstand, before wrapping his arms around second place Piotr Malachowski in an embrace of genuine affection. At the medal ceremony Harting orchestrated his own three cheers and bowed to the crowd with all the grace of a regal German. Entertaining stuff.
Harting, of course, comes from a royal family in athletics terms. The 26-year-old’s gold means he is the second Harting to own the discus title – his older brother Robert won the title in 2012.
The sizeable crowd in Rio loved that discus final – a to-me-to-you contest that needed all six throws to decide the winner. After a sleepy attendance on day one, it was good to see the Olympic stadium filled to levels more fitting of the lofty occasion.
It helped that the big man was in town and on the track, the Brazilian locals reserving the biggest cheer of the day for sprint legend Usain Bolt. The joy de vivre in the Joao Havelange didn’t stop there; a jolly old Mexican wave lapped around the stands in the break between heats. This carnival will take place after all.
Can you get Velcro spikes?
And if so can we sort a pair for Etenesh Diro? Just after half way through her steeplechase qualifier, the Ethiopian was tangled from behind and brought down Ireland’s Sarah Treacy and Jamaica’s Aisha Praught. Diro lost a shoe, and after struggling to pull it on found everyone else in the race had run away. How rude.
Diro, remembering she was at the Olympics, dumped the shoe and ploughed on with one foot bare. Somehow she hauled herself back for a seventh place finish and though it was too slow for an auto or time qualifier, on appeal she, Treacey and Prought were all give places in Monday’s final.
After the race, Praught insisted she ties her shoelaces "very tightly". Could be worth showing Diro just how it is done.
Mo Farah had a fall of his own in the 10,000m. Unlike Diro, and despite getting spiked in the shoulder, Farah bounced back up in a flash, returned to position and on his way to becoming only the sixth man in history to win a second Olympic 10k crown.
He was imperious in victory, unleashing his fabled kick to see off Paul Tanui (silver) and Tamirat Tola (bronze) and set up the first half a potential double double. If Farah is anything like as resilient as he was today history will be made.
Jeff Henderson does this mad thing with his hands right before his long jump run up, dangling his arms down real low and shaking his fingers like he’s got beef with a colony of worms. Maddest of all, for some reason it works.
In a contest crammed with drama, American Henderson produced a winning jump in the final round after the lead had changed hands four times. His killer 8.38m dumped Luvo Manyonga down to silver and left 2012 champ Greg Rutherford tearful in bronze.
Another low hanging hand provided a late twist. Jarrion Lawson looked like he’d challenged Henderson’s leading mark with the very last jump of the competition, but a lazy wrist had brushed the sand behind him on landing to wreck his mark and leave his US teammate wahoo-ing a well-earned gold.
Where sprinters are born
In the 100m final, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce became the third athlete at these Games to fall short of a winning an historic third straight individual title. Yet her teammate Elaine Thompson ensured that the 100m crown will return in Jamaica, and SAFP came home in third to reiterate the nation’s dominance in the sprints.
The 24-year-old Thompson devastated the second half the race with a decisive surge. She won in 10.71, the second fastest winning time in Olympic history. 0.12, her margin of victory over American Tori Bowie in silver, is the biggest since Fraser-Pryce won her first gold by 0.20 in 2008.
The run that started in Beijing came to an end for SAFP, but it’s clear that there’s little chance of Jamaica’s run of sprint dominance ending any time soon.
Thiam on her side
Thompson’s was a performance worthy of unseating a great champion. Similarly, Nafissatou Thiam strung together a heptathlon worthy of replacing Jessica Ennis-Hill as the queen of the multi-events.
Following two personal bests on Friday – including a world heptathlon best 1.98m in the high jump – Thiam produced a flawless day two; the Belgium athlete posted PBs in the long jump (6.58m), javelin (53.13m) and finally the 800m (2:16.54) to tot up 6810 points and win gold ahead of a field full of seasoned performers.
After winning silver, Ennis-Hill, the two-time world champion, admitted she does not know what the future holds. The multi-event baton passes to Thiam, who at 21 is the second youngest ever Olympic heptathlon gold medallist. The event is in good hands.