Sunday at Rio had several athletic events beginning with women’s marathon in the morning. But nothing held viewers’ fancy more than the day-ending 100m men’s final that pitted Jamaican powerhouse Usain Bolt against USA’s Justin Gatlin. The two had taken top spots in their semifinal rounds earlier and excitement was already in air. Besides over 40000 people in the Joao Havelange Stadium at Rio de Janeiro, millions awaited for the live telecast of the event, regardless of time-zone differences in their global locations. Bolt kept his side of the bargain and went majestically past Gatlin to make it 1-0 in his quest for the famous triple-triple. In a few days, the Jamaican will also try to win 200m and 4×100 relay for realizing his Rio objective of taking 3 gold medals, just as he had done at Beijing in 2008 and four years later in London. Sunday also saw a world record shattered in men’s 400m, when South Africa’s Wayde Van Niekerk took 0.15 seconds off American legend Michael Johnson’s 17 year-old record of 43.18 seconds. In Sunday’s another highlight, Colombia’s Caterine Ibarguen won the women’s triple jump by leap-frogging to 15.17m, a distance that left Venezuela’s Yulimar Rojas at second place.
Usain Bolt stole the show on Sunday night and brought the packed Joao Havelange Stadium ablaze with a stupendous achievement of winning the decorated 100m race. Since the main event doesn’t take more than 10 seconds, organizers enlarged the proceedings by projecting the entry of finalists by showing their majestic arrivals into stadium from the tunnel. Bolt came out last and instantly captured everybody’s attention. The build-up to the big event had been athletics’ biggest news grabber for months with the fullest involvement of social media websites. The large-framed Bolt played to the galleries, even before he settled himself on the blocks. As the pistol went off, Bolt blasted away but didn’t immediately lead. Close to the halfway mark, the Jamaican found his rhythm and surpassed Justin Gatlin to finish as the winner in 9.81 seconds. This time was way outside of his 7-year old world record of 9.58 but such statistics weren’t so important on Sunday night. For Bolt, passage of the first hurdle of his triple-triple quest held far more value than creating another world mark. If Bolt doesn’t retire immediately, he will have time to do so in future. Gatlin was second in 9.89 and Canada’s Andre de Grasse third in 9.91. Three other athletes finished the race in the sub-10s time; Bolt’s compatriot Yohan Blake was fourth in 9.93, South Africa’s Akani Simbine fifth in 9.94 and Ivory Coast’s Ben Youssef Meite clocked 9.96 for the sixth place.
After crossing the line ahead of everyone, Bolt kept running, his finger raced and body singing. With victory in hand, Bolt pounded his chest and luxuriated in the grand finish. Grabbing a stuffed Olympic mascot, he ran with it around the stadium to the sounds of “Bolt! Bolt!!, Bolt!!!”. He went close to people, mugged for selfies and as per past tradition, got into the act of emulating his popular lightning bolt pose. The night truly belonged to champion and Bolt made full use of it. Critics got into the act of measuring individual popularities at Rio Olympics and projected celebrated American swimmer Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt as two men, who have gathered the largest share of accolades.
Earlier on Sunday night, South African Wayde van Niekerk broke American Michael Johnson’s 1999 record of 43.18 seconds in men’s 400m final. Niekerk destroyed a strong field that had such celebrities as Kirani James of Grenada and Lashawn Merritt of USA. Running in the usually unflavored lane 8, the 24-year old South African assumed control on the final corner and shot to instant fame by doing 400m in 43.03 seconds. This was 0.15 faster than Johnson’s world record time of 43.18 created in Seville in 1999. London Olympic gold medalist Kirani James of Grenada took silver in 43.76 while USA’s Lashawn Merritt won the bronze by clocking 43.85. Though Van Niekerk came as the reigning World Champion in the event, he eked out miserable times in the heats and the semifinals. For this reason, his WR victory became more creditable because everyone thought 400m battle would be fought between James and Merritt.
Another big result came from women’s triple jump where Colombia’s Caterine Ibarguen proved her status as the all-time best. The Colombian had not been able to capitalize on her 34-win streak at London and settled for the silver. But the 2013 and 2015 World Champion had faith in her abilities. On Sunday, she was the only woman to breach the 15-meter mark that gave her the gold. Ibarguen had looked good all evening but when she went for her fourth round, the triple-leap measured 15.17m. No one in the field could breach the 15m mark and the Colombian got the cherished gold medal. Venezuela’s Yulimar Rojas won the silver with 14.98 and the bronze went to Kazakhstan’s 2012 gold medalist Olga Rypakova, who could only reach 14.71 meters.
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