Rio 2016: 50 and counting!

Award of Victory

So, we’re on the verge of competition getting underway for day 12 of what’s turning out to be a breathtaking 31st Summer Olympiad in Rio. And as Team GB have just surpassed another landmark – achieving 50 medals (2 more than the pre-games target of 48) it is definitely time for a roundup. It’s easy to forget the drama that happened last week, so here it all is in a snapshot. With controversy aplenty in the road cycling, diving and athletics – not to mention more Olympic records in the pool from the unstoppable Michael Phelps, there’s an lot to talk about. Not least the performance of Team GB who have continued to excite with some dominant displays in the cycling, athletics, diving,  gymnastics, equestrian and the rowing. We’re just not sure how we’ll fit it all in – in fact we’re going to need separate blogs to talk about some of the stand out Silver and Bronze achievements…

Team GB

With a medal tally of 50 overall, Team GB have already made the 31st Olympiad the most successful ‘away’ games ever. We lie in an incredible 2nd place overall – on 19 golds, 19 Silver and 12 Bronze – that’s currently 2 ahead of the Chinese. It started with Adam Peaty’s Gold in the Pool on day 2 – which maintained an amazing statistic of the UK being the only nation to have one at least one gold medal at every modern day Olympics. But that was just the beginning.

Up to Day 6 all but one of Team GB’s Gold medals went to our athletes in the watery disciplines. Peaty’s first on day 2 – winning the 100m Breaststroke also set a new World record. Day 5 saw 3 more Team GB athletes making the top step of a podium – with Joe Clark winning the K1 class Kayaking and Laugher and Mears taking the top spot in the 3m Synchronised Diving. The fourth medal – the first ‘out of the water’ came on Day 6 and was a slightly unexpected win for the Men’s Track Cycling Pursuit team. As the cycling got underway 6 further golds were to come…

Day 7 – Saw us take the Gold Tally up another 3 – with Sir Bradley Wiggins winning Gold as part of the men’s Pursuit Team – taking his overall tally to 5 Olympic Golds, but 8 Olympic medals overall – more than any other Team GB athlete. In Rowing Heather Stanning and Helen Glover won the women’s Pairs, whilst the men’s Four also hit the top step.

Day 8 – much heralded ‘Super Saturday’ saw us claim Gold in the Rowing Men’s 8 with a super dominant performance – pulling out a boat length in the first 500m and maintaining it until the finish. The women’s 8 achieved the first ever medal for Team GB with Silver in their event. Over at the cycling Track, the women’s cycling team – including Laura Trott – pedalled for gold in the Pursuit. And for loyal fans who stayed up to watch – Mo Farah blitzed the 10,000 metres successfully defending his Olympic title – a feat made even more amazing after he was tripped mid-race, fell hard, got up and carried on. 2012 Super Saturday stars Jess- Ennis-Hill and Greg Rutherford managed Silver and Bronze in the Heptathlon and Long-jump respectively.

Day 9 – Team GB achieved an astounding 5 Gold medals – Andy Murray had us on the edge of our seats for over 4 hours to claim gold in a 4 set thriller against Del Potro. His defence of his 2012 crown makes him the first Men’s Single player ever to retain his Olympic title. Back at the Cycling Track Jason Kenny was another athlete successfully defending Gold – in the men’s Sprint final – against fellow team GB rider Callum Skinner who made it a Team GB one-two. It was a similar – but even more impressive – story in the Gymnastics, where Max Whitlock won Gold in both Floor and Pommel Horse – the UK’s first ever in either event. Crowd favourite Lewis Smith won Silver on the Pommel for another Team GB one-two. Just Rose struck Gold in the Golf.

Day 10 – compared to day 11s bumper haul of 5, Day 10 was a little slower – with just Charlotte DuJardin and Valegro winning Gold, another team GB member successfully retaining her Olympic crown – this time in the Equestrian Dressage. You know you’re having a good Olympics when ‘just one’ Gold doesn’t seem enough.

Day 11 – saw Jason Kenny prevail in track cycling’s Keirin, winning his 6th Olympic Gold and tie-ing him with Sir Chris Hoy for UK’s most successful Olympian ever. His Fiancé Laura Trott earlier won gold in the Omnium (the most gruelling all-round event in track cycling) winning her 4th Olympic title and making her the UK’s most successful female Olympic athlete ever. And they’re both young – so expect those totals to rise. In the Finn Class Sailing Giles Scott (who missed out on selection to Sir Ben Ainslie in 2012) won Gold – a medal that was assured before the final race due to an utterly dominant performance in earlier rounds. The victory meant Britain remain unbeaten in the event for 5 consecutive games.

Legends Extended

The most successful Olympic athlete of all time, swimmer Michael Phelps, hung up his trunks after London 2012. But then he changed his mind and is competing in Rio. He’s won 4 more Gold Medals – in the 200m Butterfly, 4x 100m and the 4x 200m Freestyle relays, and on day 6 in the individual 200m medley – taking his total Olympic medal tally to a stunning 22 Golds, 2 silvers and 2 bronze. In doing so he broke an ancient (152 B.C.) record by Leonidas of Rhodes of becoming the first Olympian to win 13 individual medals across four Olympics – it’s a record that stood for over 2000 years and unlikely to ever be beaten. There’s more to come too. It’s a sure-fire script for a Hollywood movie, the question will just be when to make it. Who knows he might be back for Tokyo 2020!

Over at the Athletics Track, a certain Usain Bolt became the first Sprinter in history to defend the Olympic 100m title for a third time. Bolt goes again in the 200m and 4x 100m Relay – to hopefully the Jamaican Superstar can make it an unprecedented ‘triple-triple’.

The Controversies (so far)…

As is normal with such a well scrutinised international event controversies are more than inevitable. Rio 2016 has lived up to that expectation too…

Road Cycling

The first big questions came in the in the road cycling, with big crashes in both men’s and women’s road races. In the men’s, Australian Richie Porte fell whilst leading comfortably along with contenders Gearing Thomas and it was a very similar story for Annemiek van Vleuten in the women’s race. Her fall though was far more horrific, after going over the handlebars she clobbered a high kerb and was unconscious. She suffered serious looking spinal injuries in the fall that fortunately weren’t as severe as first thought. Many professionals and pundits have decreed the course dangerous, unfinished and certainly not worthy of an Olympic final.

Diving

In the diving everything went Green – literally – as poor pool management led to an algal bloom that tinged the water a colour more familiar to those watching Wimbledon. The scheduled events still took place as there was no risk to human health. Team GB’s Gold medal winners in 3m synchronised pair – Chris Mears and Jack Laugher – joked that the green water made it easier for them to see their landing zone and it helped them during the competition.

Rowing

The Rowing course has come under fire as many events had do be abandoned due to high winds and choppy seas. It’s not inherently dangerous – just vulnerable to the Atlantic weather. An Atlantic swell, driven by a stiff breeze, saw off any meaningful competition from days 1 – 5 and we only got some serious medal deciding competition by day 6. Let’s hope the sun stays out and the air stays still as organisers were starting to get jittery that there wouldn’t be enough time to run all the events before the games close.

Equestrian

Over at the equestrian centre there’s been talk of one or two live rounds ricocheting around the facilities. That’s a worrying turn of events and no-one is sure whether they have come from a nearby military firing range or a more sinister source. Police are investigating, but whatever the cause let’s hope we don’t see anymore and that no person or animal is hurt.

Booing on the podium

Brazil’s fans have come in for a bit of stick about unsportsmanlike behaviour after they booed World Champion French Pole Vaulter Renaud Lavillenie as he collected his Silver medal. Brazil’s Thiago Silva had won Gold after the crowd got behind him in the athletics stadium, many athletes have suggested that home audience (like 2012, where Britain’s sense of FairPlay and sportsmanship shone through) are overstepping the mark during the competition. They certainly did during the medal ceremony, leaving the frenchman in tears and incurring the wrath of IOC president Thomas Bach.

Derny-Gate

Whilst Team GB’s Jason Kenny won gold in the Keirin, it was the two false starts that got people talking initially. There’s an ambiguous rule that as the Derny (the electric bike that leads the competitors round for a few laps as the build speed before a final dash) pulls off, no rider is allowed to overlap with it until it has left the track. Two false starts occurred (the first involving Kenny) but both times it was marginal and officials allowed all competitors to take the third start.

Phew. Let’s hope the excitement keeps on coming, there’ll certainly be a lot to round-up as the Games draw to a close in the early hours of Monday morning. Could we even get close to Team USA?