Rio Olympics Day 7



He was put under pressure at the start, at the end, and a few times in the middle of the competition. But ultimately Ashton Eaton showed exactly why he is the world’s greatest all-round athlete by successfully defending his Olympic decathlon title.

Eaton had put together a consistent series of marks across the nine events ahead of the 1500m, but he perhaps wasn’t as dominant as many thought he might be. Added to that, Kevin Mayer was having the competition of his life, setting PBs in the 100m, 400m, shot put and pole vault.

The 2010 world U20 champion went into the 1500m with a score of 8060 – just 461 points shy of his pre-Olympic lifetime best for a full decathlon. He was also just 44 points adrift of Eaton.

Eaton needed to stay within 6.4 seconds of Mayer to win gold. To equal or break the Olympic record, he needed to run faster than 4:23.40.

He did both.

With the gold medal relatively safe and no world record to chase, Eaton was happy enough to sit in fifth place for the first two laps of the 1500m. USA’s Jeremy Taiwo had the early lead before Algeria’s Larbi Bourrada fit the front and extended his lead to the end.

Bourrada crossed the line in 4:14.60 to break his own African decathlon record with 8521 in fifth place.

The focus of the entire stadium was further up the home straight, though. Eaton had moved up to third on the last lap, overtaking Mayer, and was digging deep. He crossed the line in 4:23.33 to bring his tally to 8893, tying the Olympic record set 12 years ago by Roman Sebrle.

Eaton is now just the third man in history to win back-to-back Olympic decathlon titles, following Bob Mathias (1948 and 1952) and Daley Thompson (1980 and 1984).

Before Eaton came along, Dan O’Brien was the only man to have won the Olympic, world and world indoor combined events titles, as well as setting world records indoors and out.

Eaton has now done all of those things. Twice over.

“To win two Olympic golds in a row like Daley Thompson is very special,” said Eaton. “One day, I'm going to have to meet Daley, shake his hand and thank him for giving me something to chase after.

“My throwing has been bad in the past, but I really got after the discus and shot here,” he added. “Can I do three in a row? Maybe you should ask Daley.”

Mayer rounded out his decathlon of a lifetime by clocking 4:25.49 in the 1500m, giving him a score of 8834. Not only does it smash the French record by 260 points, but it also moves Mayer to sixth on the world all-time list, one place behind Thompson and ahead of Jurgen Hingsen and Bryan Clay.

World silver medallist Damian Warner had also been under intense pressure throughout the competition. Viewed as a solid bet for the silver medal going into the decathlon, the Canadian’s hopes of living up to those predictions slipped away with each event as Mayer produced PB after PB.

Warner kept his cool, though, and ensured he stayed ahead of Germany’s Kai Kazmirek to hold on to the bronze medal. Knowing that he couldn’t let Kazmirek finish more than 6.4 ahead in the 1500m, Warner easily achieved that goal, clocking 4:24.90 to Kazmirek’s 4:31.25.

Warner took bronze with a season’s best of 8666 with Kazmirek setting a PB of 8580 in fourth.

Leonel Suarez, the 2008 and 2012 Olympic bronze medallist, finished sixth on this occasion with 8460, his best score since the last Olympics.

USA’s Zach Ziemek was seventh with 8392, while European champion Thomas van der Plaetsen was eighth with a PB of 8332.

For the first time in Olympic history, 11 men scored 8300 or higher. But in a competition of unprecedented depth at the Games, still no one was able to beat Eaton.

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Ryan Crouser led the qualifying competition in the morning and the giant US putter held his nerve despite not having competed in any international competition since he won the world youth title in Italy seven years ago, unleashing the four best efforts of the night culminating in 22.52m in the fifth round to take the gold medal.

Crouser stamped his authority on the competition quickly.

The first putter into the circle, he opened with a very solid 21.15m but saw Congo’s Franck Elemba reach a national record 21.20m a few throws later. Everyone then watched as Crouser’s compatriot and 2015 world champion Joe Kovacs, throwing 10th in the initial rotation, sent the shot out to 21.78m.

Crouser then went into the circle a second time, spinning around and propelling his implement out to a personal best of 22.28m and that was the last time the lead changed hands.

He improved by four centimetres in the third round with 22.26m and then had a 21.93m effort in the fourth round.

Crouser got a reminder that the contest was not yet over in the fifth round when Kovacs, who had not improved on his first put, had a big effort which could have taken the lead but for his heel catching the stop of the stop board and being ruled a foul.

With the final attempt of the fifth round, Crouser sealed his win with an Olympic record of 22.52m, adding five centimetres to Ulf Timmermann’s long-standing mark from the 1988 Olympics and moving to ninth on the all-time list.

The final round was almost anti-climactic only in so far as neither Crouser or Kovacs could improve, putting 21.74m and 21.35m respectively once a US one-two had been secured.

Behind the two US putters, New Zealand’s 2016 world indoor champion Tom Walsh matched Elemba’s 21.20m in the second round and then reached 21.36m in the fifth round to secure the bronze medal, consolidating New Zealand’s reputation as something of a shot put haven after Valerie Adams’ many successes including a silver medal in Rio.

It’s worth remembering that New Zealand only has a population only has a population of 4.5 million.

Spare a thought for Elemba too, in fourth place.

He was the right choice to be a flag-bearer in the opening ceremony as he came so close to getting his country’s first Olympic medal in any sport, although his national record will be some compensation.

Dalilah Muhammad wins the 400m hurdles at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Getty Images)

After five silver medals and two bronze, the USA finally earned their first Olympic gold medal in the women’s 400m hurdles, courtesy of Dalilah Muhammad.

Light rain started to fall inside Rio’s Olympic Stadium just moments before the 400m hurdles final, which went largely to the formbook.

US champion Muhammad, the world leader coming into Rio, lived up to expectations and darted into her customary early lead. By the half-way point, European champion Sara Slott Petersen had edged into second while the rest of the finalists were relatively level.

Muhammad, the 2007 world U18 champion and 2013 world silver medallist, had a one-second advantage as she entered the home straight with Petersen still in second and those positions remained the same until the line.

Muhammad crossed the line in 53.13 with Petersen taking silver in a Danish record of 53.55 to earn her country’s first ever Olympic medal in a women’s athletics event.

Ashley Spencer, in her first year specialising in the 400m hurdles, took bronze in a PB of 53.72.

“The reality of winning is even better than the dream,” said Muhammad. “I put my hope and trust in my coach and it paid off. I'm so happy. I tightened over the last hurdle but I got it done. I'm so, so happy and proud.”

Two-time world champion Zuzana Hejnova, hoping to improve on her bronze medal from 2012, produced a season’s best of 53.92, but it was only good enough for fourth on this occasion.

The trio of Jamaicans were next across the line, Ristananna Tracey and Leah Nugent clocking PBs of 54.15 and 54.45, with Janieve Russell finishing seventh in 54.56. Britain’s Eilidh Doyle, running from the inside lane, was eighth in 

Kerron Clement wins the 400m hurdles at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Getty Images)

After what many people thought was a modest and uninspiring season of 400m hurdling at an elite level, suddenly the event burst to life in Rio and a thrilling final saw four men go under 48 seconds for the first time in 15 years with Kerron Clement taking the gold medal in 47.73,

From the gun, it was Clement working hard over hurdles two to five to have a clear lead at the halfway point.

Running in lane five, the 2007 and 2009 world champion was almost up on the shoulder of Jamaica’s Annsert Whyte in the lane outside him as they entered the second bend.

Around the bend, Turkey’s European champion Yasmani Copello also started to motor, having run a conservative first half of the race.

Into the home straight, Clement held a slight lead which he managed to maintain over the final two hurdles and all the way to the line for his fastest time since winning his first world title in Osaka nine years ago.

"I came out here with one mindset and that was to execute my race plan and trust my fitness and just believe in myself. I knew the last 100 metres would be tough and those guys would be coming the last 50 metres," reflected Clement.

"I felt the lactate in my legs and I thought about diving like the Bahamas runner (Shaunae Miller in the women's 400m) but I dug down deeper to get that win and my first individual (Olympic) gold medal.

"It is a surreal feeling. It was a great honour for my Mum who gave me the flag to run around the stadium because she was here to witness history.

"Before we left the States I told her to bring a flag because I knew I was going to win. I made a space on my cabinet where I have all my medals and the space in the cabinet reads 'gold medal 2016' so I knew I was coming here to win the gold medal."

Behind Clement, there was all sorts of drama occurring over the final 60 metres or so.

Whyte started to weaken while Kenya’s Boniface Tumuti, in lane seven, started a charge from a long way back that took him past everyone apart from Clement. Had the race had been 20 metres further, he might even have grabbed the gold medal.

As it was, he had to settle for the silver medal in a national record of 47.78, shaving 0.01 off the time Nicholas Bett set when winning the gold medal at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015.

Copello held the bronze medal slot coming off the final hurdle but then started to visibly tire and only just managed to hold off the fast-finishing Irishman Thomas Barr. The pair were rewarded with national records of 47.92 and 47.97 respectively.

Whyte drifted back to sixth but still clocked a personal best of 48.07 while Rasmus Magi reduced his Estonian record to 48.40. Kenya’s Haron Koech, after two personal bests in his first two races in Rio, couldn’t make it a hat-trick and was seventh in 49.09.

The one man who didn’t complete the race was Puerto Rico’s 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Javier Culson. He might have been in contention to add to his medal collection, but false-started.

There were no protests from the 32-year-old two-time World Championships medallist, but his face was a picture of resignation and disappointment as he left the track.