Friday August 12, 2016
The Greatest Show on Earth kicked off this week and Rio 2016 burst on to our screens, bringing us the 28th summer Olympic Games - the first ever hosted in South America. In typical Brazilian style, the opening ceremony was an incredible spectacle featuring a light show of the Amazonian rainforest, parkour free-running performances and passinho dance routines, a dance style born in Rio’s favelas. Andy Murray bore the flag for Great Britain, wisely holding it in his left hand (just in case) and those who couldn’t make it to Rio were glued to their screens all week. Here’s what happened…
Rio 2016 began with some sensational platform diving performances as China, the USA and Britain battled it out for the top spot in the men’s synchronised finals. Performing multiple turns and twists, the teams enjoyed a view over Rio from the outdoor diving venue named after Maria Lenks, one of Brazil’s greatest female athletes. The Chinese team were described as “diving perfection” as they executed their 4-and-half-turn dive without fault, and no judge scoring under 9. The pressure was on Team GB favourite Tom Daley and his partner Daniel Goodfellow to step up their game and luckily they held their nerve, claiming bronze and leaving US diver Steele Johnson in tears of joy with his silver.
Brazil had its first triumph when Rafaela Silva won gold during the women’s 57kg judo final. The tiny Carioca arena exploded with cheers and chanting for the Rio resident who grew up in the tough streets of the City of God favela. Rafaela almost quit judo after being disqualified in London 2012 for an illegal move, but now she is Brazil’s first female champion and a video showing her tears of joy went viral in Brazil following the match.
In weightlifting, another highly charged performance drew attention as Colombian weightlifter Oscar Figueroa claimed gold in the men’s 62kg. Rio 2016 was his fourth Olympics and he has previously only managed fifth place in the 56kg class. In an outburst of passion after lifting the 318kg weight, he burst into tears and symbolically removed his shoes, signalling his retirement from the sport.
Back in the pool, Adam Peaty ended a 28-year wait for a British man to win gold in swimming as he triumphed in the 100m breast stroke. He smashed his own world record for the second time in two days, claiming the top medal with an unbelievable 57.13 second swim. Victory must have been in the air as minutes later, Team GB's Jazz Carlin won silver in the women's 400 metres freestyle.
Mid-week, canoeing was the hot topic as competitors battled strong currents in the men’s K1 slalom. In a surprise win, little-known Joseph Clarke, 23, from Stafford, claimed Team GB’s second gold of the Games when his skills on the white water rapids led him to victory. He beat Slovenia’s Peter Kauze by only 0.17 of a second and high-fived opponents in celebration.
In gymnastics, the woman of the moment is the USA’s Simone Biles, whose skills across the board have made her a formidable opponent. The 19-year-old, three time world champion didn’t falter once in her final floor routine, performing sequences so complex that nobody could touch her scores. The 4”8 gymnast has been described as a ‘pocket rocket’ and although Russia’s Aliya Mustafina gave a dazzling performance in the all-round finals, her balletic style was no match for the power and strength of Simone. Coordinated body rolls added style to a highly charged performance reminiscent of Beyonce’s single ladies routine – and it won her gold!
Although the colour of the Olympic pool drew puzzled stares throughout the week as it turned green, divers have said it actually helped them concentrate! Chris Mears and Jack Laugher became Britain’s first Olympic diving gold medallists in the men’s synchronised 3m springboard and Chris said that the green shade actually helped distinguish between the blue sky and blue pool.
Over on the rugby field, Fiji won their first Olympic gold medal in the rugby sevens, thrashing Great Britain 43-7. Fiji's captain Osea Kolinisau sank to his knees in happiness as the whistle sounded. It was the first time that sevens had been played in the Olympics and as a mark of respect, the team knelt to receive their medals from Britain’s Princess Anne.
As week 1 of Rio draws to a close, the action shows no sign of stopping. Luckily, the threat of Zika hasn’t spoiled the spirit of the games but supporters should still be aware of its presence in South America. The risk of contracting a contagious disease is heightened where large groups of people gather, so if you are heading out to enjoy the Games, we would strongly advise taking adequate mosquito repellent to keep mosquitoes at bay.
Over the weekend the athletics will get under way followed by wrestling on Sunday. Keep an eye out for our next roundup blog to find out the latest from Brazil.