Records tumble on first day of full competitionArchive
RIO DE JANEIRO: Record-breaking Australia — inspired by Mack Horton and Cate Campbell — put their stamp on the Rio Olympics on an intense first day of action.
Bomb and bullet scares and a horrific double leg break were among the shocks on Saturday, while fans fumed over long queues for venues at Rio’s Olympic Park.
But a trio of swimming world records and a first ever Olympic gold for Vietnam kept the focus on the sporting action as 12 titles were handed out.
There was plenty of rough riding on a punishing cycling course, a smooth opener for Kevin Durant and company, and a difficult loss for Venus Williams.
The American men’s basketball team romped past China 119-62 Saturday night behind Durant’s 25 points.
Japan’s Kosuke Hagino won the men’s 400m individual medley in the marquee race in Saturday night’s swimming programme, albeit a bit less flashy without two of the sport’s biggest stars.
Michael Phelps, the world record holder and two-time Olympic champion, dropped the race for his fifth games and defending champion Ryan Lochte didn’t qualify.
There was joy for teenage American shooter Ginny Thrasher, who upset China’s champions to snare the first gold of the Games in the women’s 10m air pistol.
Greg Van Avermaet of Belgium won the gruelling road race that left cyclists with a myriad of injuries, and rugby returned to the Games after a gap of 92 years.
The brutality of the men’s road race course became evident over the cobblestone sectors that rattled one cyclist off his bike, cost another his chain and forced Tour de France champion Chris Froome to replace his broken bike.
Van Avermaet out-sprinted Jakob Fuglsang and Rafal Majka on the long run to the finish at sun-splashed Copacabana Beach after Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali and Colombia’s Sergio Henao crashed while trying to navigate a corner on the final harrowing descent of the 6-hour race.
Britain’s Adam Peaty was the early star in the swimming pool. He set an eye-popping new world record of 57.55sec in the men’s 100m breaststroke heats — his first ever Olympic swim.
Later Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu shattered the world record by more than two seconds to win the women’s 400m individual medley.
But Australia dominated the first night in the pool, first when Horton dethroned China’s Sun Yang to win the men’s 400m freestyle.
Individual world record-holder Campbell then anchored Australia to 4x100m freestyle gold in 3min 30.65sec, the fastest time in history.
The Rio Games started with an unwanted bang when a military bomb squad detonated a suspicious package near the finish of the men’s cycle race at Copacabana beach, causing jitters among onlookers.
At the equestrian venue at Deodoro, which is on a military base, a stray bullet ripped through the media centre’s canvas roof and landed on the floor.
“All authorities assured that the bullet was a stray bullet that has nothing to do with the Games or the Olympic family or the press. The area was not a target,” said Games spokesman Mario Andrada.
Later Hoang Xuan Vinh wrote his name in the history books when he won the men’s 10m air pistol, claiming the first ever gold medal for communist Vietnam.
“It’s the first gold medal in Vietnam’s history, I feel very lucky,” said the modest, 41-year-old military officer.
Thailand’s Sopita Tanasan won the first weightlifting gold, the women’s -48kg, with a total lift of 200kg.
Scandal-hit Russia, under fire over a massive doping scandal, got off the mark when Beslan Mudranov won the men’s 60kg judo while Argentina’s Paula Pareto won gold — the first ever in judo for her country — in the women’s -48kg category.
South Korea’s archers routed the United States 177-170 to win the men’s team gold while Hungarian fencer Emese Szasz rallied to beat Italy’s twice world champion Rossella Fiamingo and win the gold medal in women’s epee.
Venus, playing her opening match at her record fifth Olympics, lost 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) to Kristen Flipkens of Belgium. Joining her at the exit door were former world No 1 Ana Ivanovic and Agnieszka Radwanska.
Hosts Brazil upset reigning gold medallists Norway 31-28 in the opening game of the handball tournament.
French gymnast Samir Ait Said’s Olympics ended when he severely injured his left leg while vaulting during team preliminaries.
Said’s leg bent awkwardly as he tried to land, the sound echoing through the arena. Said writhed on the ground in agony while medical officials tended to him. He exited on a stretcher to a standing ovation.
Yusra Mardini, the Syrian refugee who was swimming for her life to a Greek island less than a year ago, won her 100m butterfly heat but failed to reach the semi-finals.
Published in Dawn, August 8th, 2016