Thursday, August 11, 2016

Rio 2016 Day 4 Summary: Phelps takes his medal tally to 25, Ledecky outsprints Sjostrom, UAE gets a medal

* UAE got its second-ever Olympic medal and first since 2004 through naturalized-Moldovan Sergiu Toma who took bronze in the under-81kg judo. His achievement has been met by mixed reaction on social media from Emiratis due to Toma being Moldovan.
The UAE judo federation says they have been naturalizing athletes to inspire the young Emirati generation. I wrote about how there's a way for Toma to become a role model for UAE youth and not just be that Moldovan who won a medal for the Emirates.
* Simone Biles, arguably the most dominant gymnast the world has ever seen, captured a first of five possible gold medals by helping the USA win the women's team title. If you haven't seen Biles perform before, head to Google immediately and watch her floor routines. You're welcome!
* Top seed and defending champion Serena Williams crashed out to world No20 Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-3 in tennis singles, after earlier losing alongside her sister Venus in doubles. It appears is carrying a shoulder injury, which would explain the eight double faults she hit, five of them in one game to get broken late in the second set. No3 seed Garbine Muguruza also was sent packing, getting humbled 6-1, 6-1 by Puerto Rico's Monica Puig.

* Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal is alive in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. Will the Spaniard, who is playing for the first time since May, get a medal? Or three?

* Japan shocked New Zealand 14-12 in rugby sevens but that wasn't all the misery suffered by the Kiwis that day. They also lost Sonny Bill Williams, who was ruled out of the rest of the tournament with an Achilles' injury.

* China took their Rio diving record to three-for-three as Chen Ruolin and Liu Huixia took 10m platform synchro gold. The victory was a record fifth career Olympic gold medal for Chen, tying the mark set just two days earlier by team-mate Wu Minxia.

Malaysia won a first Olympic diving medal by taking silver in the same event courtesy of Pandelela Rinong and Cheong Jun Hoong. Guess what their government is giving them in return? They will share a RM300,000 cash incentive and a monthly lifetime pension of RM3,000. Now that's what I call true government support for athletes.

* Anna Korakaki picked up Greece’s first gold at the Rio Olympics, and first since Athens 12 years ago, in women’s 25m pistol.

* In handball, Egypt pulled off a sensational victory over Sweden - beating them for the first time - 26-25 with some heroic displays from flag-bearer Ahmed El Ahmar, Mohamed Sanad and Yehia El Deraa. Not to mention, goalkeeper Felfel (aka Mr. Spicy as the beIN Sports commentator kept calling him).

* I'm saving the best for last. Michael freakin' Phelps. The American beast won his 20th and 21st gold medals, triumphing in a thrilling 200m butterfly with a 1:53.36 in a race that saw his rival Chad Le Clos (who upset Phelps in the 200 fly in 2012) miss out on the medals entirely. Phelps then helped USA win the 4x200 free relay. When he won the 200 fly, he sat on the rope in the pool and waved to the crowd, urging them to "bring some noise" and they obliged.
At 31, Phelps became the oldest individual swimming gold medallist in Olympic history. At his final Games, he made sure to soak up the atmosphere. We are truly lucky to be living in this era and witnessing all this live. As for Le Clos, him finishing fourth reminded me of what he told me in our interview from last year. Check it out here.

One of my favourite things about the whole night was watching Kevin Durant and his fellow Team USA basketball players cheer on Phelps like ultimate fanboys. 
* In the same night, Katie Ledecky did something truly amazing as she kept her quest for a freestyle sweep alive. She outsprinted the best sprinter in the world, Sarah Sjostrom, to win the 200 free. A quick reminder that Ledecky is 19 years old.

* Hungary’s “Iron Lady” Hosszu completed the IM double by winning the 200m final in 2:06.58, making it three golds and counting. She went to Rio having never won an Olympic medal in three previous appearances. She now has three golds. And counting.

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