Big guns sign off in a blaze

Big guns sign off in a blaze

While Bolt and Phelps left behind a great legacy, Biles lived up to the high expectations

Big guns sign off in a blaze

The fastest man on the land and the strongest human in water combined to apply a rare lustre to the Games of the 31st Olympiad which concluded on Sunday.

Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps have been twin pillars that supported the Olympic movement with their spectacular performances over the years and they extended their dominance to another edition before bidding goodbye to a stage they graced with class.

The rangy Jamaican and the powerful American outshone a galaxy of stars that descended on the Brazilian megapolis and as the curtains came down, it was their feats that remained etched deep in memory.

American gymnast Simone Biles and swimmer Katie Ledecky too left indelible impressions in their quest for perfection, but in the shadow of the two giants who were on a mission in Brazil, they had to don minor roles.

Bolt, the superman of track and field, achieved an unprecedented triple-triple, winning the 100M, 200M and the 4x100M relay for the third straight Games. He was unchallenged in all the three events, treating the fans to a typically colourful Jamaican show but the edge was certainly lacking in his runs. Understandably so, as he had been laid low by a hamstring injury suffered during the Jamaican trials in June.

“What more should I do to prove I am the greatest?” asked Bolt, confirming his decision to leave the Olympic scene. Bolt’s only disappointment was in missing out on a world record in his favourite event, the 200 metres. “It is getting tougher, I am getting older,” he said.

Phelps, back after his troubles with alcohol, minted more gold in Rio. With five gold and a silver from the pool, the American took his tally to 28 medals, 23 of them gold. His only blip came when Singapore’s Joseph Schooling beat him in the 100M butterfly. But Phelps’ aura wasn’t diminished one bit.

“This is the cherry I wanted to put on the cake,” said Phelps while picking out the 200M butterfly win as his favourite moment in Rio.

Ledecky’s rise in the pool was marked by four gold and one silver, with two world records – in the 400M and 800M freestyle -- studding her efforts.

Biles, just 19, was close to perfection while winning four gold medals and leading the United States to team title in gymnastics. The all-around champion was superb in vault and floor exercises while an error on the balance beam cost her a fifth gold medal.

“It’s very crazy, your first Olympics and you walk away with five medals, especially four being gold, that is just unheard of,” she said.

Japan’s Kohei Uchimura justified the tag of favourite in men’s gymnastics, becoming the first in 44 years to retain the all-around gold. He also led Japan to the team title.

Among the stars that failed to shine were Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams in tennis. Djokovic was beaten by a resurgent Juan Martin Del Potro – who then went on to lose to Andy Murray in the final – while Serena bowed to Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.

On the track, Bolt wasn’t the only one to shine. Mo Farah’s 5000-10000 double was a feat to remember while three world records provided cheer amidst the doping gloom and the ban on Russian athletes. Standing out was Wayde van Neikerk’s 400M record, a tribute to the boldness of youth, while Almaz Ayana destroying the 10000M record defied belief.

A poignant moment came when pole vault ace Renaud Lavillenie, the silver medallist here, had to leave in tears after Brazil fans booed him on the podium. The Frenchman, upset over the fans heckling him during competition while supporting Brazilian Thiago Braz da Silva, had slammed the fans the previous night.

The United States, powered by their athletes and swimmers, dominated the medals tally once again. The American athletes claimed 13 gold medals and swimmers 16 in their collection of 46. Great Britain soared above China with 27 gold to the latter’s 26 in a big surprise while hosts Brazil ended with seven.

Hosting the Olympics proved a challenging task for Brazil and while many of the pre-Games fears remained unfounded, it wasn’t smooth sailing all the way. However, their cup of joy was filled to the brim when Neymar slotted home the winning penalty in the football final against Germany, lifting their sagging spirits in troubled times.

 

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