A Kenyan king and a golden dive
If Usain Bolt is the king of sprint and Mo Farah is the king of long-distance running, then David Rudisha is the undisputed king of middle distance running. The Kenyan, on Monday night at the Rio Olympic Stadium, became the first man since New Zealand's Peter Snell in 1964 to win the 800m run at consecutive Olympics. The 27-year-old, son of 1968 Mexico City Games silver medallist Daniel Rudisha, clocked a season-best 1:42.15 to beat Algeria's Taoufik Makhloufi and America's Clayton Murphy.
Rudisha came into these Games in not the best of form. He had been plagued by injuries in the last couple of years and only finished third in the Kenyan trial for Rio 2016. But on the big night he proved why he is the best in the business, as he stepped on the gas in the final 300 after having trailed his compatriot Alfred Kipketer for the first 500. It was not his best run by some margin; it was not anywhere near the classic which earned him the first Olympic gold medal in world-record time (1:40.91) in London four years ago. But it proved just enough to defend his title.
"I knew I was in good form and sometimes if you start too fast it can cost you in the last 100m and that is what I wanted to be aware of," the Kenyan said at the press conference. "It is unfortunate they did not follow what I said as it cost them."
While Rudisha's title defence was more of a routine exercise, there was a big upset and drama in the women's 400 metres where Bahama's Shaunae Miller dived at the finishing line to beat defending champion and four-time Olympic gold medallist Allyson Felix by the smallest of margins. The 22-year-old Bahamian was the quickest off the blocks, and her long strides consolidated her lead even as a burst of speed from the defending champion made things very tight at the final bend.
Felix looked like catching up to Miller in the final 50, only to be denied by a desperate dive from the Bahamian at the finishing line. Exhausted, both Miller and Felix lay on the track for long, the former from anticipation of a win and the latter from the disappointment of losing.
"I didn't see anyone until the last 20 metres and the only thing I was thinking was that I must get that gold medal," Miller said as she pulled herself up after the giant screen confirmed her victory. "I think (the dive) was just a reaction, my mind went blank, the next thing I knew I was laying on the ground. I've got a few cuts and bruises but I'm okay."
Meanwhile, the men's pole vault saw a big upset too as Brazil's Thiago da Silva broke an Olympic record to beat defending champion Renaud Lavillenie of France. Starting with two failures, the Brazilian passed an attempt at 5.98m and pushed Lavillenie to 6.03. With the Frenchman failing twice, Silva cleared the height at an Olympic record to set the crowd into raptures.