The Olympics: Day 5

Canoe Slalom K1:  After the third last canoeist, Britain’s Joe Clarke, had whizzed down the course to take the lead, and while his two rivals, Jiri Prskavec and Peter Kauzer, were on their run trying to overtake him, a certain song started playing in my head.  Gold.  (Gold.)  Always believe in your soul.  You’ve got the power to know, you’re indestructible.  Always believe in, because you are.  Gold…yep, it was stuck in my head.  And guess what?  It was GOLD!  Yes, Joe Clarke hung on to win the gold medal!  Now, does that qualify me to become the new Mystic Meg?  Probably not.  But I must have tapped into something in the damp, moist Brazilian air.

Diving:  There was definitely something in the damp, moist Brazilian air.  Gold!  Er, and green.  Yep, that infamous diving pool was still a murky shade of pond green, but the British synchro team of Jack Laugher and Chris Mears didn’t care.  The colour worked for them, as they produced the dives of their lives to eclipse the Chinese and win the Synchro 3m Springboard.  We beat the Chinese – at diving!  What next?  Table tennis?  Incredibly, in the final round, GB were battling with the US, whose final dive was a spectacular effort that scored them an incredible 98.04 points and propelled them to first place.  But the Brits were not to be denied.  A fantastic final dive under pressure scored them 91.20 and they were in first.  Only the Chinese could deny them now, and under normal circumstances – ie practically every other diving competition – the Chinese tend to deny everybody.  But not this time.  An unusually disappointing final dive by the reigning world champions saw them slip down to bronze.  Britain had won their first ever diving gold medal.  Let’s sing it people – gold!  Always believe in your soul…I will leave you to sing the rest.

In yesterday’s blog, I mentioned that eventer William Fox-Pitt should get a gold medal for miraculous recovery from near death, but he has some competition from Chris Mears.  Seven years ago, he contracted the life-threatening Epstein Barr virus and was given a mere 5% chance of survival.  He ruptured his spleen and lost 5 pints of blood, before making a full recovery.  Now, he is Olympic champion.  Extraordinary.

Gymnastics:  Now, while there’s not much possibility of my making a career out of being the new Mystic Meg, I did suggest in the Day 1 blog that I had a sneaky feeling about Max Whitlock in the All Around final.  How right was I proved.  Fresh faced, youthful looking Max won Britain’s first All Around medal for 108 years.  Yes, that’s even longer than the football.  After the bitter disappointment of missing out on bronze in the Men’s Team event right at the death, it was another nail biting wait (as I may have mentioned before, is it ever not nail biting when Britain are going for a medal?!) after Max posted his final score to see if he had done enough to secure a medal.  He was battling three other gymnasts and one by one they bit the dust until there was only one left.  David Belyavskiy of Russia.  He needed 15.277 on high bar.  A few nail chewed minutes later, his score came up – it was only 15.133!  Not enough!  Max had his medal!  A hard earned bronze.  And the individual pommel horse and floor finals are yet to come, so Max may want to keep some space free in his drawer for more medals.

The All Around gold medal also went down to the wire – or more specifically, the very final score on the very final apparatus, the very scary high bar.  Defending Olympic and world champion, and master of the gymnastics universe, Kochei Uchimura of Japan, who has dominated the sport since 2009, had been under fierce pressure from Ukrainian Oleg Verniaiev, who was leading by a point going into the final rotation, after a mammoth score of 16.100 on the parallel bars, the highest mark of the entire competition.  But high bar is Uchimura’s speciality, and he posted a gargantuan 15.800 score to throw down the gauntlet (even if I thought the judges were a tad generous).  Verniaiev needed to post a score of 14.900 to win the gold.  But high bar isn’t exactly his best apparatus.  Still, he looked like he had done enough.  But then, right at the end, he made a crucial mistake, taking a step out on the landing.  It gave the judges reason to take marks off, and Uchimura had retained his title.  Now, if only Verniaiev had tried to distract Uchimura by tempting him into a game of Pokemon Go instead, he may have had more luck.  On arrival in Rio, the champion ran up a whopping £3,500 mobile phone bill playing the addictive game!  Forget twists, tumbles and somersaults.  Surely gaming was the tactic to dislodge him from the top of the podium.  Verniaiev will be kicking himself for not thinking of it.

Judo:  Say hello to the girl from Ipponema.  Judo.  Ippon.  Female.  Rio.  Geddit?  Uh, nevermind.  Her name was Sally, she was a judoka…nope, too many syllables.  Oh, alright, I will stop with the musical montages now.  Sally Conway was the girl.  And 70kg judo was her sport.  Three ippons (i.e. straight knockouts) in a row, a world champion beaten along the way, a semi-final appearance in the bag.  Sally, who is actually from Edinburgh via Bristol not Ipanema, funnily enough, lost the semi-final to Columbia’s Yuri Alvear, but bounced back to win the bronze medal match – not by an ippon for a change – but a single yuko, against Austrian Bernadette Graf.  They all count.

Cycling Time Trial:  Team GB won a whopping six medals today, and the glut was started by Tour de France winner Chris Froome, who matched his bronze from London 2012 in the Time Trial.  After winning the gruelling Tour a mere 2 and a half weeks ago, quite how he had the energy to pedal a bike, let alone compete in two events and win a medal, is beyond me.  Yikes, these cycling people are fit!  And slightly masochistic…

Shooting:  A back to back bronze to follow Chris Froome’s medal in the Time Trial, this time for Steven Scott in the double trap shooting.  It was a win-win for GB as he was battling against a fellow Brit Tim Kneale, but a lose-lose for poor Tim.

Women’s Table Tennis:  Guess which country won the gold?  Guess which country won the silver?  It’s a toughie. I will give you a few minutes to think about it.

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