The Olympics: Day 13

Kayak Double 200m:  After a brief hiatus yesterday to allow our Chinese friends to catch up in the medals table – we do want to make this a fair fight – Team GB were back to their medal winning ways.  First up, the kayak double.  In London four years ago, Jon Schofield and Liam Heath had the silver nicked from them right on the line by the fast finishing Belarusians.  So this time, if anyone was going to be doing any Artful Dodger impersonations, it would be them.  Employing a similar line lunging technique exhibited by our track cyclists (and Kristina Vogel of Germany), except in a kayak, they ensured a four way photo finish went in their favour.  Wonder how they used to separate them in the old days before photo finish technology?

Badminton:  You know GB are having a great Olympics when they start beating China in badminton (and diving).  The competition for second place in the medals table has really started hotting up.  Just when China might have thought they had caught up and gone ahead, back we came with another one of those surprise medals that are such fun to win.  Even more fun, of course, is beating China to it.  Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge, ranked a mere 22nd (which is incredible in the real world but not much cop at the Olympics) were punching way above their weight even to make the semi-finals.  Having lost to the Chinese world number 4s for a place in the final, they were now taking on the Chinese world number 5s for the bronze.

It was never going to be straightforward, and it was vital they took the first set.  They did!  A close 21-18.  But another tight battle ensured in the second.  They time they were edged out 19-21.  It would need a decider to, erm, decide it.  The British pair were clearly determined that China would not go ahead of Britain in the medals table on their watch.  They stepped up the gas and built up a big lead to go 20-10 up, one point away from victory.  It wouldn’t be a British medal attempt if there wasn’t some kind of drama at the end.  On match point, their return of serve shuttle was called out, but the British boys called for a review, aka Hawkeye, and it was called in!  Britain had won a bronze in men’s badminton!  What next?  Put money on us for a table tennis medal in Tokyo in 2020.

Triathlon:  They are the Williams sisters of triathlon, except they are, erm, brothers.  The Brownlee boys are the dominant family of triathlon.  It must be really difficult when your archrival is your own brother, and when you are one and two going into the final laps of the Olympics, it might be tempting to clasp hands and cross the finishing line together.  Yeah, if they were soft girlie twins who could finish no better than 81st in the marathon.  But these are rough, tough Yorkshire boys who are serial winners.  Or at least big brother Alistair is.  Jonathan would be too – if his big brother didn’t keep beating him!  Four years ago, running down the Mall, the boys were split and finished with gold and bronze.  But Johnny’s grown up a bit and Alistair has suffered horrendous injury problems, so who would get the bragging rights this time?

They stayed close together through the spectacular ocean swim in fourth and sixth place respectively.  They remained in the lead group through the hilly bike ride, and then broke away in the final running stage, with interloper Vincent Luis of France making up a threesome.  It wasn’t too long before they dropped the gooseberry in the middle – if you are not a Yorkshire man by the name of Brownlee, you don’t get to contest for a gold medal.  Going toe to toe with the Brownlees had taken it out of poor Luis and he was eventually passed by Henri Schoeman of South Africa for the bronze.

The gold medal would be another family affair as the Brownlee brothers made their way down the Copacabana Promenade.  The beachfront route was so distractingly scenic the triathletes must have needed an iron will to keep their mind on the race and resist the temptation to stop and take photos.  The brothers were still together half way through the race, with Alistair allowing baby brother to set the pace, when a sudden acceleration from Alistair more akin to an F1 car quickly opened up a gap.  In a blink, Alistair was gone.

There would be no stopping big brother now.  In triathlon it is the person who is willing to suffer the longest that comes out the winner.  Alistair Brownlee must have been a hair-shirt clad self-flagellating monk in his past life.  He was getting faster and faster in the searing heat of Rio when logically he should have been flinging himself onto the nearest beach towel with a Caipirinha in his hand.  So far ahead was he by the end that he literally had time to stop and smell the brisk sea air before stepping through the finishing line.  Little brother came through in second place this time to go one better than his bronze four years ago, though still no bragging rights.  Wonder if he ever wishes he had picked up another sport as a kid instead of copying his older brother.  Ah well, as he said in the interview afterwards, he will just have to wait until his brother is older, greyer and slower and then he will get his revenge.  Well, they do say triathlons are won by those who are willing to suffer the longest.  Jonathan has been suffering in his big brother’s shadow for a long, long time.  If you can’t beat bro, hopefully you can outlast him.

Sailing:  They also say good things come to those who wait, and Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark have been waiting a very long time to win their Olympic gold.  Like Giles Scott, gold medallist in the Finn class, London 2012 was traumatic for Saskia and Hannah for different reasons.  They finished in an agonising second place after losing the final medal race that seemed theirs for the taking in front of their home fans.  No gold post box for them.  Four years later, that failure still rankles.  But consolation and redemption awaited them in Rio.

The wait was longer than they would have liked.  They had the gold won with a day to spare, but then had to suffer a frustrating delay yesterday when a lack of wind led to the postponement of the medal race and their victory cruise to the finishing line.  But today, the wind was back – hurray!  The boats were sailing and Britannia ruled the waves once more.

Boxing:  Four years ago, Nicola Adams won a boxing gold by beating a boxer called Ren Cancan of – take a guess which country?  This time around, she was fighting Ren in the semi final.  Now, bearing in mind this is Ren’s Random Sports Blog, really we should have a soft spot for our namesake.  But sod that.  We have medals to win.  The worrying thing about the boxing at these games is the new scoring system, which has been more scary and unpredictable than any opponent.  You think you are watching one fight, then the judges go and score an entirely different fight altogether.  The only solution was for Nicola to knock her opponent out.  No judging system, no matter how ropey (geddit?) could counter a knockout.

After losing the first round 10-9 across the board, there was only one option.  Go for the jugular – or specifically a big right jab to the head.  Not quite a knockout, but effective.  A 10-9 win in round 2 and Nicola was level.  Round 3 was more of the same from our Nic.  Aggressive, attacking boxing, using the jab, hitting the target.  Unanimous 10s again.  Now same again in the last round, girl.  Ren, unlike yours truly at Random Towers, is a counter-puncher (we prefer to attack, attack, attack), so being forced to go on the front foot was always going to be a big ask.  But Nic had to make sure she ended strongly to give the judges no excuse.  A bit of afters post-bell, but Nic looked happy with her afternoon’s work.  Sure enough, it was her hand that was raised.  The Ren of China was done, and the Ren of Random Towers could contemplate further cultured ramblings, or more like sleep deprived witterings, on the prospect of yet another gold medal for GB.

Diving:  More Chinese Ren namesakes on show, this time in the 10m platform diving.  Ren’s Random Sports Blog salutes them.  At an age when most teenage girls are drinking, smoking, dieting and getting into boys and fashion, 15 year old Ren Qian has probably been spending every waking hour of the day training in the diving pool.  Which is why she was at the Olympics going for gold.  The only competition for Ren was another Chinese teenager, Si Yajie.  I am guessing these teenage sensations have been doing nothing but diving since they were in nappies.  How else to attain such high standards?  The quality of the competition was tremendous with scores in the 80s, and for the Chinese, 90s.  A great dive from Ren in round three saw her take the lead from Si and she didn’t relinquish it.  We Rens are ruthless, you know.  15 years old and completely nonplussed by winning an Olympic gold.  Wait till she has to do her exams.  Then she will know what pressure is!  Now, what was this Ren doing at 15?  Training intensely for the day they would include sprint chocolate munching at the Olympics.  I am still waiting – chocolate bar in hand, obviously.

Taekwondo:  The next time the police want to curb juvenile anti-social behviour, rather than giving out ASBOS, they should march the kids to the nearest Taekwondo club.  This is a sport where it is legal to kick someone in the head.  If that doesn’t tempt the kids to get off the streets and channel their aggression into something positive, nothing will.  That is kind of what happened to Jade Jones.  She was an unruly child, growing up in a council house, with a penchant for beating up boys.  To keep her out of trouble her grandfather got her into Taekwondo.  A prescient decision.  Fast forward several years, and she was Olympic champion in London.  Fast forward four more years, and she was in the 57g final in Rio, looking for her second Olympic gold.

Her nemesis, the second seed Eva Calvo Gomez of Spain, awaited in the final.  A super start for Jade with two head shots in the opening round, giving her a 7-0 lead.  But the Spanish girl came roaring back with her own head shot and a couple of body hits to close the gap to 7-6.  It was all to play for in the final round.  Could Jade do it?  A body hit for each and it was 8-7.  Both women are attacking fighters, so it was a case of who would get the hit in first.  Jade Jones is not known as ‘the headhunter’ for nothing.   No going for the jugular with Jade; it was straight to the head with two head shots in a row, and Jade was up 15-7.  Now it was about holding on to her advantage.  One more point to Jade, and it was all over!  Jade Jones had defended her title in emphatic style, romping home in the end 16-7.  I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of ‘the headhunter’.  Yes, Jade, whatever you want, Jade.  Will that be one Olympic gold, or two, madam?  Two, it is.  GB’s third gold, second silver, and one bronze of the day.  China have been threatening parity in the medals table again with their diving success, so right back at you.

Athletics:  Who’s the greatest?  Ali or Bolt?  During his early warm up, Usain was spotted with his headphones on doing the Ali shuffle, along with some random break dancing.  The only danger to Usain’s supremacy would be if he pulled something doing his dance moves.  Otherwise, the outcome of the 200m final was as much of a foregone conclusion as a Chinese winning the diving event.

When it was time for the race, the emperor entered his domain waving to the crowd like it was his swansong.  It may be the last time he runs the 200m.  It may be the last time he runs in an individual event at the Olympics.  Feast upon his deeds with relish, everyone.  We shall not see his like again.  Hopefully, we shall not see that Usain doll that was being waved in the crowd again either, though the living Usain gave it an amused thumbs up when he noticed it.

Usain was in the mood for dancing.  And smiling, and blowing kisses.  And running 19.78 seconds to win what may be his last ever 200m.  Again, like the 100m, he had to fight for it.  For once, we saw a Usain Bolt gritting his teeth and running hard for the line.  And once again, not in a mind blowing time either.  This was hard work.  But it’s all about crossing the line first, any which way.  Usain had done the sprint double for the third Olympics in a row.  It was his eight Olympic gold medal.  Afterwards, it was time for the traditional lap of honour, soaking in the adulation of the crowd.  Usain, Usain, they chanted, in a mesmerised frenzy.  An almighty roar when he delivered his lightening bolt pose.  That’s a memory for a lifetime.  If this is the last time – Usain, it’s been a privilege and a joy.

 

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