Rowing: You fly halfway around the world to a tropical paradise and instead of getting blazing sunshine, you end up with weather resembling a wet and windy autumnal day out in Bognor. So naturally the Brits felt right at home! GB may be pretty good on bikes, but we are not so bad in boats either. Some of our rowers have been as dominant in their discipline as the track cyclists. Britain demonstrated their prowess in emphatic style, winning back to back golds within 20 minutes of each other. First, Heather Stanning and Helen Glover retained their pairs title to maintain their 5 year unbeaten record. They built up a massive lead at the start to comfortably hold off a spirited fightback from the silver medal-battling crews of NZ and Denmark and get the party started.
The British flag wavers barely had time to take a breath before gold number two followed. It was won by the men’s fours for the fifth Olympics running. Messrs. Sibhi, Nash, Louloudis and Gregory held off Australia to win by 1.83 seconds. The men’s fours is British rowing’s glamour event with famous alumni including Sir Steve Redgrave, Matthew Pinsent and James Cracknell, so expect more from some of these boys in years to come.
Track Cycling: Wiggo, Wiggo, Wiggo! Are you and your boys trying to give the nation a collective heart attack?! Oh my god, that was not fun! What a race! That was way too tense. Way too close. It’s supposed to be a procession in the Velodrome, isn’t it? As if. Even though the British team had broken the world record in qualification in the men’s team pursuit, the Australians are not the world champions for nothing. It was a face off against our traditional rivals, and what a classic it turned out to be. GB stumbled out of the blocks, with a bit of a wobble for Ed Clancy to give away the lead, and by the halfway stage it was panic time. But then, with 6 laps to go, the Aussies lost a rider and suddenly GB were back in it. Lap by lap, they clawed their way back, but then panic time again towards the end, as it looked like the GB three had split at the back. As the finishing line came into view, thankfully the riders were all back together and sprinting like a demons to win the gold! Yikes, what drama! Be still my pounding heart. Ed Clancy, Steven Burke, Owain Doull and Sir Bradley Wiggins, take a bow.
The gold is also Sir Bradley’s eighth Olympic medal, making him the most decorated British Olympian, ahead of Sirs Chris Hoy and Steve Redgrave. Surely he should get an earldom for it or something?
Athletics Women’s 10,000: With all the excitement at the rowing, attention was diverted away from the start of the track and field. Obviously, Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia wasn’t too impressed and decided she had to do some attention grabbing for herself. Hmm, what to do? How about shattering a world record that had stood for 23 years? Yep, that got our attention.
Trampoline: All the GB medals won today were predicted. Except one. Unexpected medals are such fun. From nowhere, a certain Bryony Page won a silver medal in the trampoline. Who knew all that hyperactive bouncing up and down in your back garden as a kid could lead to an Olympic medal?
Dressage: Once again, medals like buses. After back to back golds earlier, it was a salver of silvers to follow. GB were defending the team gold from London 2012, but usually it is Germany who are the supreme dressage team. Unsurprisingly, GB lost the gold to Germany, who are the supreme dressage team. However, there is still the individual competition to come; another gold that GB’s top rider Charlotte Dujardin will be defending – against a German, no doubt. Hopefully, she will be able to get one over on the Germans, just like she did four years ago.
Windsurfing: More silver to come for GB. Nick Dempsey is guaranteed a silver once the final race is completed on Sunday. He had been leading at the halfway stage but got reeled back by Dutch surfer Dorian van Rijsselberghe, and will have to settle for silver. A medal is a medal is a medal.
Tennis: I should just cut and paste from Andy Murray’s match report yesterday because it was carbon copy of his match today against Steve Johnson. A procession in the first set, won to love; go walkabout in the second set, losing his opening serve to lose the set, then get broken in the deciding set, looking all down and out, before making the typical dramatic comeback to win. Why does Andy put us through this every time?
Women’s Football: Surely the gold medal for the sorest loser at these games must go to Team USA goalkeeper Hope Solo. USA suffered a shock defeat to Sweden in a penalty shootout, the first time they have failed go beyond the quarter-finals of a major tournament. But there was no magnanimity in defeat. Solo branded the Swedish team ‘cowards’ for not laying out the red carpet/parting like the Red Sea/rolling over and dying, so the US could attack, score a goal and win the match. It’s called tactics, Hope. Absorbing pressure. Stifling the opposition. Hitting long on the counter attack. Anyone who had watched Euro 2016 could have told her it is all the rage. Losing. It happens. Suck it up, Solo.
Swimming: The first shock in the Men’s 100m Butterfly was looking at the fastest lanes and not seeing Michael Phelps there. The second shock was looking at the no 1 position and not seeing the name of Michael Phelps next to it. The American has been so dominant you expect him to win every race he enters. But the 100m Butterfly is a little too fast for him. Which means he had to be content with joint silver. You didn’t think he missed out on a medal, did you? The man in the fast lane, Joseph Schooling of Singapore, went out at a rapid pace and managed to hold on comfortably from Phelps, who had to share his silver with Chad le Clos (remember him?) and Laszlo Cseh. He won’t mind sharing one, surely, when he’s got a squillion others tucked away already.
But there were no such problems for Phelps’s female equivalent, Katie Ledecky, who obliterated the field to win the 800m Freestyle, romping home by 12 seconds and destroying the world record in the process. Britain’s Jazz Carlin was a distant second, to add to Britain’s three other silver’s today.
Attendance Watch: Games organisers said they were ‘not disappointed’ by the thousands of empty seats at almost every venue (except for the football, obviously) so far. They should be. It looks very bad, and it is very embarrassing for what has already been an extremely troubled Olympics. One of the most pernicious reasons is the high ticket prices. If you are going to hold an Olympics in the third world, it would help if you don’t charge first world prices.
If the organisers had any common sense, they would give out free or ultra cheap tickets to the locals to fill the venues up. But clearly they would prefer to stick their heads in the sand and pretend that there aren’t swathes of empty seats, rather than reduce prices for their precious tickets, or give them away to actual fans and locals, instead of corporate VIPs who couldn’t give a flying monkeys about most sports and don’t bother to turn up – unless it’s Usain Bolt running, in which case, you know the stadium will be brimming – with VIPs and rich people who can afford the tickets, obviously.