Women’s Road Race: A lot of hypocritical bleating about Lizzie Armistead’s participation in the race after getting cleared at the last minute by CAS over 3 missed tests. Cycling is a sport where nearly all its top racers have been tainted by drugs to the point where I am not sure most fans believe anybody is clean, so all this whinging just comes across as sanctimonious. Missing 3 drugs tests (reduced to 2 on appeal) is a minor infringement compared to what many top cyclists have done, several of whom have been allowed to return to the sport after actual drugs offenses. Likewise, there are many competitors who have served drugs bans, not to mention non-track and field Russian competitors (as well as Kenyans), taking part here, so it’s rather unfair to single out Armistead when she hasn’t actually failed a drugs test.
As it happens, Lizzie didn’t win or medal, but the race was overshadowed by a horrific crash on the descent involving race leader Annemiek Van Vleuten, who was taken to hospital with severe concussion and three small fractures to her lower back. Fingers crossed she recovers soon.
Tennis: Ok, I will lay my cards on the table. I don’t think tennis should be in the Olympics. But by God, what an amazing match between Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin Del Potro! The last time these two boys met, they served up an epic 4h 43 min semi-final at Wimbledon in 2014, which Djokovic eventually won. The last time these two boys met at the Olympics was ironically also at Wimbledon Centre Court, at London 2012. It was Delpo who had triumphed then in straight sets to win the bronze medal. In between, and since, poor Del Potro’s tennis career has been ravaged by persistent wrist injuries.
Here, in the buzzing atmosphere of the Tennis Centre at Barra Olympic Park, the two Grand Slam champions played another thrilling match with breathtaking rallies and scintillating winners that had the crowd roaring with delight and bowing in respect. Del Potro, helped by some pile driver forehands and a couple of friendly net cords, stormed his way to win the first set on a tie break, having failed to convert numerous break points on Djokovic’s serve during the set.
Djokovic never knows when he is beaten (except by big serving Americans on grass, obviously!), and even though he was on the back foot the entire match, he somehow took Del Potro to yet another tie break in the second set, but the zen was with the lanky Argentinian. It was fittingly ironic that the winning point should be a forehand crosscourt winner helped on its way by an accommodating net cord.
It was an incredibly emotional match for both men. Djokovic was visibly upset, having lost perhaps his last chance to win an Olympic medal. For Delpo, it was another positive step on his comeback trail, and it was heartening to see him hit through his backhand several times. There was even a magnificent crosscourt backhand winner halfway through the second set, which gives hope that his wrist troubles are behind him and he can be competitive on his backhand side.
I still don’t think tennis should be in the Olympics, but the players don’t half make it difficult to argue against kicking it out.
Beach Volleyball: What a sexist sport! How come the women have to wear itsy bitsy tenny weeny bikinis while the men stay modest in t-shirt and shorts? Where’s the equality? Let’s have budgie smugglers for the men, or t-shirt and shorts for all. Whaddya mean people (ie men) only watch beach volleyball to ogle the women?
Swimming: Ok, I actually missed Adam Peaty’s 100m Breaststroke gold medal win. Oops. Blame Novak and Juan Martin! By the time the tennis had finished and I had switched channels, Adam was celebrating. Well, it was never in doubt, was it? He won it by a mile. Unlike the last British man to win an Olympic Gold, Adrian Moorhouse, also in the 100m Breaststroke, who won in Seoul 1988 by one hundredth of a second. Adam though could have stopped for a cup of tea and a chat and still made it comfortably in first place. He destroyed his world record again (he seems to be on a record breaking loop), lowering it dramatically from 57.55 to 57.13. Even Adrian Moorhouse must have been satisfied with that! [see Olympics Day 1]
Adam Peaty’s gold medal win seemed to be inspiring as, in the very next race, Jazz Carlin won a superb silver in the Women’s 400m Freestyle behind Katie Ledecky, who was demonstrating her own version of Peatyesque dominance. After waiting 2 whole days for a medal, Britain had won 2 medals in the space of a few minutes. Bit like buses then…