Yes there was qualifying – women’s 800 semis, women’s 4×1 semis, and men’s 4×4 semis – with everyone expected to move through moving through. The big news being 1.) The US women screamed 41.63 in the relay which was the only mark under 42.00; 2.) The US men were led off by Manteo Mitchell who broke his fibula during the race yet completed his leg as the US moved on with the equal fastest time of the day at 2:58.87; and 3.) Caster Semenya suddenly goes 1:57.67 “jogging” to lead the women into the finals.
Now for the real news. First in the men’s triple jump, American’s Christian Taylor (17.81m/58’ 5.25”) and Will Claye (17.62m/57’ 9.75”) pulled off a one-two finish in the triple jump – the first same country gold/silver finish since Mike Conley & Charlie Simpkins (also Americans). Uniquely both were also teammates at the University of Florida where they accomplished the same feat at the NCAA Championships in 2011. They also were one-two at the World Indoor Championships earlier this year – and if the world isn’t careful, this won’t be the last time. Claye’s medal was in addition to the bronze medal he won earlier in the Games in the Long Jump. This pair should be heard from for a while.
So should the one-two punch of Ashton Eaton (8869 pts) and Trey Hardee (8671 pts) who took gold/silver in the men’s decathlon. They started out on top in the opening event (100 meters); finished the first day one/two; opened day two with the two fastest times in the hurdles as they finished in 13.54 & 13.56 (Hardee actually defeating Eaton); and of course finished the day with the top two medals. There was really little drama as the pair led throughout. The fight for bronze nearly as clear as Leonel Suarez (CUB) scored 8523 for his medal. With the medals here to go with the pair in the triple jump, the US is now at 24 medals which is one more than the Beijing total, and counting. Thirty is possible, we’ll see if it happens.
So what beats a one-two finish – two of them? That would be a sweep, which is what Jamaica got in the men’s 200 meters. I said yesterday that unless someone ran out of their heads on the turn that a sweep was possible, and well, no one ran out of their heads on the turn. Expect the Jamaicans that is that did so round after round – making it clear that the only way to get to the podium was through the turn! The question going in was simply: would Blake beat Bolt? While he gave it a good shot, that did not happen as Bolt, Blake and Warren Weir all blasted the turn with Bolt and Blake emerging first. Heading down the straight it looked for a moment that Blake would overtake Bolt – a la Joe DeLoach v Carl Lewis in ‘88 – for the upset. Instead it was more like Carl Lewis v Kirk Baptiste in ‘84 when Carl held Baptiste off and lead the US to a sweep. This time it was Bolt holding Blake off and leading a Jamaican sweep: Bolt 19.32, Blake 19.44, Weir 19.84. The victory gave Bolt a defense of his 200 title from Beijing, making him the first sprinter to defend a 200 title, and making him the first sprinter to defend both sprint titles – a rather historical achievement. The sweep was the first since the US swept the event in 2004. Unfortunately for Americans, not placing in this event gave us a single medal in the men’s sprints for the first time since 1928 – not the kind of history you want to make! I’ll talk about that more another day, but congrats to Bolt on his double defense and Jamaica on their sweep.
Now if a sweep beats two one/two’s, then what beats a sweep? How about winning Olympic gold while setting a WR, breaking a barrier, AND defeating the deepest field ever with the fastest finishes for place 1 through 8 in history? THAT is what David Rudisha did in his historical 1:40.91 win in the men’s 800. The numbers: Rudisha’s splits – 23.5, 25.8 (49.28), 25.0 (1:14.3), 26.6 (51.6) with a final 100 of 13.7! The final finish:
1:40.91 – David Rudisha (KEN) WR
1:41.73 – Nigel Amos (BOT) WJR
1:42.53 – Timothy Kitum (KEN) PB, #2 AT JR
1:42.82 – Duane Solomon (USA) #2 AT US
1:42.95 – Nick Symmonds (USA) #3 AT US
1:43.20 – Mohammad Aman (ETH) NR
1:43.32 – Abubaker Kaki (SUD) SB
1:43.77 – Andrew Osagie (GBR) PB
Marinate on that for a minute. Rudisha becomes the first man to break the 1:41.00 barrier. He did so without a rabbit in the crucible of the Olympic Games. He controlled the race from start to finish. He was never pressured as he dismantled the greatest race in history! I don’t know what more to say. It may have been the greatest race I’ve ever witnessed – to this point! I add the caveat, because Amos, Kitum, and Aman are all teenagers! Not to mention the young jumpers, sprinters, and hurdlers out there. Surely we are among some of the greatest track and field talent in history! And today, Rudisha showed to be the greatest of them all. Nuff respect. There’s nothing left to say today.