Highlight of the day
Cycling – Women’s individual BMX, Men’s individual BMX
OK – we’ve gone heavy on cycling so far, but we promise you that the BMX is worth it. After the qualifying run, three quarterfinals and three semifinals, the whole thing comes down to one freaking run over a track that looks like it was ripped from Excitebike. A slipped pedal or incidental contact could kill four (or more) years of hard work.
Caroline Buchanan missed out on a medal entirely in London, and has geared her last four years to this less-than-one minute. The London champ, Mariana Pajón is the favourite here, but anyone who makes it through to the final should have a shot
The big news in the men’s is the two time Olympic champ Maris Stromberg and defending world champion Joris Daudet were both knocked out in the quartefinals. Sam Willoughby had a near-flawless QF stage, and has performed on the big stage before. Connor Fields should challenge him all the way.
Probably should watch
Athletics – Men’s 50km walk, Women’s 20km walk, Women’s pole vault, Men’s hammer throw, Women’s 5000m, Women’s 4x100m relay, Men’s 4x100m relay
The belated 2012 gold medallist Jared Tallent pulled out of the 20km walk due to injury so his performance in the 50km race walk will be interesting. World record-holder Yohann Diniz would have to be considered a strong chance, clocking the fastest 2016 time after returning from a long term injury, and no doubt keen to atone for missing the finish in the previous two Olympics. However in an event loaded with disqualifications the field is a pretty open one.
The 20km women’s walk, too, is fairly open behind world champion and world record holder Liu Hong who is undefeated in over a year. Hong was banned in secretive circumstances for one month this year for testing positive to a specified dietary supplement called higenamine – that substance also caused some confusion over conflicting advice with UEFA footballer Mamadou Sakho. The gold and silver medallists from London were both Russians implicated in doping, one has been stripped of her medal so far. The best chances for an upset are Maria Guadalupe Gonzalez and Shijie Qieyang whose best 2016 times are within 1 minute of Hong’s and who beat her at London (her initial bronze behind the two Russians has since become silver).
Almaz Ayana blitzed the 5000m field by 13 seconds in the heats after already claiming the 10000m gold by 15 seconds. She will be very hard to beat. Senbere Teferi, Vivian Cheruiyot and Karoline Bjerkeli Grøvdal ran nearly identical times in those heats and Yasemin Can will also fancy her chances at a medal. Three Ethiopian runners including Ayana and Teferi swept the mdeals in the 2015 world championships and the pair may well quinella this. Cheruiyot’s Kenyan compatriots Hellen Obiri and Mercy Cherono are also medal chances, being the second, third and fourth fastest so far in 2016 races.
The women’s pole vault saw Ekaterini Stefanidi pass the automatic qualifying mark at her first vault of the meet, coming in with hot form with four competition wins in the Diamond League this year. Sandi Morris has the best vault in 2016 prior to the games. Those two probably loom as the two strongest contenders, but not by a huge amount. As in the men’s this will be a very open event decided by tiny margins.
The men’s hammer has been thrown wide open by the shock exit of two-time world champion, Paweł Fajdek who had been a very short-priced favourite after being undefeated in over a year. Rattled by a foul throw and a poor second effort, struggling with the heat and perhaps with memories of three foul throws destroying his Games at London, he didn’t throw far enough in his final attempt to make the final. His compatriot Wojciech Nowicki throw over a metre clear of any other qualifier, and Ivan Tsikhan hit automatic qualifying with his first attempt. Outside of those two, Dilshod Nazarov stands a chance of winning Tajikistan’s first ever gold and the local Walter Domingos is an outside chance.
Both 4x100m relays are basically USA v Jamaica. The women’s 4×100 nearly saw a huge boilover with the USA favourites missing a baton change in their heat. The incident was correctly ruled obstruction by an errant competitor’s elbow and they ran the fastest qualifying time in a hastily organised solo heat. Whether the extra run dampens their pace in the final remains to be seen.
Usain Bolt aims for another gold (helping to replace the 2008 relay one he’s looking like losing due to Nesta Carter’s doping sanction) within the Jamaican team. The US team is loaded with depth but has historically had problems with the baton transitions, battling a substantial failure rate since 2000. Jamaica ran second to a red-hot Japan in the heats, leaving the Japanese looming as a potential spoiler.
Water polo – Women’s finals
Often water polo is called the handball of the water – which is broadly right, if it was also the wrestling of the water as well. Put simply, water polo is brutal and occasionally brilliant to watch.
Hockey – Women’s finals
In the gold medal match, the Netherlands and Great Britain compete for gold, with the formidable number 1 ranked Dutch lineup likely to beat the 7th ranked England team (the GB women’s team contains no Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland players).
The Kiwis will start favourites against Germany for bronze.
Soccer – Women’s finals
The women’s soccer is one of the showcases of the Olympics from a team sports perspective. The Olympics is the absolute pinnacle of the game. This final sees surprise packets Sweden, behind an extremely effective counter-punching strategy, face off against favourites Germany. A lot of US fans are hilariously salty at Sweden for knocking them out through underhanded strategies such as “defending”, which is reason enough to go for the women in blue and yellow here.
The bronze will be contested between Brazil and Canada.
Wrestling – Men’s freestyle 57 kg, Men’s freestyle 74 kg
The tension in wrestling can be something to behold, even if not quite up to Judo standard.
Hassan Rahimi and Vladimer Khinchegashvili contested the 57kg gold at the most recent world championships and come in as the top two seeds whi;e the veteran Yowlys Bonne is apparently a particularly entertaining contender to watch. Lurking deep in the seedings is one of those elusive North Korean, Kyong-Il Yang who won the 2014 woirld championships.
Jordan Burroughs is the top seed in the 74kg having won two of the last three world championships and the gold in London. Aniuar Geduev is his closest rival but they’ll meet well before the medal rounds with the loser relgated to the repechage for bronze. Pürevjavyn Önörbat took silver to Burroughs last year and it might be him or Hassan Yazdani from the bottom half of the draw..
In a notably bizarre case, the Indian outside medal chance Narsingh Yadav was yesterday banned for four yearsafter the Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted WADA’s appeal and rejected his locally successful argument that his two positive steroid tests were “sabotage” by rivals.
Watch if it’s on
Badminton – Women’s singles, Men’s doubles
Carolina Marin takes on Pusarla Venkata Sindhu in a matchup between 1st vs 9th seed. Sandhu would be aiming win either India’s tenth ever Olympic gold medal and second since Moscow. Either way it would be the highest place so far attained by an Indian athlete at the Rio Games. The bronze match is 3rd seed Li Xuerui vs 6th seed Nozomi Okuhara.
In the men’s doubles (as we prematurely noted yesterday) sees a string of upsets in the doubles pit unseeded Malaysia against fourth seed China for the gold while Great Britain won the bronze.
Modern pentathlon – Women
We planned on having a massive rant here about how stupid “modern” pentathlon based on 19th century soldiery is in the current day…but you’ll have to wait. OUR TAKES ARE TOO HOT FOR A FRIDAY AFTERNOON. In the meantime, watch the final event of this and pretty much nothing else – it’s the biathlon of the dry land.
Oktawia Nowacka is leading after the fencing and Lena Schoneborn and Elodie Clouvel are betting favourites.
Taekwondo – Women’s 67 kg, Men’s 80 kg
Taekwondo is the ancient art of trying to spin kick people in the face then issuing video scoring challenges. The electronics are intriguingly augmented this time, though, with force gauges coming up on the screen with kick strengths.
In the men’s 80kg class the athlete to watch is the Moldovan athlete Aaron Cook. If you think that Aaron Cook doesn’t sound like a traditionally Moldovan name, you’d be right. After being inexplicably overlooked for selection in his home Olympics in 2012, despite being ranked number 1 in the world, Cook changed nationalities to Moldova thanks to the help of a friendly billionaire. Cook is seeded 2nd here, and it’s hard for us to barrack against him. Mahdi Khodabakhshi, the current world champion, is the biggest obstacle in his path to destiny.
In the women’s 67kg class, Chuang Chia-chia is the defending world champ, but only seeded third here. Elin Johansson and Haby Naire are ranked first and second, and Oh Hye-ri is from South Korea and can not be written off for that reason.
Boxing – Women’s light 60 kg
Check this out (paraphrased at Wikipedia from this Vice article):
From the 2016 Summer Olympics, male athletes no longer have to wear protective headgear in competition, due to a ruling by the AIBA and the IOC that it contributes to greater concussion risk. Female athletes will continue to wear the headgear, due to “lack of data” on the effectiveness of it on women.
Synchronised swimming – Women’s
We’re not going to say much here, because making jokes about synchronised swimming is like shooting multiple fish at the same time in several barrels. Synchronised swimming is definitely a real sport, and is very tough sport, it just isn’t that good to watch. Russia currently leads China in the standings.
Equestrian – Individual jumping
We watched three seconds of this the other day and the commentator said “And the German is the number one athlete in the world.” Surely the horse is the athlete here? I mean if you put that rider on a random horse it’s not jumping shit. The horse, with a different rider, probably would cruise over that same shit like no-one business. We assume the horse under the unnamed German will win.