It rained thick and fast after the day had witnessed furious high-velocity winds that shook everything that could be shaken. The heavy rain even forced the rare scenario of one of the men’s 110m hurdles being repeated in better weather, but the Brazilian crowd won full marks for passionate involvement.
When the weather cleared there was drama at the Olympic Stadium as Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas clinched the women’s 400m gold by launching herself headlong past the finish-line, David Rudisha defended his 800m title and pole-vaulter Thiago Braz da Silva gave the home fans more to cheer about with Brazil’s first track and field gold.
For sheer audacity — and focus while performing in front of a crowd booing his rivals — the evening belonged to da Silva. The Brazilian clinched gold with an Olympic record clearance of 6.03m.
The 22-year-old da Silva, who lives and trains in Italy, passed up on the 5.98m cleared by London Games champion and world record holder Renaud Lavillenie, before going over 6.03m, an Olympic record.
The stunned Frenchman, battling also a wildly partisan crowd, failed at that height and had to settle for silver.
American Sam Kendricks won bronze at 5.85m.
“I cannot believe I passed 6.03,” said da Silva.
“Oh man, a gold medal, 6.03, the Olympic record… Incredible!”
Lavillenie, though disappointed with the behaviour of the crowd, praised the champion heartily. “Thiago was strongest tonight, congrats to him. He did a very good job.”
“The crowd was not as fair as Thiago was,” the Frenchman added.
Allyson Felix, gunning for a record fifth Olympic gold, was pipped at the post in the women’s 400m by a diving Miller, whose efforts also got her a personal best 49.44 seconds.
“I have some cuts and bruises, a few burns. It hurts,” said Miller. “When I was on the ground, I didn’t know I had won. I still don’t know how it happened. The only thing in my mind was that I had to get the gold medal. The next thing, I was on the ground.”
“It is an amazing feeling!”
Shericka Jackson of Jamaica grabbed the bronze at 49.85 ahead of Americans Natasha Hastings and Phyllis Francis.
In the men’s 800m, David Rudisha of Kenya defended his gold with a season best 1 minute 42.15 seconds, becoming the first man since Peter Snell of New Zealand in 1964 to defend the quarter-mile title.
“This is a great performance and I am so proud and happy with myself,” said Rudisha.
“I told my Kenyan colleagues that I was going to lead the race. But Alfred Kipketer ran the first 200 like a bullet. So, I slowed down a bit. I knew I was in good form. If you start too fast, it can cost you in the last 100 metres. It’s unfortunate that they did not follow what I told them,” said the 27-year-old Rudisha, who had won the London Games with a world record 1:40.91s.
Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria who won silver with a 1:42.61 had words of praise for Rudisha. “He is a great athlete. He already has the world record, so I am not surprised. I knew he would start very fast and I tried to stick with him. I have the silver and am very happy with it,” said Makhloufi.
Clayton Murphy, who clocked a personal best 1:42.93, said he cared more about the medal than the time.
“Personal bests come and go; the bronze medal outweighs it any day,” he said.