In front of an electric crowd of Brazilian fans, Thiago Braz Da Silva brashly skipped his clearance at 5.98m and vaulted himself to Olympic glory with a beautiful jump at 6.03m to beat out defending champion and world-record holder Renee Lavillenie. The crowd was deafening as the frenchman failed out of the competition at 6.08m having failed to clear 6.03 leaving him with the silver. The vault was an Olympic record but perhaps not even the most exciting competition of the night.
A relatively uneventful men’s 110HH was highlighted by an unprecedented re-run for the final places on time after the first two heats endured a torrential downpour which severely affected their performances. Otherwise the favorites like Ortega, McLeod, Porter, Ash, Bascou and Allen advanced with ease.
The women’s 400mH hurdle heats were full of drama as the slick track caused a couple of falls in the event. However, all the favorites managed to stay clear of the hurdles and advance to the semi-final. The 17-year-old American Sydney McLaughlin managed to make it through on time after only managing a fifth place performance. McLaughlin will most definitely be the coolest person in high school when she gets to explain that she not only got to spend part of her summer at the Olympics in Rio but that she was also in them. Still not enough for McLaughlin, her 56.23 will make her a force in the semi-final and her surprisingly calm, mature demeanor gives her a veteran’s edge.
A dramatic women’s 400m final saw a face-off between last year’s World Champion Alyson Felix and runner-up Shanue Miller. Coming off the curve, Miller had a huge lead but was tying up hard. Felix quick-stepped her way closer to Miller but was running out of distance on the fast fading Bahamian. In a poorly calculated move of desperation, Miller dove for the line which proved controversial in the aftermath. Nonetheless, Miller didn’t need to dive - her margin of victory was substantial enough with little enough distance to go that she simply could’ve continued to run through the line and she would’ve held off Felix. Regardless, there is no rule that says you can’t dive. If Felix had wanted to vainly throw herself to the track for theatrics, she very well could’ve and nothing would’ve been any different.
After a rough season, defending 800m champ David Rudisha seemed in trouble, particularly with the rainy conditions. A notoriously bad racer in the rain, Rudisha likely benefited most of all from the delay in competition. A fast early pace set by his compatriot and aggressive front-runner Alfred Kipketer let Rudisha draft comfortably for the first part of the race. He was shadowed closely by the frenchman Bosse but down the homestretch Bosse’s aggressive style seemed to hurt him and as Rudisha powered away, Taoufik Makhloufi and American Clayton Murphy glided past for silver and bronze, respectively. Murphy’s improbable run came after a full collegiate season, electing to run is secondary event - the 800m - and only qualifying for the semifinal with a performance on time. Notably, Murphy was not even born the last time an american distance runner earned a medal in the 800m at the Olympics (Grey 1992).