Phelps signs off with 23rd gold, Bolt grabs spotlight
A classic Michael Phelps performance ended the swimming legend’s career with 23 Olympic gold medals before handing over the Rio Games centre stage to Usain Bolt.
The 29-year-old Jamaican track star lines up for the men’s 100m final Sunday night and says arch-rival Justin Gatlin, the fastest man this year, ‘holds no fear for me’ ahead of one of the biggest showdowns of the Games.
That epic race comes on the heels of a heroic performance on Saturday by Britain’s Mo Farah, who picked himself up off the track after a fall to claw his way to victory in the 10,000m.
But on a night the United States says it reached 1,000 gold medals overall, the spotlight belonged to Phelps.
The 31-year-old had to come from behind on the butterfly leg of the 4x100m medley to set up the victory in 3min 27.95sec, which included a world record in the backstroke leg by America’s Ryan Murphy.
It was a fittingly triumphant swansong for Phelps, the most decorated Olympian in history who added five golds and a silver in Rio. He finished his career with 28 medals overall.
His coach Bob Bowman said we may never see the likes of Phelps again for a long time.
“It’s not even once in a generation. It may be once in 10 generations,” he said.
Phelps said he had felt himself “starting to crack” heading for the pool for his last race but the result could not have been better.
“This is how I wanted to finish my career. I’ve lived a dream come true,” he said.
The women’s quartet of Kathleen Baker, Lilly King, Simone Manuel and Dana Vollmer also won their race, which the US Olympic Committee said took the country to 1,000 Olympic golds.
– Bolt no fear –
Bolt is also looking for a perfect finish to his Olympic career, by sweeping the 100m, 200m and relay sprint golds for the third straight Olympics.
The Jamaican and his US arch-rival Gatlin both came through their preliminary races with ease Saturday.
Barring a catastrophe, they will clash in the final at 22:25pm (0125 GMT Monday) and both are confident.
“I’m feeling good. I’m happy,” said Bolt.
He told the Sunday’s French newspaper Le Parisien that Gatlin “holds no fear for me” and that athletics, mired in a major drugs scandal, needs him to beat a rival snared twice for doping.
Saturday’s track highlight saw Mo Farah pick himself up after being clipped by training partner Galen Rupp in the 10,000m and gallop away to glory.
“When I went down, I thought, ‘Oh my God, that is it.’ I just got up and wanted to stick with the guys and stay strong,” Farah said.
Elaine Thompson ended the reign of Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce with a women’s 100m victory of 10.71sec which torpedoed her fellow Jamaican’s hopes of an Olympic hat-trick in the event.
– Sensational Sunday –
Twenty-two Olympic titles are on offer on ‘Sensational Sunday’ including golf and tennis where a memorable men’s singles final is in prospect between Wimbledon champion Andy Murray and Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro.
At the Olympic golf course, Murray’s fellow Briton, Justin Rose, is the man to catch for the first Olympic golf gold medal since 1904.
But British Open winner Henrik Stenson lurks only one stroke adrift entering the final round.
In other athletics action Saturday, Britain’s golden girl Jessica Ennis-Hill was dramatically denied a second straight heptathlon win.
Belgium’s Nafissatou Thiam needed to finish the closing 800m within nine seconds of Ennis-Hill, and made it when she crossed 7.47sec behind.
American Jeff Henderson won the long jump while Germany’s Christoph Harting won discus gold to keep the title in the family after his brother Robert, the 2012 champion, ruined his chances by straining his back while turning off a light with his foot.
At the velodrome, Britain’s Katie Archibald, Laura Trott, Elinor Barker and Joanna Rowsell-Shand smashed the women’s team pursuit world record for the third time in 48 hours to take gold, beating world champions USA to defend their title.
The Netherlands’ Elis Ligtlee pulled off a shock when she won the women’s keirin, beating Britain’s Becky James with Australian legend Anna Meares third.
Brazil football star Neymar cheered the hosts as he curled in a free kick for his first goal of the competition in a 2-0 quarter-final victory over Colombia.
Olympic rowing ended Saturday with Great Britain winning the men’s eight gold to top the medal table for the third successive Games.
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