What a Games it was. Every four years we are promised the pinnacle of excitement, drama and athletic prowess that only the Olympics can provide.
And in Rio 2016, we were delivered just that.
Usain Bolt (100m, 200m, 4x100m)
Rio belonged to Bolt. Usain Bolt (JAM), the superstar Jamaican sprinter etched his name into Olympic folklore by completing the much hyped treble-treble by winning three sprinting gold medals in three consecutive Olympics.
In 2008, Bolt became athletics royalty on the biggest stage of all. With a cheeky grin and a little dance, he set jaw dropping world records in the 100m, 200m, and as a part of the 4x100m Jamaican relay team. Relaxed and jovial before his race, Bolt broke away the serious demeanour often shown by his competitors in past years. He has smiled and danced his way to victory, leaving everyone else in his wake, as he has done so ever since.
In Rio, Bolt become more than a champion, he became a legend. Winning the 100m in 9.81, the 200m in 19.78, and the relay team clocking 37.27 seconds. In doing so, Bolt has almost changed the sport of sprinting as we know it.
The Brazilian crowds truly love him and the chants of U-SAIN, U-SAIN filled the packed stadium. Bolt finishes his Olympic career with a 100% win record in finals.
Mo Farah (5000m, 10,000m)
From one superstar of the track to the other. Whilst Bolt was making history in less than 10 seconds, it took Mo Farah (GBR) more than 27 minutes to create his.
The famed ‘double-double’ was achieved when Farah became only the second athlete ever to win the 5,000m and 10,000m at two consecutive Games after Finn Lasse Viren did so in 1972 and 1976.
Early on in the 25 lap race, Farah was accidentally clipped on the back of his heel by American training partner Galen Rupp. Farah fell to the track, before he quickly regained his footing, continued running and went on to win the gold in the last lap over Paul Kipkemoi Chelimo (USA) and Hagos Gebrhiwet (ETH) in 27:05.17. Farah continues to be unbeaten in the distance since 2012.
But the games were not over for the 33-year-old, with Farah claiming his fourth and final gold medal at the Olympics in a tense 5000m in 13:03.30. Once again, Farah saved his best until the very end, sprinting away to gold before signing off with his signature pose, the ‘MoBot’, that sent the crowd into raptures – another golden moment from one of British Athletics greatest ever.
Wayde Van Niekerk (400m)
After Wayde van Niekerk’s (RSA) win at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing, many pundits felt that this 24-year-old was destined for Olympic greatness. Though what he delivered surpassed everyone’s expectations. A world record in 43.03.
Wiping 0.15 seconds off Michael Johnson’s time from the 1999 IAAF World Championships, Van Niekerk ran an incredible race from lane 8. Up against two Olympic 400m gold medallists in Kirani James (GRN) and LaShawn Merritt (USA), it wasn’t until the 150m to go mark before Van Niekerk looked like he was even going to medal. But with 80m to go, Merritt and James looked as though they were standing still as van Niekerk strode toward home in record time.
It was South Africa’s first Olympic athletics gold medal since Josia Thugwane won the marathon in 1996.
Elaine Thompson (100m, 200m, silver in the 4x100m relay)
Proving Jamaica’s sprint dominance is as healthy as ever, Elaine Thompson (JAM) emphatically took the mantle as the world’s fastest woman, winning the 100m and 200m, whilst taking silver in the 4x100m relay.
Continuing the tradition of other Jamaican sprinting greats such as Veronica Campbell-Brown and Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Thompson did what neither of those had, and became the first to win the sprint double at the Olympics since Florence Griffith-Joyner (USA) did 28 years ago in Seoul.
Thompson produced the second-fastest winning time ever in the 100m, unleashing her ultimate speed to pass training partner Fraser-Pryce midway through the race. From there, she never looked back, winning in 10.71. Fast finishing Tori Bowie (USA) won silver, with Fraser-Pryce having to settle for bronze.
If her 100m was impressive, her 200m victory was astounding. Beating out pre-race favourite Dafne Schippers (NED), Thompson was in a league of her own for the second half of the race, finishing in a world-leading time of 21.78 to win her second gold of Rio.
In the women’s 100m, Jamaica has won 10 of the last 15 Olympic medals on offer. In the 200m, Jamaica has won a medal in the event since 1980.
Thiago Braz Da Silva (Pole Vault)
For the Brazillians, this was their moment of the games.
If Estádio Olímpico had a roof, it would’ve been blown off on the fourth night of athletics action, when homecrowd hero Thiago Braz da Silva clinched gold for his country in the men’s pole vault.
Heading into the men’s pole vault competition, it looked as though the gold medal would most likely return to France via reigning Olympic champion and vaulter extraordinaire Renaud Lavillenie. Beyond that, 2015 world champion Shawnacy Barber (CAN) or Sam Kendricks (USA) were the likely challengers. Few predicted Da Silva would fly to such extreme heights to win. But win, he did.
In a blow-for-blow battle with Lavillenie, the São Paulo local was forced to skip 5.98m after Lavillenie cleared on his first attempt, raising the bar to 6.03m. His first jump was unsuccessful, but on his second attempt, Da Silva cleared the bar, sending the home crowd into hysterics. Lavillenie couldn’t clear 6.08m on his final attempt and the gold went to the home country.
It was Brazil’s first Olympic gold medal in athletics since Joaquim Cruz won the 800m in 1984.