Start as you mean to go on: 2016 Games gets off to an explosive start with giant upsets and plenty of tears
Hopes are high that the 2016 Games will continue the way it began after a superb day of action in Rio
Day 1 of the Rio Olympics went off with a literal bang and ended with tears from Yang.
A controlled explosion on a ‘suspect backpack’ near the finish line of the men’s cycling road race had the doomsayers who’ve labelled 2016 the ‘apocalympics’ slavering in the morning, while China’s controversial swimmer Sun Yang broke down and cried after losing his Olympic crown in the 400 metres freestyle to bitter rival Mack Horton of Australia.
Hong Kong had two athletes in action, Cheung King-lok in the cycling road race and Vivian Kong Man-wai in the epee; Cheung didn’t finish the brutal race – less than half the field did – but Kong made a little bit of history by winning HK’s first-ever Olympics fencing bout.
Golden moments on Day 1 at the Rio Olympics
American Ginny Thrasher was a surprise winner of the first gold medal of 2016, taking the 10m air rifle ahead of her fancied Chinese opponents Du Li and Yi Siling – first blood to the west in the bragging rights battle, as China failed to land any golds on the opening day.
Sun was beaten by 0.13 of a second at the aquatics centre after a frantic neck and neck sprint to the line with Horton, who afterwards doubled down on recent criticism of Sun, asking why he was even allowed to compete after a failed dope test in 2014.
“Winning and losing are normal for athletes. No one would keep winning. I hope that I would adjust myself properly after this,” the 24-year-old Sun said.
Australia – and surprisingly Hungary – top the table with two golds after day one. The Aussies’ 4x100m freestyle relay team joined Horton on top of the podium after beating an American squad anchored by Katie Ledecky.
Hungary’s medals came from Katinka Hosszu, who crushed the world record in the women’s 400m individual medley in 4 minutes, 26.36 seconds, demolishing Ye Shiwen’s previous mark of 4:28.43. Ye’s dire performance summed up China’s day – she was the reigning champion from London 2012, but finished 27th out of 33 in 4:45.86.
Hungary’s other gold was from Emese Szasz in the epee, beating Rosella Fiamingo, who had knocked out HK’s Kong in the last 16.
“The experience was amazing it really is nothing I’ve ever experienced before,” said Kong. “I’m just so proud to be representing Hong Kong.
“I’m sad it’s over but I’m really looking forward to the next Olympics and just hope I can do better.”
Cheung’s failure to finish the road race shouldn’t be seen as a failure. Regarded as the toughest Olympic or World Championship race for at least 20 years up and down the mountains of Rio, 30-plus degree heat made it even more difficult.
“It is a tough course with many uphill sections on both ends. It is a pity that he could not finish but nevertheless, he put in his best effort,” said cycling coach Shen Jinkang.
Belgium’s Greg van Avermaet won the crash-filled event.
The Games started with an unwanted bang when a military bomb squad detonated a suspicious package near the finish at Copacabana beach.
“The security services found a suspicious package close to the cycle road race finish line in Copacabana and as a precaution decided to perform a controlled explosion,” organisers said.
And at the equestrian venue at Deodoro, which is on a military base, a stray bullet ripped through the media centre’s canvas roof and landed on the floor.
“All authorities assured that the bullet was a stray bullet that has nothing to do with the Games or the Olympic family or the press. The area was not a target,” said Games spokesman Mario Andrada.
Extremely long queues for fans waiting to get in also invited criticism, with organisers promising extra staff for security screenings.
“We do hope nobody missed any important part of a competition for being on lines,” said Andrada.
But after getting in, fans packed the Olympic Park, many wearing Brazil football shirts or draped in the country’s flag.
They provided a terrific atmosphere at every event with a home athlete involved, turning normally sedate fencing and judo crowds into something akin to a Maracana football crowd.
Scandal-hit Russia won a gold, in judo, and there was a first ever gold for Vietnam, Hoang Xuan Vinh in the shooting events.
The most horrific image of the day was the sight of French gymnast Samir Ait Said’s leg flopping around grotesquely after he shattered a bone in a fall off the vault.
And Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini provided a heart-melting moment in the pool, by winning her butterfly heat.
“The only thing I ever wanted was to compete in the Olympics,” said the 18-year-old, who literally swam for her life after the motor of the dinghy carrying her and others fleeing the country cut out.