Rio Olympics Day 3: Jamaican sprint king Usain Bolt emerges amid continued doping backdrop

Sun Yang wins but walks into further controversy, while Japan dethrone China in the gymnastics men’s team event and hosts Brazil win their first gold medal

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 August, 2016, 5:09pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 August, 2016, 9:49pm

China’s swimmers helped their country keep pace with the US at the top of the Olympic Games medals tables on day three in Rio de Janeiro, as clashes over doping again dominated the news agenda in the pool.

But there was one man who – as ever – just could not be ignored, and he wasn’t even competing.

Usain Bolt has been keeping a low profile at the Games, but finally made his bow in front of the media at a press conference that was more like a Broadway show at Barra’s Cicada des Arts theatre.

Bolt, seeking a ‘triple-triple’ in the 100 metres, 200m and 4x100m relay, turned on the star power to the maximum, joking that he wouldn’t come on stage until journalists clapped louder, handing a pair of signed shoes to a delighted Japanese fan and dancing with carnival-clad samba girls in the colours of Jamaica.

WATCH: relive the action involving Hong Kong athletes on Day 3 at the Rio Olympics

“I think we are going in the right direction. People should have faith,” said Bolt, when talk got serious, for a moment, on the state of athletics.

“We are weeding out the bad ones and I personally think we are on the right track. We have had to go through a rough time before the good times. But in a few years, the sport should be clean and I look forward to that.”

He makes me sick: French swimmer Camille Lacourt casts doubt on China’s Olympic Games champion Sun Yang

One of those “bad ones”, many feel, is China’s controversial swimming star, Sun Yang, who won his first gold medal in the 200m freestyle to defy his critics.

But he wouldn’t be drawn on his feud with Australia’s Mack Horton, who publically called him out for being a drug cheat, sparking a storm among mainland media and netizens.

The pair clash again later this week in the 1,500m and Sun avoided fuelling the fire.

“I am now in my top form. All I need to do is to focus on myself,” he said.

“I think it is important for everyone not to care too much about what is happening outside.”

Mainland media also seemed keen not to keep the war of words going, throwing Sun softball questions in his post-swim press conference.

In the other late-night pool action, American Lilly King made her point in another bad blood over doping claims row, beating the Russian Yulia Efimova for gold in the 100m breaststroke.

Efimova has served a 16-month ban for steroids, and tested positive for meldonium this year, but was still allowed to compete.

Glorious King reigns in Rio after ‘statement’ breaststroke win over drug-tainted Yulia Efimova

King had said she shouldn’t be in Brazil, and teammate Michael Phelps backed her up after he reached his latest final in the 200m butterfly as he bids for an astonishing 20th gold.

“I believe sport should be clean and sport should be on an even playing field, and I think that it’s sad that in sports today we have people who are testing positive not only once but twice and still having the opportunity to swim at this Games,” Phelps said.

Elsewhere, Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu won her second gold in Rio in the 100m backstroke, just days after winning the first of her career at the age of 27.

WATCH: relive the action involving Hong Kong athletes on Day 3 at the Rio Olympics

Ryan Murphy of the US won the men’s 100m backstroke gold, with China’s Xu Jiayu taking silver and American David Plummer, making his Games debut at the age of 30, the bronze.

Out of the pool, though, it was a mixed day for China as the reign of their gymnastics men’s team was ended by the Kohei Uchimura-led Japan.

And Russia even relegated China to the bronze in what had been billed as a duel between two nations with long-held enmity.

Another China favourite for gold also goes home empty-handed as world number one Cao Yifei placed ninth and missed out on a final berth in the 10m air rifle final.

China dethroned as gym kings: reigning Olympic champions suffer chastening defeat to Japan

But the team continue to reign supreme in diving, making it two golds from two events as Chen Aisen and Lin Yue beat a star-studded field in the men’s 10m synchronised platform.

Lin revealed that his parents had sold their house to help fund his Olympic dream.

“I won’t say it was perfect, but we really did our best today,” said Lin, who also won the event in Beijing in 2008 with a different partner.

“The only thing in my mind is that I have to do all I can do for my family to thank them for supporting me.”

Australia clinch inaugural women’s sevens Olympic gold with comfortable win over New Zealand

Elsewhere, the first rugby Olympic medals for 92 years were handed out as Australia beat New Zealand in a superb women’s final.

In the day’s ‘good news stories’, Rafaela Silva, who grew up in the favelas, won judo gold to delight the home nation.

“It’s great for kids who are watching judo now. Seeing someone like me who left the City of God, who started judo at five years of age as a joke,” said Silva, who was raised in the slum made famous by opening ceremony director Fernando Meirelles’ movies.

And champions of inclusion were celebrating the US’s first-ever Olympic athlete to compete in a hijab as Ibtihaj Muhammad participated in the fencing.

“I don’t feel like any part of this journey of mine has been a burden,” she said. “I feel like it has been a blessing to represent so many people who don’t have voices.”

Additional reporting AFP/AP/Reuters