American beats Valerie Adams to Olympic throws gold, while Jessica Ennis-Hill leads heptathlon overnight in Rio
Michelle Carter took gold in the first field events final of Rio 2016 in an exciting contest that saw her overtake long-time leader and reigning champion Valerie Adams in the final round.
Carter calls herself “Shot Diva” and she certainly enjoys a drama as she not only took this Olympic title with a final-round effort but won the world indoor gold in similar last-gasp style in Portland in March.
Here Carter unleashed a US record 20.63m last round effort to beat Adams’ best of 20.39m and in doing so the 30-year-old surpassed the achievement of her father, Michael Carter, who won Olympic silver in Los Angeles in 1984.
Since her world indoors victory, the part-time beautician has not been in great form with defeats at Diamond League meets in Doha and Monaco, but she knows how to get it right on the big day and denied Adams a hat-trick of Olympic crowns.
“On my last throw I just wanted to give it my all,” said Carter. “It’s the Olympic Games and I had to give it everything.”
In third, Anita Marton threw a Hungarian record of 19.87m to pip Lijiao Gong of China for a podium place.
Jessica Ennis-Hill ended the first day of the heptathlon in pole position. As her rivals enjoyed and endured good and bad performances, the reigning champion was a model of consistency.
After a morning session that had seen a solid sprint hurdles and high jump from Ennis-Hill, she began the evening session in the Estadio Olimpico by throwing 13.86m in the shot put – a decent effort but short of the 14.28m she achieved during her London 2012 triumph.
The shot was not a good event for Katarina Johnson-Thompson, though, as she fouled her first effort and followed up with a disappointing 11.68m and 11.19m. This compares to her PB of 13.14m and meant she fell down the standings from first to sixth place as Nafissatou Thiam’s 14.91m catapulted the Belgian into the lead.
Thiam’s lead did not last long, however, as Johnson-Thompson powered to a narrow victory over Ennis-Hill in the third of four 200m races – 23.26 to 23.49 – which compared to Thiam’s 25.10 and moved Ennis-Hill into the gold medal position while Johnson-Thompson moved back up to fourth.
So at the end of the day Ennis-Hill led with 4057 from Thiam’s 3985, with Aleka Jones of Barbados scoring 3964, Johnson-Thompson on 3957, Carolin Schafer fifth with 3936 and the world No.1 Brianne Theisen-Eaton of Canada back in sixth with 3871.
“I was really pleased with my hurdles and high jump as well, but I’m devastated with the shot put,” said Ennis-Hill. “I’ve been throwing 14.50s in training in the holding camp and to do less here was annoying. And then the 200m was a bit of a slow time, really. Although generally everyone didn’t run great times. So, yep, a mixed day but obviously glad to be leading after the first day.”
She added: “It’s always nice to be leading after the first day, but those girls have got big jumps in the long jump and they can all run good 800s so it’ll be a challenging day on Saturday.”
Johnson-Thompson said: “It’s heptathlon isn’t it? It’s highs and lows in all the events and it’s not been a day for lots of PBs and lots of competitors have struggled.
“I’m so happy with my high jump. But I’m a bit annoyed with myself for the other three events.”
Johnson-Thompson said she lost her head a bit in the shot and needed a good 200m to get back on track. “It’s not over, it’s a whole other day (on Saturday) with three more events and anything can happen. I can’t give up on my dream.”
Greg Rutherford’s Olympic long jump title defence got off to a shaky start when he fouled his first two jumps in qualification. Left with one last, nerve-wracking attempt, he leapt out to 7.90m to finish 10th of the 12 athletes to make the final.
There, the Briton will face Wang Jianan of China and Jeff Henderson of the United States, among others, after they led the qualifiers with 8.24m and 8.20m respectively.
Laura Muir comfortably qualified from her 1500m heat after finishing third in a race won by Dawit Seyaum of Ethiopia, but Muir’s GB teammate Laura Weightman had to rely on qualifying as one of the fastest losers after winding up seventh in a heat won by Sifan Hassan of Netherlands. World record-holder Genzebe Dibaba, meanwhile, took her heat easily ahead of Ciara Mageean of Ireland.
Kirani James of Grenada led the 400m qualifiers with 44.93 as big guns Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa and LaShawn Merritt of the United States also coasted to qualifying victories. But there was mixed success for the British runners as Matt Hudson-Smith qualified after finishing third in James’ heat in 45.26, but Martyn Rooney was knocked out after coming fifth in his heat in 45.60.
“That was awful, it was embarrassing,” said Rooney. “I feel like I’m in great shape, I feel like I’m in a hell of a lot better shape than I was this time last year. Maybe I was just too blasé and that’s something you can’t do at an Olympic Games.”
Elsewhere, Anita Wlodarczyk, the world hammer record-holder from Poland, threw 76.93m to qualify for her final with her first throw of the competition, while British record-holder Sophie Hitchon also got through with 70.37m.
In the women’s 100m heats, the sprinters were in action past 11pm in the evening but still produced good times. These were led by Jamaica’s defending champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who ran 10.96 to head the qualifiers. Of the Britons, Desiree Henry won her heat in 11.08, while Asha Philip also qualified with 11.34 for third in her heat, although Daryll Neita was run out of it with 11.41 for fourth in her heat.