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France got its first two gold medals of the 2016 Olympics on the board Tuesday as USA swimming legend Michael Phelps added to his own impressive medal haul and Serena Williams crashed out of the tennis in the fourth day at the Games in Rio.
After a poor start in Brazil, the first taste of gold in Rio for the French finally came in the team eventing, where a strong performance in the show jumping — one of the three disciplines that make up the sport — saw them pip defending champions Germany to first place on the podium.
Further glory for France came in the canoe slalom, where Denis Gargaud Chanut beat the odds to take gold in an event where Great Britain’s David Florence was the strong favourite.
But Florence made a mistake early in his race and never recovered, finishing 10th.
Gargaud Chanut, who at 29 was competing in his first ever Olympics, set a time of 94.17 seconds to top the leaderboard.
But an agonising wait followed as Spain’s Ander Elosegi and German Sideris Tasiadis still had to make their runs.
Elosegi was three seconds slower and Tasiadis finished more than a second behind, sending Gargaud Chanut to top of the podium.
“It was difficult to wait for the race to finish,” Gargaud Chanut said. “I was already happy to be on the podium and after the Spanish went; I saw that I was silver, so the gold was just the cherry on the cake.”
Phelps and Ledecky light up the pool
Elsewhere on Tuesday, Phelps brought his own personal tally of Olympic golds to an incredible 21 in what was a good day for Team USA.
Phelps earned his 20th career gold medal after taking the 200-meter butterfly, erasing the bad memories from his loss in the same race in London to South African Chad le Clos.
His 21st gold came just a few moments later after swimming the anchor leg on the 4×200-meter relay.
Phelps, at 31, is a grizzled veteran in the swimming world. At the other end of the spectrum is his compatriot Katie Ledecky, who at just 19 years old is already racking up her own impressive collection of gold medals.
The teenager secured her second gold of these Olympics on Tuesday by holding off a brave charge from Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom to win the 200-meter freestyle.
The American, who won the 400m title with a stunning world record on day two, clocked 1:53.73 to win by 0.35 seconds from Sjostrom with Australia’s Emma Mckeon taking bronze in 1:54.92.
“That was a really tough race and it hurt really badly,” said Ledecky. “I’m pretty sure that’s the closest I’ve come to throwing up in the middle of a race. I had to dig deep. I’m just so glad I got my hand on the wall first, it was all worth it.”
It was not all smiles for the Americans, however, with Serena Williams losing on the tennis court.
Wimbledon champion Williams, the top seed, suffered a shock defeat to Ukranian Elina Svitolina, losing in two sets, 6-4, 6-3, in the third round of the women’s singles competition.
Wednesday promises to be another action-packed day, with Phelps and Ledecky back in the pool, Andy Murray competing in the tennis and Chris Froome looking to add to his latest Tour de France win with a medal in the men’s time trial.