Disappointment for France’s Lavillenie as wind, rain and fire disrupt Rio

Renaud Lavillenie

Renaud Lavillenie

There was disappointment for France but joy for hosts Brazil in the men’s pole vaulting at the Rio Olympics Monday on a day of disruptions caused by bad weather and a nearby wildfire.

Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie, the pole vault world record holder, had been the firm favourite to secure his country’s eighth gold of these Olympics, but suffered a shock defeat to Brazil’s Thiago Braz Da Silva who gave a performance of a lifetime to send the Rio crowd into raptures.

After three early failures, Da Silva passed on an attempt at 5.98 metres and pushed Lavillenie to 6.03, which the Frenchman failed twice before the Brazilian set an Olympic record by clearing that height.

It was Da Silva’s highest jump ever by 10cm and Brazil’s first gold in athletics since 1984.

Da Silva had to wait longer than expected for his victory, however, after the pole vaulting final was delayed due to high winds.

It was one of a number of events affected by adverse weather.

The women’s discus preliminaries were also put on hold for 25 minutes as strong gusts blew around the athletics stadium and heavy rain lashed down.

Before the halt, several discus throwers landed their discuses in the nets because it was so wet.

Organisers also made the somewhat controversial decision to re-run two heats in the men’s 110-metre hurdle preliminaries because the initial races had taken place on a rain-drenched track.

They announced that the eight hurdlers who did not qualify automatically from the two rain-affected heats would get another chance in a special race at the end of Monday night’s schedule to push for a qualifying time.

Two sailing events — the men’s and women’s Laser medal races — had to be postponed until Tuesday as first too little and then too much wind made racing impossible.

The weather was not the only outside element that threatened to have an impact on the Games.

Ash from a nearby wildfire, blown in by the strong winds, littered the playing surface before the Monday evening session of the women’s hockey quarterfinals.

The day’s schedule in that sport was able to go ahead unchanged, but the fire could also affect the mountain bike course, located around 2 miles away from the hockey venue.

The International Cycling Union said it will inspect the course Tuesday to see if any damage has been caused by the wildfire, with practise on the mountain bike course due to begin Wednesday.

Rudisha retains 800m title, Russia’s Tishchenko claims heavyweight crown

Despite the disruptions, there was plenty of sporting action to enjoy Tuesday, including the final of the men’s 800m which saw David Rudisha of Kenya claim gold in the event for the second Olympics in a row.

His time of 1 minute, 42.15 seconds was not up to the wold-record pace he set in the final in London four years ago, but was enough to see off the challenge of Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria, who had to settle for silver. Clayton Murphy of the United States took bronze.

Elsewhere, the big-ticket event in the boxing, the men’s heavyweight final, saw Russian Evgeny Tishchenko hold off Kazakhstan fighter Vassiliy Levit by unanimous decision to win gold.

Levit appeared to be close to victory after catching Tishchenko in the head, cutting him open and causing a lengthy stoppage in the third round in the first Olympics since 1980 where the fighters do not wear headgear.

But the judges thought Tischchenko did enough to survive and win the bout. Tishchenko won 29-28 on all three scorecards.

The women’s 400m final came to a dramatic end, meanwhile, as Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas snatched an upset victory, diving headfirst at the finish line to defeat US star Allyson Felix.

Miller, a silver medallist behind Felix at the World Championships in Beijing last year, threw herself across the line to win in 49.44sec.

Felix, the most decorated female track and field athlete in history, took silver in 49.51sec with Shericka Jackson of Jamaica claiming bronze in 49.85.

And there was further drama in the cycling with a crash in the points race of the multi-discipline omnium seeing South Korean rider Park Sang-hoon having to be carried out on a stretcher.

Park was hit when Britain’s Mark Cavendish cut down the track in a crash that also took out Italy’s Elia Viviani.

Viviani was able to recover, however, and went on to win the gold, with Cavendish finishing in the silver medal position.