Michael Phelps went out on top, wrapping up the greatest Olympic career ever with one last gold — his 23rd — on Saturday night. It came on a day when Rio was filled with dramatic performances as swimming wrapped up and track kicked into high gear.
On the track, Jamaica maintained its stranglehold on the women’s 100-meter title, but this time it was Elaine Thompson taking gold in 10.71, while her teammate Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the winner in 2008 and 2012, had to settle for bronze. American Tori Bowie took the silver.
In the men’s sprints, where Jamaican men are equally strong, Usain Bolt coasted to victory in his heat as he seeks to become the first man to win three 100-meter titles in a row. The final is set for Sunday at 9.25 p.m.
Also, Britain’s Mo Farah unleashed his trademark kick to pull away in the final straightway of the 10,000 meters, winning in a time of 27 minutes, 5:17 seconds, and defending the gold he captured in London four years ago.
His win was all the more impressive because 11 minutes into the race he got tangled up with American Galen Rupp and tumbled to the track. Farah popped up immediately, losing only a couple of seconds, and was soon back at full speed. Rupp, the silver medalist in London, hung with a small pack of frontrunners throughout the 6.2-mile race, but couldn’t match their final kicks and placed 5th.
In the pool, the focus was on Phelps’s final race, the 4×100-meter medley relay. Yet it was American Ryan Murphy who set a world record in the 100-meter backstroke as he swam the leadoff leg. That set the stage for Phelps, who handled the third leg, the butterfly, in a memorable and triumphant conclusion to his fifth — and he says final — Olympic Games. Phelps won five gold and a silver in Rio, raising his total to 23 gold and 28 overall medals.
Simone Manuel, who became the first African-American to win an individual gold on Thursday, in the 100-meter freestyle, got another gold Saturday as she swam the freestyle leg to anchor the 4×100 medley relay.
She also captured a second silver when she finished second in the bang-bang finish of the 50-meter freestyle. Manuel was just .02 seconds behind the winner, Denmark’s Pernille Blume, in a race where the top six finishers were all within .12 seconds of each other.
Overall, the Americans won 33 medals, including 16 golds, one of their best Olympic performances ever.
You can see our full swimming story here.
Here are the other highlights from Saturday:
U.S. Women Rowers Take Third Straight Gold
The American eight delivered as expected, winning their third straight Olympic gold and extending their perfect record at the Olympics and the world championships to 11 straight years.
The American rowers were trailing at 1,000 meters, the halfway point, but steadily powered their way into the lead and finished in 6 minutes, 1:49 seconds, more than two seconds ahead of runner-up Great Britain.
“We feel so fortunate to be part of this team,” said Eleanor Logan, who was also part of the gold medal teams in 2008 and 2012. “The hunger to be the best they can be every day has pushed us to a new level. We’re not really comparing, we just had to look every day to be better ourselves.”
The scenery for the rowing competition in Guanabara Bay is spectacular. The rowers are surrounded by mountains with a view of the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue.
But the traditional victory celebration lacked one key element — the American women did not toss coxswain Katelin Snyder into the heavily polluted water out of concern it could make her ill.
Monica Puig gives Puerto Rico its first gold
Puerto Rico has had its own Olympic team since 1948 and has won eight medals, but never a gold until Saturday, when Monica Puig battled her way to a three-set victory over Germany’s Angelique Kerber.
The fans supporting Puig were so enthusiastic that the chair umpire requested silence several times, then simply shushed the audience.
Puig won the first set 6-4, then dropped the second 6-4. She then took the final set decisively, 6-1.
“I never imagined in my wildest dreams that this would happen,” said Puig.
You can see our full story on Puig’s victory here.
Dutch equestrian cuts short competition to protect ailing horse
Dressage rider Adelinde Cornelissen came to Rio with her horse Parzival and high hopes — they won individual silver and team bronze in London.
But the horse fell ill earlier this week.
“I saw the right side of his head was swollen, he had been kicking the walls. I took his temperature: he had a fever of over 40 degrees Celcius (104 Fahrenheit),” she wrote on her Facebook page, adding that she thought he was bitten by a spider or a mosquito.
“Being the fighter he is, he never gives up,” she added. “But in order to protect him, I gave up … My buddy, my friend, the horse that has given everything for me his whole life does not deserve this…. So I saluted and left the arena.”