By Scott Malone
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Jamaica, Kenya and the United States added to their athletics medal tallies in the 110metres hurdles, women’s 1,500m and men’s triple jump on Tuesday, while Russia’s sole track and field competitor survived to compete another day at Rio.
Athletes from Kenya, Croatia and Canada also claimed Olympic gold in a largely empty stadium, where announcers urged rowdy Brazilian fans to restrain themselves after provoking a French pole vaulter with a chorus of boos the night before.
Jamaica’s Omar McLeod earned the country its first gold in the men’s sprint hurdles, Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon devastated the field in the 1,500m and American Christian Taylor successfully defended his triple-jump gold.
However, the loudest cheers of the night came for native pole vaulter Thiago da Silva as he received the gold medal he won on Monday night. The crowd once again booed silver medalist French Renaud Lavillenie, ignoring Da Silva’s gestures asking for quiet.
Lavillenie, who the night before had complained about the booing during his final attempt, apologized on Tuesday for having compared his experience to the hostility of Nazi Germany towards Jesse Owens at the 1936 Berlin Games.
The announcer at the Rio Olympic Stadium at least four times during Tuesday’s evening competition asked the crowd to be respectful to the competitors, a reaction the Carioca fans’ flashes of belligerence.
Russian athletes in particular have faced hostile crowds in Rio as the result of a doping scandal that has shaded the Games.
Long jumper Darya Klishina, the sole athlete from her country competing in track and field after the rest of the team was banned, escaped their wrath, but that was probably more a result of her slipping in unannounced and unnoticed rather than an overnight change of attitude.
After earning a spot in Wednesday’s final with a leap of 6.64m Klishina said she missed having team mates.
“It is very hard being the only Russian,” she said. “Unfortunately, I am here alone and this is a big responsibility.”
She looked to have missed her chance to compete at all when the IAAF suspended her last Saturday, only for the Court of Arbitration for Sport to over-rule.
In the hurdles, McLeod beat Cuban-born Orlando Ortega who won silver for Spain, and Frenchman Dimitri Bascou, who took bronze. The left the United States with a medal in the event for the first time in 120 years – with the exception of the boycotted 1980 Moscow Games
Kipyegon bided her time through the slow early stages of the 1,500 race before setting off on a blazing second half with Genzebe Dibaba but then pulling clear of the world record holder.
High jumper Derek Drouin earned Canada’s third gold medal of the Games, clearing 2.38 meters to beat Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim.
‘BEST DAY OF MY LIFE’
In the morning session, American Taylor earned a second straight triple-jump gold with a 17.86m leap that is the furthest anyone has jumped this season, sailing 10cm longer than team mate Will Claye.
But the 25-year-old silver medalist had one more good jump left in him, into the stands where he proposed to long-time girlfriend and former Olympian Queen Harrison, who burst into tears and accepted.
“When I woke up I was like, today is going to be the best day of my life,” Claye told reporters. “I’m going to go out there and do what I have to do on the track and I’m going to make her my fiancée.”
Croatia’s Sandra Perkovic also retained her shot put title with a third-round throw of 69.21 meters, 2.48 meters further than Melina Robert-Michon, who at 37 became France’s oldest Olympic medal winner in athletics.
“I have been working for this for 20 years,” Robert-Michon said. “An Olympic medal is above all other medals and it is the reward for a lot of sacrifices and work.”
Four more athletics medals are on offer Wednesday, including the men’s 3,000m steeplechase and the women’s 100m hurdles.
(Additional reporting by Mitch Phillips, Nick Mulvenney, Jack Stubbs and Drazen Jorgic, editing by Mitch Phillips)