RIO DE JANEIRO — The repeat one-two American finish in the triple jump, the Jamaican gold medal in hurdles and Jenny Simpson’s unprecedented bronze in the 1,500 meters were only part of the story in Olympic track and field Tuesday — and maybe not the best part.
The midpoint of the nine-day program at Olympic Stadium was a day for diamond rings and making friends, a one-of-a-kind Russian hello and a surprising Brazilian farewell. And, of course, a daily dose of doping news that was more than offset by a speedy cameo from Usain Bolt.
Bolt was on the track early for his 200-meter qualifying heat — a no-fuss 20.28-second ramble around the curve that barely raised his blood pressure.
“I’m not an early-morning person,” Bolt proclaimed, shortly after winning his heat, which actually started at the crack of 12:46 p.m.
But morning seemed like the perfect time for American Will Claye to put an exclamation point on one of his greatest moments. Newly minted with his second straight Olympic silver medal in the triple jump — countryman Christian Taylor won gold, also just as in 2012 — Clay clambered over the barrier separating the track from the stands, climbed a few rows to meet his girlfriend, bent down on one knee and popped the question.
Queen Harrison, an Olympic hurdler in 2008, said yes.
“When I woke up this morning, I was like, ‘Today’s going to be the best day of my life,’” Claye said.
Omar McLeod certainly felt the same. His 13.05-second trip across the 110-meter hurdles course in the evening’s final event made it three gold medals on the straightaway for Jamaica so far. He beat Orlando Ortega of Spain by .12 seconds. Dimitri Bascou of France took third, and University of Oregon receiver Devon Allen finished fifth.
In the evening’s other big race, Faith Kipyegon finished the women’s 1,500 meters in 4 minutes, 8.92 seconds to beat out Genzebe Dibaba, a flip-flop from last year’s world championships. Jenny Simpson took bronze to become the first American woman to medal in the event.
Other gold medalists were high jumper Derek Drouin of Canada and discus thrower Sandra Perkovic of Croatia, who twice was a single throw from elimination but came through both times and defended her Olympic title.
Yet, like many of the best moments on this emotion-packed day, there were no medals on the line when long jumper Darya Klishina finally showed up at the Olympics. During warmups, Klishina unzipped her jacket and revealed a red shirt with the word “Russia” emblazoned in bright white lettering. She’s the only athlete wearing that uniform at this stadium, due to a doping scandal that led to the ban of Russia’s other 67 track and field entrants.
Never introduced by the PA announcer, or cheered by the crowd, Klishina jumped 6.64 meters to make it through qualifying and will have a chance for a medal Wednesday.
“Last week, it was a really tough and really hard week for me mentally . I was waiting for the decision and I could not practice, I just did warmup,” she said. “I would like to have a big Russian team around me, as usual, but unfortunately I’m here alone and this is a great responsibility.”
But there was more bad news for the Russians. Around the time the evening session began, the International Olympic Committee stripped Russia’s 2008 women’s 4x100 relay team of its gold medal, saying one of the sprinters tested positive in one of the many samples being reanalyzed this summer.
Back on the field, the sparse morning crowd saw one shocker: Brazilian Fabiana Murer was expected to contend for a pole vault medal, which would’ve gone nicely with the surprise gold that Thiago Braz da Silva won in the men’s competition the night before. But Murer, the silver medalist at world championships last year, couldn’t clear 4.55 meters in her first three attempts and was gone before noon.
Da Silva’s return to the stadium for the medals ceremony reignited an ugly episode from the previous night. The French runner-up, Renaud Lavillenie, was roundly booed when his name was announced for the silver medal, much the way he heard jeers the night before as he prepared for the jump that decided the meet.
Only a blip. The Olympic spirit was alive and well, and no story told it better than this:
Midway through women’s 5,000-meter qualifying, American Abbey D’Agostino and New Zealander Nikki Hamblin got tangled and fell hard onto the track.
Hamblin laid there, dazed. D’Agostino popped back up. But instead of forging ahead, she walked over to Hamblin, put a hand on her shoulder and said, “Get up. We have to finish this,” then hoisted her to her feet to restart the run.
Turned out, D’Agostino took the worst of it, hobbled because she had hurt her ankle. So, when Hamblin got to the finish, she waited for her new friend, where they exchanged a warm hug before the American got carted off in a wheelchair.
“I’m never going to forget that moment,” Hamblin said. “When someone asks me what happened in Rio in 20 years’ time, that’s my story.”
Hours later, race officials sent out a simple alert: The Track Referee, after examining the video of the race, was advancing both women into Friday’s final. They offered no explanation. They really didn’t have to.
Other highlights from Day 11:
Brazil women fall in soccer: One day after a Brazilian pulled off an upset to win the men’s pole vault Monday night, the women’s soccer team lost to Sweden in a shootout. The Brazil men are still alive, however, and play a soccer semifinal match against Honduras on Wednesday.
The Brazil-Sweden game had the biggest crowd ever for a women’s national team match in the country, and the fans roared whenever Marta touched the ball. The charismatic forward has been one of the world’s top players for more than a decade, but she has never won a major international tournament with her national team.
“This loss won’t take away from all that we have done to get here,” Marta said. “We have the match for the bronze medal now and we will fight until the end to get that medal.”
Pool blue again: Rio Olympic officials in Brazil have one less trouble to worry about following robberies, stray gunfire and a falling camera outside the basketball arena. The Olympic diving pool, its water turned a murky green a week ago, reverted to its usual blue Tuesday.
Robbery inquiry: One off-the-field issue remains unresolved, however. Police investigating reports that American swimmer Ryan Lochte and three teammates were robbed at gunpoint so far have found no evidence supporting the account. Lochte insists he has been upfront about what happened.
Brazilians on the beach: Brazil sent three teams onto the sand volleyball court of Rio de Janeiro’s landmark Copacabana Beach on Tuesday. The No. 1-seeded women’s team, Talita and Larissa, was ousted in straight sets. Then the men’s team of Alison and Bruno advanced to the gold medal match with a win over the Netherlands, led by the 6-foot-8 Alison’s 12 blocks.
Americans Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross played in the late semifinal against Brazil’s other women’s team, Agatha and Barbara, for a spot in the gold medal match.
Badminton blues: China swept all five gold medals in badminton at the 2012 London Games, but they won’t this year. China won’t have the same problem in table tennis — they are going for a sweep in all four events. Its women’s team won gold Tuesday night.