RIO DE JANEIRO — Christian Taylor of the United States retained his Olympic men’s triple jump title on Tuesday, recording the longest jump of the year to claim the podium top spot.
Taylor, the defending Olympic and world champion, made his mark of 17.86 meters with his first jump, staking a claim for the gold medal that his rivals were unable to match.
His American teammate Will Claye took silver and China’s Dong Bin went home with bronze after they recorded 17.76 and 17.58, respectively, also at their first attempts.
“The job is done,” Taylor told reporters. “I never thought on my first jump that would be the gold medal.
“I wanted it so much. It came together, the stars aligned,” he said.
In what soon developed into a predictable tussle for silver and gold from within the U.S. team, the rest of the field in Rio fell behind to join the spectators watching Taylor and Claye re-enact their Olympic duel from London four years ago.
A notable absentee was world silver medallist Pedro Pablo Pichardo of Cuba, who would have been a challenger for the gold having posted several marks at 18 meters and further in 2015.
The 23-year-old has reportedly struggled with an ankle injury and opted not to jump in Rio, smoothing the way for Taylor.
Taylor’s road to Rio has been a rocky one after a worsening knee injury forced him to switch his takeoff leg after his 2012 Olympic triumph, a radical move in one of the most technically challenging events in athletics.
After a “game-changing” 2015, the 26-year-old was once again clearing the 18-meter mark, making a jump of 18.21 meters at the Beijing world championships to claim second place in the all-time list behind Briton Jonathan Edwards’s 1995 world record of 18.29.
US women’s basketball reaches semis
The United States steamrolled to its 47th straight Olympic win on Tuesday, routing Japan 110-64 to reach the semifinals of the women’s basketball tournament and taking a step closer to a sixth consecutive gold medal.
With an overall record of 64-3, Olympic losses are rare for the U.S. but Japan could lay claim to one of them.
History, however, was of little help to the 16th-ranked Japanese who were going up against a powerhouse that has outscored opponents by a staggering 44.6 points per game, on average, in Rio.
As it has been all tournament, U.S. scoring was done by committee with seven players hitting double figures, led by Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore with 19 points apiece.
It took the Americans nearly a full half to get their bearings, but once they did the result was predictable as U.S. shooters found their range, pouring in over 100 points for the fifth time in six games.
With two minutes to go in the opening half, energetic Japan had worked their up-tempo style to perfection, cutting the Olympic champions’ lead to 46-44, but the U.S. finished with a flurry, going on a 10-2 run to ease into the second half with a 10-point lead that would only grow.
The U.S. will now await the winner of Canada and France, who play later on Tuesday, while the other semifinal will feature Serbia and Spain.
Serbia had earlier upset second-ranked Australia 73-71 while Anna Cruz hit a last gasp buzzer-beater to lift Spain over Turkey 64-62.
Kenyan takes women’s 1,500m gold
Kenya’s Faith Kipyegon won the women’s Olympic 1,500 meters gold on Tuesday after unleashing a devastating second half of the race to leave Ethiopia’s world record holder Genzebe Dibaba trailing in second place.
Kipyegon, fastest in the world this year, sat in the pack as the runners virtually jogged the opening stages before she and Dibaba took off and pulled clear after a 56.8-second lap.
World champion Dibaba, who has struggled with injury this year, led with 200 to go but the 22-year-old Kipyegon forced her way past and drove for the line to win in four minutes 8.92 seconds.
Dibaba held on for silver, with American former world champion Jenny Simpson taking bronze ahead of compatriot Shannon Rowbury.
US women’s volleyball advances
Patience has been a key word for the U.S. women’s volleyball team at these 2016 Summer Games.
The Americans are ranked No. 1 in the world but chasing their first Olympic gold after near misses in the past, and they know it will take a match-by-match approach.
This attitude served them well Tuesday in a quarterfinal victory over Japan at Maracanazinho Arena.
The Japanese are a relatively short team that compensates with quickness and tenacity, The U.S. had to keep hammering away at the net with their size advantage.
So their straight-set win — 25-16, 25-23, 22-22 — was fueled by spikes and blocks.
The U.S. now advances to the semifinals against the winner of the Russia-Serbia match.
Bolt coasts into 200m semis
Usain Bolt roused a quiet morning at the Olympic stadium as only he can on Tuesday, remaining firmly on course for his historic “triple triple” by coasting through the 200 meters heats in 20.28 seconds.
Racing in the ninth heat and cheered every step of the way by the sparse but vocal crowd, the Jamaican led coming off the bend and was able to take his foot off the gas to progress comfortably to Wednesday’s semifinals.
Bolt secured the 100-meter title on Sunday to take another step on the path to an unprecedented third successive sweep of all three Olympic sprint titles — 100, 200 and 4×100 meters.
The Jamaican considers the 200 his specialist event and has promised to mount a Rio assault on his 1999 world record of 19.19, but that will have to wait for the final.
The man most likely to beat him, Justin Gatlin, also had no problems getting through, even if he coasted through the final 20 meters to win his heat in a relatively pedestrian 20.42.
American LaShawn Merritt showed no signs of fatigue from winning a bronze medal in the 400 on Sunday, a strong finish carrying him to victory in heat eight in 20.15.
Canada’s Andre de Gasse, bronze medalist in the 100, ran the quickest time of the session, clocking 20.09 to cross first in the final heat.