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Rio 2016: The long list of firsts and notables from the Olympics

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Our crack team of researchers NBC has put together an outstanding list of superlatives from this summer’s games in Rio.

Notable Olympic Firsts, Consecutives, Mosts in Rio

  • Fiji won their first-ever medal of any color when they won gold in men’s rugby sevens.
  • Jordan won their first-ever medal of any color when Ahmad Abughaush won gold in the men’s 68kg taekwondo.
  • Kosovo won its first-ever medal of any color when Majlinda Kelmendi won gold in the women’s 52kg judo.
  • Seven nations (including IOA) have won their first-ever gold medals, but had prior silver and/or bronze medals.
    • Bahrain: Ruth Jebet – athletics – women’s 3000m steeplechase
    • Cote d’Ivoire: Cheikh Sallah Cisse – taekwondo – men’s 80kg
    • Independent Olympic Athletes: Fehaid Al-Deehani* – shooting – men’s double trap
    • Puerto Rico: Monica Puig – tennis – women’s singles
    • Singapore: Joseph Schooling – swimming – men’s 100m butterfly
    • Tajikistan: Dilshod Nazarov – athletics – men’s hammer throw
    • Vietnam: Hoang Xuan Vinh – shooting – men’s 10m air pistol

*Al-Deehani is from Kuwait, whose NOC was banned by the International Olympic Committee, but whose athletes were allowed to compete as Independent Olympic Athletes. Kuwait has never earned a gold medal; Al-Deehani has its only two previous medals, both bronze.

  • Japanese wrestler Kaori Icho became the first woman to win individual gold medals in four straight Olympics.
  • First sailing medals for Croatia, including first gold (Tonci Stipanovic – silver, men’s laser was very first medal, followed by first gold medal in men’s 470, won by Sime Fantela and Igor Marenic)
  • First US gymnast – male or female – to earn four gold medals (Simone Biles)
  • First gymnastics medal for Swiss female gymnast (Giulia Steingruber – bronze, women’s vault)
  • First time — since first bringing gymnasts to the Olympic Games in 1984 — that Chinese gymnasts failed to earn an individual gymnastics medal (China did win bronze medals in both the men’s and women’s team events)
  • First time since 1972 that Romanian gymnasts failed to earn any medal
  • First gold medal on men’s rings apparatus for Greece won outside of Games held in Athens (Eleftherious Petrounias)
  • First individual gold medal for female Dutch gymnast (Sanne Wevers – gold, balance beam)
  • Most medals won by US women’s gymnastics team – 9 (4 golds, 4 silvers, 1 bronze)
  • First loss for Serena Williams/Venus Williams in Olympic Games women’s doubles (previously 15-0, 3 gold medals together)
  • First tennis player (male or female) to win 2 gold medals in singles (Andy Murray)
  • First medal – since 1920 — in sport of tennis for Japan (Kei Nishikori – bronze, men’s singles)
  • First medal for Japanese men in table tennis (bronze – men’s singles – Jun Mizutani)
  • China continued its winning streak in women’s singles table tennis, winning its 8th consecutive gold medal (table tennis was introduced to the Olympic sports program in 1988, and no other country besides China has captured gold in women’s singles)
  • China continued its winning streak in women’s team table tennis, winning its 3rd consecutive gold medal in the event (the team table tennis events were introduced to the Olympic sports program in 2008, replacing the men’s and women’s doubles events, and no other country besides China has captured gold in the women’s team event)
  • China also captured the last four women’s doubles events in table tennis (1992-2004) and thus holds a current streak of 7 consecutive gold medals in the non-singles women’s table tennis events
  • China, for the 3rd consecutive Olympic Games, captured gold in all 4 table tennis events (2008, 2012 and 2016)
  • China, for the first time, was shut out of the medals in the badminton women’s doubles event (the streak dated back to 1992, the first year the women’s doubles event was added to the Olympic sports program; China had won the gold medal in the previous five Olympic Games, dating back to 1996)
  • Goh Liu Ying becomes the first female Olympic badminton medalist from Malaysia, when Goh and her partner, Chan Peng Soon, captured the silver medal in the mixed doubles event
  • Indonesia wins its first gold medal in the badminton mixed doubles event
  • Denmark wins its first medal, a silver, in the badminton women’s doubles event, which is only the second ever medal (and first silver) won by a non-Asian country (Russia had captured the bronze medal in the women’s doubles event at the 2012 London Games)
  • First gold medal for Japanese women in badminton (gold – women’s doubles event)
  • First medal for Great Britain in badminton in an event other than mixed doubles (bronze – men’s doubles event) and only the second time a non-Asian country captured a men’s doubles medal (Denmark won silver in the men’s doubles event at the 2012 London Games)
  • Spain wins its first medal in badminton, a gold (Carolina Marin – gold, women’s singles), and in capturing the gold medal, Marin became the first non-Asian woman to win a badminton gold medal
  • Zhang Nan of China became the first man to win two badminton medals at a single Games, taking gold in the men’s doubles event with Fu Haifeng and bronze in the mixed doubles event with Zhao Yunlei (five different women previously had won two badminton medals at a single Games on six different occasions)
  • Germany won its first individual archery medal. Lisa Unruh took home the silver medal.
  • Gwen Jorgensen’s gold medal was the first Men’s or Women’s Triathlon gold medal for USA.
  • Usain Bolt (JAM) first sprinter to win gold medal for both the 100m and 200m events in three consecutive Olympics.
  • Bolt is the first runner to win three gold medals as an individual in a single event (all others in track and field with three or more consecutive individual gold medals in one event were either field or race walk).
  • Matej Toth won Slovakia’s first track and field medal with the gold in Men’s 50k Race Walk.
  • Ruth Beitia won Spain’s first medal in Men’s or Women’s High Jump with the gold in Women’s High Jump. This is also Spain’s first gold medal in Women’s Track and Field.
  • USA won its first gold medal in Women’s 400m hurdles: Dalilah Muhammad.
  • Jenn Simpson finished with the bronze medal, the first USA medal in Women’s 1500m.
  • Matt Centrowitz won USA’s first gold medal in Men’s 1500m since 1908 Olympics.
  • Pavlo Tymoshchenko won Ukraine’s first Men’s Modern Pentathlon medal (silver).
  • Mexico received its first overall Modern Pentathlon medal, a bronze in Men’s event for Ismael Hernandez Uscanga.
  • Chloe Esposito won the gold medal in Women’s Modern Pentathlon. It’s Australia’s first ever medal in Modern Pentathlon and an Olympic record score.
  • USA’s first gold medal in Women’s Shot Put: Michelle Carter.
  • USA swept all three medals in Women’s 100m medals. First time USA has swept any event in Women’s Track and Field.
  • Italy won its first medal in beach volleyball – men or women’s – when Daniele Lupo and Paolo Nicolai captured silver.
  • US beach volleyball athlete Kerri Walsh Jennings lost her first Olympic match (26-1) when Walsh Jennings and April Ross lost to Brazil in the semi-finals.
  • The US women’s basketball team won its sixth consecutive gold medal.
  • Russia won its first gold medal in women’s handball.
  • France won its first medal of any color in women’s handball.
  • Spain won its first medal in women’s basketball.
  • Spain won its first weightlifting medal ever – men or women’s – when Lidia Valentin Perez took home bronze in the 75kg weight class.
  • Serbia won its first women’s Olympic volleyball medal when they took home silver after losing to China.
  • China’s women’s volleyball coach Lang Ping became the first woman to win gold as both a coach and a player.
  • Since losing the final in Athens on August 29, 2004, the Netherlands’ women’s hockey team had been undefeated in the Olympic Games until the team lost in the final against Great Britain on August 19, 2016.
  • Great Britain’s women’s hockey team won its first-ever gold medal.
  • Argentina’s men’s hockey team won its first medal in Olympic hockey history–gold.
  • The Belgian men’s hockey team won its first medal since the 1920 Antwerp Games when the team won bronze; this time the squad earned a silver medal.
  • Rio 2016 is the first time the United States’ women’s hockey team finished the Olympic tournament in the top half of the tournament contenders since Los Angeles 1984 when the team won bronze.
    • Los Angeles 1984: 3rd out of 6 competing teams
    • Atlanta 1996: 5th out of 8 competing teams
    • Beijing 2008: 8th out of 12 competing teams
    • London 2012: 12th out of 12 competing teams
    • Rio 2016: 5th out of 12 competing teams.
  • Rio 2016 is the seventh time that Nick Skelton has competed at an Olympic Games–and it is the first time that he won individual jumping gold. Skelton is also the oldest Rio 2016 champion.
  • Rio 2016 is the first time that France has won Team Jumping gold since Montreal 1976.
  • France won its first gold medal of the Rio 2016 Games on August 9th for Team Eventing.
  • Nicolas Astier secured France’s second medal in Individual Eventing since the event became open in 1964.
  • Germany’s Isabell Werth has won an Olympic medal on five different continents. She has won a medal in Asia (Beijing 208), North America (Atlanta 1996), Europe (Barcelona 1992 and Athens 2004), Australia (Sydney 2000) and now South America (Rio 2016).
    • She was the second person to accomplish this feat after Kim Rhode did the same in shooting just a few hours before.
  • Simone Manuel is the first African American female to receive an Olympic gold medal in a swimming event (Women’s 100m Freestyle).
  • Simone Manuel is the first American woman to win Olympic gold in the 100m Freestyle since 1984.
  • Joseph Schooling swam the 100m Butterfly and won Singapore’s first ever Olympic gold medal.
  • Kazakhstan won its first Olympic medal (gold!) in swimming in the men’s 200m Breaststroke.
  • First time a swimmer has won gold in the same individual event 16 years apart (Anthony Ervin 2000 & 2016 in the 50m FR).
  • First time that a swimmer has won the same individual Olympic event 4 times consecutively (Michael Phelps 200 IM).
  • Sprinter Kirani James won Grenada’s first medal of any color with a gold in London; he added the nation’s second medal with silver in Rio.
  •  Judoka Sergiu Toma’s bronze medal was the United Arab Emirates’ second medal of any color.
  • Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz’s silver medal was the first medal of any color for the Philippines since 1996.
  • Wrestler Artur Aleksanyan won Armenia’s second gold medal (the first was in 1996) and became the first Armenian with two career medals.
  • Fencer Ines Boubakri and wrestler Marwa Amri won Tunisia’s first medals in their respective sports. They were the first medals in those sports for any African country besides Egypt, and the first medals in those sports for any female African.
  • Egypt’s Hedaya Malak Wahba earned bronze, making her the first African female to win a taekwondo medal. The next day, Cote d’Ivoire’s Ruth Gbagbi became the second.
  • Cote d’Ivoire’s Cheikh Sallah Cisse became the first African to win a gold medal in taekwondo.
  • Cote d’Ivoire had just one medal in its history before Gbagbi and Cisse won medals in the same sport on the same night.
  • Taekwondo athlete Abdoulrazak Issoufou of Niger won his country’s first silver medal and second medal of any color, following a bronze in 1972.
  • Helen Maroulis became the first American woman to win a gold medal in wrestling. She beat Japan’s Saori Yoshida, who had won the previous 3 Olympics golds and 13 straight World Championshpis golds.
  • Patimat Abakarova’s bronze was Azerbaijan’s first taekwondo medal. Three days later, Radik Isaev earned their first gold in taekwondo.
  • Tunisia’s Oussama Oueslati bronze was its first medal in taekwondo.
  • Brazilian lightweight Robson Conceicao won his nation’s first boxing gold medal.
  • Light flyweight Yuberjen Martinez won Colombia’s first boxing silver medal.
  • Uzbekistan had earned one gold medal and zero silver medals in boxing before Rio. In Rio, five Uzbek boxers earned gold or silver.

Peter Snell, 3-time Olympic track champion, dies

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Three-time Olympic champion and world mile record-holder Peter Snell has died in Dallas. He was aged 80.

Snell, who is regarded as one of the greatest middle-distance runners of all-time, won the 800m at the 1960 Rome Olympics aged 21, and the 800m-1500m double at the 1964 Tokyo Games.

He was the first man since 1920 to win the 800m and 1500m at the same Olympics. No male athlete has done so since.

Snell also won two Commonwealth Games gold medals in the 880 yards and mile at Perth in 1962.

He twice held the mile world record and also held world records in the 800m, 880 yards, 1000m, and the 4xmile relay.

Snell’s death was confirmed by family friend and New Zealand sports historian Ron Palenski, who heads New Zealand’s Sport Hall of Fame.

“It is very sad news, a grievous loss for New Zealand,” Palenski said. “In terms of track and field, he is probably the greatest athlete New Zealand has had.”

Snell was coached by Arthur Lydiard, an innovator who was regarded as one of the world’s finest coaches of middle and long distance athletes. Lydiard also coached Murray Halberg to win the 5000m at Rome in 1960.

Snell’s wife, Miki, said he died suddenly at his home in Dallas around noon on Thursday. He had been suffering from a heart ailment and had required a pacemaker for several years.

Snell’s athletics career was relatively short. He retired in 1965 to pursue educational opportunities in the United States.

Snell graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in human performance from the University of California, Davis, and later with a Ph.D. in exercise physiology from Washington State University.

He became a research fellow at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in 1981, later becoming director of the university’s Human Performance Center.

Snell was knighted by New Zealand in 2009. A statue in his honor stands at Cooks Gardens, Whanganui, near his birthplace of Opunake, where he broke the mile world record for the first time in 1962.

Grand Prix Final results show women’s figure skating revolution progressing quickly

Grand Prix Final podium
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The revolution in women’s figure skating is being televised.

That’s a turn of phrase on an admittedly dated reference (Google it). The point is we all have been able to witness, from TV broadcasts or live streams, a season with the most radical change in the sport since child prodigy Sonja Henie, then age 11, began doing jumps in her programs nearly a century ago.

What we watched other child prodigies do at last week’s Grand Prix Final boggled the minds of even those who saw it coming, because no one imagined it coming this soon and to this degree.

This essentially Russian revolution, which has taken maximum advantage of the scoring system and youthful body types to overthrow longtime technical norms of women’s skating, has split the discipline into haves and have-nots.

There are those who have the high-scoring quadruple jumps or multiple triple Axels to seize all the medals. And those who do not have those big jumps and, as of now, no chance to regain the podiums from which they have been summarily ousted.

Given what already had happened this season, it was not surprising that Russian first-year seniors Alena Kostornaia, Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova swept the medals in the senior Final. Each had qualified by winning two of the six events in the Grand Prix series.

What is surprising is how far and fast the Troika – as NBC commentator and two-time Olympian Johnny Weir artfully nicknamed them, in a reference to a traditional Russian three-horse sled – has pushed the envelope and how far and fast they have left everyone else behind.

And imagine what the gap could be if women were allowed to do quads in the short program, which likely will be proposed at next year’s International Skating Union congress.

A year ago, it was shocking when the Troika, then all juniors internationally, swept the medals at the senior Russian Championships. Now it will be shocking if they don’t do it again at this year’s Russian Championships, which take place Dec. 24-29.

No women were regularly doing quads until last season. Consider what the Troika has done just this autumn:

*Kostornaia, 16, did not attempt a triple Axel in international competition before this season. Now she is doing one in the short program and two in the free, and all three were very well executed as she took gold at the Grand Prix Final.

*Shcherbakova, 15, began her international season the way she had finished last year at junior worlds, with one quad Lutz in the free skate; at the Grand Prix Final, she did two quad Lutzes (one clean, one under-rotated) and attempted her first quad flip (fall) in finishing second.

*Trusova, 15, began this season after having landed quad Lutz, quad Salchow and quad toe loop as a junior, but she was not attempting more than two in a program. In her senior Grand Prix debut at Skate Canada, she did four quads (three clean). At the Grand Prix Final, she added an excellent quad flip for five free skate quads, one of which she doubled and three of which were clean. She also attempted (and under-rotated) a triple Axel for the first time in the short program.

Even with the mistakes, the quads still racked up enough points for Shcherbakova that she beat a flawless Kostornaia in the free skate. And they gave Trusova a 20.71-point overall margin over fourth finisher Rika Kihira, 17, of Japan, who already had mastered triple Axels but has dropped so far from contention against the Troika that Kihira tried (and fell on) her first quad in competition.

And you have to feel a little sorry for reigning Olympic and world champion Alina Zagitova of Russia, at the technical cutting edge of her sport less than two years ago, now utterly overmatched – and still just 17 years old.

Zagitova’s free skate, an error-filled mess, dropped her from second after a fine short (less than six points behind Kostornaia) to sixth overall, more than 42 points behind Kostornaia and nearly 28 behind the third-place Trusova.

Even had she skated cleanly, having a long program with no quads or triple Axels meant the base value of Zagitova’s elements was more than 30 points less than Trusova’s, more than 20 less than Shcherbakova’s and about five less than Kostornaia’s. Zagitova would have needed otherworldly Grades of Execution marks and program component scores to compete for a medal.

Zagitova acknowledged the futility of her current situation by telling a Russian TV station Friday she was effectively putting her competitive career on hold by withdrawing from the Russian Championships and not asking to be considered for selection for either the European or world championships.

According to a Eurosport summary of the interview, Zagitova said she needed to find new motivation to continue competing. The story quoted her as saying she intended to do shows and keep training under her longtime coach, Eteri Tutberidze, who also coaches the Troika.

Zagitova also said she intended to learn new elements and ways to go into jumps.

“I need to find the desire to want to go into a competition,” she said, according to a translation. “The athletes who have gone down that road will understand me.”

Those who decry how much the quads have thrown the sport’s athletic-artistic balance out of whack found some satisfaction in Kostornaia’s having won with a performance and interpretive quality rare for a skater of her age.

Yet Kostornaia also accumulated some 21 free skate points for her triple Axels, about 13 more points than fifth-place finisher Bradie Tennell of the U.S. got for two clean double Axels. Even if Tennell had not made some relatively small mistakes, there was no way she could make up that difference.

And remember that if Trusova had cleanly landed the quad she doubled and the quad that resulted in a fall, she could have overcome not only her short program mistake but also the margin Kostornaia built in program components with clearly superior skating skills and artistry.

Tennell, 21, the top U.S. woman at the 2018 Olympics (ninth) and the last two World Championships (sixth and seventh), this season has displayed the best overall level of skating in her career. But a lack of quads and triple Axels has dropped her exponentially further behind the leaders.

Yet Tennell presses on.

“She may never catch them, but we keep pushing forward, trying to improve on both components and technical,” said Denise Myers, who coaches Tennell. “She is not settling for where she is now.”

About a month ago, I began to wonder if changing the factoring of the five Program Component Scores (PCS) so that they were the same for women as for men would level a playing field that has tilted so dramatically toward the jumpers.

Since the International Judging System was introduced in 2004, factors of .8 (short program) and 1.6 (long) have been applied to the raw total of each woman’s component score. They are 1.0 and 2.0 for men.

The logic behind the difference was until last season, a men’s free skate was 30 seconds longer with one more element. (Why it also applied to the short program is unclear, since the number of elements and time have been the same.)

“The idea of possible new factors for the program components for men was evaluated in the past season, because for the top skaters the technical score in the last years had considerably increased,” Italy’s Fabio Bianchetti, chair of the ISU technical committee for singles and pairs, said in an email.

“At the moment, for the majority of the [men], the [PCS] is still corresponding to about 50 percent of the total score. In some cases, the relation might not be exact, but a rule must consider all the skaters and not only the top five.

“Now we are dealing with the same situation for the ladies. This is something totally new, and we will study the problem during the season. But again, we cannot look at a couple of skaters only.”

In a recent interview with Nick Zaccardi of NBC Sports, Weir seconded the idea of giving the women’s PCS scores the same weight as the men’s.

“It would give them a little better chance,” Samuel Auxier, an international judge and former U.S. Figure Skating, said in a text message last month.

So much has changed on the jump front since then that it turns out using the men’s PCS factors would have had almost no impact on the women’s results at the Grand Prix Final.

With some computational help from skatingscores.com, I recalculated the PCS scores from the Final with the 1.0 and 2.0 factors, added them to the TES scores and found just one difference: Kostornaia would have moved from second to first in the free skate. The overall and short program finish order would have been the same.

Actual Grand Prix Final scores
One of these (factor .8 / 1.6) shows the actual scores. Skatingscores.com
A re-imagined scoring of the Grand Prix Final
The Refactored scores show what they would be with factors of 1.0 and 2.0. Skatingscores.com

So, the 20% adjustment of PCS factor gender equality is not enough to put women without the most difficult jumps into medal contention.

And as Bianchetti pointed out, making that change or a more substantial one in the women’s factoring must take into consideration not only a few exceptional new talents.

“I truly do not believe that anyone seriously thought a lady would deliver four quads so quickly and especially at such a young age,” Ted Barton of Canada, who was involved in the creation of IJS, said in a text message last month. “Alysa Liu is a good American example of what the present is and future might be.”

(And, yes, there is an elephant in the room: whether the young talents are getting exaggerated PCS scores from judges smitten by their jumping. That’s a question for another day – or lifetime.)

Yet there is every indication the Troika are only the leading edge of a blizzard of jumping phenoms, not only from Russia. After all, Junior Grand Prix Final silver medalist Liu, 14, last season became the youngest singles champion in U.S. history with three triple Axels, and she has added a quad Lutz this season.

“The factoring and [other] calculations were developed on what was being done at that point,” Barton said. “Now that skaters have shown new possibilities, the technical committees will look to see what adjustments can and should be made. Interesting times, indeed.”

For now, though, we are seeing in real time the unsettling effect revolutions can have.

And it seems surreal.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 11 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com/figure-skating.

MORE: What’s next for Nathan Chen after third consecutive Grand Prix Final win?

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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