RIO DE JANEIRO – Americans Brianna Rollins and Nia Ali crossed the finish in 12.48 and 12.59 seconds respectively for the gold and silver medals in the women’s 100 meter hurdles. Their teammate Kristi Castlin made up ground after a bad start to win the bronze in 12.61 seconds, beating out Great Britain’s Cindy Ofili by .02, giving the U.S. its first-ever sweep of the event.
Rollins, the former American record-holder, delivered the first gold medal for Team USA on the track. The United States’ medal count from Olympic Stadium at the end of Wednesday stands at five gold, seven silver and seven bronze medals. Kenya and Jamaica trail with seven and six medals respectively.
Jamaica did get a bump from Elaine Thompson’s 21.78-second victory in the women’s 200 meters to complete the first 100-200 golden double by a woman since Florence Griffith-Joyner at the 1988 Olympics. Former heptathlete-turned-sprinter Dafne Schippers was off to a fast start but fell .1 seconds short of beating her Jamaican rival. Tori Bowie put the United States on the podium, adding a bronze medal to her collection just five days after taking silver in the women’s 100 meters behind Thompson.
U.S. athlete Tianna Bartoletta missed that 100-meter final following an early exit in the semi-finals but was able to take home a gold medal in the women’s long jump, a year after she took gold at the world championships in Beijing. Her leap of 7.17 meters was .02 better than compatriot and 2012 gold medalist Brittney Reese, who earlier this summer recorded the ninth-farthest jump in history and second-farthest in U.S. history behind American record holder Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
Most of the other bronze and silver medals for the United States have come as a surprise in events that have historically been dominated by East Africans like the men’s steeplechase. In Wednesday’s morning session, Evan Jager ended a 32-year medal drought to take silver behind Kenya’s Conseslus Kipruto. Ezekiel Kemboi, the two-time Olympic champion, finished in third place and took a victory lap only to be disqualified five hours later as the IAAF determined he stepped outside of the track after clearing one of the early water jumps. France’s Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad was awarded the bronze medal as Kemboi announced his retirement with two Olympic gold medals and four world championship titles.
By the time they received their medals, the stadium had already cleared out. At its best, the Olympic Stadium was half-full as Usain Bolt turned out to run a season’s best 19.78 seconds in the semifinal of the 200 meters. It is very likely that he will defend his Olympic title as 2015 world championship silver medalist Justin Gatlin failed to qualify for Thursday night’s final. Bolt will attempt to become the first man to win three consecutive titles in the 100 and 200, an unprecedented feat as he is already the lone man to do so at back-to-back Summer Games.
A victory for Bolt will be at least one more gold for Jamaica, but even more could come for the United States with Joe Kovacs in the men’s shot put and Dalilah Muhammad in the women’s 400-meter hurdles.