Brazilian icon Neymar entered the record books on Wednesday with the fastest goal in Olympic football history as Usain Bolt prepared to take another step closer to triple gold immortality.
As Rio was hit by more embarrassment which saw the arrest of veteran sports administrator Patrick Hickey and serious doubts cast on swim ace Ryan Lochte’s claims that he was robbed at gunpoint, it was left to the Games marquee names to right the ship.
Controversial South African runner Caster Semenya entered the track and field fray while British long distance star Mo Farah recovered from a worrying fall to reach the 5,000m final.
It was also a red-letter day for golf as a women’s tournament teed-off for for the first time in 116 years.
At Rio’s famed Maracana, Neymar scored after just 15 seconds for the fastest goal in Olympic football history and added another in injury time as Brazil crushed Honduras to make the gold medal match.
The Barcelona star’s brace bookended a 6-0 rout of Honduras, guaranteeing a place in the final against either Germany or Nigeria as the hosts look to win a first ever Games football title.
Farah survived a trip from behind to secure his place in the 5,000m final.
The Briton, who recovered from a fall to retain his 10,000m crown last weekend, was clipped by American Hassan Mead but stayed on his feet to finish third in his heat and preserve his hopes of a double-double.
“I always get tripped or tangled up. It was quite nerve-wracking,” said Farah after clocking 13 minutes, 25.25 seconds behind Ethiopia’s Hagos Gebrhiwet and Albert Rop of Bahrain.
– Semenya eases –
Semenya, the South African who has been at the centre of a gender controversy in recent years, breezed into the semi-finals of the 800m.
The 25-year-old is the overwhelming favourite to add a gold in Rio to the silver she won in London four years ago, with a 2016 time that is nearly a second faster than her closest rivals.
Kenya’s Conseslus Kipruto stormed to victory in the men’s 3000m steeplechase.
Kipruto timed an Olympic record of 8min 03.28sec for gold, American Evan Jager taking silver in 8:04.28.
Two-time Olympic champion and reigning four-time world gold medallist Ezekiel Kemboi, also of Kenya, claimed bronze and promptly brought the curtain down on his illustrious career.
Kenya have now bagged nine consecutive golds in the event stretching back to 1988.
Later on Wednesday, Bolt takes his latest step towards his ‘triple triple’ sprint gold in the 200m semi-finals.
With the first leg — Sunday’s electric 100m win — secured, Bolt needs Thursday’s 200m final and the 4×100 relay to achieve what he refers to as “immortality”.
Darya Klishina, the sole Russian athlete allowed to compete at the Games, goes for gold in the women’s long jump in the evening.
In badminton, Indonesia’s Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir defeated Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying of Malaysia to win the mixed doubles.
France won the team show jumping equestrian gold ahead of the United States and Germany.
Away from the sporting action, Hickey, the head of the Olympic Council of Ireland, temporarily stood down from all Olympic roles after his arrest over illegal ticket sales.
Hickey, 71, was arrested at his Rio hotel after being accused of ticket scalping, ambush marketing and conspiracy.
Lochte also appeared to be falling foul of the Brazilian judicial system.
A Brazilian judge ordered Lochte and teammate James Feigen be prevented from leaving the country after doubts emerged over their claim to have been mugged at gunpoint on their way home from a party.