Brazil seeks gold in soccer as US goes for more track medals
Ask Brazilians what gold medal matters most to them at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and the answer is unequivocal: soccer.
Brazil's men will try to pull off the feat Saturday when it takes on Germany in the Olympic final in an electric atmosphere at Maracana Stadium. It gives the host nation a chance to not only win gold in its signature sport, but avenge a 7-1 loss to the Germans two years ago in the World Cup.
"There is nothing like playing at home and having the chance of winning something that we've dreamed about for so long," Brazil striker Neymar said. "We are focused only on playing well and winning this gold medal."
The soccer championship is the headline event on a day that features a full slate of track and field, the U.S. women basketball team getting for another gold, the future of boxing on display in a medal bout and a Hall of Fame golfer pulling off an impressive comeback. So the Usain Bolt show may be over — he wrapped up his competition Friday night — but there's plenty of action remaining before the games end Sunday.
The soccer game will feature nearly entirely different rosters from the 2014 World Cup that marked a low point for Brazilian sports. The Olympic soccer features under-23 teams while the World Cup is for the top national squad. But the match still has huge significance for Brazil, which has never won gold in soccer.
One team that has won loads of gold is the U.S. women's basketball team. The Americans won a sixth straight gold medal, routing Spain 101-72. It is the final Olympic game for Tamika Catchings, who is retiring after the WNBA season. Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi have also hinted that this might be their Olympic finale, too.
Two talented young boxers who could wind up being the future stars of the sport faced off in the bantamweight gold medal bout. Robeisy Ramirez of Cuba won in a split decision over American Shakur Stevenson in an entertaining match in front of a fired-up, pro-Cuban crowd.
Seven medal events are being held in track and field, giving plenty of athletes a chance to shine on the big stage now that Bolt has exited. Competitions include the men's 1,500- and 5,000-meter races and the women's 800 and high jump. Mo Farah of Britain is going for another gold in the 5,000.
The U.S. men's 4x400 relay team, led by LaShawn Merritt, is heavily favored to win and extend the country's remarkable run in Rio — 27 medals in track and field.
Chaunte Lowe is considered the favorite in high jump, but faces competition from teenager and rising star Vashti Cunningham, who is the daughter of former NFL quarterback Randall Cunningham.
Other highlights from Day 15 the Rio de Janeiro Games:
GOLD IN GOLF : Inbee Park hasn't won all year on the LPGA. She has been recovering from ligament damage in her thumb and didn't play in the last two majors. But on Saturday, the seven-time major winner took command with a 5-under 66 and won a gold medal.
TRIATHLON WINNER : Coming into the Rio Games, the U.S. had never won an Olympic triathlon gold medal. Gwen Jorgensen changed that, easily winning over the 2012 gold medalist. Jorgensen was an All-American track athlete and swimmer at the University of Wisconsin and had settled into her first job as an accountant in Milwaukee before deciding to take up triathlon. To win gold, Jorgensen ran 6.2 miles, swam a mile in the ocean and cycled 24 miles in 1 hour, 56 minutes, 16 seconds.
BADMINTON DUEL : Chen Long of China and Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia are considered by many to be the best players of their era in badminton. They faced each other in the gold medal match, and Lee — the world's No. 1 player — won again.