It was a night of triumph and history for the United States in two of the Olympics’ showcase sports at the Rio Games.
Swimmers Michael Phelps and Simone Manuel stole the show at the pool Thursday night, and superstar gymnast Simone Biles became the fourth straight American to win gold in the women’s individual all-around event — and she has opportunities to earn more next week.
Manuel entered the history books by becoming the first African-American female swimmer to win an individual Olympics event.
The two Simones inspired the hashtag #BlackGirlMagic as fans applauded their victories on social media.
The way in which the Stanford swimmer took gold in the women’s 100-meter freestyle made for some Olympics magic, too: Manuel and Canada’s Penny Oleksiak touched the wall at the same time.
For just the second time in Olympics swimming history, a dead heat.
Two gold medals won; two national anthems played at the podium ceremony.
The win was part of an amazing day full of action at the Rio Games.
One-two punch in gymnastics
Sublime superstar Biles put on an all-time classic show in capturing the women’s individual all-around gymnastics event. That makes it two dominating golds in two tries (her first being a member of the US winning team effort).
But listen to Biles and she’ll try to convince you that she’s just Simone from Texas.
“I’m not a celebrity. I’m just Simone Biles, but it’s amazing to be recognized for all of this success for myself and for team USA,” she said. “I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps, I’m the first Simone Biles.
“To me, I’m just the same Simone. I just have two Olympic gold medals now. I feel like I did my job tonight.”
We have news for you, Simone, you are indeed a celebrity now.
Teammate Aly Raisman earned silver, making up for her disappointment four years ago in London. She finished fourth in that all-around after she lost a tiebreaker.
The women’s individual apparatus finals will run from Sunday to Tuesday. Biles qualified to compete in the vault, beam and floor exercise finals; Raisman also will compete in floor exercise.
Simone Manuel: ‘This medal is not just for me’
Manuel recognized the significance of her win after the race.
“It means a lot [to be the first black woman to earn gold in the pool],” Manuel said after the race. “This medal is not just for me. It’s for a whole bunch of people that came before me and have been an inspiration to me. And it’s for all the people after me, who believe they can’t do it.”
Manuel, 20, attends Stanford University, where she is a rising junior. She grew up in Texas.
Her parents put her in swimming lessons at age 4 so she’d learn how to be safe in water, she said this year. But she enjoyed it so much, she immersed herself fully into her passion by age 9.
During her senior year in high school, she became a household name in the swim community when she broke the national age group record on her 17th birthday.
Phelps and a 2,000-year-old record
Phelps wowed the crowd with an amazing golden performance in the men’s 200-meter individual medley.
Phelps’ win also created some unusual history too with his 13th gold medal in an individual event. If you go all the way back to the beginning of time, or close to it, there was an ancient Greek who competed in the Olympics — Leonidas of Rhodes. He won 12 individual events for which he was awarded some swanky headgear.
Phelps, who took his tally to four gold medals at Rio by winning the 200IM for the fourth consecutive Games, moved ahead of Leonidas, who accomplished his feats more than 2,000 years ago.
If Phelps’ records are ever broken, it might take another 2,000 years.
Just as the crowd was settling down from Phelps earning his 22nd gold medal, Manuel and Oleksiak treated the crowd to their thrilling finish.Party in Fiji
In 13 prior Summer Games — and three appearances by lone athletes at the Winter Olympics — Fiji was oh-fer. No medals. Not since becoming an IOC member in the 1950s.
Well, get the trophy case ready because the men’s rugby sevens team is bringing home gold.
Sure, there are other rugby titles already on the Fiji resume, but to win the first gold medal ever handed out for rugby is an overwhelmingly special moment for the rugby-crazed nation.
“I was just thankful to the lord for blessing us and giving us an opportunity to win in a mega-sport arena like the Olympics,” captain Osea Kolinisau told reporters at a news conference that began with the sound of applause.
The island nation of some 900,000 people was one big party Thursday. We can only imagine what it will be like when the team returns with their shiny new medals.
It’s in the hole, it’s in the hole!
Great Britain’s Justin Rose had a great tee shot on Thursday as golf returned to the Olympic program.
On the 189-yard fourth hole the Englishman knocked one right at the flag. It took a few hops after landing on the green and rolled right in the cup.
Not that Rose saw it. According to the Los Angeles Times he wasn’t sure what had happened.
“It was either in or it was off the back edge,” Rose said, the newspaper reported. “And the way the reaction was from the few people around the green, we figured it had gone in.”
Rose is fourth heading into the second round, sitting on 67.
He is four shots behind leader Marcus Fraser of Australia.
Gold medal roundup
Winners of the other medal finals Thursday:
Archery, Women’s Individual — Chang Hye-jin, South Korea
Canoe Slalom, Men’s Canoe Double — Slovakia
Canoe Slalom, Women’s Kayak — Maialen Chourraut, Spain
Fencing, Women’s Team Epee — China
Judo, Men’s 100 kilograms — Lukas Krpalek, Czech Republic
Judo, Women’s 78 kilograms — Kayla Harrison, United States
Rowing, Men’s Double Sculls — Croatia
Rowing, Men’s Lightweight Men’s Fours –Switzerland
Rowing, Men’s Quad Sculls — Germany
Rowing, Men’s Pairs — New Zealand
Rowing, Women’s Double Sculls — Poland
Rowing, Women’s Quad Sculls — Germany
Shooting, Women’s 50-meter rifle Three Positions — Barbara Engleder, Germany
Table Tennis, Men’s Singles — Ma Long, China
Track Cycling, Team Sprint — Great Britain