Brazilian Thiago da Silva edged out world record holder Renaud Lavillenie of France to win the Olympic pole vault in dramatic fashion on Monday and give the host country its first athletics gold medal of the Games.
Against a back drop of raucous fan cheering, Da Silva skipped an attempt at 5.98 metres and pushed hot favourite Lavillenie to 6.03, which the Frenchman failed twice and the Brazilian passed at the second attempt to set an Olympic record.
The upset gold was assured after Lavillenie, who was continually booed by the passionate Rio crowd, failed to clear 6.08.
“The gold? Incredible. My first time over six metres,” Da Silva told reporters. “My home town wanted me to win.”
Shown the vault again by a TV interviewer, Da Silva said: “Wow, that was beautiful. Thank God.”
The Olympic Stadium crowd had been quiet early in the night, which began with a rain delay, but quickly got behind their 22-year-old countryman, cheering him wildly and booing Lavillenie as he prepared for his final jump.
Lavillenie gave a thumbs down signal but the crowd continued, changing to cheers when the Frenchman failed at 6.08.
“For the Olympics it is not a good image,” Lavillenie said of the booing. “I did nothing to the Brazilians.
“In 1936 the crowd was against Jesse Owens,” he said in reference to the Berlin Olympics when the black American sprinter won four golds.
“We’ve not see this since. We have to deal with it.”
Brazil’s raucous fans, who have brought soccer culture to a number of Olympic events, have confounded some athletes used to more sedate crowds.
Even Da Silva, who only took up the sport at 14, was surprised by the exuberance.
“The crowd were cheering me too much,” he said. “I had to fix my mind on my technique, forget the people.”
Outside the quarter-full stadium, shouts echoed through the darkened streets of Rio’s Jardim Botanico neighbourhood upon Da Silva’s win.
It was Da Silva’s highest jump ever by 10cm, earning the host country’s second gold of South America’s first Olympics.
It was also the first athletics gold achieved by a Brazilian man since Joaquim Cruz won the men’s 800m at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
Sam Kendricks took bronze for the United States after clearing 5.85, with Czech Jan Kudlicka and Piotr Lisek of Poland in fourth.

No Brazilian pole vault double as Murer misses mark
Brazilian hopes of an Olympic pole vault double came to an abrupt end when home medal hope Fabiana Murer bombed out of the women’s competition after failing to register a mark.
Murer, world silver medallist last year in Beijing, failed to live up to expectations however.
The 35-year-old skipped the three first entry marks of 4.15, 4.30 and 4.45m, coming in at 4.55m.
But she failed with her three attempts at the height, well below her personal best of 4.87m which she vaulted this season.
There was no such drama for current world and Olympic champion Jennifer Suhr of the United States, Cuba’s defending Olympic silver medallist Yarisley Silva and European champion Ekaterini Stefanidi who all comfortably vaulted the qualifying mark of 4.60m.

Booed Lavillenie apologises for Owens comparison
French pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie has apologised for comparing the booing he was subject to during the men’s Olympic final on Monday to the hostility of Nazi Germany towards Jesse Owens at the 1936 Berlin Games.
The world record holder was barracked by the Rio crowd when attempting to jump 6.08 metres to stay in the competition against Thiago da Silva, who sprung a huge surprise by winning Brazil’s first athletics gold of the Games in the event.
Lavillenie gave the partisan crowd a thumbs down at the start of his run-up in attempt to get them to stop the jeers and said after failing to clear the bar that it was a “bad look” for the Olympics.
“In 1936 the crowd was against Jesse Owens,” he said of the black American sprinter whose four gold medals in Berlin were an affront to the Nazi ideology of racial superiority.
“We’ve not see this since. We have to deal with it.”
Yesterday, however, Lavillenie accepted that it was an inappropriate reference.
“Yes, sorry for the bad comparison I made,” he said on Twitter. “It was a hot reaction and I realise it was wrong. Sorry to everyone.”

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