RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Michael Phelps won more medals than anyone else, again. And then he said farewell, also again. Usain Bolt kissed the finish line good-bye after enhancing his Olympic legacy. Simone Biles and Katie Ledecky delivered under the burden of enormous expectations. Two strangers went from rivals to forever linked by a display of kindness, an entire nation seemed to celebrate a tennis match, and a gold medallist scampered home to avoid legal issues after a robbery story unravelled. The Rio de Janeiro Olympics was not perfect. But there were moments — some great, some dreadful and some downright ugly — that will not, and should not, be forgotten. Here’s a look: MEDAL LEADERS The U.S. dominated the medal count, a rare romp in a non-boycotted games (there’s still more medals to win Sunday, but the margin of overall victory could be the most in a fully attended games in 68 years). Phelps won six medals, five of them gold, to increase his career haul to 23 Olympic titles and 28 medals overall. Ledecky and Biles each won five medals, Biles gets to carry the U.S. flag into the closing ceremony, and U.S. shooter Kim Rhode has now won a medal in six consecutive Olympiads — and might not be done, either. BIGGEST EMBARASSMENT Another easy pick, even in a games where an Egyptian was sent home after failing to shake an Israeli judo opponent’s hand. Ryan Lochte is a 12-time Olympic medalist, and the odds that he’ll have a chance to ever swim for a 13th are as murky as some of the pools were in these Rio Games. Lochte’s story that a robber put a gun to his head quickly unravelled, his three teammates who were companions that night all were left to answer legal questions after he scurried home, and more repercussions from the U.S. Olympic Committee are likely coming. “It’s traumatic to be out late with your friends in a foreign country — with a language barrier,” read part of the apology that Lochte released on social media Friday. Maybe so, but it bears noting that language barrier or no language barrier, the incident occurred after Lochte left a night out at … Club France. So it would seem like not all foreign atmospheres struck him as traumatic before now. BEST COACH Due respect to Mike Krzyzewski, Geno Auriemma, Martha Karolyi and the Japanese wrestling coach who found himself getting bodyslammed twice in celebration by women’s gold medalist Risako Kawai, this one goes to Ans Botha — the 74-year-old great-grandmother who guided South Africa’s Wayde Van Niekerk to Olympic gold and a world record in the men’s 400. Her style is simple. When the smile goes away and the voice gets stern, it’s time to get serious. In other words, sort of like most great-grandmothers. “She’s an amazing woman,” Van Niekerk said. “Her work … I think it speaks for itself.” BEST COUPLE Decathlon champion Ashton Eaton of the U.S. and his wife, heptathlon bronze medalist Brianne Thiesen-Eaton of Canada, would be a very easy selection here. But what Kate Richardson-Walsh and Helen Richardson-Walsh did was even more rare. They’re married, and played for the same gold-medal winning British women’s field hockey team. In a games that had more openly gay athletes than ever before, theirs was a moment that surely resonated with many around the world who don’t know the first thing about field hockey. “To win an Olympic medal is special. To win an Olympic medal with your wife standing next to you … we will cherish this for the rest of our lives,” Kate Richardson-Walsh said. BREAKOUT STAR We asked. You voted. Narrowing the list of potential candidates to four — Simone Manuel (four swimming medals), Joseph Schooling (beat Phelps for a gold in the pool), Monica Puig (whose tennis gold was Puerto Rico’s first Olympic title in any sport) and Ibtihaj Muhammad (the barrier-breaking fencing medalist) — AP asked its Twitter followers to have a say in deciding this one. The response was overwhelming, and one-sided: Puig is the breakout star of these games. Reduced to tears many times after draping the Puerto Rican flag across her body after the gold-medal match, Puig beat two of the world’s best five players to win the title. “To do this for my country is everything,” Puig said. The Olympic ideal, personified. BEST BACK-AND-FORTH When the U.S. women’s football team was ousted by Sweden (and former U.S. coach Pia Sundhage), American goalkeeper Hope Solo raised eyebrows with her assessment of the match. But her former coach had the perfect rebuttal. “We lost to a bunch of cowards,” Solo said. “It’s OK to be cowards if you win,” Sundhage countered. BEST FINISH Bolt kissing the finish line after his ninth and final Olympic gold — in nine final races — was a perfect ending. He ran the anchor leg of the 4×100-metre relay for Jamaica, won emphatically to become the third athlete ever with nine golds in track and field, and insists that this will be the end of his Olympic career. “Nothing left to prove,” Bolt said. He’s right. “I am the greatest,” he added. Right again. BEST ACT OF SPORTSMANSHIP An easy pick. In the women’s 5,000-metre heat, Abbey D’Agostino of the U.S. and New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin — strangers before that day — were involved in a tumble. D’Agostino helped Hamblin up, encouraging her to finish the race. D’Agostino tore a knee ligament in the fall and obviously couldn’t finish. Hamblin wound up finishing last of 17 in the 5,000 final, so neither left with a medal. Instead, they got so much more. “That girl is the Olympic spirit right there,” Hamblin said of D’Agostino. “I’ve never met her before. Like I never met this girl before. And isn’t that just so amazing?” Yes, it is. BIGGEST OFF-FIELD STAR A tough category, especially after Leslie Jones of “Saturday Night Live” parlayed hilarious Twitter commentary into an invite to Rio. Matthew McConaughey hung out with everyone from the U.S. women’s rugby team to Phelps, and Gisele Bundchen’s catwalk in the opening ceremony was one not to forget. But the pick here is Zac Efron, who flew to Rio just to surprise the U.S. women’s gymnastics team — particularly Biles, who doesn’t hide her enormous crush on the actor. He also saw Bolt and the U.S. men’s basketball team, but let’s face it, no one is going to ignore invites to hang with Biles and the U.S. gymnasts right now. BEST SPIN No one might have been better at their job during the Olympics than Mario Andrada, the spokesman for the Rio Games organising committee. When something went wrong it was his job to explain it — and do so with the world watching and listening. He and International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams held daily hourlong briefings with reporters, and Andrada offered up some quote gems. So we’ll go ahead and award his head-scratching statements their own set of medals. The bronze: “Numbers mislead,” he said, as part of an answer about ticket sales and poor crowds. The silver: “Let’s give these kids a break,” he said of 32-year-old Ryan Lochte and his U.S. swimming teammates, after their incident. The gold: “Chemistry is not an exact science,” he said, talking about why the water at a diving pool went from blue to green. BEST BRAZILIAN MOMENT Stand up and cheer, City of God. One of your own is now an Olympic champion. Slums, or favelas, are everywhere in Rio — none more infamous than the City of God, which rose to fame through the 2002 movie of the same name that depicted life in the slum. Rafaela Silva grew up there, and she won gold in judo at these Rio Games. Now that’s a made-for-Hollywood story. And with that, it’s time to start thinking about PyeongChang and the 2018 Winter Games. When the cauldron in Rio goes out Sunday night, those games will be only 536 days away.
It had to happen this time and national coach James Salinsa Debbah told the Daily Observer, “The victory is necessary to give our players the self esteem that they have lost for past defeats.” But Debbah also revealed that he had known from the beginning that Tunisia would fall in Monrovia and promised many others would also fall.Known as the Miracle Man when he donned the number 10 jersey decades ago for the very team that he his coaching today, Debbah said he had anticipated a positive result, though there were ‘doubting Thomases’ who would not give the team any chance. “I saw the opportunity,” Debbah said, “and went for it.”Beating Tunisia 1-0 last Saturday afternoon in the second round of the qualifiers for the 2017 African Cup of Nations brought relief to a country that had been flogged by an unknown enemy, (Ebola) a name taken from a river in Congo.“This is the beginning,” Debbah said while en route to the Roberts International Airport with his deputy, Kelvin Sebwe for a one month coaching trip to Germany, courtesy of the Liberia Football Association, to enable them gain some refresher coaching for the next four games against Djibouti, (away and home) Togo (at home) and Tunisia (away) in 2016.With the victory over Tunisia, despite the loss (2-1) against Togo in the first match, Liberia has a good chance of topping Group A and as a result may qualify for the 2017 African Cup of Nations to be held in Gabon. Djibouti lost their second game to Togo last Saturday (2-0) and they are Liberia’s next opponents in Djibouti City, as its capital city is known.Tunisia had beaten Djibouti 8-1 in the first leg and so with the Liberia national football team’s incredible performance last Saturday, Liberia has a good chance of overcoming them both home and away; treat Togo in Monrovia like Tunisia and in the worst case scenario, fight for a draw against Tunisia in the away encounter in Tunis to accumulate the maximum 13 points.According to the rules, at the end of the competition, the countries that top the 13 groups of four teams each, along with the best two runners-up will be added to the host, Gabon, to make it a total of 16 countries for the tournament.And for that to happen, Debbah said, “The Liberian government must come in with the finances needed so that we can qualify for the African Cup of Nations in 2017.”Few days before the game, many Liberians took to the airwaves and expressed optimism that Liberia would win the encounter against Tunisia, despite the fact many said Tunisia has had better financial support for their national team. Some even predicted 1-0 while others predicted 2-0 in Liberia’s favor.The optimism in the Lone Star camp could only be matched by the expectation of teeming fans who would not want any other result than victory. Even last Friday’s pre-game press conference at the headquarters of the Liberia Football Association in Monrovia demonstrated the frustration of sports journalists who wanted to know what would happen to the technical staff if the team did not win against Tunisia. So with such dire anticipation, national team, under skipper Dennis Teah confidently led his men onto the field to honor an assignment that could have either won for them respect and hope or condemnation and recrimination.The Gambian match officials held firmly to the game as it proceeded with the Tunisians who were extremely cautious not to let their defense too much laxity. They knew that since the Liberians were playing at home, there was too much pressure the visitors and did not want to commit unnecessary defensive blunders.The Lones Star team, led by skipper Teah Dennis, went into the game but the Tunisians had planned to frustrate that effort. By the end of the first fifteen minutes, the efforts of Liberian strikers Sam Johnson, Anthony Laffor, Francis Grandpa Doe and Solomon Grimes had been neutralized by the Tunisian defense and spectators were becoming uneasy.However, the players kept on the pressure and threw caution to te wind as saw that the Tunisians were relying on counter-attacks, but with many players in the defense.The Tunisians had height advantage and playing the ball in the air suited them and this worked for them for a while until Lone Star decided to keep the ball on the ground, which paid off. They were able now to control the ball and at one point the ball was distributed from Laffor to Francis Doe, to Zack Krangar—remembering the popular format known many years ago as ‘from-me-to-you,’ as spectators cheered them on.As Lone Star searched for the elusive goal the Tunisians simply waited for opportunities and did not demonstrate too much aggression comparable to their opponents. Lone Star wasted several set-pieces, like free-kicks and throw-ins but they showed with their repeated attacks into the Tunisians half that they were up to the task.By the 78th minute, Lone Star’s Anthony Laffor, Francis Grandpa Doe, and William Jerbor were working overtime, and a resulting attack saw Anthony Laffor running hard with the ball on the wings.The Tunisians, as usual had a compact defense. Running parallel towards the goal were several Lone Star players, including Francis Grandpa Doe. Laffor did not waste too much time as he sent the ball over the Tunisia’s goal area, and as the ball flew across, Doe made a sacrifice to connect the ball into the net with his head as the Tunisian defense and their goalkeeper completely stranded.It was exactly the 79th minute that made all the difference. The Tunisians who had engaged in much delay tactics as the time ticked away made some desperate attempts to open up their game but it was too late.Lone Star: Salee Swen, Solomon Grimes, Dirki Glay, Teah Dennis, Patrick Gerhadt, Anthony Laffor, Sam Johnson, Francis Doe, William Jerbor, Gizzi Dorbor, Zack Krangar.Meanwhile, Burkina Faso and South Africa were the biggest casualties of the Day Two matches on Saturday, suffering losses away from home. They tasted defeats in encounters where much was expected of them as the journey for the places at the final tournament of the 31st edition of the showpiece continental football tournament gathers momentum.‘Les Etalons’ of Burkina Faso, losing finalists at the 2013 edition in South Africa were undone by a Joel Mogorosi’s 50th minute strike, which handed Botswana victory in the Group D encounter in Francistown.In Nouakchott, Mauritania overwhelmed South Africa beating them 3-1 to boost their chances in Group M. ‘Les Mourabitounes’ went up after five minutes after Bafana Bafana goalie Itumeleng Khune failed to make a firm grab of a shot from Ali Abeid from a free-kick.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)