Originally Published: August 7, 2016 6:18 a.m.
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The Olympics began in full with the first gold medal going to an American teenager by the fearsome name of Thrasher. There was plenty of rough riding on a punishing cycling course, a smooth opener for Kevin Durant and company, and a difficult loss for Venus Williams.
The American men’s basketball team romped past China 119-62 Saturday night behind Durant’s 25 points. Although it was a blowout, bettors in Las Vegas, where wagering on the Olympics is legal for the first time since 1998, were undoubtedly on edge until the final minutes.
Japan’s Kosuke Hagino won the men’s 400-meter individual medley in the marquee race in Saturday night’s swimming program, albeit a bit less flashy without two of the sport’s biggest stars. Michael Phelps, the world record holder and two-time Olympic champion, dropped the race for his fifth games and defending champion Ryan Lochte didn’t qualify.
Virginia Thrasher, a 19-year-old who once had her heart set on figure skating, captured the 10-meter air rifle Saturday. Greg Van Avermaet of Belgium won the grueling road race that left cyclists with a myriad of injuries.
Riders rolled off to the sound of crashing waves on Copacabana Beach on a steamy morning hours after Brazil’s high-energy opening ceremony featuring thumping funk, sultry samba and supermodel Gisele Bundchen sauntering to the tune of “The Girl from Ipanema.”
Showcasing Rio’s famed beaches and majestic mountains, the men’s road race began under clear, sunny skies buzzing with helicopters — some carrying TV cameras, others from the military to provide security.
The brutality of the course became evident over the cobblestone sectors that rattled one cyclist off his bike, cost another his chain and forced Tour de France champion Chris Froome to replace his broken bike.
Van Avermaet out-sprinted Jakob Fuglsang and Rafal Majka on the long run to the finish at sun-splashed Copacabana Beach after Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali and Colombia’s Sergio Henao crashed while trying to navigate a corner on the final harrowing descent of the 6-hour race.
Goalkeeper Hope Solo came up big as the United States fought off France 1-0 in a group stage match at Mineirao Stadium. Carli Lloyd scored the game’s only goal.
Solo became the first goalkeeper, male or female, to reach 200 appearances in international play. Despite the milestone, Solo was still peppered with jeers from the crowd, which was riled up about social media posts she made about the threat of the Zika virus.
Thousands of police and soldiers were patrolling the city amid concerns about safety.
On Saturday, there was a scare during the break at the eventing dressage at the Olympic Equestrian Center as a military-looking bullet pierced the roof of the tent and landed on the floor near startled reporters. The competition was not disrupted and nobody was hurt.
Brazilian military and police called it “an unfortunate incident,” one that came shortly after bomb-disposal experts blew up an unattended bag near the finish line of the men’s cycling race.
Among the highlights on Day 1:
—BOUNCED : Venus Williams, playing her opening match at her record fifth Olympics, lost 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5) to Kristen Flipkens of Belgium. With U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry watching, the fifth-seeded Williams was broken while serving for the victory at 5-3. She was two points from the win four times but could not close out Flipkens, who is ranked 62nd and only once reached the semifinals of a major tournament.
—YOUTH SERVED : Thrasher topped her spectacular spring where she won three NCAA titles and a spot on the U.S. Olympic team by upsetting China’s Li Du, a two-time gold medalist, to capture the 10-meter air rifle title. She swapped figure skating for shooting after a family hunting trip in which she killed a deer with her first shot.
—HANDBALL HOST : Host Brazil upset reigning gold medalist Norway 31-28 in the opening game of the handball tournament. Ana Paula Rodrigues led the way with 12 goals for Brazil, which has never won an Olympic handball medal. As the arena filled with passionate home fans for the early morning game, five straight goals and big saves from goalkeeper Mayssa Raquel Pessoa paved the way for victory.
—WOMEN FIRST : France won the first rugby match at the Olympics in 92 years — and the first ever for women — beating Spain 24-7 to begin the six-day sevens tournament. Rugby sevens, the fast-pace, condensed form of the game, is the format for the sport’s return to the Olympic program for the first time since 1924, when the U.S. men won gold in the 15-a-side tournament.
—BAD BREAK : French gymnast Samir Ait Said’s Olympics ended when he severely injured his left leg while vaulting during team preliminaries. Said’s leg bent awkwardly as he tried to land, the sound echoing through the arena. Said writhed on the ground in agony while medical officials tended to him. He exited on a stretcher to a standing ovation.
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