RIO DE JANEIRO — Briton Mo Farah joined the ranks of the all-time distance greats Saturday by becoming just the second man to retain both Olympic track long distance titles after adding a brilliant 5,000m gold to his 10,000 at the Rio Games.
On a sparkling final night of athletics, Matthew Centrowitz won a shock 1,500m gold for the US, its first in the event since 1908.
The nation also won both 4x400m relays to stretch its winning margin in the track and field medal count.
Caster Semenya cruised to victory in the women’s 800m, Germany’s Thomas Roehler won the javelin and 37-year-old high jumper Ruth Beitia won Spain’s first Olympic gold in women’s athletics.
The Rio athletics programme closes with the men’s marathon Sunday.
With Usain Bolt finally moving aside after his triple-triple heroics had dominated the first nine days of action, Farah took center stage for his double-double to emulate Finland’s Lasse Viren (1972 and 1976).
Having also done the double twice at the world championships, Farah proved he is up there with the best endurance performers of all time.
He never looked like being beaten Saturday, winning gold with a consummate display of control and finishing power.
“To do it again is incredible,” said Farah. “I have that drive, it’s just me.
“I can’t quite believe it. I wished for just one medal as a junior. It has been a long journey but if you dream of something, have ambitions and are willing to work hard then you can get your dreams.”
Centrowitz might have been dreaming of a minor medal but found himself in the box seat with a brilliant tactical run in the 1,500 and had too much finishing speed for defending champion Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria.
“Doing my victory lap, I literally kept screaming to everyone I know, ‘Are you kidding me?’” Centrowitz said.
There was no shock in the women’s 800m where Semenya delivered gold, the first Olympic athletics title for a South African woman in 64 years, having looked unbeatable all year and having to deal with the pressure of questions over her gender.
“The coaches told me to just focus on running, nothing else,” said Semenya, who is reported to produce excess testosterone that many feel gives her an unfair advantage.
“Sport is meant to unite people. I think that’s what we need to keep doing.”
In the women’s 4x400m relay, the United States collected their sixth straight gold in a streak going back to Atlanta 1996, with Allyson Felix bumping her career gold medal tally up to six.
In the final event of the night, perhaps fittingly given the sport’s recent travails, former doper LaShawn Merritt ran a blistering anchor leg to return the men’s 4x400m title to the United States.
After being shocked by the Bahamas four years ago, they turned the tables to record their 17th victory in the event.
That took their athletics gold medal tally to 13, with Jamaica second on six and Kenya on five.
Elsewhere, Chen Aisen claimed gold in the men’s 10m platform to help China take home seven out of Rio’s eight diving golds, while Mexico’s German Sanchez and American David Boudia took the silver and bronze.
Chen, at his first Olympics, showed consistency throughout his dives, gaining high scores to total 585.30 with his tight spins and clean entries into the water even as his rivals, including team mate Qiu Bo, stumbled.
Russia won its first Olympic gold medal in women’s handball, overcoming France 22-19 in a tight, fast-paced final. Earlier Saturday, defending champion Norway found some solace for not making it into the final by overpowering the Netherlands to take bronze.
Azerbaijan’s Radik Isaev prevented Niger claiming its first ever Olympic title when defeating Abdoulrazak Issoufou Alfaga 6-2 to win men’s +80kg taekwondo gold. The bronze medals went to South Korea’s Cho Dong-Min and Mahama Cho of Britain.
World record-holder Alexander Lesun of Russia won the men’s modern pentathlon gold.
Lesun, denied a medal in London when he was pushed out of the top three in the closing running-shooting combined phase, got off to a hot start in Rio with an Olympic record 268 points in the fencing phase.
Ukraine’s Pavlo Tymoshchenko earned silver with 1,472 and bronze went to Mexico’s Ismael Hernandez on 1,468.
Tymoshchenko, joined 2008 women’s bronze medallist Viktoria Tereschuk as the only Ukrainians to earn Olympic medals in modern pentathlon.
Serbia’s world champion men’s water polo team defeated arch rival Croatia 11-7 to win its first Olympic gold medal in the sport. Earlier on Saturday in the bronze medal men’s water polo match, Italy beat Montenegro by 12-10. — Agencies