French Pole Vaulter Claims Rio Crowd Booed Him To Help Brazilian Win

'There was no fair play from the public.'

16/08/2016 1:58 PM AEST | Updated 16/08/2016 3:59 PM AEST
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Vive la sportsmanship.

One of the most wonderful moments of the Rio 2016 Olympics has been soured somewhat by claims of poor crowd behaviour.

Thiago Braz da Silva, known in Brazil simply as "Thiago Braz", won an incredible pole vault competition late on Monday night, local time, at the Olympic Stadium.

But afterwards, runner-up and defending pole vault gold medallist from London, Renaud Lavillenie of France, accused the crowd of extremely poor behaviour.

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Wasn't his fault. He seems a lovely guy.
"There was no fair play from the public," the Frenchman said of the frequent booing which accompanied his every jump. "It is for football, not track and field."

Booing the opposition in common in football, which is Brazil's number one sport. But it's virtually unheard of in track and field, and Lavillenie, who led the competition until the final jump, was not happy.

"For the Olympics it is not a good image. I did nothing to the Brazilians."

Lavillenie was clearly the man to beat all night. He sailed over the bar showing perfect form in his first four leaps over 5:57, 5:85, 5:93, then 5:98.

Phil Noble / Reuters
He was in amazing form.

Thiago Braz missed a couple of attempts on his way to 5:98, then elected to bypass that height when the Frenchman cleared it.

Braz had two attempts to clear 6:03 and stay alive for the gold. He missed his first. Lavillenie had three attempts up his sleeve at 6:03. He missed his first two.

It came down to this. If Thiago Braz missed, he would claim silver. If he cleared 6:03 on his final attempt, then Lavillenie would have to clear it too to stay alive.

The Olympic Stadium had never been full on what was a showery night in Rio. It was nearly midnight as the final jumps neared. By this point, perhaps only 30,000 spectators remained. But boy, did they make some noise.

"The crowd were cheering me too much," Braz said of that moment. "I had to fix my mind on my technique, forget the people."

Gonzalo Fuentes / Reuters
Oh yeeeaaah!

Somehow he managed this. His last leap was fashioned from mental as much as physical strength. It was the jump of his life.

Thiago Braz da Silva cleared six metres for the first time in his career, and in so doing, won Brazil's second gold medal of these Games.

Lavillenie was not happy. To his credit he went on Brazilian TV and congratulated the winner. But in that interview, as in others, he criticised the crowd. It should be fascinating to see the Brazilian response to this as the fallout continues.

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