THERE was to be no golden goodbye to these most storied of Olympic Games, when mining medals seemed, at times, almost ridiculously easy.
Super heavyweight Joe Joyce is nicknamed the Steam Train but he settled for boxing silver as the gold rush finally ran out of puff in Rio.
I thought I won the rounds. I will have to watch it back but I thought I did enough to win the gold medalJOE JOYCE
Joyce was looking to emulate his former team-mate Anthony Joshua, the London 2012 champion who was watching at ringside.
But the judges favoured, on a split decision, French rival Tony Yoka, who took an early lead in the scoring and left Joyce chasing the fight, effectively needing an unlikely last-round knockout to win it.
The pair had unfinished business after a much-debated World Championship semi-final in Doha last year, when Yoka was controversially given the verdict and went on to win the title.
Yoka – who had dismissed Joyce as a ‘robot’ pre-fight – goaded his rival, holding his hands out wide, sticking out his tongue and mimicking the Ali shuffle.
Joyce was the aggressor in the fight but this was not one of those contests, which we’ve seen too often at these Games, when the result made you question the shady and puzzling politics of this sport.
He was the aggressor and he landed the heavier shots, with his thudding jab reverberating around the crowd, but Yoka’s work was destined to catch the judges’ eyes.
Despite this, boos still greeted the final decision, with Ireland’s 2012 bronze medallist Michael Conlan, who controversially lost his fight in Rio, alleging Joyce was cheated.
“I thought I won the rounds, I will have to watch it back and that will give me a clearer opinion but I thought I did enough to win the gold medal,” said Joyce.
“I thought I was landing a lot of shots long range and then I was going in close and hitting him with shots too.
“I was working him to the body, working him to the head. I thought I was penetrating his guard. Maybe towards the end of a round he would nick a few shots but the majority of the work was done by me, working to the head and body.
“I thought it was close at the World Championships but I wasn’t as fit that time and I thought this time I was ready to put more than 100 per cent in but I didn’t come away with the gold medal.”
This was Great Britain’s 67th medal of the Games, achieving something few thought possible and even the sporting superpowers of China and the US have never achieved – winning more medals in the Games after you’ve hosted.
It’s also the fifth consecutive Olympics where Britain have improved their overall performance, another stat that a fortnight ago seemed impossible, let alone improbable.
“I thought I’d be walking in here loud and proud with a gold medal,” he added. “I’d prefer to be the Olympic champion. People remember a gold medallist a lot more. We have beaten our target, we have beaten London, so in that respect it has been a great Games but, for me, while I’m proud of silver, I wanted gold.”
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