Track and field finally kicked off at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro on Friday, with Michelle Carter winning the first gold medal in women's shot put in stunning fashion with a throw of 20.63 meters on her final toss.
New Zealand's Valerie Adams secured the silver medal, while Hungary's Anita Marton earned the bronze.
Adams was the star of qualifying earlier in the day, leading Group A with a toss of 19.74 meters. She entered Friday as the reigning two-time Olympic gold medalist and a heavy favorite to take home her third, per Odds Shark.
Germany's Christina Schwanitz took the top spot in Group B with a throw of 19.18 meters but was a distant second overall behind Adams.
Here are the results from the women's shot-put final Friday:
|2016 Olympic Results: Women's Shot Put|
|Gold||Michelle Carter (United States)||20.63|
|Silver||Valerie Adams (New Zealand)||20.42|
|Bronze||Anita Marton (Hungary)||19.87|
|Source: NBC Olympics|
Adams didn't waste any time qualifying for the final, making her long toss in the group stage on the first throw. She immediately gained an advantage over the field by not having to expend any additional energy fighting to make the evening rounds.
Carter and Raven Saunders gave the United States its first chance for a medal in women's shot put since 1960, finishing third and fourth, respectively, in Adams' group during qualifying.
Jeff Hartsell of the Charleston Post and Courier captured the image of Saunders' high school watching her qualify for the final:
Carter kicked off the final with a throw of 19.12 meters, one-tenth of a meter longer than her best throw during qualifying.
Adams wasted no time knocking Carter off her perch, throwing the shot put 19.79 meters and sending a message to the rest of the field that she had no desire to relinquish her crown.
No one else would surpass Carter's second-place score after the first round, setting up a head-to-head showdown between her and Adams that would carry all the way to the final throw. Schwanitz was sitting in third place at 19.02 meters.
Adams was not content to rest on her laurels. She decided to improve on her initial throw in the final with a toss of 20.42 meters in the second round.
Sean Hogan of One News New Zealand had this reaction as Adams accomplished the shot-put equivalent of lapping the field:
Carter did not go quietly. Her second toss traveled 19.82 meters, keeping her in the second position and in line for that elusive medal for the U.S. It was also a possible signal that she was getting stronger as the competition progressed.
She continued to inch closer to the 20-meter mark, hitting 19.87 and 19.84 on her third and fourth attempts, respectively.
Marton was able to put the pressure on Carter when her final throw went 19.87 meters, vaulting her into third place.
However, Carter would respond in grand fashion on her final throw. She needed a perfect toss to win, which is what she got with her dazzling 20.63-meter throw.
Adams had a chance to reclaim her spot atop the standings, knowing where the bar had been set. Her final toss was her second best of the finals, 20.39 meters, but it came up just short of Carter's total.
Per Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Carter's gold-medal victory was the first medal for an American woman in shot put since Earlene Brown earned bronze 56 years ago.
The Olympics are built on drama. Adams and Carter provided it in every way, exchanging blows back and forth, with Carter saving her best shot for the final moment. It was the throw she needed at the perfect time, allowing her to make history and knock off the reigning champion of the previous eight years.