Glittering gold distracts attention from Tokyo Olympic woes

Qian Yang of Team China wins gold medal in women’s 10m air rifle event on day one of Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Asaka Shooting Range on July 24, 2021 in Asaka , Saitama, Japan.

Kevin C. Cox | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images

The sport spread to Tokyo on Saturday and gold medals rained down as the Olympics came to life, finally putting aside some of the shadow of Covid-19 and the controversy that plagued the centerpiece global.

China made an instant statement of intent when Yang Qian clinched the Games‘ first gold medal, and Japanese judoka Naohisa Takato lifted hearts at home with gold on the mat a day after the world superstar of the country, tennis player Naomi Osaka, lit the cauldron for the official opening. the Olympic Games delayed by the pandemic.

Iran also cheered early after Javad Foroughi won the men’s 10m air pistol event, and Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz won the men’s road cycling race as unexpected nations topped the table. medals.

But fans, banned from all venues under Covid-19 protocols, received an early reminder of the potential impact of the pandemic as two U.S. archers said they were competing unvaccinated by personal choice, and organizers said another athlete had tested positive for the virus.

Osaka’s choice to light the cauldron on Friday crowned an opening ceremony devoid of pomp and staged in a strangely silent stadium.

But while the ceremony was like none before, the first day of the sport offered a much more familiar feel despite the absence of spectators, as the world’s elite athletes run, ride, fight and swim as a business-as-usual vibe.

The sight of an athlete, eyes shining with joy, was always going to be a welcome one for organizers, and 21-year-old Chinese shooter Yang provided it first, keeping his cool in the women’s 10-a-side rifle competition. meters to revise Anastasiia Galachina. .

Crumpled under pressure

The Russian collapsed under the pressure on her last shot, shooting 8.9, by far her worst of the day, and the worst score of any finalist on record. “I got too nervous, I held on too long,” she said.

Yang was thrilled and hinted at her main motivation. “It’s the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party,” she said. “I am so happy that this gold medal is a gift for my country.”

The hosts were also desperate for Japanese success and, after a few near misses, Takato won gold in the men’s 60kg judo, beating Taiwanese Yang Yung-wei.

“It was frustrating in Rio,” said Takato, recalling the previous Games where he won bronze. “It was a long road to get here.”

Organizers are hoping the sport can distract attention from the flood of embarrassing blunders and coronavirus concerns that have marked the one-year postponed event.

But there was no ignoring the global pandemic, as one more athlete tested positive for COVID, bringing the total number of disclosed virus cases to 123.

Later, US archers Brady Ellison and Mackenzie Brown said they were free to choose whether or not to get vaccinated against Covid-19, after a US Olympic gold medal hopeful in swimming who refused the vaccine has been widely criticized on social media.

“It is one hundred percent a personal choice, and anyone who says otherwise takes away people’s freedoms,” said Ellison, world number 1, on the sidelines of the competition.

He and Brown crashed in the first round of the mixed event, which makes its Olympic debut.

Typhoon preparedness

Organizers are also bracing for a typhoon, having already reworked Monday’s rowing competitions to make them part of the Saturday and Sunday schedule.

But as the rowers gaze anxiously at the sky, the surfers – who start their competitions on Sunday – should benefit from bigger swells.

The 3×3 basketball tournament made its debut and U.S. First Lady Jill Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron led the cheers as the Americans beat France.

At 12, Syrian Hend Zaza was the youngest athlete competing in Tokyo, but her table tennis tournament ended in a flash when she lost to Austrian Liu Jia, before taking a selfie with its winner.

Liu, who has a 10-year-old daughter, had difficulty sleeping the day before the event. “Yesterday I asked my daughter, ‘Do you know your mom is playing someone two years older than you?’ His first response was, ‘Then you better not lose!’ “

Perhaps “King Kohei” Uchimura of Japan could have followed a similar advice, but the reign of the Olympic all-around champion and holder of seven Olympic medals came to an abrupt end when he failed to qualify for the tournament. the apparatus final, thus ending its Olympic history. career.

“I couldn’t perform what I practiced. It’s just what I think,” he said.

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