A hugely busy Saturday of Olympics action saw a host of Aussies in action. There were strong starts in everything from tennis and table-tennis to rowing and water polo.
Plus one gymnast landed a shock finals berth, and two underdogs nearly pulled off an all-time beach volleyball upset.
HERE’S HOW THE AUSSIES PERFORMED!
FOX SPORTS’ OLYMPIC HOME PAGE
AUSSIE LANDS STUNNING FINALS QUALIFICATION
Australian gymnast Tyson Bull has qualified for the finals in the horizontal bar. The 28-year-old posted a hugely impressive 14.433 on the apparatus, good enough to put him seventh and book a place in the eight-man final.
He’s Australia’s only male gymnast competing this Games in a non-trampoline gymnastic event. Meanwhile, his 13.566 on the parallel bars wasn’t enough to qualify for the finals in that apparatus.
Three of the athletes who qualified above Bull did so with lower ‘difficulty’ scores, but higher ‘execution’ scores – meaning if Bull can nail his difficult routine, there’s a chance he could put himself in contention for what would be an absolutely stunning medal.
Only one Australian – male or female – has ever medalled in rhythmic or artistic gymnastics. Australia’s only gymnastics medal came in the men’s trampoline, when Ji Wallace claimed silver in the event’s debut at Sydney 2000.
The final takes place on Tuesday, Aug 3, in the evening.
AUSSIES NEARLY CLAIM STUNNING BOILOVER
For the first time since 2008, Australia qualified for the men’s beach volleyball event – winning the Asian championships last month to book their place in the Games.
And the underdog world No.47s – the lowest seeds of the 24 teams – faced a brutal opening pool game: Norway’s two-metre beast Anders Mol and Christian Sorum, the world No.1 team and three-time reigning European championship winners.
But the Aussie duo of Christopher McHugh and Damien Schumann gave the beach volleyball vikings a mighty scare, only losing in a decisive third set. The score finished 21-18, 18-21, 15-13 to Norway.
“This is unbelievable! UN-BE-LIEVABLE!” said former two-time Olympic beach volleyball medallist Kerri Pottharst in commentary during the third set. Pottharst claimed bronze in 1996 then gold in 2000 alongside Natalie Cook in the women’s competition.
McHugh had been on the brink of reaching the Olympics in 2012, but finally made his dream come true in Tokyo. And Schumann had undergone 12 surgeries, including five on his knee and a shoulder reconstruction, on his long journey to the Olympics.
In the opening set, the Aussies showed some early nerves but rebounded to go point-for-point with their rivals, and even managed to claim the lead multiple times, including at 11-10. But Norway gained control and moved to 17-15 before seeing out the set at 21-18.
Then the Aussies got off to a red-hot start in the second, taking a rapid 5-2 lead and forcing Norway to take a time-out. Remarkably, the Aussies kept their surge going and moved to 11-3.
The Aussie duo was playing an aggressive style, often hitting two shots instead of the permitted three – and unsettling the Norwegian superstars.
They scrambled their way to a 17-13 lead, and a huge spike took them to 19-16 and within touching distance of the set. They had three set points, and after serving long on the first, they made no mistake on the second.
Australia took an early time-out at 4-2 down in the decider, then rocketed off the next three points – including the point of the match as Schumann battled Mol again and again at the net.
Norway hit back and took an 8-6 lead, before the Aussies struck twice to level it once more. The teams went point-for-point before Norway only just managed to get clear and hold on for a 15-13 win the deciding set.
The Aussies will also face Spain and the Russian Olympic Committee athletes in their group – and are now must-watch TV.
VETERAN GOES BACK-TO-BACK ON STRONG OPENING DAY
Jian Fang Lay is into her SIXTH Olympics, and still turning it on for the green and gold.
Today she claimed two wins from two in the women’s singles table tennis.
First it was a 4-0 win over Cuba’s Daniela Fonseca. Then she beat Italy’s Debora Vivarelli 4-1 tonight in a gripping encounter. They traded the first two games, before Lay rattled her opponent with a lightning-fast 11-4 third game.
In the fourth, Vivarelli had the chance to seal the game at 10-9, but missed it – and Lay hit three in a row to go 12-10.
In the fifth game, she raced to a 7-0 lead and never looked back in a 11-2 win.
Round two begins tomorrow.
She wasn’t alone in claiming a victory in the night session. Aussie David Powell claimed a walkover over Czech Republic’s Pavel Sirucek – who unfortunately tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving in Tokyo.
LATE DISAPPOINTMENT FOR AUSSIE CYCLING STARS
A brutally difficult 234km road cycling race proved too much for Australia’s medal hopes, with Richie Porte and his compatriots dropped from contention after hours in the gruelling heat and humidity.
Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz came home in gold in 6 hours, five minutes, and 26 seconds, for just his nation’s second-ever Olympic gold. The 28-year-old broke away from a group of top riders with around 30km to go, then unshackled himself from America’s Brandon McNulty with six km to spare.
While a group of around a dozen riders attempted to hunt him down, he finished nearly 45 seconds ahead after a stunning solo performance. It comes on the back of a somewhat disappointing third spot at the Tour de France a week ago, and is arguably the biggest win of his career after victory in the Giro d’Italia in 2019.
Wout van Aert had done most of the chasing, but the multi-talented rider – who starred in the mountain stages, time trials and sprints of the Tour de France – still had enough in his legs to claim second by a slim margin.
He pipped one of the favourites in Slovenia’s two-time reigning champion Tadej Pogačar, the 22-year-old claiming bronze.
Earlier, a big crash took out a former Tour de France winner.
Great Britain’s Geraint Thomas came off his bike with another Brit and one of the Italian riders, leaving him well off the pace. Thomas is the only man in the field to win a gold medal and win the Tour de France but was left covered in blood with his top all ripped as he suffered the consequences from the crash.
The riders then had to battle the weather as rain and extreme humidity made the already tough inclines even harder.
And it caused Spanish lead rider Alejandro Valverde to drop out with a puncture in both legs after being one of many going straight from the Tour de France to Tokyo with just a week of rest in between.
STINGERS START WITH STRONG WIN
The Aussie Stingers kickstarted their bid for a women’s water polo medal with a strong performance against Canada, winning 8-5.
Olympic debutant Bronte Halligan scored three times in a hugely impressive effort, while Canda’s Monika Eggens picked up three goals of her own.
The match was a gripping affair, which began with both sides netting just one goal apiece in the first quarter.
For the next two quarters it was largely a case of the Aussies pushing ahead and Canada hitting back.
SWIMMING HEATS LIVE: AUSSIE BREAKOUT STAR HEADLINES NIGHT 1
FOLLOW MATILDAS v SWEDEN IN BLOCKBUSTER ENCOUNTER
Lea Yanitsas saved a host of shots in a composed performance in goals, while the lead could have been larger had the Stingers not struck the crossbar and post with such frequency.
Canada threatened a late comeback when they brought the lead down to two goals in the fourth quarter, but Rowie Webster sealed the game with a long range bounce shot to put things out of reach.
There remains plenty of room for improvement, with ball security in the attacking third a key area the Aussies will look to work on for their upcoming clashes.
Nevertheless, it was a promising start for a strong medal hope.
BARTY, SANDERS STORM THROUGH
Wimbledon champions Ash Barty has wasted no time getting started in Tokyo as she and doubles partner Storm Sanders blitzed through their first round match in less than an hour.
The Queenslanders needed just 23 minutes to get through the first set, which they took 6-1 against Japanese rivals Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya.
The sixth seeds didn’t take a step back in the second set, claiming it 6-2 to round off a good day for the Australians on the court.
Barty will get her singles campaign underway on Sunday.
MILLMAN WINS IN FIRST ROUND
Aussie fan favourite John Millman is off to a terrific start in his opening round match against Italian teenager Lorenzo Musetti.
Millman started the match a $2.22 outside but ripped through the first set to win it 6-3.
The Aussie world no.44 faced a scare while serving at 3-3 up, but saved two break points before kicking on to clean up the set.
And it wasn’t a straightforward second set as the Australian fans watching on at home would have hoped as there were as many as FIVE breaks of serve.
But Millman held his nerve to take the second 6-4 and make it through to the next round, where he will face Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
However, it was bad news for Sam Stosur who has now likely played her final singles match at an Olympic Games.
Stosur, who is playing in her fifth Olympics after debuting in Athens in 2004, lost 6-4, 6-2 to Elena Rybakina in little over an hour in Tokyo.
KOOKABURRAS HANDED REALITY CHECK IN OPENER
Australia’s world no.1 side the Kookaburras have suffered a stunning reality check in their opening game in Tokyo against hosts Japan.
Australia went into an early lead as Time Brand scored in the 11th minute, before his housemate Tom Craig doubled the lead three minutes later, with all signs pointing to a dominant opening for the gold medal favourites in Tokyo.
However, the Kookaburras were left rocked after a six-minute blitz turned the game on its head.
Japan are ranked 15th in the world but looked far better than that as two goals from Kenta Tanaka either side of Yoshiki Kirishita’s equaliser left the hosts in the lead at the half-time break, and the Aussies staring down the barrel of an embarrassing opening game defeat.
It was a first half which left former Hockeyroo Georgie Parker “absolutely speechless”.
The Aussies clawed their way back after the break, however, converting from a penalty corner to calm the nerves before reclaiming the lead with six minutes to go in the third quarter.
Captain Aran Zalewski got the crucial equaliser before Blake Govers put the Kookaburras back in the lead.
Daniel Beale added a fifth for Australia to give the favourites some breathing room in the final quarter as the Kookaburras showed some excellent character to come back from what could have been a shattering defeat.
AUSSIES MAKE STRONG START IN ROWING
Australia has made a strong start in the rowing on Saturday with early wins in the heats.
Annabelle McIntyre and Jessica Morrison took out their women’s double sculls heats in a time of 7:21.75 to advance to to the semi finals.
Aussie duo Sam Hardy and Josh Hicks, meanwhile won their heat with a time of 6:42.74 to also advance to the semi finals.
Elsewhere, Australia’s world champion women’s four held off a fast-finishing Irish quartet to win their heat by just 0.23secs in a time of 6:28.76.
That means Annabelle McIntyre, Jessica Morrison, Rosemary Popa and Lucy Stephan have booked their spot in Wednesday’s final, where they will be hoping to finish amongst the medals.
It was particularly impressive from Morrison and McIntyre, who backed up from winning their heat in the women’s pair just two hours earlier.
Our quad four team of Alexander Purnell, Spencer Turrin, Jack Hargreaves and Alexander Hill then won by a massive three seconds to advance to the final.
OLYMPIC DREAM OVER IN SIX SWIFT MINUTES
Safwan Khalil arrived in Tokyo for a shot at redemption.
Driven by a medal after emotionally struggling to get up for his bronze medal fight in London nine years earlier, the 35-year-old Taekwondo star kept fighting for one more chance.
In six minutes his dream flashed before his eyes, as he went down 23-7 to Thailand’s Rammarong Sawekwhiaree 23-7.
“It’s gone, it’s gone, that’s it man,” he said just minutes after his Olympic dream ended just after noon on the opening day of the Tokyo Games.
“We spoke about that so much at training that that six minutes is going to come and go so quick and you have to be on from the first second.
“I don’t know what to do,” he added, aimlessly looking into the air with sweat pouring off his brow and despair written in his eyes.
Khalil landed an early blow as his Asian opponent lost his feet and fell to the ground early.
But after a tight opening minute where they drew level at 4-4, Khalil was copping kicks from everywhere.
“Man, it’s one of those ones that just falls away from you, you don’t know what’s happening,” he said.
“By the time you get a grasp on it, the scores are a bit too far away. With his movement and his footwork, you can’t give up a lead like that. He got up early and it took me too long to switch on and by the time I did he had run away with it.
“That’s not the way you imagine it at all.”
AUSTRALIA STRUGGLE AGAIN IN SOFTBALL
Australia has suffered another heavy defeat in the softball, losing 7-1 to Canada.
The Aussies were hammered 8-1 by hosts Japan in the opener on Thursday before bouncing back with a crucial 1-0 win to edge past Italy in their second Tokyo outing.
But the Spirit were no match for the the world No.3 ranked Canadians.
AUSSIE DAY 4 HIGHLIGHTS
Shooting: Women’s 10m Air Rifle, 9.30am
Hockey (men): Australia vs. Japan: 10.30am
Beach Volleyball: Men, 11am
Football (women): Australia vs. Sweden, 6.30pm.
Softball: Australia vs. Canada, 11am
Cycling road race: From 11am
Water polo (women): Australia vs. Canada, 4.30pm
Beach volleyball (men): Australia vs. Norway, 11pm
Tennis: Men’s and Women’s singles, and Women’s doubles from 12pm
Swimming: From 8pm
FULL AUSTRALIA DAY 4 SCHEDULE
Men’s 400m Individual Medley (heats), 8.02pm
Women’s 100m Butterfly (heats), 8.25pm
Men’s 400m Freestyle (heats), 8.38pm
Men’s 100m Breaststroke (heats), 9.25pm
Women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay, 9.43pm
Women’s 10m Air Rifle, 9.30am
Men’s 10m Air Pistol, 2pm
Mixed Doubles, 10am
Women’s Doubles, 10am
Women’s Singles, 10am
Mixed Doubles, 12.15pm
Women’s Singles, 3.15pm
Men’s Singles, 3.15pm
Men: Japan vs Australia, 10.30am
Men: Australia vs. Norway, 11pm
Women, Canada vs Australia, 11am
Men’s Pair, 11.20am
Women’s Pair, 10.50am
Women’s Four, 12.50pm
Men’s Four, 1.10pm
Men’s Flyweight -58kg, 11.28am
Men’s Road Race, 12pm
Men’s Singles, 12pm
Women’s Doubles, 12pm
Women’s Singles, 12pm
Women: Canada vs Australia, 4.20pm
Dressage Individual, 6pm
Dressage Team, 6pm
Sweden vs Matildas, 6.30pm