Tokyo Olympics Daily: Ledecky vs Titmus – the rivalry of the Games

Tokyo Olympic Games Updates

Any Olympiad is reinforced by an unavoidable rivalry. The first week of the Tokyo Games was defined by a pair of swimmers, Australia’s Ariarne Titmus and Katie Ledecky for the United States.

On Saturday Ledecky beat Titmus in the women’s 800m freestyle. But the pair will leave Japan with two gold medals each and their reputation strengthened for the challenge they set for themselves.

“It wasn’t my last race,” said Ledecky, 24, insisting the battle will continue until the next Games in Paris in three years. “I’m going at least until ’24, maybe until ’28, we’ll see.”

The American has now won seven gold medals in three Olympics. But in Rio de Janeiro five years ago, she was second to none, winning the 800m freestyle half a pool length.

Titmus emerged to close the gap. 20-year-old Tasmania, the island south of mainland Australia, started swimming at the age of seven and represented her country at the world championships at 16. She made Ledecky her idol and her main target.

She chased Ledecky on Monday, when she came back from a body length behind in the early stages of the 400m freestyle to overtake the American legend in the final meters.

“I just tried to chase her away,” Titmus said after the win. “I can’t believe I really succeeded.” She followed it up with a more dominant victory in the 200m freestyle, her favorite event.

Ledecky won the 1,500 freestyle earlier this week, but it’s a race in which she didn’t face Titmus.

The American and Australian team have dominated swimming medals for decades. But in the last Olympic Games, gold medals were largely reserved for the American team.

Saturday’s races showed the dominance of the two nations. American swimmer Caeleb Dressel won his second Olympic title at the Games, winning the men’s 100m butterfly final in a record 49.45 seconds. Australia’s Kaylee McKeown triumphed in the women’s 200 backstroke and also claimed her second title in Tokyo.

In 2016, the United States won 16 gold medals against 3 for Australia. In 2012, the score was 16-1. In 2008, it was 12-6. After Saturday’s races in Tokyo, the score was 8-7. More accustomed to racking up gold medals in the pool, a relatively even distribution at the Games hurt the United States in the overall medal standings, starting behind China and Japan on Saturday.

The final swimming races of the Games will take place on Sunday, when once again it will be the American and Australian teams to watch.

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Strong points

  • There was a shocking development on the day of the women’s 100 meters final. Blessing Okagbare from Nigeria has been provisionally suspended by the Athletics Integrity Unit after testing positive for human growth hormone. Okagbare, one of the top-ranked sprinters in the event, recorded the positive test in an out-of-competition sample provided on July 19, the anti-doping agency said. Her suspension further scrambles one of the most anticipated events of the Tokyo Games, as Jamaicans Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson-Herah, and Briton Dina Asher-Smith battle for the fastest woman title of the world on Saturday night.

  • Simone Biles has withdrawn from two gymnastic apparatus finals, the uneven bars and vault, USA Gymnastics said on Saturday, adding that the champion athlete was still being evaluated for her participation in the beam and vault events. ground.

    Biles said she continues to struggle with what gymnasts call “the twisties,” in which her body doesn’t perform as her mind asks. “It’s honestly petrifying to try and do a skill but not have your mind and body in sync. 10/10 doesn’t recommend,” she wrote on Instagram. The mental block typically takes “two or more weeks” to subside, she added, although Biles trained on soft surfaces in Tokyo in hopes of participating in the rest of the gymnastics program.

  • GB team mainstay Jonny Brownlee retired from Olympic competition with his first gold medal. He was part of the British team that won the first-ever mixed sprint triathlon, alongside Jessica Learmonth, Georgia Taylor-Brown and Alex Yee. “Olympics? I finished it,” said Brownlee, 31, afterwards. He has appeared on past podiums, often behind his brother Alistair. “It’s absolutely amazing. This is my third Olympics and I finally have gold. He intends to focus on even tougher Iron Man competitions in the future.

  • Great Britain also claimed a stunning victory in the mixed 4x100m swimming relay, with the quartet of Kathleen Dawson, Adam Peaty, James Guy and Anna Hopkin setting a world record of 3.37.58. It was Team GB’s fourth swim in the pool, equaling their best performance in the sport since the 1908 Olympics.

  • Serbian Novak Djokovic was knocked out of the men’s singles tennis tournament by Germany’s Alexander Zverev. The shock defeat means the world’s highest ranked male player cannot complete a “golden slam” – winning the Olympic title and the sport’s four “grand slam” tournaments in the same calendar year.

    “I’m sorry for Novak,” Zverev said. “You can’t have it all. The German will face Karen Khachanov of the Russian Olympic Committee in the final on Sunday. Before that, on Saturday, Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic will face Czech Marketa Vondrousova in the women’s singles final.

  • China continued its dominance of table tennis at the Olympics. World number one Fan Zhendong was beaten by compatriot and defending champion Ma Long in the men’s singles final at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium on Friday night. The country has now won all but five of the gold medals available in table tennis since the sport’s introduction at the 1988 Games. However, the country suffered a rare loss earlier in the week when the Japanese doubles pair mixed consisting of Jun Mizutani and Mima Ito won their country’s very first table tennis gold medal.

On the podium

Just as the world’s greatest athletes have been training for years to reach the Games, broadcasters are also gearing up to catch the action. Although BBC presenter Dan Walker realizes this better than most, but couldn’t help but be amused by a cameraman filming the trampoline final on Friday. Let’s say it’s a job that has its ups and downs.

Click on here to see the FT’s “Alternative Medal Table” which ranks nations not only by their medal count, but by how they should behave in relation to economic and geopolitical factors.

The Tokyo Olympics Daily is published at 4 p.m. Japanese time. It is written by the team behind the Scoreboard business of sports weekly newsletter, with contributions from the Tokyo office of the FT. Sign up for Scoreboard here to have it delivered to your inbox every Saturday morning.

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