They were a long time coming, but in n way has Tokyo 2020 failed to live up to the hype of an Olympic Games. Perhaps now more than ever, as many of us find ourselves in an extended lockdown, the Games provide a welcome distraction from the minutiae of everyday life. With a simple flick of the channel, we can find ourselves absorbed in the sport of canoe slalom or gymnastics, surfing and skateboarding, watching the world’s top athletes give nothing but their all as they look to be victorious and stand atop that medal podium.
We might be only a week into the Games, but already Australia’s athletes are proving that they are a force to be reckoned with. Our top athletes have taken to their events with steely-eyed focus and determination, and while not everyone walks away with a gold medal, the way they have conducted themselves is reason alone for celebration. It’s there in our Aussie athletes that we see just what it means to be compassionate, kind and loyal sportspeople. Of course, there are still the upsets that make sport the engaging theatre of triumph and loss that it is. With that in mind, here’s a round-up of the key Olympic moments over the last 24 hours at Tokyo 2020.
Zac Stubblety-Cook wins swimming gold
It was a nail-biting performance, but entertaining nonetheless when Isaac Stubblety-Cook continued Australia’s dominant run in the pool by snatching gold in the men’s 200m breaststroke. At the final turn, Stubblety-Cook was third but somehow managed to find a reserve of energy, bringing it home in lane four to defeat Dutchman Arno Kamminga and Matti Mattsson of Finland in an Olympic record time of 2 minutes, 6.38 seconds.
The 22-year-old stunned audiences with a blistering back half of the race, recovering from a rather sluggish start that had him in sixth position at the turn. While audiences may have watched in disbelief, Stubblety-Cook was confident he could bring it home. “That’s the way I train, and that’s the way I race all the time. So, at these Games I won’t try to change a strength…It’s too late for that. I’m definitely just happy that the process pulled off,” he said.
Kyle Chalmers comes agonisingly close to gold
It’s been a long ride to Tokyo for defending champion of the men’s 100m freestyle, Kyle Chalmers. After winning gold at Rio in 2016, the athlete has had surgery surgery, 12 cortisone injections, platelet-rich plasma therapy twice and three facet-joint epidurals in his back amongst other things. Many had written him off for the Tokyo Games, but Chalmers was confident he could pull off something extraordinary and his swim in the final was nothing short of sensational.
Chalmers ultimately fell agonisingly short of defending his Rio crown, touching the wall just six one-hundredths of a second behind friend and rival Caeleb Dressel. His time of 47.08 equalled a personal best. “It’s probably a bit bittersweet to be honest,” he said after the race. “To back it up after gold in Rio, and the five-year journey it has been – it’s been really challenging – so to get silver is amazing. Everything is challenging, everyone has challenges. But to stand up and go an equal-best time in an olympic final when it counts the most, with all the pressure and the expectation on me, it is special.”
USA and Iran unite on the basketball court
While the US team stormed to victory with a 120-66 win over Iran at the Saitama Super Arena, the basketball teams gave an incredible lesson in harmony and class to many of their political leaders. As players moved towards their locker rooms, Iran’s Mohammad Jamshidijafarabadi asked Phoenix Suns’ superstar guard Devin Booker for a photograph. The pair smiled and walked across the court together.
US coach Gregg Popovich said of the occasion, “I am not the secretary of state so I am not sure what you are looking for. But in general, I think people from different countries get along better than their governments. People appreciate each other, no matter what country you are talking about. I really believe that. And this is a time where sport transcends all that petty crap you get from governments.”
Ireland claim first ever gold medal in rowing
Thanks to the pairing of Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy, Ireland has claimed their first ever gold medal in rowing, with a win in the lightweight men’s double sculls. When asked how it felt to be an Olympic gold-medal-winning athlete, O’Donovan said: “It’s alright, yeah. You can’t complain about it really. I would go around introducing myself like that, though.”
Jess Fox takes gold in canoe slalom
After watching Fox’s heartbreak in the kayak slalom event where penalties saw gold slip away from her grasp as she walked away with bronze instead, many feared it would be impossible for her to bounce back from such disappointment and put up a gold medal-winning race in the canoe event. But of course, it’s never wise to doubt Jess Fox and an incredible, clean run saw her win gold in the women’s canoe slalom. With her father commentating on national TV, he expressed, “fourth time lucky,” adding, “To deliver that performance, at that level, in that moment.”
It was something special for all watching. Upon completion, Fox swam over to her mum, Myriam Fox-Jerusalmi, who is also her coach. They embraced with ecstatic joy and it was hard not to feel emotional watching the scenes unfold. Fox said of her gold, “My parents have been amazing role models, amazing inspirations, amazing support for me. Both being Olympians – mum winning bronze, Dad missing the gold because of a penalty, mum missing the gold because of a penalty – I think we’re all pretty emotional about these penalties. So to win today – it’s a win for them. It’s a win for our whole family.”
The athletics officially gets underway today, despite a Covid-19 scare after American pole-vaulter Sam Kendricks tested positive for the coronavirus. The Australian team were quickly forced to isolate, but have since been given the all clear. Still, some officials fear that this could be the start of a domino effect as Argentinian pole-vaulter German Chiaraviglio has also withdrawn from competition. Events today include qualifying rounds for the women’s 100m, 800m and 5,000m. Men also go into qualifiers for the 400m hurdles, 4x400m relay, and 3000m steeplechase. The first track and field medal race will start at 9:30pm when the men race in the 10,000m.