Athletes at the Tokyo Olympics have been performing super (and super-human) athletic feats, even as COVID-19 and other controversies swirl. With so much happening during these Games, it can be hard to keep track of what is going on.
JAPAN Forward is monitoring the key happenings in a handful of Olympic sports during the day and bringing reports to our readers through this Olympic Digest. Please bookmark JAPAN Forward’s page for the latest Olympic-related news from Japan!
Murakami Becomes First Japanese Woman to Earn a Medal in an Individual Event
Mai Murakami claimed the bronze medal in the women’s floor exercise final at Ariake Gymnastics Centre on Monday, August 2.
By doing so, Murakami became the first Japanese female gymnast to earn an Olympic medal in an individual event. Murakami and Russian Angelina Melnikova both received 14.166 points and each took home a bronze.
Jade Carey of the United States collected the gold with a lively performance that earned her 14.366 points.
Italy’s Vanessa Ferrari finished as the runner-up (14.200 points).
During her impressive routine, Murakami performed her patented double-tuck somersault, a complex double-twisting sequence which is known in gymnastics circles as the “Silivas” move.
Murakami, who was the 2017 world champion in the floor exercise, was pleased with the result.
"It was the best performance that I could do and I finished third," Murakami said afterward, according to Kyodo News. "It was the best competition and I couldn't have done better."
"When I took gold for the first time at the world championships, I was overwhelmed with happiness. But the Olympics and the world championships feel so different."
Japan Trounces South African in Men’s Preliminary Round Clash
Eight players scored or more goals for Japan in a 24-9 thrashing of South African in a men’s preliminary round Group A match at the Tatsumi Water Polo Centre.
Japan improved to 1-4 in group play. South Africa fell to 0-5.
Entering the third quarter, Japan led 12-8 before completely dominating the second half.
China Breaks World Record in Women’s Team Sprint
China’s duo went on, and stormed past Germany in the final, finishing with a time of 31.85 and securing the gold medal. German Lea Sophie Friedrich and Emma Hinze won silver at the Izu Velodrome in Shizuoka.
Track and Field
Morocco’s El Bakkali Captures Gold in 3,000-Meter Steeplechase
Morocco’s Soufiane El Bakkali won the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase final at the New National Stadium in 8 minutes, 8.90 seconds. Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma was the runner-up in 8:10.38 and Kenya’s Benjamin Kigen placed third (8:11.45).
Japan’s Ryuji Miura, who is 19 years old, led the race after 1,000 meters. But he fell off the pace and finished seventh in the 15-man race. Miuri was clocked in 8:16.90.
In another final on the humid night, The Netherlands’ Sifan Hassan triumphed in the women’s 5,000-meter final. She ran the middle-distance event in 14:36.96, followed by Kenya’s Hellen Obiri in 14:48.36 and Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay in 14:38.87.
Ririka Hironaka, a 20-year-old Nagasaki native, set a national record by completing the race in 14:52.84. Hironaka placed ninth.
Puerto Rico Goes for Gold in Women’s 100-Meter Hurdles
Puerto Rico’s Jasmine Camacho-Quinn claimed the gold in the women’s 100-meter hurdles final (12.37 seconds). Kendra Harrison of the United States was second in 12.52 and Jamaica’s Megan Tapper finished third (12.55).
Camacho-Quinn set an Olympic record (12.26) in the semifinals on Sunday, August 1.
The hurdler became Puerto Rico’s second Olympic gold medalist. Tennis player Monica Puig won the women’s singles title at the 2016 Rio Games.
Harrison, who owns the world-record time in the 100 hurdles (12.20), provided great motivation in the race.
"I was really running for the world record," Camacho-Quinn told reporters after the race. "I hit the hurdle, but everything happens for a reason.”
She added: "I came through with the gold. My first gold medal. I think honestly all of us, we all should be rewarded for this. We made it."
Denmark’s Axelsen Grabs Men’s Singles Title
Axelson was the third-place finisher at the 2016 Rio Games.
Polii and Rahayu led by as many as nine points in the second game, never letting their counterparts grab the lead at any point in the title-clinching game.
In winning the nation’s first Olympic gold medal in women’s doubles badminton, the unseeded Polii and Rahayu earned a big upset over the second-seeded Chinese pair.
U.S. Women Extend Olympic Win Streak to 52
Gunning for its seventh consecutive Olympic gold medal, the U.S. women’s basketball team recorded a 93-82 victory over France in a Group B preliminary round match at Saitama Super Arena.
A’Ja Wilson scored a team-high 22 points and corralled seven rebounds for Team USA, and Breanna Stewart scored 17 points and added seven rebounds and seven assists in the Americans’ 52nd straight victory in Olympic contests.
Three-time Olympian Tina Charles came off the bench and gave the victors an offensive spark, putting 15 points on the board, making 6 of 9 shots from the floor and handing out five assists. Charles sank three 3-pointers.
“This was preparation meets opportunity,” Charles said after the game. “I think my last two years playing in the WNBA, I’ve been taking a lot more 3s. I think this year it’s been more efficient.
Canada Stuns U.S. Women, Reaches Final
Jessie Fleming scored a second-half penalty kick and Canada held on to knock off the gold-medal favorite United States 1-0 in a semifinal match at Ibaraki Kashima Stadium.
The No.-1 ranked U.S. team has captured the Olympic gold four times. What’s more, the Americans held an overwhelming historical advantage in head-to-head meetings with Canada, which won just three of its 61 matches against the powerhouse squad entering the semifinals.
Fleming, a midfielder, stepped into the spotlight to take the penalty after teammate Deanne Rose was brought down in the area in the 74th minute. Video replay confirmed it.
Team USA dominated the proceedings on offense, taking 13 shots to Canada’s three, and had a 12-5 advantage in corner kicks.
In the evening’s second semifinal, Sweden defeated Australia 1-0, with Fridolina Rolfo’s second-half goal deciding the game at International Stadium Yokohama.
Canada, which received the Olympic bronze in Brazil five years ago and in London in 2012, and Sweden will meet in the women’s final on Friday, August 6.
Learning Experience for Japanese Women
The Japan women’s team lost its final preliminary round Pool A match to the Dominican Republic, while also losing the chance to compete in the quarterfinals. The Dominican Republic triumphed 25-10, 25-23, 25-19, 25-19.
This is the first time that Japan was not able to reach the quarterfinal stage since the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
“For five years we’ve worked hard to try to win a medal in these Olympics. We weren’t able to achieve that, but the players worked very hard,” said head coach Kumi Nakada in a post-match interview. “I’m thankful for the opportunity to compete in this difficult situation.”
Chinese Women Dominate Heavyweights
Chinese weightlifters dominated the two final women’s classes, 87 kg and over-87 kg, at Tokyo International Forum. Zhouyu Wang placed at the top of the 87-kg class with a combined weight of 270 kg lifted between the snatch and clean and jerk rounds.
Her teammate Wenwen Li took the top spot in the over-87 kg division by lifting 320 kg across the two rounds. Li set three Olympic records, one each for the snatch and clean and jerk rounds with 140 and 180 kg, respectively, and another for the total weight, 320 kg. She also holds the world records for all three categories.
Authors: Arielle Busetto, Serena Landers, Ed Odeven