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.
We will keep updating this article throughout the afternoon and evening, so make sure to bookmark JAPAN Forward’s page for the latest Olympic-related news from Japan!
Hashimoto Extends Japan’s Title Streak to Three in Men’s All-Around Final
Daiki Hashimoto entered the Tokyo Olympics as a household name to hard-core gymnastics enthusiasts.
Now his name recognition spreads far beyond the niche audience.
Hashimoto won the men’s all-around title on Wednesday, July 28 at Ariake Gymnastics Centre, moving into the lead during the sixth and final rotation. He won the title with 88.465 points. Compatriot Kohei Uchimura captured back-to-back all-around titles at the 2012 London Games and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
China’s Ruoteng Xiao led after five rotations.
Entering his final apparatus, the horizontal bar, the 19-year-old Hashimoto, the final gymnast competing, needed to score 14.533 points to win the title. He delivered a clutch performance without any apparent mistakes. He received 14.933 and pumped his fist to punctuate the excitement of the moment.
Xiao finished as the silver medalist with 88.065 points, while Russian Nikita Nagornyy, the defending world champion, received 88.031, good enough to claim the bronze. China’s Wei Sun was fourth at 87.798.
Takeru Kitazono finished fifth overall (86.698), giving the host nation another banner performance during an Olympics that’s shaping up to be a comprehensive display of the nation’s athletic skills in a wide range of sports.
Through five full days of the Tokyo Games, Japan has also already claimed medals in judo, swimming, skateboarding, softball, table tennis, surfing, archery and weightlifting, with gold medals in all of those disciplines except the final three.
“Five years ago, I didn’t imagine myself standing here,” Hashimoto told reporters after securing the gold medal.
“The Olympics wasn’t even a realistic goal for me at the time, it was only a dream,” the Chiba native added. “And now that dream has come true and I’ve become a champion.”
Hashimoto sealed the victory by placing first on two of the six apparatus: the horizontal bar and the pommel horse (15.166). He also was second among the 24 gymnasts in the floor exercise (14.833), his opening rotation.
Later in the evening, the Chiba native had a mediocre showing on the rings (13.533), which was 12th-highest score for that apparatus.
But he compensated for that by finishing fourth on the vault (14.700), on which he performed his tricky Kasamatsu double twist, and parallel bars (15.300), his fifth rotation.
If Hashimoto had placed lower than fourth on the parallel bars, he would have fallen out of medal contention.
Hashimoto, a Juntendo University student, helped the Japan men’s team finish as the runner-up at the 2019 World Gymnastics Championships in Brazil. Now closer to the tail end of his career, “King Kohei” competed in horizontal bar qualifying on Sunday, July 25 but didn’t advance to the final.
With Hashimoto grabbing the spotlight with his first Olympic title, the sport may be witnessing the dawn of another golden era.
Ishikawa Exits in Women’s Quarterfinals, Ito Moves on to Next Round
Fifth-seeded Kasumi Ishikawa entered her women’s singles quarterfinal matchup against Singapore’s Yu Mengu with seven victories in 10 career matches in international competitions.
What’s more, Yu is the No. 26 seed. So there were expectations for the higher seed to win.
But Ishikawa struggled to play at a quality level, particularly in the final two games of her match against Yu on Wednesday, July 28, and the underdog earned an upset victory. Ishikawa was eliminated 8-11, 11-5, 14-12, 11-6, 11-2 at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.
Yu won 10 consecutive points in the final game, which only took five minutes.
Ishikawa, who competed on Japan’s bronze medal-winning women’s team at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, was hugely disappointed in the outcome of her match against Yu.
“There are absolutely no positives at all that I can take from this performance. It really stings to lose at this stage of the tournament," the Yamaguchi native commented to reporters, according to Kyodo News, after the match.
"I will just have to try and regroup for the team competition and make sure I leave nothing behind.”
The women’s team medal matches are on Thursday, August 5.
Third-seeded Mima Ito, who teamed up with Jun Mizutani to win the mixed doubles crown on Monday, July 26, punched her ticket to the women’s semifinals by beating South Korea’s Jeon Ji Hee 11-5, 11-1, 12-10, 11-6.
Arai Triumphs in 70-kg Division
Chizuru Arai beat Austria’s Michaela Polleres in the final of the under-70-kg class to claim Japan’s second women’s judo gold medal of the Tokyo Games.
Along with Uta Abe’s gold in the 52-kg event it was the first time Japanese women have won two weight divisions in judo since the 2008 Beijing Games. It was also Japan’s second straight Olympic title in the women’s 70 kg.
Haruka Tachimoto won at 70 kg in the 2016 Rio Games for the only gold medal claimed by Japan's women five years ago.
Arai, who was making her Olympic debut, beat Polleres with a well-timed waza-ari at Nippon Budokan, the venue for the judo competition at the 1964 Summer Games.
After narrowly missing out on the Rio Games to Tachimoto, Arai bolstered her prospects for Tokyo with back-to-back titles at the 2017 and 2018 world championships.
Meanwhile, a streak of four straight judo titles from the opening day for Japan’s men was snapped when Shoichiro Mukai fell in his second bout of the day at 90 kg to Hungary's Krisztian Toth.
Watanabe, Higashino Advance to Mixed Doubles Semifinals
Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino became the first Japanese pair to reach the semifinals in Olympic mixed doubles badminton.
Watanabe and Higashino beat the Thai pair of Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai 15-21, 21-16, 21-14 to move one step closer to a Tokyo Games medal.
Watanabe and Higashino will face second-seeded Yi Lyu Wang and Dong Ping Huang from China on Thursday in the semifinals.
Wang and Huang defeated South Korean pair Seo Seung Jae and Chae Yu Jung 2-0.
In singles play, unseeded South Korean Heo Kwang Hee upset world No. 1 Kento Momota in a Group A preliminary round match, winning 21-15, 21-19. As a result, Momota's title hopes ended with a shock defeat.
Japan Misses Out on Final by Yielding to Egypt in Round of 16
Japan had to give up its Olympic medal dream in the men’s sabre team competition after falling 45-32 in the morning match against Egypt at Makuhari Messe.
In relay format with four fencers Japan kept up a good fight against the Egyptian contenders.
Kaito Streets started off against Mohamed Amer, finishing only with a small disadvantage of 5-2, but then when Tomohiro Shimamura took over against Egypt’s Ziad Elsissy, the difference went up to 10-2.
After two relay substitutions, Streets took the weapon in hand once more, closing the point gap slightly to 25-20 against Samer.
However, from that point onward the gap only widened, and the match finished with the aforementioned 13-point difference. Japan’s team, also composed of Kento Yoshida and Kenta Tokunan, ended ninth overall.
Egypt finished fifth overall, progressively prevailing over the Russian Olympic Committee squad (45-41) and Iran (45-24) but lost against South Korea. South Korea subsequently demolished Italy in the final, snatching the gold medal with a final score of 45-24.
Nishikori Reaches Fourth Rounds in Men’s Singles
Kei Nishikori’s bid to earn an Olympic medal in his homeland remains intact.
The unseeded Shimane native defeated Belarusian foe Ilya Ivanshka 7-6 (9-7), 6-0 in the men’s singles third round at Ariake Tennis Park in a 2-hour, 1-minute match.
The first set took 82 minutes, and world No. 66 Nishikori wrapped things up in a tidy 39 minutes in the second set.
Ivanshka, who is ranked 69th, had 44 unforced errors to Nishikori’s 27.
In men’s doubles, Great Britain’s Andy Murray and Joe Salisbury fell to Croatia’s Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig 4-6, 7-6 (7-2), 10-7 in the quarterfinals.
The two-time Olympic singles champion withdrew from the singles event due to a thigh strain on Saturday, July 24.
In other tennis news, in an effort to protect players from the sweltering Tokyo heat and humidity, the International Tennis Federation has announced a change in schedule for matches at Ariake Tennis Park.
Russian player Daniil Medvedev was quoted by several media on Wednesday, July 28, saying to the chair umpire that he could finish his match but “may die.” He was forced to take two medical timeouts and one visit from his trainer.
Other players, including top-ranked Novak Djokovic, have complained of the intense heat at the Tokyo Olympic tennis venue where matches have started during the hottest time of the day.
In response to the complaints, the ITF announced that matches will begin at 3 p.m. from Thursday, July, 29.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Tennis Event Extreme Weather Policy provides for modification of play once the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature reaches a threshold of 30.1 degrees Celsius. The temperature reached 31 degrees on Wednesday, July 28, but the heat index made it feel like 37 degrees.
Switzerland Narrowly Prevails Over Japan in Women’s Match
After a loss in their first match against Germany, Japan’s Miki Ishii and Megumi Murakami failed to surpass Switzerland in the women’s Pool F group, dropping a three-set match at Shiokaze Park.
Ishii and Murakami triumphed 21-14 in the opening set. However, in the second set Switzerland’s Tanja Huberli and Nina Betschart bounced back, winning 21-19.
In the final set, it was a battle to the last point, with Ishii in the first minute scoring a point on a 59-kph serve.
Yet, the Swiss duo kept the pressure on, closing the set with several hits in a 15-12 verdict.
Japan has currently racked up two losses and one win, after the Czech team was forced to forfeit due to a positive case of COVID-19.
Depending on the results in other pools, the Japan women's team might play in further matches.
Fiji Routs New Zealand to Claim Second Straight Olympic Gold
It was only inevitable that the two remaining undefeated teams would meet for the gold medal match, New Zealand vs. Fiji was a logical outcome.
Both nations had very little adversity out of the pool stages, and with the exception of New Zealand’s two-point close-out victory over Australia, most games were won by more points than a try.
Fiji made it back-to-back gold medal wins and remained the number one Rugby Sevens country in the Olympics with a convincing 27-12 victory over their south pacific ocean rivals, New Zealand.
Fiji’s Meli Derenalagi scored the opening try after just a minute to set the tone for the gold medal showdown. A few minutes later Sireli Maqala put the ball over the line for another try, and Napolioni Olaca converted to extend the lead 12-0.
It wasn’t long after that New Zealand’s Scott Curry crossed the line for a try and put the Kiwis on the board, but a missed conversion attempt by Andrew Knewstubb kept the balance in favor for the Fijians.
The first half ended with another converted try by the Fijians, and they led 19-12 at the break.
The second half started with New Zealand clawing back with a try by Sione Molia, and this time Knewstubb hit the mark to convert and narrow the lead. But the Fijians were too disciplined and strong, and closed out the game with an unanswered try, and penalty goal to claim the gold medal. Congratulations to the back-to-back undisputed Olympics champs.
Japan’s campaign, on the other hand, was underwhelming to say the least.
The host nation went 0-5 in the tournament,
Facing South Korea in its final match, Japan started slowly, but responded with converted tries of its own in the first half, and kept the lead going into the second with a 19-12 lead.
After halftime, tempers flared and both sides saw players receive yellow cards. Japan capitalized on the on-field advantage to pile on some more points and closed out the game 31-19.
Ryota Kano led all scorers with 11 points from one try and three conversions.
Japan Blanks France with Four-Goal Barrage
Japan scored two goals in the opening half and added another pair after the intermission to whip France 4-0 in a men’s Group A match at International Stadium Yokohama.
Takefusa Kubo gave Japan a 1-0 lead in the 27th minute, scoring for the third consecutive game.
Hiroki Sakai made it 2-0 in the 34th.
Substitute Koji Miyoshi added another score in the 70th minute, and Daizen Maeda completed the scoring in stoppage time.
Japan finished the preliminary round atop Group A with three wins. Mexico is 2-0-1, France is 1-2 and South Africa 0-3.
Manager Hajime Moriyasu’s squad plays its next match against New Zealand in the tournament quarterfinals on Saturday, July 31. Kickoff is 6 p.m. at Kashima Stadium.
Annemiek van Vleuten Grabs Gold in Women's Cycling
The Netherlands’ Annemiek van Vleuten came in first in the women’s individual time trial, speeding through the 22.1 kilometers in 30 minutes, 13.49 seconds. Van Vleuten previously claimed silver in the road race on July 25.
Coming in second, 56.47 seconds later, was Switzerland’s Marlen Reusser.
The Netherlands earned another spot on the podium, with Anna van der Breggen taking home the bronze medal in a race that ended at Fuji International Speedway in Shizuoka Prefecture.
Japan’s Eri Yonamine wasn’t able to perform as strongly, coming in 22nd out of 25, 4:21.48 seconds after van Vleuten.
In the men’s individual time trial, Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic won gold, finishing the 44.2 km in 55:5.19. The Netherlands' Tom Dumoulin came in second, while Australia’s Rohan Dennis earned bronze.
Canada Stuns South Africa in Women’s Preliminary Round
Canada’s women team demolished the competition in its Group A preliminary round against South Africa, scoring a whopping 21-1.
At Tatsumi Water Polo Centre, Canada’s advantage started slowly but surely as it built leads of 5-1 and 9-1 after the first and second quarters.
Canada picked up the pace, scoring eight goals in the final quarter, of which three were in the last minute of the match.
On Team Canada’s side, notable mentions go to Gurpreet Sohi, who is 27 and scored four goals.
This was Canada’s first positive result, after narrowly conceding to Australia 8-5 on July 24, and to Spain 14-10 on July 26.
“I think what worked is that we played like a team, we saw each other,” explained Sohi to Olympic Broadcasting Service after the match. “It was a big win for us.” This tournament marks Canada’s first Olympics since 2004, and South Africa’s debut at the Games.
Meanwhile, Hungary prevailed against the United States, the Olympic champion in London in 2012 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016. The two teams played neck and neck until the very last seconds, as Hungary’s Rebecca Parkes scored the decisive goal with 45 seconds to spare. American Makenzie Fischer tried but failed to score, bringing the match to a close.
This was the first blow delivered to the American team, which had walked into the match with two solid results, having trounced Japan 25-4 and beat China 12-7.
In the evening, China breezed past Japan with a 16-11 score. The Netherlands edged Spain 14-13.
Authors: Jim Armstrong, Arielle Busetto, Galileo Ferrari, Serena Landers, Ed Odeven