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!
Japan Captures Men’s Team Epee Gold Medal for the First Time
In a historic win Japan gained the gold medal in the men’s epee final against the Russian Olympic Committee’s team, claiming the title with a 45-36 decision in the match.
This news came as a surprise triumph, as it’s the first medal for Japan in this category, and prior to the match the team composed of Masaru Yamada (27 years old), Satoru Uyama (29), Kazuyasu Minobe (34) and Koki Kano (23) was ranked eighth worldwide.
“I can’t believe this, please tell me this is not a dream!”, said an elated Kano after the victory at Makuhari Messe in Chiba Prefecture.
Japan started the match strong, with Masaru Yamada coming against Sergey Bida ー who is ranked No. 2 worldwide ー and led the first rotation by a small margin 5-4.
After that, Japan managed to secure a five-point lead, finishing the standoff between Uyama and Bida 25-20 for Japan.
The Japanese team then managed to preserve the lead right until the final ninth rotation, when Kano triumphed against Bida to account for the final score.
Yamada commented with satisfaction to NHK after the 51-minute bout: “When I saw how strong we were in the first rotation, I first believed that we could win. The fact that we used that strength, and carried it until the end to victory, makes me extremely happy.”
Japan reached the final after a strong morning in which the team prevailed in both of its matches. The Japanese trio breezed through the round of 16 against the U.S. (45-39) and narrowly surpassed the No. 1 ranked team of France, which won the gold at the 2016 Rio Games, in the quarterfinals (45-44).
In the semifinals, Japan toppled rival South Korean 45-38.
With this win, Japan brought the total gold medal count to a whopping 17, the highest number of gold medals Japan has ever achieved in the Olympic Games. This year’s host country won 16 gold medals in Tokyo in 1964 and again at the 2016 Rio Games.
Australia's Emma McKeon poses on the podium with her gold medal from the women's 100-meter freestyle final at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. (REUTERS/Marko Djurica)
Australia’s McKeon Collects Fourth Medal of Tokyo Games
Emma McKeon became the first Olympian with four medals at the Tokyo Games by winning the women’s 100-meter freestyle final at Tokyo Aquatics Centre.
The Australian sensation finished the race in 51.96 seconds, in the process breaking her own Olympic record (52.13) that she set on Wednesday, July 28 in the same pool.
Hong Kong’s Siobhan Haughey placed second in 52.27 and Australia’s Cate Campbell nabbed the bronze in 52.52.
Earlier at the Olympics, McKeon won the gold in the women’s 4x100 freestyle relay and earned bronze medals in the 100 butterfly and 4x200 freestyle relay.
“I still can’t believe I’ve just won a gold medal,” McKeon commented after the race. “The emotions will really come out when I get back to Wollo (her hometown of Wollongong in New South Wales).
“I’ve never won an Olympics or worlds [world championships] individual title. That’s what the Olympics is all about, to be able to stand on top of that podium.”
Her father, Ronald McKeon, represented Australia at the 1980 Moscow Games and 1984 Los Angeles Games.
Australia has enjoyed success in the women’s 100 freestyle over the decades, with Dawn Fraser winning it three times (1956, 1960 and 1964, in Melbourne, Rome and Tokyo) and Jodie Henry accomplished the feat at the 2004 Athens Games.
In other swimming finals, South Africa’s Tatjana Schoenmaker broke the world record in the women’s 200 breaststroke final, winning the race in 2 minutes, 18.95 seconds. American Lilly King was the runner-up in 2:19.92.
Russian Evgeny Rylov was victorious in the men’s 200 backstroke (1:53.27), while Ryosuke Irie was a distant seventh in 1:57.32. The Japanese veteran swimmer, appearing in his fourth Olympics, said he was pleased to still be competing on the global stage.
"I've taken part in the Games since 2008 and I'm happy to get the taste of this stage ([in Tokyo] with my fourth time," Irie said, according to Kyodo News.
China’s Shun Wang triumphed in the men’s 200 individual medley (1:55), while Daiya Seto and Kosuke Hagino finished fourth and seventh, respectively, well off the pace. Seto completed the race in 1:56.22, more than a minute faster than his Japanese teammate
"I couldn't get the medal at the end but at least I could improve my time [1:56.86] from the semis," Seto, a Saitama Prefecture native, was quoted as saying by Kyodo News. "It's a bit disappointing not to get a medal but I'm happy to have swum together with Kosuke on this dream stage and to compete together."
The Dominican Republic's Melky Cabrera hits a single in the fifth inning against Mexico at Yokohama Stadium. (AP/Matt Slocum)
Cabrera Lifts Dominican Republic Past Mexico
Former major leaguer Melky Cabrera’s two-out single to left field in the fifth inning lifted the Dominican Republic to a 1-0 victory over Mexico in a Group A opening round game at Yokohama Stadium.
Angel Sanchez pitched five scoreless innings to pick up the win. He allowed two hits, walked one and struck out one.
Julio Rodriguez led the Dominicans with three hits.
Both teams left six men on base in a game that started at 12 p.m.
In the evening game, the United States trounced Israel 8-1, jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning.
Japan's Rui Machida drives to the basket as U.S. star Sue Bird defends in a Group B preliminary round game at Saitama Super Arena.（AP/Eric Gay）
U.S. Women Recover From Slow Start, Pummel Japan
The United States women’s basketball team trailed 30-28 after the opening quarter, but found its rhythm at both ends of the court shortly thereafter and cruised past Japan 86-69 in a Group B preliminary round game at Saitama Super Arena.
U.S. coach Dawn Staley’s squad, which led 49-40 at halftime, won its 51st consecutive Olympic game.
A’Ja Wilson paced the six-time defending Olympic champions with 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Brittney Griner and Breanna Stewart each had 15 points.
“Japan is a tough team to play against,” Staley said. "After the first quarter I thought we did a great job disrupting them and not allowing them to take and make as many 3-point shots uncontested. We just forced them to put the ball on the floor and then our bigs got involved. I was happy that we locked down and got that done.
“I’m happy for our team because we are slowly coming together and playing the style of play we need to play to not only get better, but just compete and to get out of pool play because we’ve got a tough pool.”
For Japan, Maki Takada scored 15 points, Rui Machida had nine points and 11 assists and Saki Hayashi had a game-high four steals.
Team USA outrebounded Japan 48-33.
"We still have a lot of work to do," Wilson told reporters in a post-game interview, according to NBC Sports. "Japan gave us a good run. I had to guard the guards this time, all of us bigs had to guard the guards. So it kind of challenged us in a way. But we went to our strength and we got the [win]."
Sailors compete in the women's 470 class in Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture. (AP/Gregorio Borgia)
Rammo, Buhl Enjoy Successful Days at Sea
The preliminary races for the men’s one-person dinghy laser event concluded with Estonia’s Karl-Martin Rammo crossing the finish line first in the ninth race and Germany’s Philipp Buhl placing first in the 10th in Enoshima, Kanagawa Prefecture.
Australia’s Matt Wearn leads the overall results, and the top 10 qualifiers make it into the medal race. Japan’s Kenji Nanri was ranked 30th at the end of the day and didn’t make it into the final race.
The women’s one-person dinghy laser radial event also finished its last preliminary race today. Denmark’s Anne-Marie Rindom tops the overall rankings, and the top ten move into the medal races.
In the men’s skiff 49er event, Leo Takahashi and Ibuki Koizumi placed fourth in the seventh and ninth races in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture. They are currently in 13th place, with three more races to qualify for the medal race.
Ai Kondo Yoshida and Miho Yoshioka also had a successful day, placing second in the fifth and sixth races in the women’s two-person dinghy 470 event in Zushi, Kanagawa Prefecture. This puts the duo in fourth in the overall rankings, with four more preliminary races until the medal race.
Japan outside hitter Ran Takahashi in action against Poland in a Pool A preliminary round match at Ariake Arena.
Poland Improves to 3-1 with Strong Effort Against Japan
World No. 2 Poland held off a spirited challenge by 11th-ranked Japan in a Pool A preliminary round match, winning 25-22, 25-21, 26-24 at Ariake Arena.
Yuki Ishikawa led Japan with 16 points, just behind Poland’s point leader Wilfredo Leon Venero, who had 17 in the 1-hour, 34-minute contest.
Poland’s Jakub Kochanowski and Mateusz Bieniek each had four blocks. Kochanowski had a team-high 12 block attempts, one more than Bieniek. For Japan, Ishikawa, Masahiro Sekita and Taishi Onodera had four blocks apiece, with Onodera leading the way in chances (13).
Japan fell to 2-2 in the preliminary round, with victories over Venezuela and Canada and its other defeat to Italy
Poland, which meets Canada on Sunday, August 1, improved to 3-1 in Group A and earned a berth in the next round.
Whether Japan advances or not will be determined on Sunday, when it faces Iran, which fell to 2-2 after a four-set loss to Italy on Friday.
Sweden's Hanna Bennison and Madelen Janogy celebrate after the match as Japan players look dejected. (REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji)
Nadeshiko Japan Falls to Sweden in Quarterfinals
Sweden scored two second-half goals in a 3-1 victory over Japan in a women’s quarterfinal match at Saitama Stadium.
For Nadeshiko Japan, Mina Tanaka’s 23rd-minute goal tied it at 1-1.
Sweden finished with 13 shots to Japan’s eight. Magdalena Eriksson gave Sweden a 1-0 lead in the seventh minute before Tanaka evened the score.
Stina Blackstenius broke the tie in the 53rd minute and Kosovare Asllani converted a penalty kick for the final tally in the 68th minute.
Japan, the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup champion, didn’t participate in the women’s tournament at the 2016 Rio Games.
In other women’s quarterfinal matches, Canada beat Brazil 4-3 in a penalty shootout at Miyagi Stadium. Neither team scored in regulation or extra time.
At Ibaraki Kashima Stadium, Australia defeated Great Britain 4-3, with captain Sam Kerr scoring her second goal in the 106th minute.
At International Stadium Yokohama, the United States defeated the Netherlands 4-2 in a penalty shootout. The teams were tied at 2-2 after extra time.
Alexander Zverev faces Novak Djokovic in the men's singles semifinals at Ariake Tennis Park. (REUTERS/Mike Segar)
Zverev Eliminates Djokovic in Men’s Semifinals
Germany’s Alexander Zverev, the world’s fifth-ranked player, outplayed No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the men’ singles semifinals, winning 1-6, 6-3, 6-1 at Ariake Tennis Park.
Zverev will meet Russian Karen Khachanov in the final.
Serbian great Djokovic’s outstanding 2021 season includes titles in the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon, the last of which gave him 20 Grand Slam men’s singles titles. The latest victory tied the all-time record, also shared by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Xander Schauffele shot an 8-under 63 in the second round. (REUTERS/Toby Melville)
Play Suspended in Second Round Due to Bad Weather
American Xander Schauffele held the lead in the second round of the men’s golf tournament when play was suspended due to adverse weather conditions.
Schauffele shot an 8-under 63 at the Kasumigaseki Country Club before play was halted for a second time due to rain. Lightning had forced organizers to stop play earlier Friday.
Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz was one stroke off the pace after a 67 gave him a two-day total of 132.
Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama had six birdies in a bogey-free round and moved up the leaderboard but wasn’t able to finish his round. He was tied for third when play was halted.
With a better weather forecast for Saturday, July 31, golfers that couldn’t finish their second rounds will likely see an early start.
China's Long Ma competes in the men's table tennis singles final against Zhendong Fan at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter)
China Wins Gold and Silver in Men’s Singles
China’s Long Ma won the gold medal in the men’s singles category, defeating Zhendong Fan, also of China and the world’s No 1 player in the event, four games to two at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.
The match started with Ma, who also captured the men’s singles title at the Rio Olympics, routing Fan in the first game. Fan rebounded with a win in the second game, but Ma had a better overall performance in the match, winning 11-4, 10-12, 11-8, 11-9, 3-11, 11-7.
The two rivals will next come together in the men’s team round, which starts on Sunday, August 1.
Authors: Jim Armstrong, Arielle Busetto, Serena Landers, Ed Odeven