TOKYO: China claimed three gold medals on the first day of competition at the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday and cyclist Richard Carapaz became just the second competitor in Ecuador’s history to top the podium, with victory in the road race.
As the troubled build-up to the pandemic-postponed Games gave way to the first full day of competition, China secured victories in shooting and weightlifting.
Yang Qian sparked the mini gold rush in the 10-metre air rifle competition, pipping Russia’s Anastasiia Galashina with a dramatic last-shot victory to take the very first title of the Games.
Galashina had looked poised to win heading into the last shot, but stumbled with 8.9 on her final effort to allow Yang to grab gold.
“It’s the 100th birthday of the Chinese Communist Party,” she said. “I’m so happy that this golden medal is a gift to my country. I’m so proud.”
There was more joy for China, with Hou Zhihui taking gold in the women’s 49kg weightlifting event with an Olympic record total of 210 kilograms.
Fencer Sun Yiwen added a third Chinese gold of the day with victory in the women’s epee.
In cycling’s gruelling road race, 2019 Giro d’Italia winner Carapaz outfoxed a heavyweight field led by Slovenia’s Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar.
It was only Ecuador’s second gold at the Olympics after Jefferson Perez’s victory in the 50km race walk at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Japan celebrated the first goal medal of its Games when judoka Naohisa Takato won the men’s 60kg final at the iconic Nippon Budokan, beating Taiwan’s Yang Yung-wei.
But the host nation suffered disappointment when gymnastics great Kohei Uchimura’s campaign came to an early end.
The two-time all-around Olympic champion slipped up in qualifying for the horizontal bar competition, having battled a shoulder injury to be fit for the Games.
“In the last three Olympic Games I’ve been able to match the level of performance I’d reached in training — but not this time,” a dejected Uchimura said.
In another Japanese setback, world champion Daiya Seto failed to reach the final of the men’s 400 metre medley in the pool, although he has two more events.
With spectators barred from almost all Olympic venues due to Covid-19 restrictions, the road race was a rare chance for domestic fans to glimpse the action.
Tens of thousands lined the route of the brutal 234km (145-mile) course to watch as Carapaz prevailed in a thrilling tactical battle.
“It’s an incredible moment for me,” Carapaz said. “You always have to believe. I have worked so hard to be here and it’s a huge moment for me.”
Javad Foroughi has become the oldest Iranian athlete to win an Olympic medal, earning gold in men’s 10-metre air pistol.
Foroughi set an Olympic record with 244.8 points, finishing 6.9 ahead of silver medalist Damir Mikec of Serbia. Chinas Pang Wei, the 2008 gold medalist, took bronze.
The 41-year-old Foroughi surpasses Iranian weightlifter Mahmoud Namdjou, who was 38 when he took bronze at the 1956 Melbourne Games.
Foroughi, ranked fourth in the world, qualified fifth and immediately jumped to the lead in the finals with a series of shots in the 10-ring. He led Mikec by 4.2 points entering the final two shots and celebrated by waving his towel before kneeling on it to pray.
The spectre of Covid-19 continued to stalk the Games when German cyclist Simon Geschke was forced out of the road race while Dutch rower Finn Florijn has also tested positive.
Seventeen new Games-related cases were announced, taking the total number to 123, of which 12 are athletes.
Organisers were also nervously tracking the progress of a tropical storm heading towards Tokyo, with forecasters saying it could arrive on Tuesday.
As a ‘protective measure’, organisers have brought forward to this weekend rowing events scheduled for Monday.
As the swimming started, Britain’s Adam Peaty blasted through his heat to kickstart the defence of his 100m breaststroke title.
Peaty, 26, arguably the greatest ever over the distance, hit the wall in an eye-catching 57.56 sec.
American Michael Andrew, who caused a stir by refusing to be vaccinated against Covid-19 before heading to Tokyo, was third fastest.
World champions USA thrashed New Zealand 6-1 to bounce back from a humiliating defeat to Sweden in their women’s football opener.
HORSE’S BAD TOOTH ENDS DRESSAGE DREAM
A puss-filled horse tooth has ended Victoria Max-Theurer’s Olympic dressage dreams. The Austrian’s 11-year-old horse, Abegglen NRW, had been behaving strangely in training and, while the opening ceremony was under way on Friday night, a health check and x-Ray revealed a tooth infection.
It would have been Max-Theurer’s fifth Olympics.
“This news is a heavy setback for Victoria. We hope that Abegglen will feel better soon and that Victoria will continue on her path,” said Peter Mennel, of the Austrian Olympic Committee.
Max-Theurer’s team mates Christian Schumach and Florian Bacher will now compete only as individuals.
Dressage riders and horses are competing in qualifiers on Saturday and Sunday for the chance to win team and individual medals on July 27 and 28.
Germany’s Isabell Werth, the most decorated Olympian in her sport, and Britain’s dressage world record holder Charlotte Dujardin, are hot medal contenders and will start competing on Sunday.
On Saturday, the Netherlands, Denmark and Britain got off to a strong start, while Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl scored the highest individual score, cementing her country’s leading position in equestrian sports.
After Saturday’s events (Tabulated under gold, silver, bronze, total): China 3 0 1 4 Italy 1 1 0 2 Japan 1 1 0 2 South Korea 1 0 2 3 Ecuador 1 0 0 1 Hungary 1 0 0 1 Iran 1 0 0 1 Kosovo 1 0 0 1 Thailand 1 0 0 1 Russian OC 0 1 1 2 Serbia 0 1 1 2 Belgium 0 1 0 1 Taiwan 0 1 0 1 India 0 1 0 1 Netherlands 0 1 0 1 Romania 0 1 0 1 Spain 0 1 0 1 Estonia 0 0 1 1 France 0 0 1 1 Indonesia 0 0 1 1 Israel 0 0 1 1 Kazakhstan 0 0 1 1 Mexico 0 0 1 1 Mongolia 0 0 1 1 Slovenia 0 0 1 1 Switzerland 0 0 1 1 Ukraine 0 0 1 1
Published in Dawn, July 25th, 2021