July 26 (Reuters) – New Olympic champions — one as young as 13 — were crowned in Tokyo on Monday as an exuberant coach became the fan meme of the Games when the world watched him madly cheer his swimmer’s victory in a spectator-free aquatic centre.
Here’s what you need to know about the Tokyo Games:
Australia’s Ariarne Titmus drew first blood in her Olympic showdown with American Katie Ledecky after her brilliantly timed swim secured a famous victory in the 400m freestyle at the Tokyo Games.
Britain’s Adam Peaty delivered another dominating swim to repeat his gold medal success from Rio in the 100m breaststroke, while Canadian Maggie MacNeil stormed to victory in a close women’s 100m butterfly and the United States triumphed in the men’s 4x100m relay.
It was Titmus’ coach, however, who deserved the gold medal for celebrating. Viewers were mesmerized by Dean Boxall as he leaped in the air, tore off his mask and screamed ecstatically, headbanging with his surfer-like hair tumbling around him.
“I just lost it in the moment,” he later told Australia’s Seven network.
Japan’s Momiji Nishiya won gold in the women’s skateboarding event, making her the country’s youngest gold medallist. In an unusually young field of contestants, both the gold and silver went to 13-year-olds, with a 16-year-old Japanese skater clinching the bronze medal.
Meanwhile, the female gymnasts who would not have met age eligibility criteria if the Tokyo Games had been held in 2020 are relishing their unique Olympic experience. The International Gymnastics Federation, the sport’s governing body, decided to allow those turning 16 in 2021 — instead of 2020 — to compete in Tokyo in light of the postponement, something that has stirred debate within the sport.
DREAM TEAM DOWN
The U.S. men’s basketball team suffered a shock 83-76 defeat at the hands of France on Sunday night, losing at the Olympics for the first time since 2004 and for just the sixth time in the history of the tournament.
“It felt good,” France’s Evan Fournier, who powered the win with game-high 28 points, told Reuters.
Star U.S. player Kevin Durant was saddled with foul trouble early and found it hard to get into a rhythm. He fouled out near the end of the game.
Recent form suggests the Dream Team’s path to the top of the podium might not be as easy as in the past. They also dropped two straight exhibition games this month, including a surprise loss to world 22nd-ranked Nigeria.
Britain’s Tom Pidcock blew the opposition apart to win gold in the men’s Olympics mountain bike race after he seized control after four laps of the 4.1km Izu circuit and was never challenged.
The Brits also pulled off a stunning victory in the men’s 10 metre synchronised platform diving, ending China’s golden run in the event.
China had won gold in the event in the last four Games but costly errors in their fourth dive meant the lead slipped through the fingers of Cao Yuan and Chen Aisen, as four-time Olympian Tom Daley and new diving partner Matty Lee held their nerve at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre to top the podium.
The decisive victories, along with Peaty’s pool win, had Team GB high on the medal tally with three golds and six medals in total.
Some Japanese sports fans defied Olympic organisers and gathered along the route of the triathlon, grabbing a rare opportunity to see live competition and Norwegian Kristian Blummenfelt win the gold.
“I think the risk of getting infected is extremely low, almost equal to zero,” said Masao Kitada, a 35-year-old finance worker standing at the roadside. “The Tokyo Games are very special, so I can’t miss this chance.”
Organisers, however, reported 16 new Olympics-related coronavirus cases on Monday, bringing the total number of cases to 148.
Support for Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga slid nine points to 34%, its lowest since he took office, a survey showed on Monday, as worries about COVID-19 clouded his hopes the Tokyo Olympics would boost his ratings ahead of an election this year.
Japan has had some cheering news from the Games. The host nation is tied with China and the U.S. atop the tally with six gold medals.
POOL OF DREAMS
Swimming legend Michael Phelps hailed Ahmed Hafnaoui for his “unbelievable swim,” saying the 18-year-old Tunisian’s shock gold on Sunday was a great example of how swimming at the Tokyo Games was likely to have a series of wide open races.
“The difference between these Olympics and the past, in my opinion, is that every single person in the final has a chance of winning gold – it doesn’t matter if you are in lane one, eight or four, everyone is close,” said Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time.