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Tokyo 2020 Olympics briefing: a Chinese clean sweep and toy mascots

·15-min read
<span>Photograph: Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images

Today in a nutshell: A close heptathlon and record-shattering decathlon came to a close, there was gold in the velodrome for Team GB, Belgium won the men’s hockey and there were some heartfelt words from the injured Katarina Johnson-Thompson.

Tomorrow’s key moments: There’s an incredibly early 5.30am start for the men’s 50km race-walk, a late one for the now-rescheduled women’s football final, and an incredible lineup of finals for Friday night in the athletics stadium, including the 4x100m relays.

The Olympic decathletes and heptathletes joined each other in celebrations on the track at the end of today’s athletics session as Damian Warner of Canada led from start to finish to win the decathlon with a new Olympic record of 9,018 points. The 31-year-old become only the fourth man to score 9,000 points. Kevin Mayer of France took the silver while the Australian Ash Moloney won bronze.

Damian Warner, of Canada celebrates after winning the gold medal in the decathlon.
Damian Warner of Canada celebrates after winning the gold medal in the decathlon. Photograph: Francisco Seco/AP

Moments earlier the heptathlon had gone down to the wire, going to Belgium’s Nafi Thiam after she did enough in the 800m to keep the Netherlands’ Anouk Vetter at bay in silver. In turn, in third Emma Oosterwegel, also of the Netherlands, had needed a solid 800m to end up in the medal places, and ended up pipping Belgium’s Noor Vidts by only 19 points.

Nafi Thiam and Noor Vidts react after the 800m race. Vidts narrowly missed out on a medal.
Nafi Thiam and Noor Vidts react after the 800m race. Vidts narrowly missed out on a medal. Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

Katarina Johnson-Thompson, whose Olympic heptathlon dreams ended when she tore a calf muscle yesterday, posted to social media today that refusing to get in a wheelchair despite being in huge pain was a last gesture of defiance after a tough year.

There were also medals on offer today for men in the 110m hurdles and the 400m. Grant Holloway of the USA may have been overwhelming favourite in the 110m hurdles, but it was Jamaica’s Hansle Parchment who added gold to his bronze from the London Games. Holloway had to settle for silver, with Parchment’s compatriot Ronald Levy third.

Hansle Parchment during the men&#x002019;s 110m hurdles final.
Hansle Parchment during the men’s 110m hurdles final. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

In the 400m, much-fancied US runners Michael Cherry and Michael Norman were shut out of the medals, with Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas taking gold by some stretch, Colombia’s Anthony Jose Zambrano in silver and Kirani James in bronze.

Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas crosses the line to win gold.
Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas crosses the line to win gold. Photograph: Paweł Kopczyński/Reuters

The omnium is the track cycling event that stays on just the right side of baffling, but Team GB’s Matt Walls obviously knew what he was doing as he won his country’s first gold in the Tokyo velodrome.

Walls, who won the opening scratch race, went into the deciding points race with a narrow advantage of six points but gained a lap on the field early on to take control, and could then mark his rivals for the remainder of the 100 laps. The 23-year-old Oldham-born rider tested positive for Covid-19 in late March, disrupting his preparations.

On the downside in the velodrome, Dutch medal contender Laurine van Riessen was carried off on a stretcher after a high-speed crash involving Britain’s Katy Marchant in the women’s keirin. Marchant said she would be back for Friday’s individual sprint event, adding she was “a bit battered and bruised but I’m all right”.

The IOC wanted to introduce sports such as skateboarding and sport climbing to attract a younger audience. They are certainly attracting younger athletes. The first ever men’s champion in sport climbing is 18-year-old Alberto Ginés López. Nathaniel Coleman of the US and Jakob Schubert of Austria took silver and bronze.

Alberto Gin&#xe9;s L&#xf3;pez of Spain during the sport climbing today.
Alberto Ginés López of Spain during the sport climbing today. Photograph: Jeff Roberson - Pool/Getty Images

Australia and the USA shared seven goals in the women’s football bronze medal match, but it was veterans Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd who make the headlines, with two goals each making sure the USWNT have a medal after a 4-3 victory, and the Matildas went home empty-handed.

Australia were also on the wrong end of the shootout result in the men’s hockey final against Belgium. An agonising wait for a video referee decision during Jake Whetton’s final attempt only piled on extra agony. But it was joy for Belgium, who won gold for the first time after being losing finalists in Rio.

Belgium celebrate victory in the men&#x002019;s gold medal match in the hockey.
Belgium celebrate victory in the men’s gold medal match in the hockey. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images

The 10km swimming marathons have been eventful, with fish bothering competitors, and today in the men’s race GB’s Hector Pardoe copped an elbow in the eye that ended his bid. Germany’s Florian Wellbrock led most of the race from the front, and took gold 25 seconds ahead of Hungary’s Kristof Rasovszky. The Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri claimed bronze.

Swimmers dive in to start the men&#x002019;s 10km marathon.
Swimmers dive in to start the men’s 10km marathon. Photograph: Adam Pretty/AFP/Getty Images

And this was the one thing they didn’t want to happen: organisers red-faced after announcing Ukraine medallists were from Not Russia.

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The briefing’s picture of the day

China completed a clean sweep of all the women’s diving events with a gold medal for 14-year-old Quan Hongchan in the 10-metre platform. Compatriot Chen Yuxi claimed silver, Australia’s Melissa Wu took bronze. In fact the only diving competition China didn’t win was down to Tom Daley and Matty Lee.

Quan Hongchan of China.
Quan Hongchan of China. Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

You can see the best pictures of the day from Tokyo in our day 13 gallery.

🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸 Team USA update

Canoeing’s Olympic history dates back to 1936 but no American had reached the podium since Rebecca Giddens won a women’s slalom K1 silver in 2004. The 19-year-old Nevin Harrison has changed that, with the Seattle teenager winning the first US sprint canoe or kayak medal since 1992. “It’s been a hard journey because I didn’t have anyone to really follow in these steps,” she said. “But I’m hoping I can be that person for the next generation in the US.”

Nevin Harrison after winning the women&#x002019;s canoe single 200m final.
Nevin Harrison after winning the women’s canoe single 200m final. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

There is a men’s basketball track record, however. Team USA have won 15 gold medals since 1936, and will compete for another one at Tokyo against France early on Saturday morning, after beating Australia 97-78 in the semi-final in Saitama.

Gable Steveson stunned the Rio Games champion Taha Akgul of Turkey in the quarter-finals of the men’s freestyle super heavyweight wrestling. The US wrestler advanced with an 8-0 victory.

Ryan Crouser took the men’s shot put gold, breaking his own Olympic record in the final. “I had solidified the win by the end so I got a little more aggressive and chased that bigger throw and finally connected with it,” he said afterwards. Joe Kovacs made it a one-two for the US in silver. But the full podium made history.

Ryan Crouser competes in the men&#x002019;s shot put final.
Ryan Crouser competes in the men’s shot put final. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The sprint legend Carl Lewis, now a coach at the University of Houston, had some harsh words for the US men’s 4x100m relay team, who finished a shock sixth in their heat: “The passing system is wrong, athletes running the wrong legs, and it was clear that there was no leadership. It was a total embarrassment, and completely unacceptable.”

🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺 Australia update

The pair of Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy are through to the women’s beach volleyball final on Friday. “Mariafe said we always knew we were going to be in this position, and it’s awesome for us to know that we took another step forward again today,” said Clancy. “I’m just so proud of Mariafe and our whole team and now we’ve just got one more step.”

Mariafe Artacho del Solar, left, and teammate Taliqua Clancy celebrate.
Mariafe Artacho del Solar, left, and teammate Taliqua Clancy celebrate. Photograph: Petros Giannakouris/AP

Jean van der Westhuyzen and Tom Green stunned world champions Germany to win the men’s K2 1000m canoe sprint.

In the skateboarding, Brazil’s Pedro Barras won silver, Cory Juneau of the US took bronze, but it was Australia’s Keegan Palmer who dominated in the men’s park final, putting up the two highest scores to comfortably win gold. That’s 17 now, and with three days remaining Australia’s historic performance at Athens 2004 has already been matched. Kieran Woolley got a bit more up close and personal with one of the skateboarding cameramen than expected, though.

Kieran Pender writes that Peter Bol’s bold front-running final display almost brought a medal, and that his enthusiasm has been a powerful tonic.

🇬🇧🇬🇧🇬🇧 Team GB update

Liam Heath displayed a pragmatic view of parenthood, by suggesting that when he gets home that his three-year-old daughter is going to be more interested in the stuffed toy mascot Miraitowa given to medallists, than the bronze medal he earned today in the men’s 200m kayak single.

Bronze medallist Liam Heath and his Miraitowa.
The bronze medallist Liam Heath and his Miraitowa. Photograph: Luis Acosta/AFP/Getty Images

Also winning a bronze was Holly Bradshaw in the pole vault. It marked her first medal outdoors at a global championships in nine attempts. Katie Nageotte of the US won gold, going over at 4.90m, with the Russian Olympic Committee athlete Anzhelika Sidorova in silver.

“This is what I’ve worked for my whole career,” said Bradshaw. “I’ve had so many ups and downs. It’s something that I’ve wanted so bad and it’s finally happened. It’s not sunk in. I don’t know what to say. I’m almost emotionless because I don’t know what emotion this is that I’m feeling.”

Holly Bradshaw during the pole vault.
Holly Bradshaw during the pole vault. Photograph: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

Britain’s 4x100m relay women’s team could be in with a medal shout tomorrow after they ran the fastest ever heat at an Olympics – and set a national record in the process. Dina Asher-Smith featured after injury wrecked her bids for individual medals. Britain’s men qualified in the same event, second in their heat behind Jamaica. Those finals are the climax of tomorrow’s athletics sessions.

Galal Yafai is guaranteed at least a silver after a thrilling boxing win. “It’s insane, its like a dream,” he said, after a wafer-thin verdict over Saken Bibossinov of Kazakhstan.

🇯🇵🇯🇵🇯🇵 The hosts and beyond

Lisa Carrington has become New Zealand’s greatest ever Olympian after winning her third gold medal of the Games, with victory in the women’s kayak single 500m. Carrington now has six medals which takes her past the five won by fellow kayakers Ian Ferguson and Paul MacDonald, and equestrian star Sir Mark Todd.

Gold medalist Lisa Carrington celebrates at the medal ceremony.
Gold medalist Lisa Carrington celebrates at the medal ceremony. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

There were two more medals for Japan in the men’s 20km race-walk, with Koki Ikeda in silver and Toshikazu Yamanishi in bronze. The winner shouted “I am Olympic champion” in Japanese as they crossed the line, but it was really the Italian Massimo Stano. “I started Japanese in the last two years because I love Japan, I love anime, I love manga,” Stano told reporters after his triumph. “I love Japanese, I love all of Japan.”

Ikeda Koki (L front) and Yamanishi Toshikazu (C front) of Japan and Massimo Stano of Italy compete during the men&#x002019;s 20km race walk.
Ikeda Koki (left, front) and Yamanishi Toshikazu (centre, front) of Japan and Massimo Stano of Italy compete during the men’s 20km race walk. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

Risako Kawai, the defending champion and three-time world champion, beat Iryna Kurachkina of Belarus 5-0 in the 57kg wrestling final. She becomes only the third female wrestler to have won multiple gold medals.

Instagram blocked Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson-Herah for copyright infringement after the double-double sprint champion shared footage of her own victories in Tokyo 👀. Facebook, Instagram’s owners, have since admitted the the suspension was wrongly applied.

Portugal’s Pedro Pichardo won his nation’s fifth gold of the Games in the triple jump with a leap of 17.98 metres.

Pedro Pichardo competes in the triple-jump.
Pedro Pichardo competes in the triple-jump. Photograph: Diego Azubel/EPA

And the women’s football final kick-off is being moved from 11am to 9pm … and also from Tokyo to Yokohama. A cynic might suggest the early kick-off time was only ever aimed at US TV timings, and that with the USWNT in the bronze match instead, it really no longer makes sense to ask Sweden and Canada to kick off at that time tomorrow.

Did you know?

With Hugues Fabrice Zango delivering Burkina Faso’s first medal after jumping 17.47m to take bronze in the men’s triple jump, Burkina Faso became the 100th ever nation to win an Olympic medal.

Key events for Friday 6 August

Related: Tokyo 2020 Olympics: complete event schedule

All events are listed here in local Tokyo time. Add an hour for Sydney, subtract eight hours for Aberdeen, 13 hours for New York and 16 hours for San Francisco.

🌟If you only watch one thing: 2.30pm-7.30pm Modern pentathlon – you’ll never convince me that the sports making up the modern pentathlon weren’t drawn out of a hat in 1912 when someone asked people to write down things they thought a 13th-century French knight would be able to do, but it is undoubtedly compelling viewing. The women today go swimming from 2.30pm, fencing at 3.45pm, do a bit of showjumping at 5.15pm and then finish it off with a combined cross-country hike and a bit of laser-shooting where you don’t get penalised for misses, but the faster you can hit five targets the faster you can get running again. Unmissable stuff 🥇

  • 5.30am and 4.30pm Race walk – yes, that’s 5.30am in Sapporo for the men’s 50km race walk. The women race walk 20km in the afternoon. Imagine having to get up for a 5.30am start 🥇

  • 7.30am Golf – two hours after the men start the 50km race walk, it’s a leisurely 7.30am start for round three of the women’s golf

  • 10.30am and 7pm Hockey – Team GB’s women go for bronze against India in the morning, then Argentina and the Netherlands hockey it out for the gold in the evening 🥇

  • 1.40pm and 8pm Basketball – women’s semi-finals. The US have an approximately 1,057-year long winning streak and face Serbia in the first match. The hosts play France in the evening.

  • 3.30pm and 7.50pm Water polo – there are some placing matches as well, but the real meat is the men’s semi-finals. Greece v Hungary in the afternoon, and Serbia v Spain in the evening. Expect fireworks.

  • 3.30pm-7.15pm Track cycling – highlights include the women’s madison final at 5.15pm and the men’s sprint finals at 6.35pm 🥇

  • 5.30pm, 6.30pm and 9.10pm Sport climbing – it’s the climax of the women’s event in three sessions with the medal at the end 🥇

  • 7.30pm Artistic swimming – it is the team technical routine.

  • 7.30pm Table tennis – there’s a bronze match earlier at 11am, but in the evening it is the men’s team gold medal match. Can Germany stop China making it a fourth straight win since this event was introduced in 2008? Probably not 🥇

  • 7.50pm-10.55pm Athletics – there is only one session in the stadium and it is mostly finals: the women’s javelin, the men’s 5,000m, the women’s 400m, the women’s 1500m – which will feature Lisa Muir and the Netherlands’ Sifan Hassan – and it then ends with the women’s and men’s 4x100m finals 🥇

  • 9pm Football – the rescheduled women’s final between Sweden and Canada 🥇

You can find our full interactive events schedule here, and it acts as a live scoreboard during the day.

As it stands

Here’s how the emoji table stood at 10.15pm Tokyo time:

1 🇨🇳 China 🥇 34 🥈 24 🥉 16 total: 74
2 🇺🇸 USA 🥇 29 🥈 35 🥉 27 total: 91
3 🇯🇵 Japan 🥇 22 🥈 10 🥉 14 total: 46
4 🇦🇺 Australia 🥇 17 🥈 5 🥉 19 total: 41
5 ◽️ Not Russia 🥇 16 🥈22 🥉 20 total: 58
6 🇬🇧 Great Britain 🥇 16 🥈 18 🥉 17 total: 51
7 🇩🇪 Germany 🥇 9 🥈 9 🥉 16 total: 34
8 🇫🇷 France 🥇 7 🥈 11 🥉 9 total: 27
9 🇮🇹 Italy 🥇 7 🥈 10 🥉 18 total: 35
10 🇳🇱 Netherlands 🥇 7 🥈 9 🥉 10 total: 26

Get in touch

I was writing a small piece today about the oldest and youngest athletes to compete in the Games, which reminded me of this brilliant story from the 1900 Games.

Having finished second in their semi-final, Dutch rowers François Brandt and Roelof Klein figured the only advantage they could get for the final would be to ditch their adult cox for a smaller one, and recruited a random French kid to steer their boat in the final. They won, and that child is now believed to be the youngest Olympic champion ever – with a photo of the three of them together suggesting he may potentially have been as young as seven. Nobody ever recorded who he was, and the medals are now credited to the “mixed Olympic team” rather than the Dutch.

Tokyo 2020 has had somewhat better record-keeping. I’m already casting my mind ahead to the weekend, and putting together a list of my highlights of this Olympics. I’d love to hear yours – what have you enjoyed the most? And what are the stories you think people might still be telling about these Olympics in more than a hundred years’ time? You can get in touch with me at

The last word

Katarina Johnson-Thompson hobbles home in the 200m.
Katarina Johnson-Thompson hobbles home in the 200m. Photograph: Petr David Josek/AP

I don’t know where to begin in trying to explain how I feel. Only a handful of people understand what I have been through. An even smaller amount understand the mental and physical challenges I’ve faced trying to make it back in time through a pandemic after my achilles rupture at the back end of December. I started the year in a wheelchair and I was not willing to end my Olympic campaign the same way – Katarina Johnson-Thompson.

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