Team China’s Qian Yang wins the gold medal in the 10m Air Rifle Women’s event on day one of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Asaka Shooting Range on July 24, 2021 in Asaka, Saitama, Japan.
Kevin C. Cox | Getty Images Sports | Getty Images
Sports swept across Tokyo on Saturday, and gold medals rained down as the Olympics came alive, eventually brushing aside some of the shadow of Covid-19 and the controversy that plagued the global showpiece.
China immediately made a statement of intent when Yang Qian took the first gold of the Games and Japanese judoka Naohisa Takato raised hearts with gold on the mat a day after the country’s global superstar, tennis player Naomi Osaka, lit the kettle to officially celebrate open the pandemic-delayed Olympics.
Iran also cheered early on after Javad Foroughi won the men’s 10m air pistol event, and Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz won the men’s cycling race, while unexpected countries topped the medal table.
But fans, banned from all venues under Covid-19 protocols, got an early reminder of the potential impact of the pandemic as two US archers said they were unvaccinated by personal choice, and organizers said that another athlete had tested positive for the virus.
Osaka’s choice to light the cauldron on Friday concluded a glittering opening ceremony in an eerily quiet stadium.
But while the ceremony had been like never before, the sport’s first day provided a much more familiar feel despite the absence of spectators, as the world’s elite athletes ran, rode, fought and swam in a hankering for a business-as-usual atmosphere. was built up.
The sight of an athlete, eyes glittering with joy, would always be a welcome addition to the organisers, and 21-year-old Chinese shooter Yang first took care and kept her nerves in the women’s 10-meter rifle competition to overhaul Anastasiia Galashina .
Crumpled under pressure
The Russian collapsed under pressure on her final shot, shooting 8.9, by far her worst of the day, and the worst recorded by any of the finalists. “I got too nervous, held on for too long,” she said.
Yang was excited and hinted at her main motivation. “It’s the centenary of the Chinese Communist Party,” she said. “I am so happy that this gold medal is a gift to my country.”
The hosts were also desperate for Japanese success and, after some near misses, Takato won gold in men’s 60kg judo, beating Taiwanese Yang Yung-wei.
“It was frustrating in Rio,” Takato said, recalling the previous Games where he finished with bronze. “It was a long road to get here.”
Organizers hope sport can distract from the flurry of embarrassing gaffes and coronavirus woes that have marked the event, which has been postponed by a year.
But the global pandemic could not be ignored as another athlete tested COVID positive, bringing the total number of virus cases revealed to 123.
Later, US archers Brady Ellison and Mackenzie Brown said they were free to choose whether or not to get vaccinated against Covid-19 after a US Olympic swimming gold medal that rejected the vaccine was rejected on major grounds. scale was criticized on social media.
“It’s one hundred percent a personal choice, and anyone who says otherwise is taking away people’s freedoms,” said Ellison, the world’s No.
He and Brown crashed on the first lap of the mixed event, which is making his Olympic debut.
The organizers are also preparing for a typhoon, having already reworked Monday’s rowing races to integrate them into the Saturday and Sunday schedule.
But while the rowers look anxiously at the sky, surfers – who start their competitions on Sunday – should take advantage of bigger swells.
The 3×3 basketball tournament made its debut and US First Lady Jill Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron led the cheer as the US women defeated France.
At age 12, Syrian Hend Zaza was the youngest athlete to compete in Tokyo, but her table tennis tournament was over in a flash when she lost to Austrian Liu Jia before taking a selfie with her conqueror.
Liu, who has a 10-year-old daughter, struggled to sleep on the eve of the event. “Yesterday I asked my daughter, ‘Do you know that your mother plays against someone who is two years older than you?’ Her first reaction was, ‘Then you better not lose!'”
Perhaps Japan’s “King Kohei” Uchimura could have given the same advice, but the reign of the Olympic all-around champion and holder of seven Olympic medals came to an abrupt end when he failed to qualify for the device’s final, earning his legendary Olympic medal. Play ended. career.
“I wouldn’t be able to perform what I’ve been practicing. That’s just how I think,” he said.