Tuesday September 21, 2021

Japanese teen, Britain’s Daley strike Olympic gold

AFP
July 27, 2021

TOKYO: A 13-year-old skateboarder struck gold for Japan and British diver Tom Daley was finally crowned an Olympic champion as the duel in the pool between the United States and Australia heated up at the Tokyo Games on Monday.

After a day of upsets on Sunday, day three of the Games saw a number of first-time champions plundering gold across the sporting spectrum. Heading the charge was Japanese skateboarder Momiji Nishiya, who won the street discipline at the age of 13 years and 330 days.

Her performance mirrored that of Japan teammate Yuto Horigome, who won the men’s title with a stunning sequence of tricks on Sunday. “I’m so glad to become the youngest (Japanese gold medallist) at my first Olympics... tears came to my eyes,” Nishiya said.

Skateboarding is one of four sports making their debut in Tokyo, along with surfing, sport climbing and karate as part of an attempt to bring the Olympics to younger audiences. Raw emotion was on display in the diving pool later Monday, as Britain’s Daley claimed a surprise first Olympic gold in the synchronised 10m platform event with Matty Lee.

The 27-year-old Daley is a hugely popular figure in Britain, where he has spent half of his life in the public eye — he competed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics as a 14-year-old. He won bronzes at the 2012 London Games and 2016 Rio Olympics, but a gold medal had remained frustratingly elusive.

However on Monday at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre, Daley and Lee capitalised after a rare blunder by China’s Chen Aisen and Cao Yuan to snatch gold. Tears of joy streamed down Daley’s cheeks following his victory as he paid tribute to late father Rob, who died of cancer in 2011 at the age of 40.

“He never saw me win an Olympic medal, get married, have a child, teach me to drive, have a pint down the pub,” said Daley. “He took me to every training session, every competition, he was always there,” he added.

Elsewhere Monday, the battle for supremacy between swimming superpowers Australia and the United States warmed up with another compelling session of finals in the pool. Ariarne Titmus landed the biggest blow for Australia with a pulsating victory over American great Katie Ledecky in the 400m freestyle.

Ledecky came to Japan on the back of winning four gold medals and a silver at Rio in 2016, but Titmus has been snapping at her heels, ousting her as world champion in 2019 and topping the timesheets this season.

“I tried to stay as composed as I could and use the speed that I have,” said the Australian, who executed a perfect tactical race to reel in Ledecky over the final 50m. “To pull it off in the backend against someone who has an amazing second half of her race, I’m really proud of that.”

The United States bounced back to claim an emphatic victory in the 4x100m relay in the third-quickest time ever. Zach Apple brought them home after Caeleb Dressel led off, with sizzling legs from Blake Pieroni and Bowen Becker ensuring they touched in 3:08.97, ahead of Italy and Australia.

Britain’s unstoppable Adam Peaty extended his dominance of the 100m breaststroke, powering to gold in 57.37sec ahead of Dutchman Arno Kamminga to retain his 2016 Olympic crown. Peaty and Daley’s golds were two of three won by Britain on Monday. The third of the day came when Tom Pidcock won the mountain bike cross-country title.

Day three got underway with comically chaotic scenes at the start of the men’s triathlon eventually won by Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt. The event saw a farcical false start, with around two-thirds of the 56 competitors diving into the water and setting off on the swimming leg only to be hauled back.

The bungled start was caused by a media boat filming the competitors before they dived in for the 1.5-kilometre swimming leg. Covid-19 continued to stalk the Games however, with Dutch tennis players Jean-Julien Rojer and Wesley Koolhof pulling out of the men’s doubles after Rojer tested positive for coronavirus.