Another successful day for New Zealand in Tokyo, with Gold Medal in the Women’s Sevens, and a Trampolining Bronze for Dylan Schmidt.
Up against Fiji in the Sevens semi-finals, the New Zealand side looked edgy. Fiji placed them under a lot of pressure defensively, and really pressed New Zealand into some poor decisions early on – it was a panicky first half. It even contained its own George Gregan vs Jeff Wilson moment as Ruby Tui had the ball dislodged when going over for a try at the end of the half. It was a tense second half as well, ultimately going into Extra Time, as Gayle Broughton dashed the hopes of a Fijian double with the sudden death winner.
In the final, New Zealand always looked a step ahead of the French and came out worthy winners keeping their 14-point half-time advantage intact to prevail 26-12. They kept their composure a lot better than they did in the semi-final, and redemption for Rio was complete.
For Dylan Schmidt, it was a case of trying to improve on his seventh placing in Rio. With what seemed to be every person and their dog looking on back home, he far exceeded expectations, picking up a Bronze Medal. It was a fantastic achievement amidst an absolutely world class field, and Schmidt was able to keep his cool whilst others around him could not. It was a breathtaking performance, and a genuine highlight of the Games for New Zealand to date.
The day started with a new Olympic event, the Mixed Relay in the Triathlon. It was a good watch too, although it was clear reasonably early on that it was going to be a three-horse race. Ultimately, GBR took the Gold, with Alex Yee holding out a spirited fight back from the USA for Silver and France for Bronze. The New Zealand team was over three minutes back in 12th place.
In the quarter-finals of the Football, it was another tense affair as New Zealand took on the host nation. Japan was the much more fancied opponent, but the Olywhites (still a terrible name) took it to the wire. Michael Woud in goal was exceptional, and really did keep his county in the game as it went to extra time. When they couldn’t be split it went to penalties, where the Japanese were far more clinical, winning 4-2. Having never won a game at the evet, New Zealand can feel justifiably proud of the progression in Tokyo.
Speaking of goalkeepers, who knows what would have happened if not for Grace O’Hanlon? The Black Sticks stopper had another exceptional game in goal against China – it was a shame that most others took the day off. It was another lacklustre performance from the women’s hockey team, who once again lacked composure and control. Losing 3-2 to China means that both national sides have underperformed after promising starts.
Cameron McTaggart performed well in the weightlifting to total 315kgs. Whilst that was off medal pace, it was still a good showing. There was a little time to take in some of the Women’s Diving, the Handball (where the Angolan women had their first win of the tournament, at the expense of the host nation), and some of the volleyball as well.
Then news broke of the first doping scandal of the Tokyo Olympics. Nigerian Blessing Okagbare waltzed through her 100mheat in 11.05 secs, only to be advised that she had returned a positive test two weeks earlier and had been provisionally suspended. This was hard on the heels of 10 other Nigerian athletes being declared ineligible for the Games due to non-compliance with out of competition testing. Kenyan Otieno Odhiambo didn’t even make it that far – he was suspended for a positive test prior to lining up for his 100m heat.
The Men’s Archery final was a magnificent affair, with Italian Mauro Nespoli coming up against Mete Gazoz of Turkey. The Turkish youngster had already secured his country’s first Archery medal but was looking to upgrade. It was a tense match, and the shooting under pressure was remarkable. Ultimately, Gazoz came through in a fantastic performance to clinch the win.
Then it was time for a remarkable night at the Olympic Stadium. In the Men’s Discus it was a Swedish quinella, with Daniel Stahl throwing 1.5m further than countryman Simon Petterson to win Gold. Austrian Lukas Weisshander collected the Bronze.
New to the Games was the Mixed 4 x 400m Relay, and I think it is safe to say that it is here to stay. The Polish team looked as surmised as anyone when they beat out the Dominican Republic and the USA in the final. The USA was actually disqualified in the semi-final but got through on a challenge.
The real highlight of the night however was the women’s 100m Final. The Jamaican sprinters were expected to feature in what most people regarded as the best field ever assembled, although Marie-Josee Ta Lou from the Cote d’Ivoire was looking to upstage the Caribbean contingent. Ultimately the honours went to the Jamaicans, with Elaine Thompson-Herah running a new Olympic Record of 10.61 to beat the Florence Griffith-Joyner record from 1988. Legendary sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce grabbed the Silver and Shericka Jackson ran a PB for the Bronze in a Jamaican domination.
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You can find more on the Tokyo Diaries, here.