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Olympics wrap: Chalmers touched out of gold

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Adelaide swimmer Kyle Chalmers has gone agonisingly close to defending his 100m freestyle crown in Tokyo, going down to American rival Caeleb Dressel by just 0.06 of a second to win silver in the blue ribbon event.

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Heartache for Chalmers in 100m freestyle

Adelaide swimmer Kyle Chalmers has gone agonisingly close to defending his 100m freestyle crown, going down by to American rival Caeleb Dressel by just 0.06 of a second to win silver in Tokyo this morning.

Dressel held off the fast-finishing Chalmers in an Olympic record 47.02 seconds.

Chalmers equalled his personal best in the swim.

“It’s half a second faster than I went in Rio … I left everything in the pool, I gave it everything I could,” Chalmers told the Seven Network moments after the race.

“I did everything in my absolute power to win, life’s not all about winning but it is nice.”

Russian Olympic Committee swimmer Kliment Kolesnikov won bronze in 47.44.

Port Lincoln-born Chalmers qualified sixth fastest for the final after finishing second in his semi yesterday in a time slower than the first four swimmers in the other semi.

The 23-year-old  also swam in the bronze medal-winning 4x200m relay team yesterday.

Bronze for women’s 4x200m relay team

China’s women’s 4×200-metre freestyle relay team, left, celebrate after winning the gold medal as Australia celebrates bronze.
Picture:Matthias Schrader/AP

Hot favourite Australia has claimed the bronze medal in the women’s 4×200-metres freestyle relay at the Tokyo Olympics behind China and The United States with all three breaking the previous world record.

Australia’s team of Ariarne Titmus, Emma McKeon, Madi Wilson and Leah Neale finished behind China in seven minutes 40.33 seconds – the previous world record was 7:41.50 set by Australia at the 2019 world championships.

The United States (7:40.73) took the silver medal ahead of Australia (7:41.29).

Titmus and McKeon collect their third medals of the Games – Titmus with golds in the 200m and 400m freestyle and McKeon gold in the 4x100m freestyle and bronze in the 100m butterfly.

About 95 minutes before the relay, McKeon qualified fastest for the individual 100m final and is also a chance for more gold in the medley and mixed relays to come.

Wilson wins her third Olympic career medal – she won gold as a heat swimmer in Australia’s triumphant 4x100m freestyle team at the 2016 Rio Games, when she also took silver for swimming a heat in the 4x100m medley.

The 25-year-old Neale also won a silver in Rio, as part of the 4x200m freestyle relay team.

In Thursday’s final, Australia flipped its entire team from the heat line-up with those swimmers – Mollie O’Callaghan, Meg Harris, Brianna Throssell and Tamsin Cook – all to receive medals in Tokyo.

Women through to BMX semis

Saya Sakakibara of Australia and Lauren Reynolds of Australia (in gold) during the women’s BMX quarterfinals in Tokyo. Picture: Martin Rickett/AAP.

Australian Saya Sakakibara has rallied from an early mistake to qualify for the Olympic BMX racing semi-finals with a last-gasp win.

It was a turbulent opening day of competition for the Australians, with Lauren Reynolds also qualifying for Friday’s semis, but Anthony Dean crashing early and then finishing last overall in his quarter-final heat to drop out of contention.

Sakakibara and Reynolds were in the same heat on Thursday at Ariake Urban Sports Park.

In Thursday’s opening quarters, the competitors were divided into heats of six riders and had three rounds of races.

The top four in each heat progressed to Friday’s semi-finals, with the medal race to follow.

While Reynolds cruised through the three rounds with a third, a second and a fourth placing, Sakakibara went off course and finished last in race one.

She led early in race two, but faded to fourth and that left her equal-last on points with two other riders before she won the last race.

Sakakibara’s brother Kai would have been competing in the BMX at Tokyo as well, but he had a horrific crash in a race early last year.

He has made a remarkable recovery from a traumatic head injury that left him in a coma and is in Tokyo to support his sister.

US rider Alise Willoughby, the wife of Australian BMX star Sam, won all three of her rounds, as did Colombia’s defending Olympic champion Mariana Pajon.

Dutch star Niek Kimmann, who crashed into an official earlier this week while training on the Olympic BMX track, showed no ill effects of the accident.

The 2015 world champion won two of his heats and was second in the other to easily qualify for the semis.

American Connor Fields, who won the gold medal in Rio and French pair Sylvain Andre and Joris Daudet were other big names who dominated their heats.

Andre and Daudet were the only men to win all three of their races.

Aussie men join pool party with first gold

Australia’s Zac Stubblety-Cook celebrates winning the Men’s 200m Breaststroke final. Picture: Adam Davy/PA Wire.

Australia’s Zac Stubblety-Cook has won the gold medal in the men’s 200-metres breaststroke at the Tokyo Olympics.

The 22-year-old triumphed in Thursday’s final to deliver Australia a seventh gold medal of the Tokyo Games.

Making his Olympic debut, the New South Welshman entered the medal race as favourite – he was the fastest qualifier and also held the world’s quickest time in the event this year.

Stubblety-Cook turned in fourth spot at the halfway stage and was third with 50 metres to swim.

The Australian then produced a stunning last lap to win in two minutes 06.38 seconds from Arno Kamminga (2:07.01) of the Netherlands and Finland’s Matti Mattson (2:07.13).

“I’m lost for words,” Stubblety-Cook told the Seven Network.

Stubblety-Cook becomes an Olympic gold medallist three years after being a heat swimmer at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

The self-described perfectionist has been travelling an upward curve ever since, winning his first international medal – 200m breaststroke silver – at the Pan Pacs the following year.

At the 2019 world titles, Stubblety-Cook finished fourth in his pet event and at Australia’s selection trials in June for the Tokyo Games, he logged the fastest time of the year, a Commonwealth record 2:06.28.

His win was Australia’s seventh gold for the Tokyo Games so far, with four of them claimed by female swimmers.

Faultless Aussie women begin rugby title defence in style

Evania Pelite looks to pass the ball under pressure from Japan players in Australia’s opening women’s rugby sevens win this morning in Tokyo. Picture: Shuji Kajiyama/AP

Australia has bullied Japan to send a statement across the Tasman in a 48-0 win to begin their Olympic rugby sevens title defence in Tokyo.

Gold medallists in the sport’s Rio 2016 debut, Australia enter this campaign as clear underdogs behind New Zealand.

But their near faultless domination of the hosts showed they have arrived in fine fettle despite a lack of game time, with playmaker Charlotte Caslick razor-sharp and Emma Tonegato scoring three times in the rout.

Fresh off an AFLW campaign with Gold Coast, Maddison Levi showed plenty of pace and poise for her two tries while Demi Haynes also crossed twice.

Australia next faces China later on Thursday, who lost their opening pool game to USA 28-14.

Adelaide’s Rohan Dennis adds Tokyo bronze to London silver

SA rider Rohan Dennis of Australia after being presented with the bronze medal in the Men’s Individual Time Trial at the Tokyo Olympic Games yesterday. Picture: Martin Rickett/AAP

After Adelaide’s Rohan Dennis stood on the Olympic podium once again yesterday, a rider who’s achieved so much in his cycling career could only reflect with pride on his latest garlanded stop on a “serious journey” full of ups and downs.

Dennis has perhaps been under-appreciated for his considerable achievements as one of Australia’s finest cyclists but, in a way, his bronze in Wednesday’s time trial in Tokyo brought his splendid career full circle, nine years since his last trip to the Olympic podium.

The 31-year-old won a silver as part of Australia’s pursuit team on the track at the 2012 Games – and now he finally has a bronze from the road to put alongside.

Yet in the intervening years, Dennis has enjoyed a career studded by seemingly as many setbacks as successes, which has made his Tokyo medal all the sweeter.

“I got on the podium and it’s a huge relief. It’s been a serious journey to get here and I’m very proud of this medal,” he told reporters.

“It’s been a long five years, it’s been a lot of ups and downs.”

Over his career, Dennis has won two world time trial titles, broken a world one-hour record, annexed Commonwealth Games silver, won Tour de France yellow and won stages at each of the three grand tours.

Yet in recent years, he’s also had serious low points including crashes, unfortunate medal near-misses and a Tour de France walk-out when he feared for his mental health and family life because of a damaging row with his Bahrain-Merida employers.

“Obviously, it would’ve been great to get the gold, but I’ve done everything possible to be in this position,” he shrugged.

Dennis has not been home to see his wife and two children in more than a year

“The last 12 months have been quite difficult for everybody … I can be proud of everything me and the team have achieved. We achieved that goal of at least being on the podium and I’m very happy with it.

“It hasn’t been easy. We can’t get back to Australia too easily and it’s been a long time since I’ve seen all my family, not just my wife and kids. It’s great to have them on the same time zone as me and not have to watch the race at 1am or 2am.”

Kookaburras keep winning streak alive

Australia’s Hockeyroos continued their undefeated start to the Tokyo Olympics with a 4-2 win over New Zealand. Picture: John Minchillo/AP

The Kookaburras’ winning run at the Tokyo Games has continued with a 4-2 men’s hockey victory over New Zealand last night.

Tim Brand scored twice before turning provider and setting up Blake Govers’ sixth goal of the Olympic tournament.

Tom Wickham sealed matters three minutes from time as Australia turned their dominance into goals.

Kane Russell had earlier levelled from a first-quarter penalty corner and his second gave New Zealand a late consolation.

Australia came into the contest having beaten New Zealand in the Pro League and a series of exhibition matches in June.

There was also a feeling of familiarity on the field with Jeremy Hayward part of the Australia defence and his brother Leon in the Black Sticks’ goal.

Australia began like a side that had scored 17 goals in their first three games and was ahead inside eight minutes.

New Zealand rallied and Russell equalised with a superb drag-flick in to the top corner of Andrew Charter’s net.

Australia upped the tempo in the second half and Leon Hayward diverted his brother’s fierce strike onto the goal frame.

The Kookaburras’ pressure told when Aran Zalewski and Jacob Whetton combined for Brand to claim his fourth goal of Tokyo 2020.

Govers and Wickham also got in on the scoring act to ensure Russell’s carbon-copy second was no more than a consolation.

Earlier, the Hockeyroos remained undefeated in the women’s competition with a 1-0 victory over Japan.

The Kookaburras complete their Pool A fixtures against Spain on Friday.

Fiji celebrates back-to-back rugby gold

Fiji defeats New Zealand during the rugby gold medal match last night. Picture: Yukihito Taguchi/USA TODAY Sports/Sipa USA/AAP Image

Emerging gingerly from their homes in a nation under curfew, Fijians cheered, sang hymns and danced in the streets on Wednesday night to celebrate their men’s rugby sevens victory at the Tokyo Olympics.

The small Pacific Island nation clinched back-to-back Olympic gold medals with a 27-12 victory over New Zealand in last night’s final at the Tokyo Games.

Fiji is battling a severe COVID-19 outbreak, with more than 25,000 cases and 200 deaths among a population of just over 900,000. With its health system under strain, officials have imposed a 6pm to 4am curfew in an attempt to curb the rapid spread of the virus.

The win provoked a spontaneous outpouring of joy in the nation’s cities and villages. Fireworks flashed in the night sky and daring revellers in the capital Suva flew flags from car windows as they circled among cheering crowds.

Fiji issued a commemorative seven-dollar coin after their 2016 win and Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama toyed with the idea of a $14 note, to mark Fiji’s back-to-back sevens wins.

“The win is worth more than gold to Fijians everywhere,” Bainimarama told Radio New Zealand.

“It has always united us. (It) shows that we can achieve greatness no matter what the world may throw our way, even with COVID.”

Track and field team braces for medal tilt

Fiji defeats New Zealand during the rugby gold medal match last night. Picture: Yukihito Taguchi/USA TODAY Sports/Sipa USA/AAP Image

Australia will have several legitimate medal hopes in a number of events on the Tokyo Olympics track and field program when it kicks off tomorrow.

Although the 63-strong squad lacks a global superstar in the style of a Cathy Freeman or Sally Pearson, hopes for medals are high from the likes of middle-distance king Stewart McSweyn and in a number of field events.

Big Matthew Denny is relishing the opportunity to get the Australian athletics team off to a flying start at the Tokyo Olympics.

Denny showcased his major-event pedigree with a sixth-placed finish in the discus at the 2019 world championships in Doha.

After suffering a serious rib injury in October, the Queenslander is now back to full fitness and set a new personal best of 66.15m last month.

“I know my head is strong and I know I can perform at PB levels in stadium conditions,” he said.

“The world rankings say I’m ranked 16th on distance, but I can tell you I’m not 16th when it comes to in-stadium discus performance, as I proved in Doha.”

Denny is one of 11 Australians competing on the opening day of the track and field program on Friday – a group that also includes reigning Commonwealth high jump champion Brandon Starc, 800m national record holder Catriona Bisset and sprinter Hana Basic in the women’s 100m.

The only medal event on day one of the 10-day athletics program is the men’s 10,000m, where Ugandan world record holder Joshua Cheptegei is the short-priced favourite to complete the first leg of a prospective 10,000m/5000m double.

Patrick Tiernan is the sole Australian in the field after the versatile McSweyn decided to focus solely on the 1500m, believing that was his best shot at a medal.

The Tasmanian is the standout track athlete in the Australian squad, having smashed a host of national records across a wide variety of distances in the past two years.

The men’s 1500m begins on Tuesday.

Among Australia’s best other podium chances are decathlete Ash Moloney, high jumpers Nicola McDermott and Eleanor Patterson, pole vaulter Kurtis Marschall and javelin duo Kathryn Mitchell and Kelsey-Lee Barber, the team’s only reigning world champion.

 – with AAP

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