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Olympics wrap: McSweyn lives up to track hype in 1500m heats

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Australia’s great track medal hope Stewart McSweyn has cruised into the men’s 1500m semi-finals with a strong heat run this morning, while three of our canoe sprinters prepare to paddle for gold this afternoon.

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McSweyn cruises into 1500m semis

Australia’s great track medal hope Stewart McSweyn has lived up to his own lofty expectations with a dominant 1500m heat run on his Olympic debut in Tokyo.

The national record holder controlled the third of three heats from the front before easing off in the final straight to finish third in 3:36.39 seconds.

Joining McSweyn in Thursday’s semi-finals will be countryman Oliver Hoare, who was third in the fastest of the heats in 3:36.09 with the top six advancing automatically.

The third Australian, Jye Edwards, was narrowly eliminated after finishing seventh in a rough-house opening-round encounter on Tuesday morning.

McSweyn, 26, is King Island’s first Olympic athlete and aims to become the first Australian to claim an Olympic medal in the 1500m since the legendary Herb Elliott won gold at the 1960 Rome Games.

Reigning world champion and gold-medal favourite Timothy Cheruiyot from Kenya qualified second-fastest behind Belgian Ismael Debjani (3:36.00).

Paddlers book canoe sprint final berths

Alyssa Bull and Alyce Wood of Australia have qualified for the women’s kayak double 500m final in Tokyo. Picture: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP Photo

Australia’s Tom Green will race in the final of the Olympic men’s K1 1000 metres canoe sprint this afternoon after finishing third in a lightning-fast semi-final.

Teammates Alyce Wood and Alyssa Bull are set to top their eighth placing in Rio after booking a berth in the K2 500 metres women’s final, beating home the Belarussian world champions.

Queenslander Green, who is mentored by three-time Olympic medallist Ken Wallace, came home behind heat winner Fernando Pimenta of Portugal, who clocked an Olympic best time of three minutes 22.942 seconds.

The 22-year-old was 1.67 seconds behind Pimenta while Australia’s other paddler Jean van der Westhuyzen faded in the closing stages to finish at the back of the field.

In a tight women’s semi-final, Wood and Bull looked in sparkling touch, finishing second behind New Zealand duo Caitlin Regal and Lisa Carrington, who is a two-time Olympic champion in the K1 200 metres.

With the Kiwis also clocking an Olympic best time thanks to a solid tailwind, world champions Volha Khudzenka and Maryna Litvinchuk crossed in third.

Australia’s other duo, London Olympian Jo Bridgen-Jones and debutant Jaime Roberts missed qualification.

The finals will be held later Tuesday on Tokyo’s Sea Forest Waterway course.

Opals prepare for US after big win rescues Games campaign

Australia’s Cayla George, left, celebrates after making a crucial basket during the Opal’s big win over Puerto Rica last night. Photo: Charlie Neibergall/AP

The United States, winners of the last six women’s basketball gold medals, await the Opals after the Australians concocted a miracle passage to the final eight in Tokyo last night.

Winless in their first two Olympic pool women’s basketball games, the Opals needed to beat Puerto Rico on Monday night by at least 25 points to sneak into the women’s quarter-finals, ahead of Canada on for-and-against.

Pool rivals China (97-55) and Belgium (87-52) had done so easily, but it looked far from likely when Australia conceded the first eight points of the game, trailed by one at quarter time and led by just one at halftime.

But a 51-25 second half, helped by a three-pointer and fall-away jump shot from Cayla George in the last 90 seconds, rescued the most unlikely result in a 96-69 win.

They were then drawn to face the United States, officials pulling Australia’s name from a pot in a 50-50 call that could have also seen them matched up against Spain.

Marianna Tolo had a monumental 26 points and 17 rebounds for Australia while George added 19 points and captain Jenna O’Hea (15 points) drilled four crucial triples.

Australia led by 24 points and twice curiously turned down good looks close to the basket, George eventually nailing the jump shot instead with 28 seconds to play.

That put them ahead of the target for the first time, but there were still two missed Australian free throws to come, the Opals relying on Puerto Rico’s last-ditch three-point effort to miss before they could celebrate.

It saved the Opals – winners of three silver and two bronze medals – from their worst-ever Games result, a fifth in Rio five years ago.

But that will only be delayed unless Australia beats the United States for the first time in an Olympic campaign in Wednesday’s quarter-final.

The United States have won the last six Olympic tournaments, three in finals against Australia. They have a 7-0 Games record against Australia.

But Australia beat them in their last meeting, in a Las Vegas exhibition game just hours after influential Opals centre Liz Cambage withdrew from the squad for mental health reasons.

The winner of Serbia and China await in the semi-final, while Japan play Belgium and Spain meet France in the other quarter-finals.

Biles back to vie for balance beam gold

Simone Biles talks with her coach after withdrawing from the teams competition in Tokyo last week. Picture: Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports/Sipa USA/AAP Image

Star gymnast Simone Biles will finally return to action in the balance beam final in Tokyo today after her US teammate Jade Carey won a shock women’s Olympic floor title yesterday.

Fellow American Carey, 21, scored 14.366 to seal a first Olympic medal, with Italy’s Vanessa Ferrari taking silver ahead of Japan’s Mai Murakami and Russian Angelina Melnikova, who shared bronze.

Biles posted a photograph of Carey as a gold medallist along with the tag “Go Jade” on her Instagram.

Biles has only participated in all-around qualifying and the vault in the team event at the Tokyo Games, saying she wanted to protect her mental health.

The 24-year-old, who has 23 gold medals from world championships and Olympics, withdrew from all individual events so far after struggling to synchronize mind and body in training.

However, the American, who won four golds at Rio 2016, has decided to compete in Tuesday’s balance beam final.

“We are so excited to confirm that you will see two US athletes in the balance beam final tomorrow – Suni Lee AND Simone Biles!! Can’t wait to watch you both!” USA Gymnastics tweeted on Monday.

Despite her absence, the US has so far claimed five medals in the women’s gymnastics at Tokyo.

Hoy’s equestrian double delight

Australia’s Kevin Mcnab, Shane Rose, and Andrew Hoy (right) celebrate winning a silver medal in the equestrian eventing team competition last night. Picture: Carolyn Kaster/AP photo

Andrew Hoy needed just a couple of hours to add two more medals to his Olympic haul last night  – and prove that he is no Games official.

The 62-year-old Australian eventing veteran had a night to remember at Tokyo’s Equestrian Park, following up the team silver he won alongside Kevin McNab and Shane Rose by snatching individual bronze.

After bagging the sixth medal of an Olympic career which began in 1984, Hoy said: “When people meet me in the village they say, ‘So you’re an official, are you?’

“I have to say, ‘No, I am an athlete’. But I’m actually pleased that people can still say how old I am.

“When I started in the sport I used to be really proud of being the youngest person in the team.

Hoy had improved his individual position from seventh to fourth following the nerveless clear round that delivered team silver behind Great Britain.

Another faultless performance took him up another place as his final score of 29.60 points brought his record eighth Games to a successful conclusion.

Matildas still hopeful of bronze after semi-final heartache

The Matildas’ dreams of Olympic gold have been dashed in heartbreaking fashion with a 1-0 defeat to Sweden in their semi-final.

Australia controversially had a Sam Kerr goal ruled out in the 42nd minute and copped a cruel sucker punch from Fridolina Rolfo less than a minute into the second half to fall short at International Stadium Yokohama.

They will now face the United States, who lost to Canada 1-0 in the earlier semi-final, in Thursday’s bronze medal match – but without star defender Ellie Carpenter, who will be suspended after being sent off in the 95th minute.

“Before the game everyone talked about Sweden being the best team in the tournament, playing fantastic attacking football,” coach Tony Gustavsson said, lauding his team’s bravery and attacking mindset.

“We showed from the first minute that we wanted to dominate this game, there was no fear whatsoever.

“… I said to (the players) ‘I’m very proud about the performance but I’m very disappointed about the result’.

“I also said we have unfinished business – we need to recover and make sure we perform as well in the bronze game coming up.”

The game’s first defining moment saw Kerr cleverly volley Steph Catley’s free kick home at the near post.

But referee Melissa Borjas ruled an offside Emily van Egmond further down the line of players had blocked the run of Swedish defenders, leaving the Matildas up in arms.

Sweden then snatched the lead in the most fortuitous of fashions in the 46th minute.

Aussies miss women’s pole vault final

Nina Kennedy has been unable to match the performance of her training partner Kurtis Marschall, who came out of isolation to book a spot in an Olympic pole vault final.

The women’s qualifying round was interrupted for more than an hour by heavy rain in Tokyo on Monday night.

When the competition resumed, Kennedy had two remaining attempts at 4.55m – but was unsuccessful with both of them.

The West Australian vaulter holds the Australian record of 4.82m, but came into the Tokyo Games under an injury cloud.

Kennedy’s preparation was further compromised when she, Marschall and Australian coach Paul Burgess were ordered into isolation on the eve of the Games after being ruled to be contacts of leading US vaulter Sam Kendricks, who tested positive to COVID-19.

The three Australians subsequently returned multiple negative results.

Fellow Australian women’s vaulter Elizaveta Parnova was also eliminated in the qualifying round after missing three times at 4.40m.

Marschall will contest the men’s vault final tonight.

 – with AAP

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