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Olympics-Japan wins skateboarding's maiden gold, Tunisian swimmer stuns superpowers

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By Sam Nussey and Takashi Umekawa

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan bagged skateboarding's first gold medal and notched a surprise win in the pool on Sunday, in a day of high drama as 18-year-old Tunisian Ahmed Hafnaoui stunned the swimming superpowers with victory in the men's 400m freestyle.

Skateboarder Yuto Horigome, who grew up in the Tokyo ward where the event is being held, took gold https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/skateboarding-horigome-wins-first-olympic-gold-skateboarding-2021-07-25 at the Games debut of a sport once seen as a symbol of counter-culture. That followed surprise medal joy in the pool for Yui Ohashi in the 400m women's medley.

"It felt significant to return to Koto ward, it meant so much more for me," said Horigome, who moved to the United States after high school to follow his skateboarding ambitions.

The gold haul, which came after judoka Naohisa Takato won the host nation's first gold https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/judo-judoka-tonaki-one-bout-japans-first-tokyo-2020-gold-2021-07-24 on Saturday, put Japan behind China with four golds. The United States and China are tied for total medals with eight each.

The wins offer organisers hope of boosting enthusiasm for the delayed Olympics among the Japanese public, who are labouring under a state of emergency in the capital amid elevated COVID-19 cases.

The biggest shock of the day came when Tunisia's Hafnaoui won the swimming event https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/swimming-hafnaoui-stuns-with-gold-400-free-american-kalisz-wins-medley-2021-07-25.

"I just can't believe it. It's a dream and it became true. It was great. It was my best race ever," Hafnaoui said after he produced a blistering finish to pip Australia's Jack McLoughlin, with American Kieran Smith taking bronze.

The joy in the teenager's face was in sharp contrast to the misery of Wimbledon champion Ash Barty of Australia following her surprise first-round loss.

Britain's twice Olympic champion Andy Murray didn't even get that far. He pulled out of the tournament injured before his opening singles match.

The Australians enjoyed their moment in the pool in the last of the morning races when the Dolphins beat their own world record of 3:29.69 in the women's 4x100m freestyle relay. Chase Kalisz delivered Team USA its first gold in the men's 400m medley.

The shadows of the pandemic continued to hang over the Games. World number six golfer Bryson DeChambeau was replaced in the U.S. men's team after testing positive for COVID-19 before his departure. The Dutch rowing coach also tested positive as Olympic organisers reported 10 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total disclosed to 132.

Tokyo reported 1,763 new COVID cases in the capital on Sunday.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) insisted that masks were a "must to have" at Tokyo medal ceremonies but said that athletes can remove them briefly https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/masks-medal-ceremonies-a-must-have-ioc-spokesman-2021-07-25 on the podium for photos.

"It's not a nice to have. It's a must to have," said IOC spokesman Mark Adams.


Earlier in the day, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga phoned judoka Takato to offer congratulations after the triple world champion secured Japan's first gold medal with victory over Taiwan's Yang Yung-wei.

"This gold medal give hopes and dreams to many children and young people. There are also reports that many families are really delighted," Suga said in the call.

Japanese tennis superstar Naomi Osaka, who lit the Olympic cauldron on Friday at the opening ceremony, dispatched China's Saisai Zheng in her opening match at the Ariake Tennis Park.

With temperatures rising above 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) in Tokyo, skateboarders grappled with the heat at the sport's debut, part of organisers' attempts to broaden the appeal of the world's largest sporting event.

"Your feet start burning up, you feel kind of crazy," said American skater https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/skateboarding-skaters-battle-under-brutal-tokyo-heat-inaugural-games-2021-07-25 Nyjah Huston.

Yahoo Tenki, one of Japan's most popular weather apps, offered caution over the risk of heatstroke, saying users should "avoid exercising under the sun" and "minimise vigorous exercise".

Surfing also made its Olympic debut https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/surfing-surfers-ride-wave-emotion-make-olympic-history-2021-07-24 on Sunday as competitors met with a strengthening swell after flat conditions a day earlier at Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach in Chiba prefecture, which borders the capital.

A typhoon is forecast to hit the main Japanese island of Honshu midweek, potentially bringing heavy rain and high winds. Rowing races have been rescheduled to later in the week.

American gymnast Simone Biles also got into action on Sunday. The 24-year-old, who has won every all-around competition she has contested since 2013, needs three more medals to move past Shannon Miller as the most decorated U.S. Olympic gymnast.

(Reporting by Sam Nussey, Takashi Umekawa, Mari Saito and Steve Keating; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Ed Osmond)

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