Tokyo 2020 Olympics briefing: a golden start for Japan

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<span>Photograph: Harry How/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Harry How/Getty Images

Today in a nutshell: Japan win their first gold medal, Richard Carapaz wins an enthralling men’s cycling road race, and unexpected progress for Andy Murray and Joe Salisbury in the men’s doubles.

Tomorrow’s key moments: more sports join the party, there’s the women’s cycling road race, the first medals in the swimming, and Naomi Osaka starts her quest for tennis gold.

Well, the Olympics have started now for sure. So. Much. Sport. What do you need to know? Yang Qian of China took the very first gold of the Games with victory in the women’s 10m air rifle. Weightlifter Hou Zhihui dominated the women’s 49kg category to double China’s tally, before fencer Sun Yiwen added a third Chinese gold. There were also early gold medals for Javad Foroughi of Iran in the men’s 10m air pistol, and for South Korea in the mixed teams archery competition.

The most significant gold of the day, though, went to Naohisa Takato who won the men’s 60kg judo to give Japan their first taste of Olympic success in these troubled Games. Funa Tonaki added a silver in the women’s 48kg event. There was a blow to the hosts in the pool as world champion and Rio bronze medalist Daiya Seto failed to progress in the men’s 400m medley.

Cyclists in the peloton are reflected on a puddle as they ride past Yamanaka Lake.
Cyclists in the peloton are reflected on a puddle as they ride past Yamanaka Lake. Photograph: Jeff Pachoud/AFP/Getty Images

The men’s cycling road race wound around spectacular scenery near Mount Fuji, finishing on the Fuji Speedway circuit in front of spectators. Richard Carapaz won Ecuador’s second-ever Olympic gold with a brave solo finish after a bruising six-hour race in ferocious heat and humidity. Belgium’s Wout Van Aert and the Tour de France winner, Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia, took silver and bronze. Britain’s Geraint Thomas crashed for the second Olympics in succession, while Adam Yates finished ninth.

Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev have led calls for tennis matches to be shifted from 11am starts into the late afternoon or evening due to the extreme heat. French Open runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova had to take a medical timeout after feeling dizzy during her first round tie.

Lucas Rossi of Argentina and David Alegre of Spain tangle during a combustible game between the two nation.
Lucas Rossi of Argentina and David Alegre of Spain tangle during a combustible game between the two nation. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters

Also getting heated was the men’s hockey match between Spain and Argentina. There was a brawl after Argentina’s Lucas Rossi appeared to try helping up Spain’s David Alegre from the ground by prodding him in the head with his stick. It did not go down well.

Away from the field of play, there were some non-heat related red faces: a South Korean broadcaster has apologised after using offensive images to depict several countries during the opening ceremony. Ukraine was depicted with images of Chernobyl, Italy with pictures of pizza – you get the general idea.

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Picture of the day

Olympics, or something out of Doctor Who? This shot is Aron Szilagyi of Hungary in action on his way to winning the gold medal match in the men&#x002019;s individual sabre.
The Olympics, or something out of Doctor Who? This shot is Aron Szilagyi of Hungary, on his way to winning the gold medal match in the men’s individual sabre. Photograph: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

🇬🇧🇬🇧🇬🇧 Team GB update

Andy Murray and Joe Salisbury were not content to make up the numbers in the men’s doubles, as they dismantled second seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut 6-3, 6-2 in what was widely seen as an upset.

Also through to the next round are Team GB’s women’s footballers. A defensive mix-up allowed Ellen White a chance to loop a header into the Japanese goal for a 1-0 win, leaving Team GB in the quarter-finals and Japan needing to get something out of their final group game against Chile on Tuesday.

Ellen White celebrates after scoring.
Ellen White celebrates after scoring. Photograph: Asano Ikko/AFP/Getty Images

In the words of their own social media team, it was a “mixed morning on the water” for Britain’s rowing contingent. The men’s four progressed to Wednesday’s final, with the women’s pair and lightweight women’s double sculls both reaching the semis. Everybody else is stuck in repechage territory, while Helen Glover insists there is “more to come” after her historic appearance in search of a third gold.

Keep an eye out on Sunday for the women’s hockey. Team GB open the defence of their title against Germany at 9.30am Tokyo time, which is 1.30am in the morning back in the UK. One for the night owls.

🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺 Australia update

Australia’s men got off to a winning start in the hockey. Kieran Pender was at the Oi Hockey Stadium as they defeated the hosts 5-3. He writes:

With India, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Argentina all gold medal prospects in Tokyo, the Kookaburras have their work cut out in the week-and-a-half ahead. That challenge is compounded by the Australians having played only New Zealand in the past 18 months, due to the pandemic.

The news on the football field today wasn’t as good, as the Matildas lost 4-2: Sam Kerr’s penalty demons return in defeat to Sweden.

At 10am on Sunday (local time) we’ll get our first look at the Australian women’s hockey team when they face Spain. Coach Katrina Powell was installed three months ago after Paul Gaudoin resigned after a review revealing a “dysfunctional culture” amid allegations of bullying. Here’s a preview piece: Hockeyroos move on from recent turmoil as different kind of heat builds in Tokyo.

🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸 Team USA update

The men’s basketball team start their adventure tomorrow with a Group A match-up against France but while they are always a focus of attention, there is no doubt who the superstar of the entire USA team is: Simone Biles. Bryan Armen Graham writes on how her only competition at this Olympics is herself:

Despite winning by margins that are unusually large for gymnastics, Biles has kept adding new, more difficult skills and pushing the technical limits of the sport. Lately, she’s been drilling a Yurchenko double pike vault, becoming the first woman to throw down the high-difficulty skill in competition. Should she land it in Tokyo as planned, it will become the fifth element named for Biles in the women’s artistic gymnastics code of points.

🇯🇵🇯🇵🇯🇵 The hosts and beyond

There was a sad Japanese goodbye in the gymnastics. Kohei Uchimura, the reigning Olympic champion, failed to qualify for the horizontal bars final. He had been the first man in 44 years to win back-to-back Olympic all-around golds at Rio 2016, but will now retire.

Japan&#x002019;s Kohei Uchimura reacts after competing in the horizontal bars event of the gymnastics.
Japan’s Kohei Uchimura reacts after competing in the horizontal bars event of the gymnastics. Photograph: Loïc Venance/AFP/Getty Images

The Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, jumped straight on to social media to praise Saikhom Mirabai Chanu for her silver medal in the weightlifting, saying “Her success motivates every Indian.”

Looking ahead, Argentina have a crunch match in the men’s football. They play at 4.30pm on Sunday against Egypt, and will start bottom of Group C after their defeat to Australia. Spain face the Socceroos in the same group later in the evening; only two teams can progress to the knockout round.

Did you know: Mascots Miraitowa and Someity were chosen by a vote among schoolchildren, which seems just as good a way of picking them as any. Miraitowa’s name comes from the word “future” (未来, mirai) and “eternity” (永久, towa), while Someity is named after a type of cherry blossom

Key events for Sunday 25 July

Quite a few sports make their opening bow at the games on Sunday – basketball, canoe slalom, diving and sailing all start, and skateboarding makes its Olympics debut. We have a great feature by Martha Hayes on one of the athletes who got a name-check in the opening ceremony on Friday, Team GB’s 13-year old Sky Brown.

Related: Tokyo 2020 Olympics: complete event schedule

The surfing might start – four days of competition are required to get all the events done with nine possible days scheduled to fit it in, depending on the weather and waves. To be honest, I am slightly suspicious of a sport that relies so much on keeping your fingers crossed about what the sea does.

There are medals on offer in archery, artistic gymnastics, road cycling, diving, fencing, judo, shooting, skateboarding, swimming, taekwondo and weightlifting.

All events are listed here in local Tokyo time. Add an hour for Sydney, subtract eight hours for Manchester, thirteen hours for New York and seventeen hours for San Francisco. We’ll all get the hang of this eventually.

🌟 If you only watch one thing: 11.00am Tennis – the precise start time will depend on how long Australia’s Ashleigh Barty takes with Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo, but, fresh from lighting the Olympic cauldron, Naomi Osaka plays China’s Saisai Zheng second on centre court at the Ariake Tennis Park.

  • 9.30am Archery – the first match-up is Great Britain v Italy in a quarter-final eliminator in the women’s team competition. By 4.40pm we will have reached the final. 🥇

  • 10.30am12.20pm Swimming – the morning swimming session features finals of the men’s 400m individual medley, 400m freestyle final, the women’s 400m individual medley and the women’s 4×100m freestyle relay. Australia will fancy their chances in the latter. 🥇

  • 9.00am-9.15pm Fencing – a day of bouts finishes with the women’s individual foil and men’s individual epée finals. 🥇

  • 10am Artistic gymnastics – it is the women’s qualification morning.

  • 11am-7.50pm Judo – by the end of the session, we will know who the Olympic champions are in the women’s -52kg category and the men’s -66kg .🥇

Georgia&#x002019;s Lukhumi Chkhvimiani takes on Kim Won-jin of South Korea at the Budokan.
Georgia’s Lukhumi Chkhvimiani takes on Kim Won-jin of South Korea at the Budokan. Photograph: Sergio Pérez/Reuters
  • 3pm Diving – it is the women’s synchronised 3m springboard tournament. 🥇

  • 1pm Road cycling – Sunday means it is the women’s race, and Dutch riders Annemiek van Vleuten and Marianne Vos are heavily tipped. You might recall that van Vleuten ended up in hospital after an absolutely horrific crash while leading the same event at Rio in 2016. 🥇

  • 10am-9.45pm Taekwondo – Team GB’s Jade Jones will be going for a third gold in the 57kg category. Her first bout is at 11.52am and the final, should she reach it, is at 9.30pm.

You can find our full interactive events schedule here.

As it stands

At least eight countries are going home with gold medals. Well, seven I guess, since Japan are already at home. Here’s the fledgling emoji medal table at the close of play today:

1 🇨🇳 China 🥇 3 🥈 0 🥉 1 total: 4
2 🇮🇹 Italy 🥇 1 🥈 1 🥉 0 total: 2
3 🇯🇵 Japan 🥇 1 🥈 1 🥉 0 total: 2
4 🇰🇷 South Korea 🥇 1 🥈 0 🥉 2 total: 3
5 🇪🇨 Ecuador 🥇 1 🥈 0 🥉 0 total: 1
6 🇭🇺 Hungary🥇 1 🥈 0 🥉 0 total: 1
7 🇮🇷 Iran 🥇 1 🥈 0 🥉 0 total: 1
8 🇽🇰 Kosovo 🥇 1 🥈 0 🥉 0 total: 1

As a reminder, last time out in Rio the US topped the medal table with 46 golds, the UK was second with 27 and China third with 26. Japan came sixth with twelve gold medals, and Australia placed 10th with eight golds.

Get in touch

I’ve got to be more careful with my canoeing coverage. Lawrence Heath has emailed in, rightly pointing out we’d used a picture of the wrong type of canoe in a recent article. “Every Olympic cycle this happens throughout the media – confusing paddling with rowing, mixing up paddles and oars, failing to recognise the significant difference between canoe sprint and slalom,” Lawrence says. “It’s depressing and suggests that there is a woeful lack of knowledge of canoeing among sports journalists.” Consider me on notice. I do not want to end up like the main character in our Stephen Collins cartoon on baffling Olympic sports.

I’ve been loving getting your emails – even the ones with slight admonishments. You can always get in touch with me at – and one thing is intriguing me. Am I alone in thinking that Andy Murray is just stubborn enough to put all of his injuries behind him and give it one last heave for gold? He faces Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime on Sunday after Naomi Osaka finishes her opening match.

I’ll see you at the same time tomorrow – take care and stay safe.

Richard Carapaz of Ecuador celebrates after winning the gold medal during the men&#x002019;s cycling road race.
Richard Carapaz of Ecuador celebrates after winning the gold medal during the men’s cycling road race. Photograph: Thibault Camus/AP

The last word

It’s an incredible moment for me. You always have to believe. I have worked so hard to be here and it’s a huge moment. I can only say thank you to the Ecuadorian people for the support and, honestly, for giving us such a big push. – Richard Carapaz, men’s road cycling Olympic champion

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