Tokyo 2020 Olympics briefing: Italy’s gold rush and Saint Boy the sinner

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<span>Photograph: Iván Alvarado/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Iván Alvarado/Reuters

Today in a nutshell: Laura Kenny made Olympic history on the cycle track, Nelly Korda is well-placed to win the women’s golf, Sifan Hassan’s treble attempt faltered, Italy stunned in the men’s 4x100m relay and the women’s pentathlon featured a gold for Britain and one very unhelpful horse.

Tomorrow’s key moments: the men’s basketball, baseball, football and beach volleyball events all reach the final stage, there’s the women’s marathon, and the final athletics session in the Olympic stadium finishes with the 4x400m relay races.

There was only one athletics session in the Tokyo Olympic stadium on Friday but it was packed with finals, finishing with the men’s 4x100m relay. Italy added the relay gold to Marcell Jacobs’ individual title. Team GB were just one hundredth of a second behind in silver. Canada took bronze, with Jamaica stranded back in fifth.

Filippo Tortu of Italy crosses the line to win gold in the 4x100m relay.
Filippo Tortu of Italy crosses the line to win gold in the 4x100m relay. Photograph: Paweł Kopczyński/Reuters

The women’s 4x100m was littered with scrappy handovers leading to some anxious faces at the finish line. Jamaica finished first from the USA, with Great Britain third. After a long delay as footage was scrutinised, the result stood.

Sifan Hassan’s audacious bid for three distance golds on the track faltered as she came third in the women’s 1500m. Faith Kipyegon set a new Olympic record to take gold, with Team GB’s Laura Muir setting a new national record to take silver. Hassan is still down to run the 10,000m tomorrow. After the race Muir seemed disbelieving saying: “I’ve worked so hard, for so long. I’ve been fourth, fifth twice, sixth and seventh …”

Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands, Faith Kipyegon of Kenya, and Laura Muir of Britain in the 1500.
Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands, Faith Kipyegon of Kenya, and Laura Muir of Britain in the 1500m final. Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters

Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei added the men’s 5000m gold to his 10,000m silver. Mohammed Ahmed of Canada clinched silver with Paul Chelimo of the US in bronze. “It’s really a great moment. I made a small mistake and I was regretting becoming a silver medallist,” Cheptegei said. “I came here to become an Olympic champion and my dream has been fulfilled.”

Elsewhere on the track, Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas retained her women’s 400m title in 48.36 seconds as Allyson Felix took bronze, to become the most-decorated woman in the history of Olympic track events. Marileidy Paulino of the Dominican Republic took silver.

Shaunae Miller-Uibo in the 400m.
Shaunae Miller-Uibo in the 400m. Photograph: Christian Bruna/EPA

Laura Kenny became the first British woman to win a gold medal at three different Olympic Games after she and Katie Archibald destroyed the field in the women’s madison race. Controlling it form start to finish and avoiding several crashes, they won 10 out of the 12 sprints in the 120-lap event and finished on 78 points. Denmark took silver with 35 points and the women of the Russian Olympic Committee finished in bronze position with 26 points. William Fotheringham described it for us as one of the greatest moments in this year’s Games.

Laura Kenny and Katie Archibald celebrate winning gold.
Laura Kenny and Katie Archibald celebrate winning gold. Photograph: Kacper Pempel/Reuters

Team GB also picked up a bronze in the velodrome, with Jack Carling placing third in the men’s sprint. The final of that competition set up a Dutch one-two in the medals. It is 89 years since the Netherlands had a sprinting champion, and it was 24-year-old Harrie Lavreysen who edged out Jeffrey Hoogland in the end, having lost the opening race of the final.

Jeffrey Hoogland sprints ahead of Harrie Lavreysen during the final.
Jeffrey Hoogland sprints ahead of Harrie Lavreysen during the final, but he ended up with silver. Photograph: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

In fifth place and 15 seconds off the lead going into the final round of the women’s modern pentathlon, Kate French excelled at the combined running and shooting of the laser-round, missing only two of her shots, to take Team GB’s second gold of the day. Laura Asadauskaite of Lithuania took silver and Hungary’s Sarolta Kovacs the bronze. “I’m just so pleased I was able to do it, especially because I was there in Rio when we kind of broke the chain of British women winning Olympic medals,” French said afterwards. “I’m happy we were able to get it back on track.”

Kate French of Britain crosses the finish line.
Britain’s Kate French crosses the finish line to win gold in the modern pentathlon. Photograph: Iván Alvarado/Reuters

Annika Schleu generated reams of sympathy on social media though, after her horse Saint Boy very much acted the sinner. The horse, allocated to the German rider in a draw before the event, simply refused to jump, leaving Schleu distraught.

Annika Schleu is crestfallen after Saint Boy refused to jump.
Annika Schleu is crestfallen after Saint Boy refused to jump. Photograph: Tatyana Zenkovich/EPA

I remain somewhat puzzled about how you find out you are good at race-walking and want to pursue it as a sport, but Dawid Tomala obviously did somehow, as he won an absolutely punishing 50km race-walk in the Japanese heat. The Polish walker was out on his own for nearly half the race. Jonathan Hilbert of Germany took silver, and Canada’s Evan Dunfee came through at the last moment to snatch bronze from Spain’s unfortunate Marc Tur.

Dawid Tomala of Poland competes during the men&#x002019;s 50km race walk final.
Dawid Tomala of Poland competes during the men’s 50km race walk final. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

After the men’s 50km, Italy’s Antonella Palmisano won the women’s 20km race walk, and it is also her birthday today, too. Buon compleanno, Antonella! Colombia’s Sandra Lorena Arenas claimed silver, and China’s Liu Hong took bronze.

The ramifications of Krystsina Tsimanouskaya flight from Tokyo for her own safety continue – the IOC has stripped two Belarus Olympics coaches of their accreditation and they have been sent home. In an unrelated incident, a Belarusian member of India’s wrestling coaching staff is being sent home for assaulting a referee.

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The briefing’s picture of the day

Japan’s Ryo Kiyuna won the gold medal in the men’s karate “kata” competition. Spain’s Damian Quintero took the silver. In the “kumite” -75kg category, Italian Luigi Busa defeated Azerbaijan’s Rafael Aghayev to win gold.

Ryo Kiyuna of Japan in action.
Ryo Kiyuna of Japan in action. Photograph: Hedayatullah Amid/EPA

🇬🇧🇬🇧🇬🇧 Team GB update

Great Britain’s women’s hockey team made history by getting medals for a third straight Olympic Games thanks to Grace Balsdon’s decisive penalty corner strike to win a thrilling, helter-skelter bronze medal final against India 4-3. Stephen McMillan watched a thrilling game at Oi Hockey Stadium for us. The Netherlands won their fourth Olympic women’s hockey title, defeating Argentina 3-1 in the final.

Elena Sian Rayer of Great Britain and Deep Grace Ekka of Team India battle for a loose ball.
Elena Sian Rayer of Great Britain and Deep Grace Ekka of Team India battle for a loose ball. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images

Lauren Price powered her way to at least a silver medal in the women’s middleweight boxing with a narrow points victory over Dutch rival Nouchka Fontijn, despite being penalised in the second round for holding. Afterwards, Price said: “It’s pretty mad, I knew I was up against it today, we’re the best two in the world. We’ve faced each other a number of times and we know each other inside out.”

Tom Daley had a shaky start in the men’s 10 metre platform diving preliminary round this morning but eventually qualified fourth. “Qualifying first [or] qualifying 18th doesn’t really matter, because tomorrow starts from zero,” Daley said afterwards. Noah Williams missed out on a place in the semi-final.

Tom Daley performs in the 10m platform diving preliminary.
Tom Daley performs in the 10m platform diving preliminary. Photograph: Patrick B Kraemer/EPA

🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺 Australia update

Lightweight boxer Harry Garside credits ballet for his stunning run to Australia’s first boxing medal in 33 years. “Ballet is fantastic,” he said after semi-final defeat left him with bronze. “It’s a great challenge because there’s so many similarities between that and boxing – the transfer of the weight, the technique, the structure, there’s the discipline. One day I’ll do a performance, I’m just not good enough yet.”

Cuba&#x002019;s Andy Cruz, right, exchanges punches with Australia&#x002019;s Harry Garside.
Cuba’s Andy Cruz, right, exchanges punches with Australia’s Harry Garside. Photograph: Themba Hadebe/AP

Australian hockey players who sought to drown their sorrows in beer after losing the Olympic gold medal match to Belgium also temporarily lost their freedom on Friday, after breaching Covid-19 rules by leaving the athletes’ village to buy booze. Five members of the men’s squad have been reprimanded and isolated in their rooms.

🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸 Team USA update

In temperatures close to 38C (100F), April Ross and Alix Klineman won the women’s beach volleyball for the USA. The beat the Australian duo, Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy, by two sets to none (21-15 and 21-16) in 43 minutes. At 39, Ross is the first beach volleyball player to claim an Olympic medal with three different partners. With silver, Clancy became the 10th Indigenous Olympian to win a medal representing Australia.

April Ross during the gold metal match.
April Ross on her way to gold in the women’s beach volleyball final. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

In golf, the world No 1 Nelly Korda is well-placed to take gold in Saturday’s final round. The American is 15-under-par and three shots clear of India’s Aditi Ashok. Four women are tied in the bronze medal position overnight: New Zealand’s Lydia Ko, Australia’s Hannah Green, Dane Emily Kristene Pedersen and Japan’s Mone Inami. That might prove significant – a tropical storm is forecast for tomorrow so tee-off times have been moved forward but there’s a possibility the final round will be abandoned and the current leaderboard will stand.

Nelly Korda during today&#x002019;s third round.
Nelly Korda during today’s third round. Photograph: Chris Trotman/Getty Images

The American women’s basketball team are now one win away from a seventh consecutive gold, after they beat Serbia 79-59 to reach the final. Team USA will face Japan on Saturday after the hosts beat France 87-71 in the other semi-final.

Brittney Griner (2nd right) during the women&#x002019;s basketball semi-final.
Brittney Griner (second right) during the women’s basketball semi-final. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

🇯🇵🇯🇵🇯🇵 The hosts and beyond

Canada have won gold in women’s football for the first time after a dramatic penalty shootout victory over Sweden in Yokohama. After the match ended 1-1, Canada missed three straight penalties but were let off when Caroline Seger put her potentially gold-winning effort over the bar. Deanne Rose and Julia Grosso then scored to grab gold for Canada and their British coach, Bev Priestman.

Greece fought past Hungary 9-6 to reach the final of the Olympic men’s water polo, keeping the dream of winning their first gold medal alive. It is their 16th attempt at a water polo medal, and the first time they will be on the podium. Spain had cruised into the other semi-final with a perfect record from six games, but lost 10-9 when Serbia scored with just 26 seconds left on the clock.

Players of Greece celebrate after their semi-final win.
Players of Greece celebrate after their semi-final win. Photograph: How Hwee Young/EPA

Japan missed out on the bronze medal in the men’s football, losing 3-1 to Mexico in Saitama. Francisco Córdova fired Mexico in front after 12 minutes, with goals from Johan Vásquez and Ernesto Vega securing victory. Spain and Brazil meet in Saturday’s final.

Janja Garnbret became the first-ever women’s Olympic champion in sport climbing. The Slovenian finished ahead of two Japanese climbers, Miho Nonaka (silver) and Akiyo Noguchi (bronze).

Janja Garnbret of Slovenia is the first women&#x002019;s Olympic Sport Climbing champion.
Janja Garnbret of Slovenia is the first women’s Olympic Sport Climbing champion. Photograph: Yara Nardi/Reuters

France will face Not Russia in the women’s handball final on Sunday after today’s semi-finals. They were both tight matches, with France bettering Sweden 29-27 and Not Russia edging out Norway 27-26.

The artistic swimmers of Not Russia are in pole position to take gold tomorrow. They finished Friday with 97.2979 points to China’s 96.2310, setting the stage for a showdown. Ukraine needed a do-over after the wrong music was initially played for their routine, but are currently in third.

An opening throw of 66.34m proved more than enough for China’s Liu Shiying to win gold in the women’s javelin. Her nearest rivals were Maria Andrejczyk of Poland who won silver with 64.61m and Kelsey-Lee Barber of Australia took bronze with 64.56m.

China have won the men’s team table tennis event every time it has been contest since 2008, and Germany could do nothing to stop that happening again in the final. Japan ended up with the bronze.

Ma Long and Xu Xin of China in the gold medal match.
Ma Long and Xu Xin of China in the gold medal match. Photograph: VCG/Getty Images

Known in Cuba as “The Shadow”, 31-year-old Julio la Cruz won his second Olympic title in the men’s heavyweight boxing. He beat Muslim Gadzhimagomedov of the Russian Olympic Committee. He won light-heavyweight gold in Rio, and said afterwards “Paris is only three years away. I’ll go the next Olympics and try to win a third gold.” It was Cuba’s third of the five boxing golds.

Did you know?

The traditional handover of the Olympic flag takes place during the closing ceremony, when it is handed to the mayor of the next host city. On Sunday it will be handed to the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo. At the same time, Paris 2024 organisers are planning to try and set a new world record – by flying the biggest flag ever made from the Eiffel Tower.

Key events for Saturday 7 August

Related: Tokyo 2020 Olympics: complete event schedule

All events are listed here in local Tokyo time. Add an hour for Sydney, subtract eight hours for Bristol, 13 hours for New York and 16 hours for San Francisco. ¡Ay, caramba! it is a busy day today.

🌟If you only watch one thing: 7.35pm-9.50pm Athletics – there’s only one session in the stadium on Saturday and it is final after final. We get the women’s high jump and the men’s javelin. The women’s 10,000m final is at 7.45pm. The men’s 1500m final is 8.40pm. Then we finish the track events in the stadium with the explosive double whammy of the women’s and men’s 4x400m relay finals 🥇

  • 6am Women’s marathon – held in Sapporo to try and avoid the Tokyo heat, the women will start at around 10pm UK time so you can settle in with your Ovaltine for a late night watching someone else run 26.2 miles to gold 🥇

  • 6.30am Golf – it should be the fourth and final round of the women’s golf – weather permitting 🥇

  • 9.30am-12.47pm Canoe sprint – there are four finals on Saturday, in the women’s canoe double 500m, men’s canoe single 1000m, and the kayak four 500m in both flavours 🥇

  • 10am-12.20pm Beach volleyball – the men’s bronze match features pairs from Latvia and Qatar, followed by Norway and Not Russia serving for gold 🥇

  • 10am and 3pm Diving – the men’s 10m platform semi-final and then the final 🥇

  • 10am, 11.30am and 3.20pm Rhythmic gymnastics – the morning sessions are qualifications for the group all-around. The afternoon is the individual all-around final 🥇

  • 11.30am, 4pm and 8pm Basketball – the programme is all topsy-turvy – possibly for the benefit of US TV audiences – but the morning starts with the men’s gold medal game between the USA and France. At 4pm, it’s the women’s bronze final (France v Serbia) with the men’s bronze medal match between Australia and Slovenia at 8pm 🥇

  • 12pm and 7pm Baseball – first the bronze medal match between the Dominican Republic and South Korea, and then the final in the evening between Japan and the USA 🥇

  • 2pm-3.15pm Boxing – four final bouts today in men’s fly, women’s fly, men’s middle and women’s welter weights. Britain’s Galal Yafai faces Cuba’s Carlo Paalam at 2pm 🥇

  • 2pm-8.45pm Karate – featuring the men’s Kumite +75kg and women’s Kumite +61kg. The bronze medal bouts and the finals get going around 7.20pm 🥇

  • 2.30pm-7.30pm Modern pentathlon – the men’s competition features swimming, fencing, show jumping and then the combined cross-country run interrupted by having to shoot at things. It is so great to watch 🥇

  • 3.30pm-6.25pm Track cycling – races all day, but one final to look out for: the men’s madison final at 4.55pm 🥇

  • 5pm and 9pm Handball – it is Egypt v Spain for bronze first, then France v Denmark for the gold in the men’s competition 🥇

  • 7pm Equestrian – it’s the final day with the horses today, and it is the jumping team final 🐴🥇

  • 7.30pm Artistic swimming – the team free routine final lights up Saturday on the final day of events 🥇

  • 8.30pm Football – it’s the men’s final in Yokohama, featuring Brazil v Spain 🥇

You can find our full interactive events schedule here, which also acts as a live scoreboard during the day.

As it stands

Here’s how the emoji table stood at 11pm Tokyo time:

1 🇨🇳 China 🥇 36 🥈 26 🥉 17 total: 79
2 🇺🇸 USA 🥇 31 🥈 36 🥉 31 total: 98
3 🇯🇵 Japan 🥇 24 🥈 11 🥉 16 total: 51
4 🇬🇧 Great Britain 🥇 18 🥈 20 🥉 20 total: 58
5 ◽️ Not Russia 🥇 17 🥈 23 🥉 22 total: 62
6 🇦🇺 Australia 🥇 17 🥈 6 🥉 21 total: 44
7 🇮🇹 Italy 🥇 10 🥈 10 🥉 18 total: 38
8 🇩🇪 Germany 🥇 9 🥈 11 🥉 16 total: 36
9 🇳🇱 Netherlands 🥇 9 🥈 10 🥉 12 total: 31
10 🇫🇷 France 🥇 7 🥈 11 🥉 9 total: 27

Get in touch

We are very close to the end now, approaching the final weekend. I always think the cadence of the Olympics is so interesting, that by this stage the swimming is a distant memory, you’ve been watching athletics every day for a week, and suddenly it feels like time to branch out and watch some things you wouldn’t normally watch. Just today I ended watching the race walk, the sports climbing, some of the hockey, the modern pentathlon laser run, all things that aren’t in my regular sporting diet and which you might say are at the fringes of the Olympics. Do let me know what you’ve enjoyed best about these Games – I’d love to feature some words from you in our final Olympics emails over the weekend. You can get in touch with me at

The last word

Gold medalist Katie Archibald, left, and Laura Kenny.
Gold medalist Katie Archibald, left, and Laura Kenny. Photograph: Christophe Ena/AP

With Katie I feel like I’m racing with a sister – Laura Kenny

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