Tokyo Olympics: the must-see events for Australian fans and when to watch them

·9-min read
<span>Photograph: Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters

Sunday, 25 July

Time: 8am
Surfing, Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach

If there were a sport tailored to Australia, it would take place on the waves, and Sally Fitzgibbons, Stephanie Gilmore, Julian Wilson and Owen Wright will all be itching to make their mark in surfing’s Olympic debut. The quartet were selected based on World Surf League rankings – the top two Australian men and women – prior to the Games’ Covid-induced postponement last year, meaning their inclusion is based on their 2019 form. That adds an element of pressure, especially as their performance has fluctuated since then. But it appears the right time for Fitzgibbons, who won her first WSL event of the season at Rottnest Island in May before winning the final qualification event in El Salvador in June. Depending on wave conditions, Sunday will feature the first and second rounds of both the men’s and women’s events, with medal events scheduled for 28 July.

Related: Olympics 20 for 2020: Australian athletes to watch in Tokyo

Time: 6.20pm
Basketball: Australia v Nigeria, Saitama Stadium

Ben Simmons will be a world away from Tokyo practising his game after an unfortunate end to his NBA season with the Philadelphia 76ers. But this Boomers side still boasts seven other NBA players, including Patty Mills and Joe Ingles. They beat world No 1 Team USA last week for only the second time in their 55-year history, elevating them into the realms of genuine gold medal contenders. They are in a different group from the USA, which could mean a high-profile clash later in the tournament if Australia can get past Group B opponents Nigeria, Italy (28 July, 6.20pm) and Germany (31 July, 6.20pm).

Monday, 26 July

Time: from 10am
Skateboarding: women’s street, Ariake Urban Sports Park

Australia has five athletes taking part in this new Olympic sport, which may seem like a novelty event but it’s inclusion validates the elite nature of modern skateboarding. Hayley Wilson, 19, will contest the women’s street discipline on 26 July, comprising stairs, rails, walls, ramps and benches. Fellow Victorian Shane O’Neill will skate in the men’s street event from 25 July, while the park discipline, which uses a course of basins and steep ramps to encourage mid-air tricks, runs 4-5 August.

Time: 12.20pm
women’s 400m freestyle final, Tokyo Aquatics Centre
One of the Games’ biggest rivalries will come to a climax when Australia’s Ariarne Titmus goes head to head with American great Katie Ledecky. This won’t be the only time they compete against each other, but the distance is a favourite for Titmus, while Ledecky, who may prefer the 800m, won Rio 2016 gold in the 200m, 400m and 800m freestyle events. Titmus stunned Ledecky in the 400m final at the 2019 world championships in South Korea and at the Australian trials in June the 20-year-old Tasmanian almost broke the American’s 400m world record. The pair will also face off in the 200m freestyle (28 July, 11.41am) and 800m freestyle (31 July, 11.46am), and most likely the relays. Titmus is generally full of praise for Ledecky, who seems intent on pretending Titmus doesn’t exist. The stage is set.

Tuesday, 27 July

Time: From 3pm
Canoe slalom: women’s kayak semi-finals and final, Kasai Canoe Slalom Centre
Jess Fox could well add a gold medal to her London 2012 silver and Rio 2016 bronze in this event. The 27-year-old seven-time world champion will also compete in the canoe, with the women’s semi-finals set down for 29 July from 3pm.

Sam Kerr and her Matildas team have struggled in recent months but they have the potential to do damage at the Games.
Sam Kerr and her Matildas team have struggled in recent months but they have the potential to do damage at the Games. Photograph: Masashi Hara/Getty Images

Time: 6pm
Football: USA v Australia, Kashima Stadium

The Matildas will have already played New Zealand (21 July, 9.30pm in Tokyo) and Sweden (24 July in Saitama) by this point, but this is the big one. The perennial world No 1s and reigning World Cup champions remain the team to beat, and Australia has managed that just once – a 1-0 result at the Tournament of Nations in 2017. It has been a rough trot since then with multiple managerial changes and a round-of-16 World Cup exit in 2019. Results under new coach Tony Gustavsson, a former assistant for the United States, have been unspectacular, with four defeats – featuring 14 goals conceded – and a goalless draw against world No 5 Sweden. The Matildas have significant potential, but they are ranked ninth right now for a reason, and even with prolific scorer Sam Kerr it will be tough going to get out of Group G.

Related: Tokyo Olympics: if you’re watching from Australia, here’s what you need to know

Wednesday, 28 July

Time: 11.10am
Rowing: men’s four final, Sea Forest Waterway

It’s been a long time since the Oarsome Foursome’s gold medals of Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996 earned Australian rowing a seat at the table. No men’s coxless four has stood atop the podium since, with Australia placing second behind Great Britain in the last three Games. The Tokyo crew – comprised of debutants Jack Hargreaves and Alex Purnell and Rio Olympians Alex Hill and Spencer Turrin – are well on track to buck that trend. Combinations of the men’s four have lost just one race in the current Olympic cycle, although it was the most important: the 2019 world championships final, in which they finished sixth. Also watch out for the coxless women’s four, who are world champions. Australia are sending a team of 38 rowers, with competition to begin before the opening ceremony on 23 July.

Time: 3pm
Road cycling: men’s individual time trial, Fuji International Speedway

Rohan Dennis starts as a genuine medal contender if he can stay ahead of Italian challenger Filippo Ganna. The 31-year-old has endured a turbulent five years, having raced in Rio with an injured hand from a training crash, but in 2019 he won the time trial at the road world championships.

Thursday, 29 July

Time: 12.37pm
Swimming: men’s 100m freestyle, Tokyo Aquatics Centre
Kyle Chalmers has emerged from an injury-riddled period to deliver his fastest time in two years at the national championships, and the 23-year-old is in a strong position to win this blue-ribbon event and become the first Australian man to claim the 100m freestyle gold at two consecutive Olympics. To do so he must overcome Caeleb Dressel, who has been dubbed the new Michael Phelps of the American team. Dressel, 24, was part of the US gold medal-winning 4x100m freestyle and 4x100m medley relay teams but has since won a slew of world championship freestyle and butterfly events. The pair are fast friends, so there will no sore losers.

Kyle Chalmers comes into the Olympics in good form but he&#x002019;ll face tough competition from American Caeleb Dressel
Kyle Chalmers comes into the Olympics in good form but he’ll face tough competition from American Caeleb Dressel. Photograph: Dave Hunt/AAP

Friday, 30 July

Time: TBC
Rugby sevens: women’s quarter-finals, Tokyo Stadium

There have been changes to the team that returned from Rio 2016 as gold medallists, notably the omission of Ellia Green, but the Australians are in with a shot again – if they can overcome world No 1 New Zealand, who are on fire. They avoid their Kiwi rivals in the group stage, when they will face hosts Japan (29 July, 11.30am), China (29 July, 6.30pm) and the United States (30 July, 11.30am) but are sure to meet them in the knockout stages.

Saturday, 31 July

Time: 8.30am
Triathlon: mixed relay, Odaiba Marine Park

The event’s Olympic debut presents Australia with a strong chance of gold, having enjoyed international success in the short-course (300m swim, 6.8km bike, 2km run) team race comprising two men and two women. It promises to be fast and furious, and a load of fun to watch. Overall, Australia is sending a strong squad made up of Rio Olympians Ashleigh Gentle and Aaron Royle, and Olympic debutants Jake Birtwhistle, Matt Hauser, Jaz Hedgeland and Emma Jeffcoat, who will also contest the individual events (the men’s 1.5km swim, 40km cycle and 10km run triathlon is on 26 July and the women’s event on 27 July). Royle, who finished ninth at Rio 2016, and Birtwhistle, the only male to win two world triathlon series races in 2019, will look to break their country’s male medal drought. Only women have stood on the podium since the sport was introduced in 2000 – the pinnacle being Emma Snowsill’s gold at Beijing 2008.

Time: TBC
Tennis: women’s singles final, Ariake Tennis Park
Call it presumptive to mark an Ash Barty final in our calendar before competition has even begun, but, discounting injury, few would bet against her being there. Straight from a rousing Wimbledon victory, the world No 1 has made a miraculous recovery from the hip injury that prematurely ended her Roland Garros campaign and appears fit as a fiddle for this hard court hit-out. She’ll have to get past local favourite and world No 2 Naomi Osaka, who is making her competitive return and will headline a strong field also featuring Aryna Sabalenka, Iga Swiatek, Garbine Muguruza and Barty’s Wimbledon final victim Karolina Pliskova. Ajla Tomljanovic is also in action for the Australian contingent. Missing is Nick Kyrgios, who decided to forego Tokyo because of the lack of spectators, and Alex de Minaur, who withdrew after contracting Covid-19. Special mention also goes to Samantha Stosur, who is set to play her fifth Olympics in both the singles and doubles with partner Ellen Perez.

Ash Barty will be looking to follow up her Wimbledon victory with a gold medal in Tokyo
Ash Barty will be looking to follow up her Wimbledon victory with a gold medal in Tokyo. Photograph: Steven Paston/PA

Thursday, 5 August

Time: 8.20pm
Track and field: women’s pole vault final, Olympic Stadium
Nina Kennedy lands in Tokyo in fantastic form, fifth in the world this year thanks to her Australian record-breaking effort of 4.82m at the Sydney Track Classic in March. That would have earned her a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics, fourth place at the 2019 world championships, and should be enough for the final at her first Games in Tokyo. A medal will be a big ask given the highest jump this year is 4.93m by American Katie Nageotte. But, at 24, Kennedy is well and truly the youngest in the highest echelons of the discipline and if she doesn’t come home from Japan with something around her neck, Paris 2024 could well be her time.
Also look out for: Australia’s leading track-and-field medal hopes Nicola McDermott in the women’s high jump (final on 7 August, 8.35pm) and Stewart McSweyn in the men’s 1,500m (final on 7 August, 9.40pm), 5,000m (final on 6 August, 10pm) and 10,000m (final on 30 July, 9.30pm).