Andy Murray persuaded not to retire by five-year-old daughter

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Andy Murray of Team Great Britain looks on during practice ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Ariake Tennis Park on July 20, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.  - GETTY IMAGES
Andy Murray of Team Great Britain looks on during practice ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Ariake Tennis Park on July 20, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. - GETTY IMAGES

Andy Murray has revealed that an inspirational chat with his daughter helped fuel his quest for a fourth Olympic medal that would represent the “best achievement” even in his glittering career.

The 34-year-old was convincingly beaten in the third round at Wimbledon earlier this month by Denis Shapovalov after missing much of the past three years through injury and, despite falling outside the world’s top 100, is convinced that he can recapture past Olympic glories in Japan.

Murray is aiming for a third consecutive Olympic singles gold and, having also won silver in the mixed doubles with Laura Robson at London 2012, has set himself the target of another medal.

“That's the goal,” he said. “I'm also in a slightly different position to what I was five years ago when I would have been expected to get one. That's maybe not the case this time around. But for me it would be probably my best achievement after everything that's gone on the last few years.

"I'm motivated for that reason alone. I still believe that I can do that. I know this could be the last one for me. I want to go out there and leave everything out on the court, fight for every single point.”

Murray and his wife Kim have four children under the age of five and he admitted that his Wimbledon experience had caused questions and doubts in his own mind.

"I was very disappointed,” he said. “With each major tournament that passes ... when I'm getting asked questions, a lot of it is always about my future. And also, when I haven't performed as well as I'd like to, you question things, doubt yourself a little bit.

"When I got home the day after my match, my daughter said to me, 'Daddy you're home because you lost another tennis match'. I said to her, 'Yes I did but what do you do when you lose at something?'

"And she said, 'You try and try again'. And I was like, 'Yes, that's what I want to do'. I want to keep playing because I enjoy it. I still think I can play at a high level.”

Murray is pleased with his current physical condition but has been given difficult first round matches, against ninth seed and Wimbledon quarter-finalist Felix Auger-Aliassime in singles and against second-seeded French pair Pierre Hugues-Herbert and Nicolas Mahut alongside Joe Salisbury in doubles. Murray said that his past Olympic successes “sit right there next to Wimbldeon titles for me” in his career highlights and he will form part of a six strong British tennis team after Dan Evans and Johanna Konta were ruled out following positive Covid-19 tests.

Andy Murray with his gold medal following victory in Rio. - PA
Andy Murray with his gold medal following victory in Rio. - PA

Plenty of star have also remained at home, including Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams, but Wimbledon champions Novak Djokovic and Ashleigh Barty are both in Japan along with Naomi Osaka, who will play her first match since withdrawing from the French Open.

Djokovic is bidding to become the first man in history to win a Golden Slam of all four grand slam titles and Olympic singles gold in the same year. Steffi Graf achieved that clean sweep of victories in the women’s events of 1988.

01:35 PM

That's all the live news from me today...

But read Jeremy Wilson on what has made Andy Murray continue his career above.

01:26 PM

FULL-TIME: Brazil 4 Germany 2

Richarlison's first-half hat-trick did the damage despite a valiant second-half showing from Germany.

01:25 PM

Brazil score their fourth!

Paulinho kills the game against Germany, making in 4-2.

01:21 PM

There will be five minutes of added time...

Can Germany find an equaliser?

01:17 PM

Germany score to make it 3-2

An unlikely comeback is now in sight for the Germans against Brazil after Ragnar Ache scored in the 83rd minute.

01:13 PM

Brazil still lead with 10 minutes to go

The score remains 3-1 to Brazil against Germany. The trailing side are down to 10-men after Maximilian Arnold was sent off for a second yellow card.

12:54 PM

Germany have pulled one back against Brazil

Nadiem Amiri scored in the 57th minute to take the score to 3-1 to Brazil.

12:52 PM

This Olympics has been very controversial in Japan - here is what some locals think

12:39 PM

Elsewhere in the men's football, Australia have shocked Argentina!

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12:32 PM

The Everton forward has already made Olympics history...

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12:20 PM

Brazil are 3-0 against Germany before half-time!

Richarlison has scored all three goals in Brazil's opening men's match of the Olympics. Here is the moment he sealed his 30 minute hat-trick.

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11:56 AM

Brazilian weightlifter Figueiredo cleared to compete at Games

Brazilian weightlifter Natasha Rosa Figueiredo was cleared on Thursday to compete at the Tokyo Olympics after having served a suspension following a minor anti-doping rule violation (ADRV), the Court of Arbitration for Sport said.

The 25-year-old Brazilian, who is due to compete on Saturday in the 49kg category, had tested positive twice this year for a banned substance.

Further analysis showed food supplements consumed regularly by her revealed the presence of hydrochlorothiazide, despite the supplement labels containing no reference of any prohibited substance, CAS said.

"Considering all the circumstances, including the fact that the athlete had failed to list the food supplement on her doping control forms, the Sole Arbitrator concluded that a minor ADRV had been established and determined that the athlete be suspended for one month," CAS said.

She had already served a provisional suspension of longer than one month that ended on July 1, thus making her eligible to compete in Tokyo.

The Tokyo Olympics officially open on Friday.

Reuters

11:34 AM

A third Czech athlete has tested positive for coronavirus

A third athlete from the Czech Republic has tested positive for COVID-19 at the Tokyo Games.

The Czech team says beach volleyball player Marketa Slukova has entered a quarantine hotel, where two other athletes and two other coaches in its national delegation are staying.

Another Czech beach volleyball player, Ondrej Perusic, tested positive this week. Table tennis player Pavel Sirucek also tested positive.

The Czech Olympic team says it's investigating if the outbreak of COVID-19 is linked to its charter flight to Tokyo.

11:13 AM

Tokyo hits another six-month high in new COVID-19 cases one day before Olympics begin

Tokyo hit another six-month high in new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, one day before the Olympics begin, as worries grow of a worsening of infections during the Games.

Thursday's 1,979 new cases are the highest since 2,044 were recorded on Jan. 15.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is determined to hold the Olympics, placed Tokyo under a state of emergency on July 12, but daily cases have sharply increased since then.

The emergency measures, which largely involve a ban on alcohol sales and shorter hours for restaurants and bars, are to last until Aug. 22, after the Olympics end on Aug. 8.

Japan has reported about 853,000 cases and 15,100 deaths since the pandemic began, most of them this year. Still, the number of cases and deaths as a share of the population are much lower than in many other countries.

The Olympics, delayed for a year by the pandemic, begin Friday. Spectators are banned from all venues in the Tokyo area, with limited audiences allowed at a few outlying sites.

Suga's government has been criticized for what some say is prioritizing the Olympics over the nation's health. His public support ratings have fallen to around 30 per cent in recent media surveys, and there has been little festivity ahead of the Games.

Experts say virus infections among unvaccinated people younger than age 50 are rising sharply.

Japan's vaccinations began late and slowly, but the pace picked up in May as the government pushed to accelerate the drive before the Olympics, though the pace has since slowed due to a shortage of imported vaccines.

About 23 per cent of Japanese are fully vaccinated, way short of the level believed necessary to have any meaningful effect on reducing the risk in the general population.

Experts warned on Wednesday that infections in Tokyo are likely to continue to worsen in coming weeks.

AP

10:53 AM

Mexico opens Olympics with 4-1 victory over France

Alexis Vega scored the first of four second-half goals for Mexico in a 4-1 victory over France on Thursday in the men's Olympic football tournament.

Mexico, which won gold at the 2012 Olympics, had the better chances in the first half but the game was scoreless at the break. Vega scored first in the 47th minute and Sebastian Cordova added a second in the 55th.

Andre-Pierre Gignac, who plays for Mexican club Tigres, scored from the penalty spot in the 70th minute to narrow the gap for France, which won the Olympic title in 1984. But Uriel Atuna put Mexico ahead 3-1 in the 80th and Eduardo Aguirre added a goal in stoppage time for El Tri.

While the Olympics is for under-23 squads, coaches are able to name three players born after 1997. So teams in Tokyo are dotted with stars, including Florian Thauvin, who won the 2018 World Cup with France and also plays for Tigres.

Mexico's team featured goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, a 36-year-old veteran of four World Cups, and Club America teammate Henry Martin at forward.

Elsewhere, Ivory Coast defeated Saudi Arabia 2-1.

AP

10:37 AM

Spain held to draw by Egypt as men's Olympic football gets under way

Starting with six players who rushed from the European Championship to the Olympics, Spain was held to a 0-0 draw by Egypt today in the team's opening match of the men's football tournament.

Spain's best chance to score at the Sapporo Dome came when Dani Ceballos hit the post. The 24-year-old Real Madrid midfielder, who got injured at the end of the first half and had to be taken out, is one of three overage players permitted in the squad.

The players in the starting lineup who were also part of Spain's run to the Euro 2020 semifinals two weeks ago were goalkeeper Unai Simon, defenders Eric Garcia and Pau Torres, midfielder Pedro, and forwards Dani Olmo and Mikel Oyarzabal.

Egypt picked players from domestic clubs except Saudi-based Ahmed Hegazi, the team's captain. Liverpool would not release striker Mohamed Salah for the Olympics with the Premier League season starting in three weeks.

AP

10:20 AM

A stunning backdrop for Team GB's sailing training

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10:03 AM

Japanese Emperor says virus prevention at Olympics 'far from easy task'

Japan's Emperor Naruhito on Thursday acknowledged the difficulty of preventing the spread of coronavirus during the Olympics, at a meeting with International Olympic Committee officials.

"Managing the Games while at the same time taking all possible measures against COVID-19 is far from an easy task," Emperor Naruhito told IOC President Thomas Bach and other IOC members.

The Emperor will declare the official opening of the Games on Friday.

09:42 AM

Covid infections amongst the athletes continues to occur

Czech women's beach volleyball player Marketa Nausch-Slukova has tested positive for COVID-19, raising the number of Czech athletes at the Tokyo Olympics infected by the virus to three, Czech Television reported on Thursday.

Dutch Olympic Taekwondo competitor Reshmie Oogink has also tested positive for COVID-19, as has a member of the team staff, the team said on Thursday.

"I have done everything I could and have worked so hard to get so close to the Games. This is the end of my career," Oogink said in a statement. The positive test means that both will have to quarantine for 10 days.

Oogink is the second Dutch athlete to have tested positive for COVID-19 after Dutch skateboarder Candy Jacobs yesterday said on Instagram that she had tested positive and been sent into quarantine.

09:21 AM

Team GB athlete and British Olympic officials frustrated over isolation conditions

By Tom Cary, Senior Sports Correspondent in Tokyo

Team GB athlete Zak Seddon and British Olympic officials have expressed increasing frustration over the conditions under which six track and field athletes and two other Team GB officials are being forced to isolate in the Olympic village after “coming into close contact” with a passenger on their flight to Tokyo who subsequently tested positive.

Seddon described himself as “shocked” by what he sees as overly zealous measures, saying his Olympic experience is being ruined.

The British Olympic Association is also understood to be increasingly frustrated by the uncertainty over how long they must remain in isolation, and by what it sees as changes to the procedures agreed with Tokyo 2020 prior to the Games when it was assured that such situations would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

The British team have implemented incredibly strict protocols of their own and are equipped to do their own gold-standard PCR tests as and when required. Seddon, for example, has had 11 negative tests in six days, but is still being confined to quarters other than being allowed out to train on his own.

Responding on Thursday to comments made by the 400m hurdler Jessie Knight, who told the Guardian she was trying to make the best of a bad situation, Seddon tweeted: “Urm nah.. we’ve been stuck inside for 6days now with 11 negative test [sic] and all double vaccinated. Shocked we’re not allowed back into a Covid safe environment . My Olympic experience will be spent alone, bar a few socially distanced hours a day.”

The BOA has also expressed frustration over the uncertainty, with two non-athlete officials not even allowed out of their rooms as they do not have the athlete exemption to train and compete. Their situation is similar to that of journalists, including some from BBC Scotland, who are being forced to self-isolate for 14 days after being deemed to have come into contact with someone who subsequently tested positive.

It is unclear for how long the six Team GB athletes will be kept in isolation, whether for the full 14 days or not and the lack of a clear “end point” is understood to be the chief complaint.

A BOA spokesperson said: “First of all, we acknowledge how difficult this situation is for the athletes and staff members affected. We are in constant dialogue with Tokyo 2020 to establish a course of action – based on multiple daily negative tests, and a rigorous set of Covid-19 protocols in our environment – that allows for our athletes to be reintegrated into training safely. We will continue to seek urgent clarification.”

08:59 AM

More on Andy Murray as he targets gold for a third successive occasion

Murray is the only tennis player to win back-to-back singles gold medals having triumphed in London and Rio but his hopes of making it three in a row have been severely hampered by ongoing physical struggles.

The 34-year-old is still ranked outside the top 100 but his target in Tokyo is a fourth medal - he also won mixed doubles silver in London - and he believes it is achievable.

Murray, who carried the British flag at the opening ceremony in 2016, said: "That's the goal, to try to win another medal. I'm aware that it's not going to be easy.

"I'm also in a slightly different position to what I was five years ago when I would have been expected to get one. That's maybe not the case this time around. But for me it would be probably my best achievement if I could do that after everything that's gone on the last few years.

"I'm motivated for that reason alone. I still believe that I can do that. I know this could be the last one for me. I want to go out there and leave everything out on the court, fight for every single point.

"You can never guarantee how you're going to perform in matches but you can control your attitude, your effort levels, how well you prepare. I'll take care of all of those things and I hope the performances follow.

"The Olympics has given me for sure some of the best memories of my career. (The gold medals) sit right there next to Wimbledon titles for me."

Andy Murray of Team Great Britain plays a forehand during the practice session ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Tennis Park on July 22, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.  - GETTY IMAGES
Andy Murray of Team Great Britain plays a forehand during the practice session ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Tennis Park on July 22, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. - GETTY IMAGES

Murray is part of a six-strong British tennis team in Tokyo after Dan Evans and Johanna Konta were ruled out following positive coronavirus tests.

Heather Watson and Liam Broady, the last man into the draw, have winnable first-round matches against Anna-Lena Friedsam and Francisco Cerundolo, respectively, while Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski will play Argentinian duo Andres Molteni and Horacio Zeballos in the men's doubles.

Plenty of star names have remained at home, including Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams, but Wimbledon champions Novak Djokovic and Ashleigh Barty are both in Japan along with Naomi Osaka, who will play her first match since withdrawing from the French Open.

Djokovic, who is bidding to become the first man in history to win a Golden Slam of all four grand slam titles and Olympic singles gold in the same year, will take on Bolivia's Hugo Dellien first up.

Barty faces a tricky opener against Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo while Osaka, who would have been the subject of intense attention as one of the faces of the Games even before the furore that blew up over her decision not to fulfil her media duties in Paris, takes on Zheng Saisai of China.

08:36 AM

Want to know what life is like for the athletes in Tokyo at the moment? This video does the job

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08:18 AM

In today's action, Australia defeat Italy in softball

The Australians secured a 1-0 victory, following wins from Japan and USA earlier in the day.

The men's football competition is now under way, with Egypt playing Spain, New Zealand facing South Korea and Mexico playing France at the moment.

There is more football to come today, including Brazil vs Germany.

07:50 AM

Coronavirus continues to wreak havoc with competitors

American beach volleyball player Taylor Crabb is out of the Olympics after four positive COVID-19 tests, and Tri Bourne will take his place as the partner of four-time Olympian Jake Gibb when the competition begins this weekend.

Crabb confirmed his withdrawal on Thursday in a statement to The Associated Press, noting that he was vaccinated and tested negative before he left the United States but tested positive when he arrived in Japan.

"I'm symptom-free, thankfully, but deeply disappointed to not be able to join Jake on the sand and compete as a member of Team USA," Crabb said. "I want Jake to play in his fourth Olympic games and I want him to bring home a medal. Tri Bourne, an incredible athlete, person and close friend will be competing alongside Jake and filling my spot on Team USA."

Despite Crabb's positive result at the Tokyo airport and follow-up tests that confirmed it, he remained hopeful that subsequent tests would clear him to play. Those results continued to come back positive - including one on Thursday, just hours before the deadline for the national governing body to replace him on the Olympic roster.

The Olympic beach volleyball tournament begins Saturday at Tokyo's Shiokaze Park, with Gibb and Bourne scheduled to play their first match on Sunday night against Italy.

AP

07:33 AM

A superb action shot from the USA's softball win earlier today

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07:18 AM

The Olympics tennis draw has been completed

Andy Murray faces a tough start to the defence of his Olympic tennis title after being drawn against ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime.

Murray is the only tennis player to win back-to-back singles gold medals having triumphed in London and Rio but his hopes of making it three in a row have been severely hampered by physical struggles.

Read about the full draw here

07:05 AM

There is softball and football action taking place today in Tokyo

Japan and USA secured wins in the softball earlier today, with Australia and Italy currently locking horns.

The men's football gets under way later on after the women's kicked-off yesterday. The big match of the day is Brazil vs Germany.

06:53 AM

U.S. first lady Jill Biden arrives in Japan for Games

U.S. first lady Jill Biden landed on Thursday in Japan, where she is leading the United States' diplomatic delegation to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Biden will have dinner later in the day with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and his wife Mariko Suga in the Japanese capital.

06:41 AM

Australian Olympic Committee boss John Coates orders Annastacia Palaszczuk to attend opening ceremony

Olympic boss John Coates left few in doubt about the power of sport in Australian politics as he publicly ordered Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to attend Tokyo's opening ceremony after the IOC awarded Brisbane the 2032 Games.

With around 13 million people locked down in Australia due to COVID-19 outbreaks, Palaszczuk was criticised by home media for travelling to Tokyo this week as a representative of Brisbane's bid for the 2032 Olympics.

She had said she would not attend any events while in Tokyo apart from the bid team's presentation to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) session on Wednesday, and would confine herself to her hotel.

However, her resolve crumbled in an awkward exchange with Coates late on Wednesday as the Australian Olympic Committee president set her straight.

“You are going to the opening ceremony," Coates said at a media conference.

"I am still the deputy chair of the candidature leadership group.

"And so far as I understand, there will be an opening and a closing ceremony in 2032, and all of you have got to get along there and understand the traditional parts of that, what’s involved in an opening ceremony.

"So none of you are staying and hiding in your rooms, all right."

Palaszczuk replied: “I don’t want to offend anybody, so..."

Coates continued: "You've never been to an opening ceremony have you?

"You don’t know the protocols, I think it’s a very important lesson for everyone here. Opening ceremonies cost in the order of $75 million to $100 million, it’s a major exercise for any organising committee.

"It’s my very strong recommendation that the premier and the lord mayor and the minister be there and understand it."

Coates, one of the IOC's most powerful executives, played a key role in securing the 2032 Games.

Appearing on an Australian breakfast TV show on Thursday, Palaszczuk was clear about her instructions.

"I'm going to do whatever John Coates tells me to do," she said.

"I am not going to offend the International Olympic Committee now that we have been awarded the Games."

Reuters

06:28 AM

The softball continued this morning with the hosts victorious

Hosts Japan walked off in an extra-innings victory against Mexico on the second day of softball at the Tokyo Games, joining the United States at 2-0 in the standings.

Mexico twice tied the game, including in the seventh inning when Japan's ace Yukiko Ueno was three outs away from a complete game and second-straight winning start before a dropped ball by her center fielder let in a run.

Japan reliever Miu Goto managed to escape loaded bases without surrendering a run in the top of the eighth, setting team-mate Mana Atsumi to then drive in Eri Yamada for the 3-2 win in the bottom half.

Yamada started at second base under extra-innings rules.

Japan's Mana Atsumi (centre L) and Eri Yamada (centre R) celebrate their victory with their teammates (front) during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games softball opening round game between Mexico and Japan at Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium in Fukushima, Japan, on July 22, 2021. - AFP
Japan's Mana Atsumi (centre L) and Eri Yamada (centre R) celebrate their victory with their teammates (front) during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games softball opening round game between Mexico and Japan at Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium in Fukushima, Japan, on July 22, 2021. - AFP

Japan's win came after U.S. pitcher Monica Abbott dominated from the start to lead her team to a 1-0 victory over Canada.

For seven innings, Canadian batters chased pitches off the plate and failed to make contact on 116 km per hour (72 mile per hour) tosses from one of the game's fastest throwers and a five-time Japanese league most valuable player.

Abbott returned to the same spot on the bench with toothful grin after her first six dazzling frames. She towelled sweat off her arms, placed a cold pack on the back of her neck and sipped fluids from her pink water bottle. The routine paid off.

Abbott struck out nine in all and gave up one hit. After recording the game's final out, the 1.91-metre (6-foot, 3-inch) left-hander wrapped her arms around catcher Aubree Munro.

"For us to hold down a tough offence and let the defence work, it felt really good," Munro said afterwards.

U.S. center fielder Haylie McCleney scored the lone run after getting on base with a bloop single.

McCleney also threw out pinch runner Joey Lye to prevent her from scoring on a Sara Groenewegen double to right center.

The second of five days of round-robin play leaves Canada and Mexico at 1-1. The top four out of six teams advance to medal games.

A few minutes of drizzle in the first innings of Japan's game forced players to rush gear under tents. Play was not stopped.

Italy take on Australia later today before the action breaks on Friday for the opening ceremony of the Games.

Reuters

06:18 AM

Tomorrow's opening ceremony will be like no other

By Tom Morgan in Tokyo

With just 30 Team GB athletes attending tomorrow's opening ceremony amid Covid-19 anxiety, the Olympics begin but the party remains some way off.

Traditional scenes of post-competition carousing are also firmly off-limits in the coming weeks, with bars and restaurants banned for all-but-every arrival in the normally-buzzing city of Tokyo.

However, for the 300 British competitors holed up in their rooms even for tomorrow's firework extravaganza, there is now an all-expenses-paid knees-up to look forward to.

Barring any outbreaks of Covid, the champagne will eventually be uncorked back on home soil on August 15, with an official "Homecoming" funded by the National Lottery at Wembley Arena.

The 376 athletes, and a further 22 reserve athletes, will be put up in a London hotel with their partners for a specially-arranged pop concert, with acts including Anne-Marie, Bastille, Griff, Laura Mvula and Rag’n’Bone Man.

A source close to the plan said the unique pressures of this year's Olympics had played a major part in Team GB's decision to help create a long-overdue moment for the competitors to let some steam off. As well as all the absentees from the opening ceremony as competitors are concerned about the risk of contracting Covid, there will be an equally small showing at the closing ceremony because all athletes must leave the country within 48 hours of finishing their event.

06:05 AM

More from Jeremy Wilson on the flagbearer selection

Mark England has always said that breaking the flagbearer news to those selected is one of the highlights of his job. “Having spoken personally with Hannah and Moe, it was clear to see what this honour meant to them,” he said.

“Hannah and Moe have already created multiple Olympic memories and I have no doubt they will add to these in Tokyo over the next 16 days.”

Hannah Mills with Eilidh McIntyre in the Women's 470 Class practice race in Tokyo. - GETTY IMAGES
Hannah Mills with Eilidh McIntyre in the Women's 470 Class practice race in Tokyo. - GETTY IMAGES

England also urged the British public to embrace the Tokyo Games following “the most difficult and unprecedented 18 months” in the nation’s recent history. “My message is Team GB has almost 800 athletes and support staff in country, athletes are fit, well and healthy, they're transitioning from a fantastic preparation camp into the Olympic environment,” he said.

“We're a couple of days away from the opening ceremony and not one of those athletes, not one of the support staff, not one of the personnel engaging with Team GB have tested positive.

“So there should be huge confidence in our Covid mitigation measures, the testing regime that we adhere to not only to support our Team GB but also the Japanese people and volunteers.

“We want everyone back home to buckle up. It won't be an easy ride but it will be exciting and there will be some memories that I'm sure will live long.

'Many people back home have lost their lives, many people have had their livelihoods changed. We are maturely representing the hopes and the aspirations of millions and millions of people back home. I don't know what the medal outcome is going to be, but what I would say is that this is a top, top team that we're looking at.”

05:49 AM

Team GB's flagbearers for the opening ceremony have been announced

By Jeremy Wilson

Hannah Mills and Mohamed Sbihi, Olympic gold-medal winners in sailing and rowing, have been selected as the Team GB flagbearers for Friday’s opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Games.

In a break from tradition, the International Olympic Committee is allowing federations to nominate one female and one male athlete for the honour and, ahead of defending their Rio Olympic titles, Mills and Sbihi have been selected.

The decision was made by a panel headed by Team GB chef de mission Mark England and they will follow Sir Andy Murray and Sir Chris Hoy, the respective flag bearers in Rio and London, as well as Anita Lonsborough, who was the first female to carry the flag for Team GB in Tokyo in 1964. Team GB said that Mills and Sbihi exemplified their four core values of pride, responsibility, respect and unity.

Mills, who will be defending her women’s 470 title alongside Eilidh McIntyre in Tokyo, will become the first female sailor to carry the British flag whilst Sbihi, a gold medallist in the men’s four five years ago, is the fourth rower to be given the privilege to march at the head of what will be a dramatically reduced delegation.

With athletes terrified of catching Covid-19 or being identified as close contacts, as well as the staggered entry into Tokyo and the Olympic Village, only around 30 of the 376 strong team are expected to attend the opening ceremony.

“To be asked to carry the flag for Team GB at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games is not a sentence I ever thought I’d say,” said Mills, who also won silver at London. “When Mark (England) told me I had been chosen, it was completely overwhelming and when I had a moment to think about what it meant I got pretty emotional.

“It is the greatest honour in my career and I hope more than ever before that this Games can lift our country and deliver some incredible sporting moments to inspire the nation.”

Sbihi, who along with the rowing team is staying in the Olympic Village for the first time since Sydney 2000, spoke of her memories of seeing fellow rowers, Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent, carry the flag.

“It is an iconic moment within the Olympic movement – people remember those images,” said Sbihi, who also won bronze at London 2012. “It is going to be a surreal experience actually going to an opening ceremony but this year with the racing schedule it is actually manageable even if I wasn’t a flagbearer. It will be really special and will complete my Olympic puzzle. It will be a lifetime memory that I will never forget.”

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