Tokyo Olympics Recap: Pressure is there even if crowds are not

By Sports Desk July 24, 2021

Nina Christen of Switzerland finished 16th in the 10-metre air rifle at the Rio Olympics, but she became a footnote to history five years later as the first athlete to secure a medal at Tokyo 2020.

The 27-year-old locked up the bronze medal several minutes before China's Yang Qian beat Anastasiia Galashina of the Russian Olympic Committee to take gold in the first medal event of the Games.

As soon as she was eliminated from contention for the final two, Christen flashed a smile and waved, knowing she had at least won a spot on the podium this time – no small feat on this stage.

After the first medal ceremony of the Tokyo Games, she spoke about the pressure as the competition entered the final rounds.

"You just try to not reach your head out for the medal before you have the medal," Christen said. "That is the worst thing you could do. Having in your mind, 'Oh I could win a medal, or I could be eighth which would be a failure'.

"So you just try not to think about both of them, you just try and think about what your job is like breathing, holding, aiming, balance, triggering, and then follow through.

"It helps to not think about what is behind you and obviously there are a lot of cameras and a lot of people. And it would be even more if COVID would not have hit. So yeah that is the thing you have to do, otherwise you would just crack."

 

Sixth seed Swiatek rolls in tennis opener

Two seeded players enjoyed easy victories in the women's singles draw as play began at the Ariake Tennis Park.

Sixth-seeded Iga Swiatek of Poland, the 2020 French Open champion, cruised past Germany's Mona Barthel 6-2 6-2 to open her first Olympics.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 11th seed representing the Russian Olympic Committee, had an even easier time in a 6-0 6-1 rout of Italy's Sara Errani.

Pavlyuchenkova will face Germany's Anna-Lena Friedsam, who upset Great Britain's Heather Watson 7-6 6-3 in another early match.

In doubles, there was an eye-catching result for Britain's Andy Murray and Joe Salisbury, who took out French second seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, scoring a 6-3 6-2 victory.

 

Men's gymnastics gets under way

Nikita Nagornyy turned in the strongest showing in the opening group as men's gymnastics got under way.

Nagornyy, who won the all-around at the 2019 World Championships and was part of Russia's silver medal-winning team at Rio 2016, posted an 87.897 to lead subdivision one, which included gymnasts from the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), China, Ukraine and Spain along with individuals from other nations.

But his showing was not enough to put the Russians on top, as China earned the top score in the group with a 262.061 to the ROC's 261.945. The top eight ranked teams qualify for the team final, with two subdivisions still to compete Saturday.

"I don't think our team was really good today, but we made our best effort," Nagronyy said. "We have a lot to do."

 

Brazilians start strongly on the beach

Brazil's two returning beach volleyball medallists are off to a strong start five years later.

Alison Cerutti won gold in Rio and is teamed with new partner Alvaro Morais Filho for Tokyo. They won their opening match 2-0 against Argentina's Nicolas Capogrosso and Julian Amado Azaad.

On the women's side, Rio silver medallist Agatha Bednarczuk, also with a new partner in Eduarda Santos Lisboa, won by the same score against Ana Gallay and Fernanda Pereyra of Argentina.

While she was happy to advance, Agatha found the difference between Rio's raucous crowds and Tokyo's COVID-driven quiet jarring.

"It's so different. In Brazil we have the biggest support there. Many, many people cheering for us, and here, it's silence," she said.

"Here we need to put our emotion (aside) because we don't receive the emotion from the people. For me, this is very important because I like to play with emotions."

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  • Australian Open: Raducanu 'won set with basically one shot' after defying blister woe to play Australian Open: Raducanu 'won set with basically one shot' after defying blister woe to play

    Emma Raducanu revealed members of her support team proposed she should abandon her Australian Open campaign before Thursday's defeat to Danka Kovinic.

    The 19-year-old US Open champion was badly affected by a blister on her right hand as she slid to a 6-4 4-6 6-3 defeat on Margaret Court Arena.

    Raducanu made a strong start in the opening set before the pain began to kick in, and she said she won the second set "with basically one shot" after being unable to consistently club heavy ground strokes.

    But Raducanu could not maintain that level into the decider, suffering her first grand slam defeat in a completed match, having previously pulled out injured during a Wimbledon fourth-round clash with Ajla Tomljanovic before streaking to a sensational first major in New York.

    Raducanu did not specify who exactly had suggested she ought not take to the court, but said: "There were some people in my team that maybe didn't want me to play."

    A recent case of COVID-19 interrupted Raducanu's preparation for her first major since teaming up with new coach Torben Beltz.

    "Because of 21 days, no tennis, my hands got pretty soft," Raducanu said.

    She explained blisters had begun to form on her hand in training soon after arriving in Australia, with the current problem – "right in the crease" – having been affecting her since just prior to the Australian Open beginning.

    The problem has been getting worse rather than better and Raducanu said the blister had become "pretty deep".

    "It's a bit annoying," she said, "because I know it's something that will heal in a few days. It's just unfortunate timing. I have had blisters before but never this bad. It's quite deep, and it's just in a very awkward position that is so difficult to tape."

    She said every shot was taking a toll on the blister, with the friction meaning each impact was "very painful".

    The forehand slice became a big shot for Raducanu, and it was to her credit that she almost eked a win out of such difficult circumstances.

    In the end, world number 98 Kovinic found ways to overcome a hampered opponent, setting up a daunting third-round clash with Simona Halep.

    Raducanu said: "I thought it was a pretty good learning experience for me. I discovered tools about myself and my game that I didn't know I had before. That slice forehand is not so bad, and I have some sort of hand skills. That was a positive surprise.

    "To get that second set with basically one shot, I can't believe it really.

    "Because I'm still young, I feel like I can learn a backhand, I can learn some sort of tactics, but it's quite hard to learn or teach someone that fight and grittiness to hang in there when things are pretty much all against you. So, I'm quite proud of that."

  • Australian Open: 'They probably have a low IQ' – Medvedev hits out at spectators who jeered during Kyrgios clash Australian Open: 'They probably have a low IQ' – Medvedev hits out at spectators who jeered during Kyrgios clash

    Daniil Medvedev did not hold back following his victory over Nick Kyrgios as he labelled spectators who jeered him during the second-round match of having "a low IQ".

    The world number two continued his quest for a second grand slam crown, and a first at the Australian Open, with a 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 4-6 6-2 win over Kyrgios on Thursday.

    Medvedev, who is the highest-seeded player at Melbourne Park following Novak Djokovic's withdrawal, prevailed against the home favourite in just under three hours.

    He played the role of pantomime villain in front of a partisan crowd fully behind Kyrgios, which the Russian took exception to after sealing a place in the third round.

    Medvedev, who will take on Botic van de Zandschulp for a place in the last 16, was particularly unhappy with those who made noise between his serves at Rod Laver Arena.

    "It's a little bit disappointing," he told Eurosport. "I guess it's normal, everyone experiences it, especially when you play a home favourite and not just any home favourite, but Nick.

    "A few moments on my serve, where he managed to make some good returns, and then break point on second serve and people are cheering like you've made a double-fault.

    "That's just disappointing. It's not everybody who's doing it, but those who are doing it probably have a low IQ.

    "When you get booed between first and second serves you have to stay calm."

    The crowd interrupted the interview, at which point on-court reporter and two-time Australian Open winner Jim Courier attempted to play peacemaker.

    Courier pointed out that the noisy crowd were shouting 'siuu' in homage to Cristiano Ronaldo's now-trademark celebration.

    "Guys I can't hear him, please show some respect for Jim Courier, he won here guys," Medvedev said.

    "Let him speak guys. If you respect somebody, at least respect Jim Courier. I cannot hear him guys."

    Kyrgios described the 'siuu' chants as like "being in a zoo" after his first-round match, while Andy Murray admitted to being "irritated" by the persistent chanting.

    "What I'm saying is that between first and second serves is not easy," Medvedev added. "I remember the games I lost on the break points it was the case and it's tough to play."

    Further embracing his role as public enemy number one after eliminating Kyrgios, Medvedev signed the letters "SIUUUU" in the camera lens before exiting the court.

    After winning the US Open, Medvedev is aiming to become the first man in the Open Era to follow up his maiden grand slam title with another in his next major appearance.

    Last-year's beaten finalist saw off Henri Laaksonen in straight sets in round one and is now the strong favourite to advance past world number 57 Van de Zandschulp.

    Medvedev hit 31 aces against Kyrgios – the highest tally in a single grand slam main draw match – en route to reaching the third round in Melbourne for a fourth straight time.

    Reflecting on his impressive win, Medvedev said: "Five years ago I probably would break two racquets, just get angry, start shouting at my box for nothing.

    "And it probably would not help me win the match. I could win some [matches] like this, but you cannot win grand slams like this.

    "So it makes me really happy because I can still have some tantrums, we all know it, but I've been working on myself. 

    "I've been working pretty hard last couple of years and I’m trying to mature as a tennis player and a person.

    "The match like tonight, and a few last year, show that I'm capable of being really strong mentally no matter what happens on the court and I'm really happy about that."

  • Australian Open: Kovinic upsets hampered Raducanu to break new ground Australian Open: Kovinic upsets hampered Raducanu to break new ground

    A hampered Emma Raducanu crashed out of the Australian Open with a defeat to Danka Kovinic in the second round on Thursday.

    World number 98 Kovinic beat the US Open champion 6-4 4-6 6-3 on Margaret Court Arena to become the first player representing Montenegro to reach the third round of a grand slam.

    Raducanu was troubled by a blister on her right hand and although the 17th seed showed her fighting spirit to take a topsy-turvy match the distance, she was unable to avoid an early exit.

    It had all started so well for the 19-year-old Raducanu, but Kovinic won five games in a row from 3-0 down in the first set and although the Brit got back on serve at 5-4, she was fell behind after being broken for a fourth time.

    Clearly restricted by her damaged hand, the favourite mixed up her approach intelligently with a measured sliced forehand and levelled the match courtesy of two breaks, an overcooked forehand from Kovinic ending the set.

    Kovinic saved four break points early in the decider and broke when her opponent sent a backhand long, but the battling world number 18 hit straight back to get back on serve at 3-2.

    However, a stroke of good fortune via the net cord gave Kovinic another break point, which she won with a brilliant lob and went on to serve out the match.

    Kovinic will face two-time major winner Simona Halep or Beatriz Haddad Maia for a place in the fourth round at Melbourne Park, having struck 40 winners to Raducanu's 27 in the biggest win of her career.

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