Sport has a nasty habit of chewing up and spitting out even the most elite of athletes, so the idea of any competitor being a shoo-in for Olympic gold at Tokyo 2020 may seem a little silly.

But, and whisper this quietly, Adam Peaty is about as close to a certainty to sit atop the podium in the Japanese capital as you can get, such has been his utter dominance of the 100 metres breaststroke.

Four years ago, Peaty was one of the posterboys of Great Britain's success at the Rio Olympics, breaking the world record en route to winning gold.

Since then, he has beaten his own benchmark twice including going under 57 seconds at the World Championships in Gwangju two years ago. Indeed, he is remarkably in possession of the 20 fastest times ever recorded in the event.

It would be an almighty high horse from which to fall but a laser-focused Peaty is convinced Tokyo is not the time the tide will turn on his fortunes.

"I don't know I guess it's just a by-product of what I've done for the last seven years," Peaty told a round-table of journalists during a pre-Games Team GB camp.

"I think if you're as dominant as I have been, without trying to sound arrogant, you come to a realistic fact I haven't lost a championship in the 100m in a long time. 

"It's kind of nice to go into the Games knowing I've got that and obviously I have the heritage of what have I done and a history of performing when it matters. I think going into these Games I'm the most liberated I have ever been.

"Let's hope that lightning strike doesn't hit me but sport is sport, it can happen - anything can happen in sport, we all know that and sometimes the greats do fall. I believe this Olympics isn't my time yet so I think it's going to be a good one."

 

Pressure can do funny things to an athlete and there is no more pressurised environment than an Olympic Games.

But Peaty's confidence is not misplaced. Over the past seven years, the now 26-year-old has been untouchable in his speciality.

In an ominous sign for his rivals, Peaty appears more serene than ever as he aims to become the first British swimmer to defend an Olympic title thanks to a mix of becoming a father to his son George – now 10 months old – and the ability to take stock of what is important after over a year and a half of disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic that so nearly curtailed these Olympics altogether.

Asked if being a father is part of what has helped him feel so liberated, Peaty replied: "I think so.

"And I think lockdown last year gave me that kind of a second wind, I always felt like I was charging, charging, charging. Now I can switch off very easily. 

"It might be to do with having a kid. I feel like I've got more energy when I come to a holding camp because I haven't got a kid screaming, or a kid to feed or a kid to hold. 

"But also I think it is having a bit more maturity, I've grown up more in this last year than I have in the last six years. I think if you look at a picture of me from Rio and a picture now it's like I've had 10 kids!

"I've had a bit of a face change, but that's part and parcel of it as you do get older and become a better athlete and more experienced athlete, these environments become a lot easier and you know what it feels like to bring a gold medal home to the country so it's a good position to be in."

The struggles so many have endured due to the proliferation of COVID-19 has only added fuel to the fire for Peaty, who is determined to inspire a new generation into the pool.

"I think going into these Games next week, no British swimmer has ever defended an Olympic title. That's something in the back of my mind but it's not a distraction. And obviously, every Olympics I want to inspire as many people as possible back home," he said.

"Especially this year when people have been through such a rough time, we can show that just because we have been through that doesn't mean we have to stand still or retreat, or take a step backwards, we can always go through that adversity with a bit of British humour and say 'you know what let's have this one' and take it on the chin really. 

"That pure passion and inspiration just comes naturally to me and hopefully when people wake up in the morning I can show I have done that."

 

One thing all athletes will miss this year is the roar of the crowd and the adrenaline rush received from that wall of noise.

Organisers decided no spectators can be in attendance at venues in Tokyo due to the fear of the spread of coronavirus.

Peaty acknowledges it is a shame to lose that part of the spectacle but is used to racing in the absence of spectators by now.

"It's definitely going to take something out of the arena, no one likes to perform without fans - it does feel a little bit eerie," he said.

"But you've always got to acknowledge millions of people around the world watch it on TV, so I think mentally it's probably one of the toughest arenas to race in because they get such a high off the crowd. 

"Also, I think it's an opportunity for other people who are scared of the crowd, so these Olympics are going to be a bit different in terms of psychology and performance psychology especially.

"For me I'm going to make sure I'm in the most optimal mindset – I've been racing without crowds now for a year, I've still broken world records without the crowd and yeah we'll just see how it goes. Obviously you want people there to witness history."

There has been much-publicised opposition to the Games from within Japan and plenty of scepticism from others too about the decision to go ahead during a pandemic.

Peaty is philosophical, though, saying: "It's quite a hard question, obviously you have to think about normal people who do live here. 

"But at the opposite end of the spectrum you've got to have the realisation and respect athletes have trained every single day for five years, getting up at 5am, going to bed at half 10 with a screaming baby!

"They commit their whole lives to this three-week event, so you're never going to get the right answer. You have to look at it - if you sat everyone around a table, everyone would have an opinion."

The Games will begin and history is within reach. So, what does the man himself think makes him so brilliant at this craft?

"It sounds very cliche but I'm very obsessed with continual improvement and pushing the boundaries of what's possible," he said. 

"I don't want to end my career and go 'oh I could have done that or I should have done this'. It's that relationship with the team that makes me that person. But I think it's also I just love to race, I love to scrap and I like to dominate. That's why I swim, that's why I race it gives me something I can't get in normal life. 

"Also I spoke to my performance psychologist, my mind I see it almost as a landscape because he was talking about levels and you go this level, you have elite levels and possibly some of the best athletes ever born. 

"But I don't see it as levels anymore, it's just too linear to think of it like that you have to think of it as a landscape – some days you've just got to attack the f*****g mountain, that's as simple as it is.

"You've got to go, you've got to work hard, you've got to go out there with that option. But also I need a pint at the weekend sometimes to calm me down. That's going back into the valley, almost a strategic withdrawal from my training.

"I think that balance has given me so much more this year that I didn't even know existed. Lockdown has obviously been awful for everyone, but also I think it's given me that extra edge of what matters and what does work and doesn't work either."

And another world record sure would be nice, wouldn't it?

"A world record at this stage is obviously very, very hard but never impossible," he conceded.

"It's within my reach if I get my preparation right this next seven days. Obviously I'll see how the heats goes, the semi-finals goes and can kind of take it from there."

Jade Jones is in the hunt for an historic third successive gold medal in taekwondo at the Tokyo Olympics, and she is doing all she can to ensure coronavirus does not derail her hopes.

The Tokyo Games are set to start next week, though no fans will be allowed to attend as Japan deals with another spike in COVID-19 cases.

Jones tested positive for the illness earlier this year, and the 28-year-old has since had both doses of a vaccine, though that does not mean she cannot still contract the virus.

She won gold at London 2012 and Rio 2016, with no taekwondo athlete having ever won three straight gold medals in the discipline. Jones is also hoping to become the first British female Olympian to claim the top prize at three consecutive Games.

However, her participation would be ended if she tests positive for coronavirus, and Jones explained the lengths which she and her team are going to in order to avoid such a situation.

"The hardest bit is being petrified you're going to test positive," Jones, who is based at the Keio University in Minato City, told the Evening Standard. "I've had the vaccines and I've had COVID so it's highly unlikely.

"But I still don't want to get a positive test because that means game over, you're out. To have your Olympic dreams pending on that is scary. I constantly wear the mask.

 

"My hands are raw from the amount of hand gel I've been putting on, we walk in single file to training, literally a little traffic system so no-one comes near us and we stay in that same bubble.

"To be fair, I'm quite anti-social anyway, so it works well for me. I've got an excuse now. Got to keep my distance. Where we have our meal there's a sticker on the table saying 'keep conversation to a minimum'."

Indeed, on Saturday, Jones' fears might only have been heightened by a positive COVID-19 case being discovered in the athletes' village.

Jones, though, is still enjoying the atmosphere in Tokyo, despite the strict restrictions.

"I thought because of COVID it's not going to be the same, it's going to be rubbish, it's not going to compare to London and Rio," Jones said.

"I got here and it seems the same. Obviously, you have to wear the mask but I still feel like that little kid walking around saying 'this is amazing'. Just wearing the kit, I just feel proud to be here again."

Tokyo Olympics organisers have confirmed the first case of COVID-19 at the athletes' village, raising further concerns about the Games going ahead.

Thousands of athletes and media personnel are arriving in the Japanese capital ahead of the global competition beginning on July 23.

There has already been a total of 44 coronavirus cases linked to the Olympics, including one overseas visitor who is involved in organising the Games.

The person in question, whose nationality has not been disclosed for privacy reasons, is now quarantining for 14 days in a hotel room.

Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto confirmed the news at a news conference on Saturday and added: "That positive cases arise is something we must assume is possible."

Around 11,000 athletes from 205 national Olympic committees are expected to stay at the Olympic Village over the next three weeks.

Speaking earlier this week, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach vowed Tokyo would host a "safe and secure" Olympics.

IOC official Joan Coates also insisted it was down to organisers to ensure the Olympic Village "is the safest place in Tokyo".

Following news of Friday's positive case in the camp, however, Games chief Seiko Hashimoto says it is understandable that some athletes may be concerned.

"Athletes who are coming to Japan are probably very worried. I understand that," Hashimoto said.

"That is the reason why we need to make full disclosure.

"We are doing everything to prevent any COVID-19 outbreaks. If we end up with an outbreak we will make sure we have a plan in place to respond."

The 2020 Games, delayed by a year, will be held mostly without spectators after a state of emergency was called in Tokyo amid rising coronavirus cases.

Another 1,271 new COVID-19 cases were reported on Friday, compared to 822 on the same day last week.

England have been drawn in the same group as rivals Australia for the T20 World Cup, while India have been placed in a pool with Pakistan.

The Super 12 stage of the 16-team limited-overs tournament will see England, Australia, South Africa and West Indies do battle in Group 1, along with two qualifying teams.

Group 2 will contain India and Pakistan, along with New Zealand, Afghanistan and an additional two qualifiers.

Eight teams are involved in round one of the tournament and will vie to fill those final four places in the Super 12.

Sri Lanka, Ireland, Netherlands and Namibia are in Group A, while Bangladesh, Scotland, Oman and Papa New Guinea make up Group B, with two from each pool to progress and join the highest-ranked nations.

A short round one stage will include 12 matches, starting on October 17 and the top two from each group progressing.

The winners of Group A joining the group involving England and Australia along with the runners-up of Group B. Bangladesh are favourites to win Group B - if they do, they will join the competitive group containing India along with the side who finishes second in Group A.

The Super 12 stage is scheduled to start a week later from October 24 and will consist of 30 matches, making up the bulk of the tournament.

Only four teams will emerge to contest the semi-finals, with the final then to be held on November 14.

It was confirmed last month by the ICC that the T20 World Cup will now be held in the United Arab Emirates and Oman rather than India this year.

Australia was originally scheduled to host the 2020 tournament ahead of India staging it this year. 

However, the pandemic forced the ICC to postpone last year's tournament, giving Australia hosting rights for 2022.

A second surge in cases of coronavirus in India then forced a major change to the 2021 competition, which will still be hosted by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

West Indies are the defending champions after defeating England in the final the last time this tournament was held back in 2016.

England and India are rated as the leading contenders to come out on top, ranked one and two in the world respectively by the ICC in the format.

Alex de Minaur is "shattered" to be missing the Tokyo Olympics after he tested positive for COVID-19.

De Minaur was the headline name of Australia's Olympics men's tennis team, alongside Nick Kyrgios.

However, Kyrgios pulled out last week due to a concern over the decision to ban fans from attending events due to a spike in coronavirus cases in Japan.

Now world number 17 De Minaur has joined a list of absentees which already includes Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, while the woman's tournament will be without Serena Williams and former medallists Victoria Azarenka and Angelique Kerber, who withdrew on Friday.

"We have been advised that Alex de Minaur has had a positive test, as a consequence, Alex, sadly will be unable to join the Australian team," Australia's chef de mission Ian Chesterman said.

"We are very disappointed for Alex and he is shattered at not being able to come. It has been his dream to represent Australia at the Olympic Games since he was a child, but he sent his best wishes for the team."

De Minaur undertook both the mandatory 96-hour and 72-hour PCR tests before departure. However, Australia are confident his positive result will have no impact on the rest of their team.

The 22-year-old was set to take part in his first Games, representing Australia in the singles and doubles.

"No other tennis players have had physical contact with Alex since he left Wimbledon on 5 July, where he tested negative," Chesterman added.

"All other Australian players have tested negative since. We look forward to welcoming those athletes into our team.

"We need to protect this bubble and Alex has been caught up in that system. While we will miss Alex, he understands the reasons why he cannot be with us."

USA Basketball (USAB) has confirmed that Saturday's exhibition game between the United States and Australia has been cancelled due to growing COVID-19 fears.

The two sides were due to meet for the second time this week as part of their preparations for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.

The cancellation comes after USAB confirmed on Thursday that two players had entered health and safety protocols.

Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal had been ruled out of the Olympics after entering protocols, while Jerami Grant was also placed under protocols, as a precautionary measure.

Team USA are still scheduled to play Spain in Las Vegas on Sunday in their final preparation game before flying for Tokyo on Monday.

USA's opening game at the Tokyo Olympics is on July 25 against France, while Australia commence their Games campaign on the same day against Nigeria.

Australia had shocked USA 91-83 on Tuesday, following their upset defeat to Nigeria on Monday.

Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder will meet for a third time on October 9, with the fight having to be rescheduled at short notice.

Fury and Wilder were set to meet in Las Vegas on July 24, yet Fury tested positive for COVID-19, forcing him into self-isolation and resulting in the bout being postponed.

The fight for the WBC heavyweight title will now take place on October 9, still at T-Mobile Arena in Vegas.

Fury had been set to meet WBO, IBF and WBA champion Anthony Joshua in Saudi Arabia in August, but Wilder won an arbitration hearing that stated he had the right to a third fight.

It remains to be seen how the new date for the Wilder bout impacts Fury's plans to take on Joshua, though a meeting this year would now seem unlikely. 

Fury has a 30-0-1 career record, only failing to win in an initial meeting with Wilder in December 2018 that finished in a contentious split draw.

McLaren chief executive Zak Brown will miss the British Grand Prix after testing positive for COVID-19, it emerged on Thursday.

Brown was one of three members of the McLaren team to return a positive test ahead of the Silverstone race weekend, but drivers Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo have had the all-clear.

The team said in a statement: "McLaren Racing confirmed today that three team members, including CEO Zak Brown, tested positive for COVID-19 during the team’s rigorous testing programme before the British Grand Prix. Neither of our drivers are close contacts.

"All three cases are unconnected and now isolating in accordance with government guidelines. The team’s operations for the British Grand Prix are unaffected."

Brown added on his Twitter account: "I've notified all my close contacts and isolating in accordance with government guidelines. I'll still be connected to and supporting the team safely from home."

McLaren stand third in the constructors' championship, with Norris their standout performer, earning three third places among eight top-five finishes from nine races.

Ricciardo's best results have been three sixth-placed finishes and he stands eighth in the drivers' standings.

British driver Norris, fourth in the championship, will be eyeing a strong performance in this coming Sunday's race, as well as Saturday's inaugural sprint.

He was said to be "shaken" after having his expensive watch stolen after attending the Euro 2020 final last Sunday.

 

Real Madrid revealed they have lost "close to €300million" in revenue during the coronavirus pandemic as their financial results were announced on Wednesday.

However, Los Blancos reported a post-tax profit of €874,000 for 2020-21, up from €313,000 in the previous financial year.

"In this way, the club will be one of the few big clubs in Europe that does not incur losses in these two years, given that – according to a UEFA study – the operating losses accumulated by European clubs between 2019-20 and 2020-21 will approach €6billion," Madrid said.

A statement attributed the club's financial performance to "intense spending saving measures in all areas".

These measures, Madrid said, were the only way to compensate for a sizeable nine-figure revenue loss, "to which we would have to add the loss of new income that could have been achieved if the pandemic had not existed."

The 13-time European champions did not make a single first-team signing in the 2020-21 season while selling Achraf Hakimi and Sergio Reguilon and allowing James Rodriguez to leave.

Further big names are following this year, with Sergio Ramos departing after claiming a contract offer was withdrawn and Raphael Varane widely linked to Manchester United.

However, Madrid are not considered to be in as tricky a situation as rivals Barcelona, who are closing on a new deal for Lionel Messi but must first clear room under their salary cap.

And Los Blancos – whose Santiago Bernabeu stadium is under renovation, with the team playing elsewhere during the pandemic – continue to be linked with high-profile moves for the likes of Kylian Mbappe.

But the final line in Madrid's financial report appeared to rule out sudden significant expenditure.

"With regard to the economic situation, current forecasts indicate that the recovery from the pre-pandemic situation will not be immediate," the club said.

"In this context, the club will continue in the effort so far to contain spending."

Two-time former Masters champion Bubba Watson has withdrawn from the Open Championship.

Watson, who finished sixth last week at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, said he had come into contact with somebody who has been confirmed as having the COVID-19 virus.

The 42-year-old must therefore stay at home in the United States rather than travel to England for the major, which begins at Royal St George's in Kent on Thursday.

Watson posted a statement to his social media accounts that read: "I am disappointed to announce I will not compete at the Open Championship next week due to having direct exposure to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

"While I am vaccinated and have passed the required pre-travel COVID test, not enough time has passed for me to comfortably join the charter flight and risk exposure to the other players and personnel on board."

He added: "Like many of you, I look forward to watching the Open Championship on TV. Since I will be watching from the comfort of my couch I would not mind seeing the field have to deal with a little rain and strong winds!

"Best of luck to all the players. I look forward to returning to the Open Championship next year."

Watson won the Masters in 2012 and 2014 but has often struggled at The Open, which is the only one of the four majors at which he has failed to register a top-five finish. Indeed, his best performance has been a tie for 23rd place at the 2012 tournament.

The NRL has moved the final match of the State of Origin series to the Gold Coast due to coronavirus restrictions in Newcastle.

It means New South Wales Blues – who lead the series 2-0 after rampant victories in the opening two games – have the chance to win three State of Origin matches in Queensland to complete what would be an unprecedented clean sweep.

Game one of the series was scheduled to be played in Melbourne, only for COVID-19 restrictions to force a switch to Townsville.

While game two took place as planned in Brisbane, game three – which is next week – was moved from Sydney's Stadium Australia to Newcastle's McDonald Jones Stadium.

However, with Sydney and the surrounding areas in lockdown, New South Wales' regional government advised that a major event with a crowd would not feasible. 

Gold Coast has been selected as a low-risk option, with both teams located close to the Cbus Stadium, which will be able to welcome a capacity crowd of around 27,000.

Though it means all three matches will have been held in Queensland, Blues coach Brad Fittler is unfazed.

"It's disappointing that we can't play at Newcastle and play in front of a NSW crowd," Fittler said. "But we will play anywhere, anytime."

The Blues thrashed the Maroons 50-6 in game one, before winning game two 26-0.

Organisers for the Tokyo Olympics have confirmed spectators will be banned from attending events being held in the city after Japan's capital was placed into a state of emergency again.

The decision was taken following a meeting between organisers for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, plus the Japanese government.

It was announced Tokyo will once more enter a state of emergency, which will run until at least August 22, amid rising coronavirus cases.

Japan's Olympics minister Tamayo Marukawa is quoted as saying: "We reached an agreement on no spectators at venues in Tokyo."

Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto said it is "regrettable", while adding: "A very heavy judgement was made...[but we] no choice but to hold the Games in a limited way."

The decision was widely expected but marks a fresh blow for the Games, which were postponed by a year because of the global pandemic.

Many residents of Japan have expressed opposition to the Games due to the hordes of athletes, officials and media arriving from overseas.

While avoiding the huge numbers of infection rates seen in other nations, Japan has registered over 800,000 cases and 14,800 deaths, while 920 new daily cases were reported on Wednesday. There have also been concerns about the speed of the country's COVID-19 vaccine programme.

Despite the vocal opposition, the government has pressed ahead with plans for the Games, which organisers stated in December would cost a staggering $15.4billion.

The Olympic Games officially get under way on July 23 with the opening ceremony, although softball and football start two days earlier, and run until August 8. Following that, the Paralympics are set to take place between August 24 and September 5.

 

Major events at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games could take place behind closed doors after Japan confirmed a new state of emergency would be imposed.

Chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato said any event scheduled for after 9pm would be unable to take place in front of spectators.

Currently, major athletics events, including the women's and men's 100 metres finals on July 31 and August 1, are due to take place after that time.

"We are now having experts discuss regarding the event and spectators within the area of the state of emergency declaration," Kato said.

"The threshold is 50 per cent of capacity or 5,000 people and, thinking about the time, the event should be ended around 9pm.

"In the case of Tokyo, the intensive measures, that is relying on the judgement of the governor.

"However, Tokyo is under a state of emergency declaration, so any event after 9pm is going to be without spectators.

"Having said that, specific counter measures, how to handle this, is going to be discussed after July 12, when the state of emergency declaration is issued.

"We have to be thinking about the handling of the spectators.

"The contractor is the Tokyo prefecture and the implementor is the Olympic Committee.

"From this perspective the government will air its opinions and at the end of the day the implementer will make the final decision."

It is possible the entire Olympics will happen without spectators, local reports have suggested.

Should fans still be allowed in to venues, it seems likely scheduling will need to be altered to avoid blue-riband events happening in front of empty seats after the curfew.

Bars and restaurants in Tokyo must close at 8pm under the restrictions, but events such as concerts will have a 9pm curfew.

Prime minister Yoshihide Suga has declared the emergency measures will be in place until August 22, amid rising coronavirus cases.

The Olympic Games, already delayed by a year, officially begins on July 23 with the opening ceremony, although softball and football start two days earlier.

Many residents of Japan have expressed opposition to the Games going ahead, given the influx of competitors, officials and media from overseas.

The Olympics is due to run until August 8, and is scheduled to be followed by the Paralympics from August 24 to September 5.

The British and Irish Lions' clash with the Sharks is in doubt after a member of their management team tested positive for coronavirus, while South Africa's game with Georgia is off.

Warren Gatland's men are due to face the Sharks in the second match of their tour of South Africa on Wednesday.

However, four members of the touring party, including two players, are now isolating having been deemed to be close contacts of the individual who had the positive test result.

Kick-off has been pushed back to 20:00 local time (19:00 BST) pending the results of PCR tests for the rest of the touring party. The game will go ahead should those tests return negative results.

"We have followed all necessary precautions since the start of the tour, which included regular testing and rigorous COVID-19 counter measure planning and protocols," said Ben Calveley, managing director for the Lions.

"Our priority is to ensure the health and safety of the entire touring party, which is why we quickly isolated the players and staff upon receiving the news of the positive result.

"Everyone has subsequently been lateral flow and PCR tested. The Medical Advisory Group await the results of the PCR testing in order to make a decision on tonight's game.

"The five individuals affected will be monitored closely during isolation and receive the best possible medical attention as we await the results of their PCR tests."

The Springboks' second Test with Georgia was cancelled due to COVID outbreaks in both camps.

South Africa's playing and management group returned 12 positive tests this week, with Georgia returning four. 

Jurie Roux, CEO of South Africa Rugby, said: "In the context of the loss of life and economic damage that COVID and this third wave are wreaking, the cancellation of a rugby match is pretty trivial.

"But it is still a major disappointment for the many stakeholders who have invested so much time, energy and resources into making these matches happen.

"I especially feel for the fans and players, and for our visitors from Georgia who travelled here at relatively short notice to take on the series, which has now been cut short. We've not been able to interact with them because of the bio-secure environments, but I'd like to thank them publicly for their support.

"We continue to plan for the Springboks' re-emergence from isolation and the completion of the Test series but in the short term we wish a speedy recovery for those who have been infected."

The Lions' clash with the Bulls on Saturday is already off and, while they are scheduled to face South Africa 'A' next Wednesday, the remainder of the tour now looks to be in question.

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