Tokyo Olympics: Shock golds for Kiesenhofer & Hafnaoui as Osaka & Biles start campaigns

Ahmed Hafnaoui’s gold is only the fifth by a Tunisian athlete at an Olympics
Dates: 23 July-8 August Time in Tokyo: BST +8
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Austria’s Anna Kiesenhofer won a surprise road race gold and Tunisian teenager Ahmed Hafnaoui stunned the favourites in the pool on a drama-filled second day at the Tokyo Olympics.

There were also upsets in the tennis, with Wimbledon champion Ashleigh Barty knocked out, and the taekwondo where Britain’s two-time champion Jade Jones lost in the first round.

Even favourite Simone Biles was wobbly in gymnastics qualifying, while golf was robbed of two leading players through positive Covid-19 tests and defending tennis champion Andy Murray pulled out of the men’s singles.

And in basketball, the USA had their 25-game winning streak at the Olympics ended by an 81-76 loss to France in their opening game.

But the biggest shock of the day must surely have been for Dutch cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten, who celebrated when she crossed the line thinking she had won gold only to discover she was in fact second.

Amid all the surprises, there was the reassuring return to action of Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka and it was more about thrills as skateboarding and surfing made their Olympic debuts.

Dream wins for Kiesenhofer & Hafnaoui

Hundreds of fans came out in the sun to gather along the streets of Fuchu, on the outskirts of Tokyo, to catch a glimpse of the women’s cycling road race, going against official advice to avoid gathering because of the pandemic.

What they witnessed was remarkable as 30-year-old Kiesenhofer – who is not part of a professional cycling team and was making her Games debut – became the first Austrian to win an Olympic road race medal after a devastating solo breakaway.

She was at the front of the race from the start, one of an early breakaway pack, before going it alone with 40km to go.

So great was Kiesenhofer’s advantage that Van Vleuten did not realise someone had beaten her to the finish, with the Dutchwoman initially celebrating before exclaiming: “I was wrong.”

Earlier there had been a huge upset at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre, where 18-year-old Tunisian Ahmed Hafnaoui finished ahead of the Australian and American favourites to win the 400m freestyle.

He said he was surprised to have even made the final that even when he touched the wall, he did not immediately “accept” he had won although it was a dream come true.

New sports, new records and an old face bows out

Japan’s Yuto Horigome won the first Olympic gold medal in skateboarding, taking the victory in the men’s street skating a stone’s throw away from where he grew up having been introduced to the sport by this father as a toddler.

Another of the new sports at these Games, surfing, got under way, with competitors benefiting from a morning swell that offered them the power they needed to show off their sport in the heats after some tame waves in training sessions.

It was an old sport but a new record as Australia’s women’s 4x100m freestyle relay team beat their own world record of 3:29.69 in the pool, while South Korea won a ninth consecutive gold in the women’s archery team event to equal the longest gold-medal streak in Olympic history.

Meanwhile, 46-year-old Uzbek gymnast Oksana Chusovitina – who has a son older than most of her fellow competitors – said an emotional farewell to her sport after a record eighth Olympic Games.

Osaka & Biles launch their campaigns

Two of the biggest draws of the Games were in action on Sunday, with home favourite Osaka returning to action for the first time in nearly two months after taking a break from tennis to protect her mental health and Biles taking part in gymnastics qualifying.

Second seed Osaka, who lit the flame in Friday’s opening ceremony, eased past Saisai Zheng of China 6-1 6-4 but said it was “nerve-wracking” to compete at her home Games.

Meanwhile, four-time Olympics champion Biles, was penalised on vault and floor – where she bounced out of the competition area altogether – in a below-par display as the United States finished second behind the Russian Olympic Committee in team qualifying.

She nevertheless qualified for all five individual finals.

Golfers ruled out & photo op brought in

American Bryson DeChambeau and Spaniard Jon Rahm have been ruled out of the golf tournament after testing positive for Covid-19.

DeChambeau had not yet travelled to Japan, where he was set to make his Olympic debut, while world number one Rahm has tested positive for the second time in as many months.

Every aspect of the delayed Games has been affected by the pandemic, but athletes are being allowed a brief moment of “normality” for a photo opportunity on the podium.

On Sunday, organisers said medal-winners could remove their masks for 30 seconds to show a smile for the cameras, although mask-wearing remains mandatory across all venues.

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