TOKYO (AFP) – Chinese shooter Yang Qian won the first gold of the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday as Novak Djokovic prepared to launch his quest for tennis glory on day one of the pandemic-delayed Games.
Yang snatched a dramatic last-shot victory from Russia’s Anastasiia Galashina in the women’s 10-metre air rifle as attention switched from the troubled build-up to the sporting action after Friday’s opening ceremony that was crowned by tennis star Naomi Osaka lighting the Olympic cauldron.
Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar headlines a star-studded peloton in the men’s road race while medals are also up for grabs in archery, fencing, judo, taekwondo and weightlifting.
Games chiefs are desperate for sport to take centre stage after the coronavirus forced a one-year postponement and dogged the build-up to the start of the Games in the Japanese capital.
But Covid-19 has cast a fresh shadow, forcing German cyclist Simon Geschke out of Saturday’s men’s road race while Dutch rower Finn Florijn has also tested positive.
Portuguese surfer Frederico Morais said he would miss the sport’s Olympic debut after returning a positive test.
Organizers announced 17 new Games-related cases on Saturday, taking the total number to 123, of which 12 are athletes.
China’s Yang claimed gold in the women’s 10-metre air rifle with an Olympic record score of 251.8, edging ahead of Russian Anastasiia Galashina on 251.1 and Switzerland’s Nina Christen on 230.6.
Galashina had looked poised to claim gold heading into the last shot, but stumbled with 8.9 on her final effort to allow Yang to seal victory.
“It’s the 100th birthday of the Chinese Communist Party,” she said. ” I’m so happy that this golden medal is a gift to my country. I’m so proud.”
– Golden Grand Slam –
Djokovic had cast doubt over whether he would participate because of the strict virus protocols and lack of crowds, but the possibility of the Golden Slam — winning all four majors and the Olympics in the same year — proved impossible to resist.
“Without the key element of any sports events, the crowds, the fans, that energy, it’s different, but it is still the Olympic Games,” said the world number one.
Djokovic will face Bolivia’s Hugo Dellien in the opening round of a tournament missing half the men’s top 10 players, including 2008 Olympic champion Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
The favorite and 2008 bronze medalist is hoping to emulate Steffi Graf’s 1988 feat of winning the Golden Slam after already snapping up the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon this year.
Women’s world number one Ashleigh Barty will make her Olympic debut for Australia alongside her compatriot Storm Sanders in the doubles.
Osaka described her central role in the ceremony as “undoubtedly the greatest athletic achievement and honor I will ever have in my life”. She will begin her quest for a gold medal on Sunday.
Slovenia’s Pogacar, who win a second consecutive Tour de France title this month, headlines a stellar road race field including 2016 champion Greg Van Avermaet and his Belgian team-mates Remco Evenepoel and Wout van Aert.
The demanding 234-kilometre (145-mile) route climaxes at the Fuji International Speedway racing circuit, with riders facing five climbs around Mount Fuji, the highest point in Japan at an altitude of 3,776 metres (12,388 feet).
Swimming begins with heats in the men’s 400m individual medley, where Japan’s Daiya Seto is the favourite, before Sweden’s reigning champion Sarah Sjostrom, still recovering from a fractured right elbow, lines up in the women’s 100m butterfly.
Britain’s Olympic and world champion Adam Peaty is the one to watch in the men’s 100m breaststroke, while Hungarian great Katinka Hosszu starts her fifth Games in the women’s 400m medley.
The US women’s football team and former world player of the year Megan Rapinoe will look to bounce back from a humbling 3-0 loss to Sweden when they take on New Zealand in the second round of group games.
There will also be the first action in three-on-three basketball, played with a single hoop, as it makes its debut at the Olympics.