The Tokyo Olympics saw a host of British athletes take home gold medals, with Liam Heath taking the bronze in the men’s K1 1000m kayak race and boxer Galal Yafai winning the gold medal in the middleweight division. Matt Walls also took home omnium gold in cycling.
At the Tokyo Olympics, Team GB surpassed the 50-medal mark when cyclist Matt Walls won gold in the omnium, while Holly Bradshaw and Liam Heath took bronze in the pole vault and kayak competitions, respectively.
With three days of play remaining, the trio provided eye-catching moments as Team GB reached 51 medals on day 13 of the Games, equaling the total achieved in Beijing 2008.
Galal Yafai, who had already secured a medal with teammate Lauren Price, won a dramatic semi-final to get to the gold-medal match in the 52kg flyweight category.
Dina Asher-Smith returned to the track as part of the British 4x100m relay team, which qualified for the final. However, the US men’s 4x100m relay squad was called a “embarrassment” by American sprint veterans Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson after being eliminated in their heat.
In other events, 18-year-old Keegan Palmer won park skateboarding gold for Australia, which is currently fourth in the medal standings, with Great Britain sixth.
The fourth greatest Olympics for the United Kingdom
Nielsen Gracenote’s head of sports analysis, Simon Gleave:
After Rio 2016, Tokyo 2020 is currently the fourth greatest Olympics in the United Kingdom and the second best outside the UK. The 51 medals won so far match Beijing 2008, but due to boxers Price and Yafai, Team GB is already assured two more.
Only London 1908 (146 medals), London 2012 (65 medals), and Rio 2016 (67 medals) have delivered more medals for the United Kingdom than Tokyo 2020.
In comparison to London and Rio at this time, Tokyo has produced less medals, with 52 in London and 55 in Rio.
At this point, the 16 gold medals earned thus far pale in comparison to London’s 25 and Rio’s 22.
Wonder Walls has a ‘dominant’ position.
Walls, 23, outperformed Ed Clancy, who won bronze in 2012, and Mark Cavendish, who won silver in 2016, to earn Great Britain’s first track cycling gold of the Games.
He finished with 153 points, 24 more than silver medalist Campbell Stewart of New Zealand, and bronze medalist Elia Viviani of Italy.
Chris Boardman, a 1992 Olympic gold medalist in sport, said: “From start to finish, it was a dominating effort. He didn’t put a foot in the incorrect place once. He was a master of both tactics and physical prowess.”
Walls, who tested positive for Covid-19 in March, won the 50th and 16th gold medals for Team GB in Tokyo.
“It’s been a long day,” Walls remarked, “but I entered into that points race with a bit of a lead and some breathing space.”
“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my family and friends, particularly my parents.”
Jason Kenny’s nine-year run as men’s sprint champion came to an end in the quarter-finals when he was defeated by Dutch world champion Harrie Lavreysen, while Katy Marchant’s keirin campaign was cut short in the quarter-finals when she was involved in a collision.
Bradshaw is the first American woman to win an Olympic medal.
Bradshaw aimed to acquire approximately 5kg of muscle during the Covid-19 lockdowns, and the results were visible in the weeks leading up to the Games.
She became the first British woman to win a medal in pole vault at an Olympic Games, as well as the first British woman to win a worldwide outdoor medal in her career.
The 29-year-old, who finished sixth in London 2012 and fifth in Rio 2016, cleared 4.85m to finish behind Russian Anzhelika Sidorova and American Katie Nageotte in a “phenomenal final,” according to Allison Curbishley of Radio 5 Live.
“This is exactly what I’ve desired my whole career,” Bradshaw remarked. “I’m nearly emotionless because I’m not sure what emotion I’m experiencing.”
“I always felt I’d get it one day, and I can’t describe how thankful I am to be a part of this sport and win an Olympic gold.”
Heath makes a comeback for bronze.
Heath, the 2016 Olympic champion, seemed to be on his way out after a shaky start in the men’s kayak single 200m, only to find a surge that won him a nail-biting photo finish for bronze.
“I was maybe a little cautious off the start and didn’t achieve my potential in terms of peak speed,” Heath remarked after finishing second in 35.20 seconds behind Hungarian winner Sandor Totka.
“I’m still pleased with the result.”
He remarked after earning another medal: “It’s difficult to put into words. It’s what you strive towards in order to be at your best at these occasions.”
Heath, who has previously said that he planned to retire after the Olympics, added: “Over such a lengthy period of time in the prolonged Olympic cycle, it’s been a roller coaster. There have been so many highs and lows, tests and lessons. To be honest, I’m in a great mood.”
From the factory to the battle for gold
Yafai was similarly at a loss for words after making it to the Olympic final, where he is expected to win at least a silver medal.
The Birmingham boxer got off to a quick start against Kazakhstan’s Saken Bibossinov, earning a standing count in the first round before the bout turned into an exciting back-and-forth battle.
As his narrowest of wins was announced, Yafai embraced a clearly upset Bibossinov. In Saturday’s 52kg flyweight final, he will fight Carlo Paalam of the Philippines.
“I was handling the trash, picking up boxes, delivering components,” Yafai, 28, a former auto manufacturing worker, claimed. Really, it’s just a shabby job. But now I’m on the brink of winning the Olympic gold medal.
“I can’t believe what I’m hearing. It’s absurd; it’s a dream. Isn’t it the Olympic gold, man? Gold in the Olympics is insane. Consider yourself an Olympic champion.”
Steve Bunce, a boxing commentator for Radio 5 Live, said: “He was not going to be denied. On Saturday, we’ll receive a gold from him.”
Returns and ’embarrassment’ are tracked.
Katarina Johnson-Thompson, a heptathlete who was forced to withdraw from the Games due to injury, said she would be taking time to “repair my body and soul” on Thursday.
Injury to big-name athletes has hampered Britain’s medal hopes on the track, notably Asher-Smith, who withdrew from the 200m due to a hamstring issue but competed in the 4x100m relay on Thursday.
Asher-Smith raced leg three and established a new British record of 41.55 seconds alongside Asha Philip, Imani Lansiquot, and Daryll Neita.
“There was never any question in my mind that I’d be lining up here today because the relay is so crucial, and we won bronze in Rio,” Asher-Smith told Sport.
Team USA’s efforts in the men’s event, however, were insufficient, as they placed sixth in a heat marked by sloppy baton exchanges.
The United States won the event at the 2019 World Championships, but hasn’t won an Olympic gold in the 4x100m relay since 2000.
Michael Johnson, a four-time Olympic winner, tweeted, “This isn’t rocket science.”
“Getting two individuals sprinting full speed to exchange a baton inside a 20m zone takes work!” “Especially when you haven’t won this event since Sydney 2000 due to drops and zone violations!”
Carl Lewis, a nine-time Olympic gold medalist, added: “In the men’s relay, the USA team did everything wrong. The passing system is incorrect, competitors are running on the wrong legs, and there is no discernible leadership. It was a huge disgrace, and it was unacceptably bad.”
What else occurred on the thirteenth day?
- Team GB lost a chance at a medal as Andrew Pozzi finished seventh in the men’s 110m hurdles final, clocking 13.3 seconds, while Hansle Parchment of Jamaica won gold in 13.04.
- Ryan Crouser, the dominating shot putter for Team USA, broke his own Olympic record to win gold, blasting 23.30 meters on his final attempt of the day.
- Kevin Durant and Devin Booker led the US basketball team to a comeback victory against Australia, setting up a final either France or Slovenia.
- In the women’s golf, American Nelly Korda scored a nine-under 62 to establish a four-stroke lead at the halfway point.
- Jake Wightman, Josh Kerr, and Jake Heyward all made it through their semi-finals to qualify for the 1500m final for Great Britain.
- Over 400m, Bahamas’ Steven Gardiner won gold, defeating Colombia’s Anthony Zambrano for silver and London 2012 winner Kirani James for bronze.
- Belgium’s Nafi Thiam maintained her heptathlon title in the absence of Britain’s injured world champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson, while Canadian Damian Warner won the decathlon.
- After a tense shootout with Australia, Belgium’s men won gold in hockey.
- In the women’s 10m platform diving, China’s Quan Hongchan, 14, edged her teammate Chen Yuxi, 15, to win gold. Andrea Spendolini-Siriex and Lois Toulson of the United Kingdom finished seventh and ninth, respectively.
- In the men’s 20km walk, Callum Wilkinson came in 10th for Great Britain, while Tom Bosworth came in 25th.
- After being elbowed in the men’s marathon swim, Hector Pardoe of Great Britain believed he had “lost an eye” and dropped out of the event.