TOKYO :The United States won their 16th Olympic gold medal in men’s basketball on Saturday (Aug 7), while the men’s baseball team were hoping to bring home gold to the sport’s birthplace in the final against hosts Japan.
Nelly Korda maintained a family sporting dynasty to take the women’s golf gold for Team USA, while New Zealand’s most-decorated Olympian Lisa Carrington had to settle for fourth in the women’s kayak four 500m.
A flurry of boxing finals on the second-to-last day of the Tokyo Games featured unheralded Brazilian Hebert Sousa taking the middleweight gold with a stunning third-round knockout.
At the Saitama Super Arena north of Tokyo, the US won its fourth straight basketball gold, beating France 87-82 after losing two straight exhibition games in July and suffering a shock defeat to the eventual silver medallists in the preliminary round.
Kevin Durant led the Americans with 29 points before the biggest crowd of the Games, which are bereft of fans at almost all events because of a COVID-19 surge that is prompting widening states of emergency in Japan. Athletes, officials, media and volunteers, in place of fans, filled half the bottom bowl of seats.
Initial numbers suggest strict coronavirus curbs in the Olympic “bubble” have kept the virus largely contained, preventing a feared spread out into Tokyo.
South of the capital in Yokohama, weather threatened the 7pm start of the baseball final, with an 80 per cent chance of rain forecast through the evening.
The Dominican Republic beat South Korea 10-6 for the bronze through occasional drizzle in the tournament’s muggiest game at 87 per cent humidity.
If the Americans beat the hosts in baseball-mad Japan, it will be only their second gold in their national pastime sport.
“I told them they have a chance to make history as the second US team to win gold,” US Olympic hitting and bench coach Ernie Young, who won in 2000, told Reuters. “I’m tired of my buddies saying we’re the only team.”
‘LIFTED THE WEIGHT OF THE WORLD’
In golf, Korda’s tense, one-stroke victory completed a US sweep after Xander Schauffele won the men’s event, and secured another glittering prize for a royal family of sport.
Korda’s sister Jessica, who tied for 15th, gave the winner a hug on the green. The gold adds an heirloom to father Petr’s Australian Open tennis trophy. Younger brother Sebastian is a title-winner on the ATP tennis tour at the age of 21.
Japan’s Mone Inami took silver in a playoff against New Zealander Lydia Ko at Kasumigaseki Country Club northwest of Tokyo.
Ko’s countrywoman Carrington could not add to her six medals over the past two Games or become the first athlete to win four canoe sprint medals at a single Games.
The men’s canoe single 1,000 metres at Tokyo’s Sea Forest Waterway was dominated by Brazil’s Isaquias Queiroz dos Santos, the silver medallist in Rio. He beat China’s Liu Hao and Moldova’s Serghei Tarnovschi, after defending champion Sebastian Brendel failed to reach the final.
“I feel I’ve finally lifted the weight of the world from my back,” Queiroz dos Santos said. “I felt an obligation to sports lovers of Brazil to represent our country. Now I feel way lighter.”
In the boxing ring, his countryman Sousa burst into wild celebration after knocking out Ukrainian Oleksandr Khyzhniak with a fierce left, turning around a fight he had all but lost to win Brazil’s second-ever Games gold in the sport.
Sousa fell to his knees, screaming, and his team rejoiced as Khyzhniak staggered to his feet and demanded the fight continue.
Britain’s Galal Yafai and Bulgaria’s Stoyka Zhelyazkova Krasteva won the first boxing golds for their countries at the Tokyo Games after dominant displays in their flyweight finals.
Saturday’s excitement followed a midnight victory for Canada, who claimed their fist women’s soccer gold with a 3-2 penalty shootout win over Sweden.
“We knew that we were going to get gold and we were going to do anything in our power to make our country proud,” said Canada coach Bev Priestman. “They absolutely did that, they went right to the very end, it was really special.”
The Swedish team, who had enjoyed far greater pressure throughout the 120 minutes and were one kick away from victory in the shootout, collapsed on the ground, with several players breaking into tears.