On a breathless day of sport at the Tokyo Olympics there were thrills, spills and high drama as Great Britain captured eight more medals including two sailing golds and a silver for Keely Hodgkinson in the 800m, Team GB’s first medal on the track.
Great Britain have now won 43 medals in the 2020 Games, including 13 golds, and by the end of Tuesday sat in sixth spot in the medal table.
In the Olympic Stadium, Hodgkinson provided much-needed respite to the bad luck that has beset Team GB’s sprinting team, putting in a stellar performance in the women’s 800m final to take silver on day 11 of the Games.
The 19-year-old from Leigh, Greater Manchester, set a new British record in the process, beating Kelly Holmes’s time of 55.88, which had stood since 1995. American Athing Mu took gold, with her teammate Raevyn Rogers taking bronze, the latter edging Britain’s Jemma Reekie into fourth by a dash down the home straight. Alex Bell, part of a trio of Team GB athletes in the race, came seventh in a personal best.
In floods of tears after the race, Hodgkinson said she had left everything on the track. “I think it is just one of those things where you know something like that is possible but whether it comes out you just don’t know. It was such a good race,” she said.
It was a day of only average brilliance on the cycle track in the Izu Velodrome – yet history was made as cyclist Jason Kenny became Britain’s most successful Olympian with a silver in the team sprint final. His wife Laura Kenny won a fifth medal, taking silver in the women’s team pursuit. It is a mark of cycling golden couple’s utter dominance that two silvers in the velodrome felt almost like an anti-climax.
Kenny’s eighth Olympic medal (six golds, two silvers) draws him level with Sir Bradley Wiggins’s eight (five golds, one silver, two bronzes), and sees him overtake Sir Chris Hoy (six golds, one silver). “It’s nice – limped over the line with a silver,” Kenny joked. “Main thing is that I beat Chris because I know it will annoy him […] It’s really nice, really special.”
The women’s team pursuit squad came second to Germany, who posted a new world record to win gold in the first medal race of day two. “I’ll just keep turning up,” said Laura Kenny with a wry smile and a nod to the expectation on the shoulders of the four-time gold medallist.
There was also drama on and off the cycle track on Tuesday, with Great Britain’s reign as Olympic men’s team pursuit champions ending in controversial circumstances as the Danish rider Frederik Madsen crashed into Charlie Tanfield during their semi-final. Team GB, Olympic champions in this event since 2008, were among the teams calling for Denmark to be disqualified in a row over illegal equipment used in qualifying.
Meanwhile, out on the water, Britain’s sailors lead a gripping medal rush, winning two dramatic golds and a silver.
Giles Scott claimed Team GB’s sixth consecutive gold in the Finn, successfully defending his own title. It was a dramatic finish from Scott, 34, who had to finish in the top five to win – and with just moments of the race left he went into fourth place. He was followed by Dylan Fletcher and Stuart Bithell, who also clinched gold in the men’s 49er, while John Gimson and Anna Burnet won silver in the mixed Nacra 17 class.
In the pool, Jack Laugher won bronze for Team GB in the individual 3m springboard at the Aquatics Centre, in a final that delivered a Chinese diving masterclass of execution and daring.
Laugher took silver in the same event five years ago in Rio, alongside a gold in the 3m synchro gold with Chris Mears – a crown he lost in Tokyo last week after a disappointing performance with Dan Goodfellow.
At the Kokukigan Arena, British boxer Pat McCormack took silver in Tuesday’s final of the welterweight division, beaten by Cuban veteran Roniel Iglesias, by unanimous decision. But there was heartache for Caroline Dubois as she lost her women’s lightweight quarter-final.
In the Olympic Stadium Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson-Herah completed the Olympics sprint double-double by retaining her 200m title in 21:53 seconds – the second fastest time in history – to go with her 100m sprint gold.
Also on the track, the quickest in history, according to its designer, the men’s 400m hurdles was hailed as perhaps the greatest track and field race in history, after Norwegian world champion and world record holder Karsten Warholm beat his great US rival Rai Benjamin in 45.94 seconds.
But while Hodgkinson outperformed and defied expectations, there were further injury woes for the Team GB sprinters, as Adam Gemili tore a hamstring on the warm-up track and then took nearly two minutes to hobble around his 200m heat, while Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake didn’t progress out of his 200m heat.
It comes after Zharnel Hughes false-started his way out of the 100m final and Dina Asher-Smith, who was strongly fancied to win 100m and 200m medals, struggled with a five-week-old hamstring injury, didn’t make the 100m final and had to pull out of the 200m. Asher-Smith is hoping to compete in the 4x100m relay.