Tokyo 2020 Olympics briefing: mixed relays and mixed emotions

Today in a nutshell: Team GB stormed to gold in two of the new mixed relay events, New Zealand’s women won the country’s first ever rugby gold, Belinda Bencic won the women’s tennis, and Elaine Thompson-Herah proved without doubt that she is the fastest woman in the world.

Tomorrow’s key moments: It’s the conclusion of the men’s golf, the men’s singles final in the tennis, and tomorrow’s athletics session finishes with the men’s 100m.

It had everything you’d want from an Olympic blue riband event. Controversy and surprises before we got to the final, an amazing music and light show to introduce the athletes, and then Elaine Thompson-Herah stunned everyone with the second-fastest 100m ever run by a woman. The only thing it lacked? Crowds. She won’t mind too much.

It was a one-two-three for Jamaica in the end, with Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Shericka Jackson in silver and bronze places. The intense level of competition between the women was evidenced by the muted congratulations offered among themselves immediately after the race.

In all, six women ran under 11 seconds, and afterwards Thompson-Herah said: “I’ve been injured so much. I’m grateful I could get back on the track, and get back out on the track this year to retain the title. I knew I had it in me but obviously I’ve had my ups and downs with injuries. I’ve been keeping faith all this time. It is amazing.”

Ahead of the semi-finals, Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare suddenly found herself out of the Games after being handed a provisional doping ban, and there was to be no final either for Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith. In a tearful interview after finishing third in her semi-final, she revealed that she had pulled her hamstring in the trials final five weeks ago and initially had been told it was so bad she would not be able to go to Tokyo. She said: “I’m really proud to have been able to execute my races here today and I’m really proud of everything that I’ve done to this point. There’s plenty more championships for me to come and kill.”

Sweden won their first medals of the games with a one-two in the men’s discus. Daniel Stahl took gold, Simon Pettersson took silver, and they then they went for an entertaining lap of honour. “I’m a Swedish Viking!” Stahl roared into the empty stands.

Poland won the first ever Olympic 4x400m mixed relay race, with the Dominican Republic in silver and the US taking third. With the exception of the surprise inclusion of Femke Bol for the Netherlands, the squads seemed rather under-strength, perhaps reflecting some uneasiness about the format.

There was nothing like that in the mixed triathlon relay though. Team GB’s Jonny Brownlee joked that he had “completed” the Olympics after adding a gold medal to his individual bronze from London and silver from Rio. It is a new event for the Olympics – each athlete has to complete a 300m open water swim, 6.8km bike ride, and 2km run before tagging their teammate – and it was absolutely compelling. Jessica Learmonth, Georgia Taylor-Brown and Alex Yee joined Brownlee on the podium as Team GB won by 14 seconds from the United States, with France third.

Britain’s swimmers smashed the world record to win the 4x100m mixed medley relay gold. Kathleen Dawson, Adam Peaty, James Guy and Anna Hopkin finished ahead of China in silver and Australia in bronze. It was Britain’s fourth gold medal of the week in the pool, which is as many as the team won in the last 45 years of Olympic competition.

World No 12 Belinda Bencic dug deep to overpower the Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova 7-5 2-6 6-3 on Saturday and win the women’s singles title, becoming the first Swiss woman to earn an Olympic Games tennis gold. She can double that up as she plays again tomorrow in the women’s doubles.

Elina Svitolina took bronze. In the men’s singles it was Spain’s Pablo Carreño Busta who took bronze, leaving Novak Djokovic empty-handed and injured. He then pulled out of the mixed doubles bronze match, handing Australia’s Ash Barty and John Peers the medals.

New Zealand won their first ever rugby Olympic gold as their women beat France 26-12. Fiji took the bronze after comfortably beating Team GB 21-12. That was the first medal that any women from Fiji have ever won. New Zealand celebrated with a special version of the haka called Ko Uhia Mai, or Let It Be Known.

I’ve had to write a lot less about Covid than I expected in this newsletter so far, but worth noting today that as the Games continue, the infection level in Tokyo is rising – the daily level of new cases has surged to a record high of 4,058.

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View the best images from day eight at Tokyo 2020 here.

Tom Dart was watching the US swimmers at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre for us today, where Caeleb Dressel seemed to be involved in every race. He won gold in the 100m butterfly. Katie Ledecky won her third successive gold in the women’s 800m freestyle. It’s no surprise. Every single one of the top 20 fastest 800m times ever recorded have her name next to them.

In the mixed relay race, the US cause was not helped by Lydia Jacoby’s goggles mishap. They slipped from her eyes and lodged in her mouth in the course of her swim.

Xander Schauffele retains a narrow one-shot lead in the golf going into tomorrow’s final round, with Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama in second place. “It’s been a fun week. I’m in a good position heading into tomorrow,” Schauffele said. Nine players are within four strokes of him, including former world No 1 Rory McIlroy.

Kevin Durant became the highest-scoring player in Team USA history as the men’s basketball team booked their quarter-final spot with a 119-84 win over the Czech Republic.

Simone Biles has withdrawn from the two finals she was scheduled to compete in tomorrow. It’s not clear that we’ll actually see her again this Games.

American BMX racer Connor Fields has been moved out of intensive care after suffering a brain bleed during a horror crash in Friday’s event.

Emma Wilson sealed a windsurfing bronze medal for Great Britain in Enoshima, making her the most successful Olympian in her family. Her mum, Penny Way, finished in sixth and seventh positions in the same category in the 1992 and 1996 Games. After the medal race, Wilson said: “Obviously I want to win, but any medal is amazing. I’m super happy. I achieved my goal. My goal was to just enjoy every moment.”

In the boxing, Lauren Price joined Karriss Artingstall in securing bronze.

Suzanne Wrack writes for us that, at this Olympics, Team GB’s footballers were undone by flaws familiar to all England fans.

There will be three British women in the 800m final in the athletics on Tuesday. Keely Hodgkinson, Alex Bell and Jemma Reekie all progressed. It’s the first time that has happened.

Also progressing, the women’s hockey team. They have a quarter-final now against Spain on Monday.

Slightly away from the sports, BBC presenter Alex Scott has said she is proud of her working class accent after she was criticised by some random posho Lord Digby Jones who said she “needs elocution lessons” and “spoils” Olympics coverage. They obviously didn’t teach him manners wherever he went to school.

Australia had another glorious morning in the pool. Kaylee McKeown won her second individual gold of the Olympics with victory in the women’s 200m backstroke, while two-time gold medallist Ariarne Titmus added a silver to her tally in the women’s 800m freestyle. Veteran Emily Seebohm secured third behind McKeown, meaning she has now won a medal at four Olympics. Australia’s mixed relay team then rounded out the haul with a bronze.

Kieran Pender writes about how, at her sixth Olympics, Jian Fang Lay has become a cult figure of Australian table tennis.

There were 14 sports awarding medals today in a packed Saturday programme. Some of the highlights included Turkey securing their first gold of the Games with a victory for Mete Gazoz in the men’s individual archery, and Spain winning their first gold as Fatima Galvez and Alberto Fernandez triumphed in the trap mixed team event on the shooting range. Nina Christen took gold in the women’s 50m rifle 3 positions. She’s the first woman from Switzerland to win a shooting gold, and she set a new Olympic record in the process.

There was a first medal for Belarus in these Games, and it was gold, as Ivan Litvinovich won the men’s trampoline gymnastics.

It was the last day of the judo today, and the hosts couldn’t quite top it off with a win. Japan lost the mixed team final to France. France couldn’t win the fencing though, where Not Russia won the women’s team sabre match against them in the final.

The men’s football semi-finals on Tuesday will be Mexico v Brazil and Japan v Spain. The hosts progressed on penalties after a 0-0 draw with New Zealand. Mexico shared nine goals with South Korea, winning 6-3, while Spain survived a scare against Ivory Coast. With the match level at 1-1, Max Gradel scored what looked like a 91st minute winner for Ivory Coast. But Rafa Mir then scored in the 93rd minute to send the game to extra-time. He ended up with a hat-trick as the match finished 5-2 to Spain. Brazil beat Egypt 1-0 in the other quarter-final.

Taiwan’s participation at the Olympic Games involves the diplomatic IOC compromise of not using Taiwan’s national flag or name, and instead labelling them Chinese Taipei, so as not to upset China. So I should imagine there will be considerable satisfaction today that Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin won the men’s doubles badminton over China’s Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen. The victorious pair are childhood friends, and it is the first time Taiwan have secured a medal in the sport.

Kiran Badloe of the Netherlands cruised to Olympic gold in the men’s windsurfing RS:X class, but there was a disastrous day for Italy’s Mattia Camboni. He thought he had secured bronze, but was then given a penalty which pushed him off the podium. France’s Thomas Goyard was second, and Kun Bi of China ended up in third.

By competing in Tokyo, Georgia’s Nino Salukvadze became the first woman to compete in nine Olympics. In fact, she’s been competing so long that she won the gold medal in Seoul in 1988 as a 19-year-old representing the long-defunct Soviet Union. Her career may not end in Japan. She revealed today that her son has told her that not aiming for a 10th Olympics in three years’ time “is out of the question.”

Altogether now everybody, all events are listed here in local Tokyo time. Add an hour for Sydney, subtract eight hours for Cardiff, 13 hours for New York and 17 hours for San Francisco. If you are reading this on the International Space Station, I’m not sure I can help to be honest.

🌟If you only watch one thing: 9.10am-12.00pm and 7pm-9.55pm Athletics – it’s another packed day at the Olympic stadium. Highlights include the women’s shot put final which starts at 10.35am, the men’s high jump final starts at 7.10pm, the women’s triple jump final is at 8.15pm. And then at 9.50pm in Tokyo, there’s this little thing called the men’s 100m final 🥇

You can find our full interactive events schedule here. It updates live during the day with all the scores and results, like a series of little mini-live blogs. I love it.

Here’s how the emoji table stood at 11.30pm Tokyo time. China have now equalled the USA for the total number of medals, and I’ve had to break out the New Zealand flag emoji for the first time.

1 🇨🇳 China 🥇 21 🥈 13 🥉 12 total: 46
2 🇯🇵 Japan 🥇 17 🥈 5 🥉 8 total: 30
3 🇺🇸 USA 🥇 16 🥈 17 🥉 13 total: 46
4 ◽️ Not Russia 🥇 11 🥈 15 🥉 11 total: 37
5 🇦🇺 Australia 🥇 10 🥈 3 🥉 14 total: 27
6 🇬🇧 Great Britain 🥇 8 🥈 9 🥉 11 total: 28
7 🇰🇷 South Korea 🥇 5 🥈 4 🥉 7 total: 16
8 🇫🇷 France 🥇 4 🥈 9 🥉 6 total: 19
9 🇳🇱 Netherland 🥇 4 🥈 7 🥉 5 total: 16
10 🇳🇿 New Zealand 🥇 4 🥈 3 🥉 3 total: 10

I had a few messages yesterday asking about the whereabouts of certain stories in the newsletter. So here’s a shout-out to Tatjana Schoenmaker whose new Olympic record I omitted, the all-Croatian final in the men’s doubles tennis, and the New Zealand rowing team whose gold medal exploits I neglected, as well as noting that there’s a regular stream of people saying I’ve not covered the horses enough.

In my defence, on a day like yesterday, there were 27 sports in action, 13 had medals, I wrote nearly 3,000 words and I still couldn’t fit it all in. Do feel free to continue to nag me though – or flag up things in advance you are hoping to see get a good showing. You can get in touch with me at

Meantime, I think I’ve seen my favourite quote from the family of an Olympian today. It is from David Morgan, father to Amelie Morgan who won bronze as part of the Team GB women’s artistic gymnastics team. He said: “We had twins full of energy, so we had to find something to do. Gymnastics was an hour-and-a-half on a Saturday morning, and everything else was just an hour.”

And that’s how Olympians get made.

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