Novak Djokovic is growing in confidence after his bid to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games stayed on track on his "best day" of Tokyo 2020.

The Serbian cruised into the semi-finals of the singles tournament with an emphatic 6-2 6-0 win over home favourite Kei Nishikori of Japan, then teamed up with Nina Stojanovic to beat German pair Laura Siegemund and Kevin Krawietz in the mixed doubles quarter-finals.

World number one Djokovic, 34, is attempting to become the first man to win all four tennis singles grand slam titles and an Olympic gold in the same year.

He has already triumphed at the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon, leaving just Tokyo and the US Open to conquer.

Asked after his doubles win if this was the best year of his career, Djokovic replied: "I don't know. Today was the best day of this tournament because I've played my best tennis so far."

Those comments echoed his assessment of the Nishikori match, after which he said: "I'm very happy – my best performance in the tournament."

Djokovic said he "had an answer for everything [Nishikori] had" and now he will face Alexander Zverev.

Asked how confident he felt heading into the last four, the 20-time grand slam champion replied: "Very."

 

Djokovic was boosted by the later start times for his matches after the International Tennis Federation bowed to pressure from players complaining of the extreme heat and humidity at Ariake Tennis Park.

"It's great that we're playing in the afternoon hours, so we don't experience too much heat," Djokovic said.

"Although it's still very, very humid. It's a bit easier, more pleasant to play in the afternoon. It was fantastic. 

"Playing after 5[pm] is completely different.  Obviously, there is a little bit of a breeze, but still very, very humid, you sweat a lot, but you don't have the heat, you don't have the sun that, in combination with the humidity, is just brutal."

Novak Djokovic cruised through to the men's singles semi-finals after a commanding straight-sets victory over Kei Nishikori at the Ariake Tennis Park.

The world number one is yet to drop a set at the Tokyo Games after running out a 6-2 6-0 winner against home favourite Nishikori, who claimed bronze in Rio five years ago.

Having already won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon this year, Djokovic is aiming to become the first male player of the Open era to complete the Golden Grand Slam.

Should he claim gold in Tokyo and go on to triumph at the US Open, he would become only the second player overall to achieve the feat, after Steffi Graf in 1988.

However, the Serbian has never reached an Olympic final – his best result coming in for the form of a bronze medal in Beijing.

"Matches are not getting easier, but my level of tennis is getting better and better," Djokovic told reporters after setting up a last-four tie with Alexander Zverev.

"I've done that many, many times in my career. I know that I'm the kind of player that the further the tournament goes, the better I'm feeling on the court.

"That's the case here, [it was] my best performance of the tournament tonight against a very good opponent."

 

DANIIL DUMPED OUT

Standing in the way of Djokovic and a shot at the gold medal is fourth seed Zverev.

The big-serving German saw off Jeremy Chardy 6-4 6-1 and like Djokovic is yet to drop a set at the tournament.

World number five Zverev, who hit 11 aces during the contest, broke early on the way to edging a closely fought opening set. The US Open finalist then went into overdrive with three breaks on the way to sealing the deal.

There was, however, no joy for second seed Daniil Medvedev, as he went down 2-6 6-7 (5-7) against Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta, who is looking to replicated Rafael Nadal's effort from 2008.

"Today, he could win a Masters easily, and yet he's never been in any final of those," the Russian said of his opponent.

"With the level he showed here today, he can get to the final of a Grand Slam easily. I couldn't play better than what I did today. It was not easy to play and I'm really disappointed with myself and for my country to lose in the quarters."

 

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE

Despite Medvedev's exit, Russia – or, at least, the Russian Olympic Committee – will be represented in the semi-finals by Karen Khachanov.

A quarter-finalist at Wimbledon earlier this month, the 12th seed built on his momentum by overcoming Ugo Humbert in three sets.

Khachanov took the opener on a tie-break but was pegged back by the Frenchman in the second as the contest went to a decider.

But he established early control by breaking to love in game four before holding out to prevail 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 6-3.

Marketa Vondrousova landed another huge scalp in the form of Elina Svitolina to book her place in the gold medal match at Tokyo 2020 against Belinda Bencic.

It has been a memorable week for Vondrousova, who knocked out cauldron-lighter and "face of the games" Naomi Osaka in round three.

One more hurdle still stands in her way in the form of ninth seed Bencic, who fought hard for a three-set triumph over Elena Rybakina.

VONDROUSOVA MARVELS AGAIN

Vondrousova has had a Games to remember and she was a 6-3 6-1 winner against heavily fancied fourth seed Svitolina, becoming the first female Czech to reach an Olympic singles final in the process.

It means the Czech Republic will have a women's singles competitor on the podium for the second straight Games after Petra Kvitova finished with bronze at Rio 2016.

Incredibly, Vondrousova did not even automatically qualify for these Games with Karolina Pliskova, Barbora Krejcikova, Kvitova and Karolina Muchova ahead of her in the qualifying pecking order.

Vondrousova opted to use her protected ranking, dating back to a wrist injury prior to the pandemic, meaning Muchova missed out. Though criticised at the time, she is the last of the four remaining.

TEARS FOR BENCIC

Switzerland has a proud history of tennis stars but neither the legendary Roger Federer nor the great Martina Hingis have won Olympic gold in a singles event. Bencic has the chance to do that, though.

She had to go the distance against Rybakina in a 7-6 (7-2) 4-6 6-3 victory, with Bencic fighting back from 5-2 down in the first set.

Eventually Bencic came through in two hours and 44 minutes and the tears poured as she made the final.

"My emotions right now... it's too high," Bencic told the ITF website. "To have a medal, it's the greatest thing. Even to be here as an athlete, in the Olympics, it's amazing."

It means Switzerland will medal for the fourth straight Games with Federer, Stan Wawrinka, Hingis and the recently retired Timea Bacsinszky all having medalled.

The last Swiss gold medallist was at Barcelona 1992 where Marc Rosset won the men's singles.

Elsewhere, singles world number one Ash Barty remains in the hunt for mixed doubles gold. She and partner John Peers defeated Greek pair Stefanos Tsitsipas and Maria Sakkari – winning on a 10-point tie-break after the first two sets were shared.

Sepp Straka was the surprise leader of the golf competition after round one at Tokyo 2020 thanks to a dazzling and record-equalling eight-under 63 at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

The 161st-ranked Austrian sat one stroke clear of Jazz Janewattananond, with Thomas Pieters and Carlos Ortiz only two strokes back.

Play was delayed for around two hours on Thursday due to dangerous weather conditions and a host of star names were off the pace after the first 18 holes.

STRAKA SURPRISES TO EARN SHARE OF HISTORY

The unheralded Straka, whose twin brother is on his bag this weekend, tied the record for the lowest single-round score at an Olympics with his 63.

"It was just a steady round. I really hit the ball well and I didn't put myself into trouble. I took advantage with the putter," Straka said.

"I got hot with my irons, especially my short irons, my wedges. I was really knocking down the flagstick and really tried to stay aggressive."

He made four gains on the way out and as many on the way home in a fine bogey-free round, and this round came despite him missing six of his past seven cuts.

HIDEKI, MCILROY AND CO HAVE WORK TO DO

Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama is carrying the home hopes in Tokyo this week and was six shots back.

He was four under through eight but gave one back before the turn and dropped another shot at 11.

Rory McIlroy and Open victor Collin Morikawa are also at two under, with Patrick Reed five back and Justin Thomas at evens after making 18 pars.

New Zealand's transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard has demonstrated "courage and tenacity" on her Tokyo 2020 mission, Olympics medical chief Richard Budgett said.

Hubbard's case has triggered controversy as critics believe she has an unfair advantage over her rivals, having been assigned male at birth and competed in men's weightlifting during her teens and early twenties.

Now 43, Hubbard is set for her Games bow on Monday in the +87kg category, having previously won two silver medals at the World Championships.

"Laurel Hubbard is a woman and is competing under the rules of her federation. We have to pay tribute to her courage and tenacity in actually competing and qualifying for the Games," said Richard Budgett.

Budgett, who is the medical and scientific director of Tokyo 2020 and the International Olympic Committee, was an Olympic rowing gold medallist for Great Britain at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

Looking at Hubbard's case, Budgett said: "When it comes to the advantages and disadvantages, there's always more to learn, there's always more science, and there's quite a large amount of research being done at the moment to ascertain the residual advantage after going through male puberty.

"But you have to weigh that against all the other disadvantages of going through transition. It's not something any individual would ever take lightly.

"So there are lots of aspects of physiology and anatomy and the mental side that contribute to an elite performance and it's very difficult to say she's got an advantage because she went through male puberty when there's so many other factors to take into account.

"Each sport has to make its own assessment depending on the physiology of that sport, so that they can ensure there is fair competition but also inclusion of everyone whether they're male or female, able to take part in the sport that they so love."

Hubbard's case has drawn widespread attention, from within sport and beyond. The actor John Cleese last year said it was "an example of great unfairness to women who have never had a man's body".

Former American football quarterback Brett Favre described the scenario on his podcast as "a man competing as a woman" and added: "If I was a true female – I can't believe I'm saying that – and I was competing in weightlifting and lost to this person, I would be beside myself."

According to Budgett, sports are continuing to analyse cases such as Hubbard's.

"There is lots of disagreement across the whole world of sport," he said. "It really has to be sport specific and up to each sport, and even each discipline, as to what the rules are.

"It would have been inappropriate to come out with a new framework or guidelines just before the Olympics. There will be a new framework, with the help of international federations, but it is not published yet."

Canadian footballer Quinn became the first openly trans athlete to compete in the Olympic Games when they played for Canada against Japan in the women's tournament last week.

Australia's track and field athletes endured a two-hour wait on Thursday before fears their Tokyo Olympics hopes might be in jeopardy were allayed.

A link was established to United States pole vaulter Sam Kendricks, who has tested positive for COVID-19 and been ruled out of the Games, and Australia's team were sent into isolation.

However, checks returned all-clear results, with only three athletics team members required to remain isolated.

Kendricks had reportedly been training this week alongside Australian Kurtis Marschall, and the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) stated that three members of their squad had "brief casual contact" with a US athlete who had tested positive.

The upheaval came on the eve of the athletics programme getting under way at Tokyo 2020 and saw 57 Australian athletes and officials briefly in limbo.

In a statement, the AOC said: "Members of the Australian track and field team in the Tokyo Olympic Village have been cleared to return to their regular routines after earlier isolating in their rooms as a precautionary measure.

"The all-clear comes after three members of the team underwent PCR testing following a brief casual contact with a US track and field athlete who had tested positive to COVID-19.

"All three tested negative after undergoing a PCR test this afternoon, while team-mates remained in their rooms in line with AOC COVID protocols.

"The three, who are all vaccinated, self-reported once they heard news of the US athlete testing positive late this morning. All daily tests of the trio in the Village had also returned negative results."

 

The AOC said the three individuals who were tested would remain isolated for now but would be allowed to resume training on the proviso their contact with others is limited.

"At this stage all athletes are expected to compete as planned," the AOC said.

While those three athletes must follow the strict guidance, the AOC said 41 athletes and 13 officials had been given permission to leave their rooms after "a little over two hours" spent cooped up.

Australia chef de mission Ian Chesterman said: "Once again, abundant caution and our strict protocols continue to keep the team safe. We want every Australian athlete to be in a position to have their Olympic moment."

Luka Doncic is breaking new ground with his performances for Slovenia at the Olympic Games, according to Japan coach Julio Lamas.

Slovenia have two wins from two in Pool C, with Doncic dominating against both Argentina and, on Thursday, hosts Japan.

The Dallas Mavericks superstar had 48 points on his Games debut and added 25 more in the 116-81 defeat of Japan, as well as seven rebounds, seven assists, two blocks and two steals.

These performances follow on from another outstanding NBA season, in which Doncic scored 27.7 points per game in the regular season – sixth-most in the league – and improved further in the playoffs.

Doncic's only two postseason series to date have been defeats to the Los Angeles Clippers, but he has now averaged 33.5 points in 13 games – no player in the history of the NBA has scored more per game in 13 career playoff games or more.

The 22-year-old's immense talent has translated superbly to the international stage, too, with Lamas describing Slovenia as "a very complete team with one amazing player". They have won all 15 games he has played for his country in all competitions.

"Doncic is one of the best four or five players in the world right now, even in the NBA," Lamas said.

"But he plays very comfortable in FIBA with the spaces and the rules – he dominates, too. Some other NBA players feel uncomfortable sometimes in FIBA. He is not.

"It's not easy to have a plan [against Doncic] because he is excellent in all the game situations. He can score driving, shooting or post-up and he creates the game for all the other players.

"I don't see in the last 30 years one player dominate the game like he has in this tournament.

"It's not nice [to face Doncic]. When you lose, you're never happy. But I think it's a good experience to play one time against him. I will remember."

Argentina coach Sergio Hernandez, the last man to attempt to halt Doncic, described him as "the best player in the world", and his Slovenia team-mates agreed after another show of strength.

"He's our leader," said Jaka Blazic. "For me, he's the best player at the Olympics and also in the world. We just follow him, everybody knows his role and that's important in a winning team."

Zoran Dragic, who played with Doncic's father Sasa for Slovan, added: "It's crazy, because when I was playing I was playing with his father, too, he was like six, seven years old, and now he's one of the best players in the world.

"I'm happy that I can witness and play with him. He's such an awesome guy and, especially, it's so easy to play with him because he is just an unbelievable person and basketball player. We can be all happy that he's Slovenian."

International Olympic Committee officials have hit back at claims the Tokyo Games have put significant added pressure on Japan's coronavirus-hit medical system.

Host city Tokyo had 3,865 new cases on Thursday, up from 3,177 on Wednesday, as it set a record high for a third straight day.

The surge in COVID-19 cases has added to concerns about the decision to stage the Games and its impact upon on Japan's health infrastructure.

Tokyo 2020 is taking place under unprecedented conditions, with fans unable to attend while athletes are subjected to strict testing to identify and isolate positive cases.

And IOC medical and scientific director Richard Budgett insisted these regulations inside the Olympic bubble had negated any significant impact.

"This is the most tested community anywhere in the world. The athletes in the Olympic Village really are living in a parallel world," Budgett said.

"As far as I’m aware, there has not been a single instance of an athlete case spreading to the local population, and not a single severe case has occurred among our stakeholders.

"There are two positive cases who are in hospital, but no severe cases at this stage. 

"It is challenging for any country when there are rising cases, but I am confident the Olympics are being run without affecting that secondary care in hospital provision."

Kirsty Coventry, chair of the IOC athletes' commission, has responded to complaints from Dutch skateboarder Candy Jacobs that conditions at quarantine hotels are "inhuman".

Jacobs tested positive for COVID-19 and posted on Instagram about initially not being permitted to get fresh air during isolation because her hotel window did not open.

Coventry said: "We have been working very closely with TOCOG [the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games] about improving all those experiences [at] the quarantine centres and hotels.

"Candy and others have raised similar points. We have reached out to them and are working with them to make sure conditions are improved."

Caeleb Dressel makes no apologies for being "a little bit of a weirdo", with the American swimming sensation determined to tackle his Olympic mountain on his own terms.

A first individual gold for Dressel arrived on Thursday when he edged out Australian rival Kyle Chalmers in a rollicking final of the 100 metres freestyle.

After the race, Dressel was left tearful when he was connected to family at home on a video link provided by a US broadcaster, with his parents and wife Meghan back in Florida celebrating the victory.

Dressel believes he has to cut down such contact to a minimum in Games time. He is a four-time gold medallist now, after two relay triumphs in Rio five years ago and another in Tokyo preceded his solo swim to glory.

For the 24-year-old, what matters most at these times is finding and maintaining race focus.

 

"I don't talk to many people at these meets. I'm kind of a loner, a little bit of a weirdo," Dressel said.

And that's why Meghan has to get by without a guaranteed daily call home from Japan.

"You have to manage your emotions. I can't be calling them every night because I cry a lot," Dressel said. "I'm an emotional person. I can't be calling them and exerting that energy. It's got to be put into my swimming."

It seems to be so far, so good on that front, with an Olympic record of 47.02 seconds bagged on Thursday and the prospect of more medals to come.

Dressel was widely expected to be a major star of Tokyo 2020 and is handling the stress of that situation, albeit if beneath the surface there is a constant battle to direct his energy.

"I'm pretty good at putting a face on," Dressel said. "Pressure's fine; it's when you turn it into stress, that's when it becomes a problem.

"My first couple of swims, I was turning the pressure into stress. I feel like the semi-final of the 100m free and that final there, I was starting to find my groove a little bit, and it's about time to be honest.

"I know my name's thrown out there and i understand it. I could care less about it, it's just something that comes with the sport when you're on top of the podium."

Dressel has gone silent on Instagram, deliberately staying away from social media, again saying that is "energy I don't need to be exerting".

And he was thrilled by how he swam against Chalmers, saying he "wouldn't have changed a thing about that race", even though it was practically a photo finish.

Chalmers, sharing a news conference podium with Dressel, said: "There's nothing I could have done more.

"It's been talked up as more than a swimming race for a while now. Caeleb and I have a fairly fierce rivalry.

"We do enjoy racing against each other and bring the best out in each other, so it's almost a relief to get it done now."

Australian track and field athletes at the Tokyo Olympics are isolating after a link was established to US pole vaulter Sam Kendricks, who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Kendricks has been ruled out of the Games, and he has reportedly been training this week alongside Australian Kurtis Marschall.

The Australian Olympic Committee said in a statement: "Members of Australia's track and field team at the Tokyo Olympic Games are isolating in their rooms as a precautionary measure following news of a COVID positive finding with a member of the US track and field team.

"Members of the Australian track and field team are now undergoing testing procedures in line with Australian Olympic team protocols."

The news comes on the eve of the athletics programme getting under way at Tokyo 2020, potentially putting some members of the team at risk of missing out.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported 63 Australian athletes were isolating, some of whom immediately took COVID tests.

News of Kendricks' positive test was a jolt to the American team, with the world champion having been a likely medal contender.

USA Track and Field said in a statement: "US pole vaulter Sam Kendricks has tested positive for COVID-19 and is therefore ineligible to compete at the Tokyo Games. He and his close contacts were immediately notified and protocols were activated to isolate the athlete."

Argentine pole vaulter German Chiaraviglio also announced he has tested positive, stating on Instagram: "It is very hard to process something like that, it will surely take me a long time. We knew this Olympic Games was different and with different rules, and here I am, it's my turn.

"I am isolated in a hotel where I will spend several days, and where the main objective is to take care of my health."

Everyone expected Caeleb Dressel to be one of the swimming stars of the Tokyo Games, and the American lived up to the hype on Thursday. 

Dressel started strongly and held off rival Kyle Chalmers of Australia at the end to win the 100m freestyle, the 24-year-old's first individual Olympic gold after taking two relay wins in Rio and one earlier this week.

The Floridian swam the 100m free three times in Rio and his time got worse from the preliminaries to the semi-finals to the final, ultimately leaving him sixth overall at 48.02 while Chalmers won gold with a 47.58.

This time, Dressel was at his best when it mattered most, posting a 47.02 to break an Olympic record that had stood since Beijing 2008.

Afterward, he described winning his first individual gold as a weight off his shoulders.

"It is different," Dressel said. "I didn't want to admit it but now that I did it, I can.

"It's a lot different – you can't rely on anyone else. It's just you and the water, there's no one there to bail you out. It's tough."

Winning the gold in a head-to-head showdown with the reigning champion made victory even sweeter.

"It's so fun going with Kyle – I mean, every time we make it good," Dressel said. "It's really fun to watch when we go head-to-head.

"I've got nothing but respect for him."

CROATIA'S ROWING BROTHERS GOLDEN AGAIN

Brothers Valent and Martin Sinkovic have teamed up to win a rowing medal for the third consecutive Olympics. 

The Croatians took gold in the men's coxless pair event at Sea Forest Waterway, leading throughout the race and winning by 1.29 seconds over Romania's Marius Cozmiuc and Ciprian Tudosa.

The Sinkovic siblings won gold in the double sculls five years ago in Rio after making up half of Croatia's quadruple sculls team that took the silver medal in London in 2012.

They are the first rowers to win gold in both the pair and double sculls since Canada's Kathleen Heddle and Marnie McBean did it in 1992 and 1996.

"It's an unbelievable feeling, hard to describe," said Valent, the older of the pair at 32. "This is like a new gold medal for us because it's in a second discipline, so we celebrate it like it's the first one for us.

"We couldn't be happier. Everything went as planned, we executed the race perfectly."

As for looking toward a potential fourth medal at Paris 2024, Martin Sinkovic said the brothers were done with pairs competitions but might look to row the four in three years' time. 

RIO POLE VAULT BRONZE MEDALLIST OUT WITH COVID

Sam Kendricks of the USA, the 2016 bronze medallist and 2017 world champion in the pole vault, has tested positive for COVID-19 and will not compete in Tokyo, the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee announced.

The USOPC said Kendricks has been transferred to a hotel and been placed in isolation in accordance with protocols.

"Sam is an incredible and accomplished member of Team USA and his presence will be missed," the USOPC said. "Out of respect for his privacy, we cannot provide more information at this time."

Earlier on Thursday in its daily media briefing, the International Olympic Committee said three athletes were among the 24 people who had come back positive for COVID-19 in the most recent round of testing.

STRAKA HAS CLUBHOUSE LEAD AS GOLF GETS UNDER WAY

Austria's Sepp Straka went out with the first grouping in the opening round of the men's golf tournament and set the pace for everyone who teed off behind him, taking the clubhouse lead with a 63 on Thursday morning.

Ranked 161st in the world this week after missing the cut at six of his last seven PGA Tour events, Straka turned in a bogey-free round at the Kasumigaseki Country Club, carding four birdies on the front nine and four more on the back.

Thomas Pieters of Belgium and Carlos Ortiz of Mexico finished with six-under-par 65s among the early starters to sit two back of the lead.

Several major winners including Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama and Collin Morikawa were still on the course.

AUSTRALIA OPEN RUGBY SEVENS DEFENCE WITH ROUT

Defending women's rugby sevens gold medallists Australia made a statement as they opened pool play with a crushing 48-0 defeat of hosts Japan after leading 24-0 at half-time.

Emma Tonegato got three tries while Demi Hayes and debutant Maddison Levi had two each for Australia, who face China later on Thursday.

"I definitely was concerned about this game," said Australia's head coach John Manenti. "Japan, playing at home, it would be very emotional for them and the pressures and expectations could have built on us.

"But I was really pleased with that clinical first half. We could relax at the end of the game and give a few of the girls debuts."

New Zealand, beaten finalists at Rio 2016, began their Tokyo campaign with a 29-7 win over Kenya.

REIGNING BMX GOLD MEDALLISTS ADVANCE TO SEMIS

BMX racers opened competition at Ariake Urban Sports Park, with defending gold medallist Connor Fields of the USA and current world number one Sylvain Andre of France among those booking their spots in the semi-finals.

Andre's countryman Joris Daudet had the top time of the day in his last run to make Friday's semis along with Rio 2016 bronze medallist Carlos Ramirez of Colombia.

On the women's side, world number one and Rio 2016 gold medallist Mariana Pajon of Colombia won all three of her preliminary races to advance, along with 2016 silver medallist Alise Willoughby of the USA.

Willoughby's team-mate Felecia Stancil turned in the best overall time of the day on her first run and also is one of the 16 semi-finalists.

Caeleb Dressel triumphed over rival Kyle Chalmers in one of the best races of Tokyo 2020, while China pulled off an upset to win an incredible women's 4x200m freestyle race in a world-record time.

Dressel was one of three competitors to set new Olympic benchmarks in the individual races at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre on Thursday, with Zhang Yufei and Zac Stubblety-Cook also doing so en route to winning gold.

There was glory for Dressel's United States team-mate in the men's 800m freestyle, too, where Bobby Finke topped the podium.

Here is a recap of all the goings-on from another enthralling session at the pool.

DRESSEL EDGES CHALMERS IN THRILLERS

Earlier this week, it was Australia beating the US in one of the races of the meet when Ariarne Titmus held off Katie Ledecky in the 400m free. 

This time it was glory for Team USA as Dressel won his second gold of the Games in an awesome 100m free final, with Australia's defending champion Chalmers just 0.10 seconds behind.

These two had battled before, with Chalmers entering the Games with two victories to one over the past five years, and the duo delivered an enthralling battle down the stretch.

But it was Dressel, part of the US team that won the 4x100m free relay earlier this week, who touched home in an Olympic record of 47.02 seconds.


TITMUS, LEDECKY BEATEN AS CHINA PULL OFF WR

Titmus has been one of the stars of these Games, pulling off a 200m and 400m free double. She and her previous record-holding Australia team-mates were favourites for gold in the 4x200m relay but had to settle for third in a race where each of the top three went under the previous world record time.

It was the foursome from China that pulled off the big win, leading from the first leg and holding on despite a frantic finish in which Ledecky so nearly anchored the United States to first place.

Ledecky fell narrowly short, though, as the US quartet took silver.


FINKE'S FINAL FLURRY

The opening race of the day produced a thrilling finish in the first men's 800m freestyle Olympics final, with Finke taking gold after turning on the jets late on.

Finke was seemingly not in contention after turning for the final 100m down in fifth and was still behind Germany's Florian Wellbrock, Italy's Gregorio Paltrinieri and Ukraine's Mykhailo Romanchuk on the turn for home.

But a sensational 26.39 split down the final stretch completed a stunning comeback to take gold for the United States ahead of Paltrinieri and Romanchuk.


NEW OLYMPIC RECORDS FOR ZHANG AND STUBBLETY-COOK

China's Zhang swam the third fastest time ever to take a dominant gold for China in the women's 200m butterfly.

Zhang hit the front early and never looked troubled en route to touching home first in a time of 2:03.86, a new Olympic record.

American duo Regan Smith and Hali Flickinger were second and third. Since 2012, the United States had landed a medal in every pool event bar the women's 200m butterfly, with this ending the longest medal drought in US swimming.

Stubblety-Cook took out the men's 200m breaststroke final thanks to a barnstorming last 50m.

The Australian moved into the top three at the 150m mark and powered home in a time of 2:06.38, beating Arno Kamminga and Matti Mattsson to top spot.

Japan remained top of the medal table at the Tokyo Olympics as they collected another three golds on day five.

Daiki Hashimoto, 19, was the standout performer as he secured a last-minute win in the men's all-around gymnastic final, with China's Ruoteng Xiao and the Russian Olympic Committee's pre-event favourite Nikita Nagornyy settling for silver and bronze.

That win took the host nation to 13 golds, with Chizuru Arai in the women's 70kg judo – their eighth medal in the sport at the Games so far – and Yui Ohashi in the women's 200m individual medley the other victors.

China pulled one clear of the United States as they also collected three golds on Wednesday. Shi Zhiyong broke his own world record to win the men's weightlifting 73kg event, while Wang Zongyuan and Xie Siyi brought China's third diving gold at the Games with victory in the men's synchronised 3m springboard final.

The USA had to settle for silver in China's diving win, though they did pick up gold in the debut 3-on-3 women's basketball event by defeating the Russian Olympic Committee.

Katie Ledecky and Erica Sullivan captured an American one-two in the women's 1500m freestyle meaning only Michael Phelps (13) has more individual Olympic success than Ledecky.

The Russian Olympic Committee remain fourth despite not winning gold on a frustrating day that saw them finish runners-up in both 3x3 basketball events and the men's 4x200m freestyle relay.

Australia enjoyed a memorable day in rowing as they battled to back-to-back golds in both the male and female coxless four, with Ariane Titmus setting a Games record in the women's 200m freestyle to move the Australians up to six golds.

Due to Australia's success on the water, Great Britain's dominant five-gold run in the men's coxless four that stretched back to Sydney 2000 came to an end, though they did collect a first silver medal in men's quad sculls.

Tom Dean, who won gold on Tuesday, was part of the men's 4x200m freestyle team that picked up Team GB's only gold of the day as they moved down to sixth place.

 

Fiji continued their Olympic men's rugby sevens dominance with a 27-12 win over New Zealand to retain the title they won at Rio 2016.

Their shorter-form rugby success represents their second gold in Games history, with Fiji's sevens team yet to lose at the Olympics after extending their unbeaten run to 12 games.

In April, COVID-19 forced the Fiji squad into isolation in the capital Suva before travelling to Australia in June for a pre-Games warm-up tournament.

Head coach Gareth Baber revealed some players, who had never been on a plane before nor played at an elite level, had not seen their families in "nearly 20 weeks".

"We locked them down for five months, basically," Baber said. "They came into a training camp on Easter Monday thinking they were going back on the Friday, and on the Tuesday they were told they couldn't go back and haven’t seen their families since. That takes a special kind of person to make that commitment.

"We were effectively locked up in a Christian hostel. We built a gym, basically in the garage of the hostel, and we were there for about 12 weeks.

"In fact, when the players go back and do their quarantine, it will have been about 20 weeks since they were last with their families."

Gold medal winner Asaeli Tuivuaka, whose try sealed the all-important final win, also spoke of the sacrifices involved for the sevens success.

"This gold medal is special to me. Back at home, their sacrifice and prayer motivated me through everything," Tuivuaka said. "I did not see them, only spoke to them on the phone, and that’s why it is meaningful to me.

"I have not seen my family for months. They are praying for me, they give me a lot of encouragement to keep on moving forward so that I can be here today.

Runners-up New Zealand claimed their first medal in a men's rugby event at the Games, though Great Britain lost out to Argentina, who claimed their first medal of the Olympics, for bronze.

ZHIYONG BREAKS OWN WORLD RECORD

China's Shi Zhiyong broke his own world record to secure gold in the men's 73kg weightlifting event.

The three-time world champion becomes the second weightlifter, after Waldemar Baszanowski in 1964 and 1968, to win back-to-back titles at the Games in the lightweight category, given his previous gold in the 69kg at Rio 2016.

"I prepared five years for Olympics so I really want to perform at the best," Zhiyong explained in Mandarin. "So if I didn't make to break my own record, just a gold medal, I would feel regret.

"I want myself to break the record in the Olympics... Even though I didn't make the 192kg [on my first attempt], I am still confident that I'm pretty sure I’m going to break my record so I did the 198."

A 166kg lift in the snatch achieved an Olympic record before a 198kg clean and jerk took his total to 364kg – one kilo more than his previous world record.

HASHIMOTO CONTINUES JAPAN'S GYMNASTIC DOMINANCE

Daiki Hashimoto captured a third straight men's gymnastics all-around title for Japan as he followed up Kohei Uchimura's back-to-back victories at London 2012 and Rio 2016.

Across all six events, the 19-year-old totalled 88.465 to win gold by a whisker, with China's Ruoteng Xiao and Russia's pre-event favourite Nikita Nagornyy, the reigning world and European champions, winning silver and bronze respectively.

Hashimoto, who could only manage third behind Nagornyy's Russians in the team event on Monday, was in third again before a near-flawless routine gained 14.993 points to put him top.

Japan also claimed more gold in judo as Chizuru Arai defeated Austria's Michaela Polleres to bring the host nation its eighth judo medal of the Games so far.

LATVIA AND USA CLAIM FIRST EVER 3X3 BASKETBALL TITLES

The United States dictated proceedings throughout the five-day women's tournament, winning nine games and losing only one as they etched their names in basketball history with the first ever 3x3 Olympic basketball triumph.

Stefanie Dolson, Allisha Gray, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young did the hard yards early before securing an 18-5 victory over the Russian Olympic Committee in the debut of 3-on-3 basketball at the Games.

In the men's edition, Latvia were the first winners as Karlis Lasmanis' two-point shot with 28 seconds left clinched a 21-18 win over the Russian Olympic Committee.

Though, basketball fanatics feel the real winner of the three-aside debut event is the sport itself.

"I think it's going to keep growing," the USA coach Kara Lawson said. "I think it's got a great future around the world, it's a lot of fun to play. Being an Olympic sport now, there's more converts probably than we've ever seen before."

SOUTH KOREA'S KIM MAKES EMPHATIC RETURN

Fencer Kim Jung-Hwan won gold at London 2012 but quit the sport before making a comeback from retirement in 2019.

After taking bronze in the men's individual sabre on Saturday, the 37-year-old may have felt fate would not be on his side.

However, Kim was part of South Korea's team that won the men's sabre on Wednesday as they coasted past Italy 45-26 in a one-sided final to defend their London 2012 title - after the discipline did not feature at Rio 2016.

Kim also becomes the first Asian fencer to claim four Olympic medals in the field, while Italy's silver medal reflected a record-extending 21st Olympic medal in the men's team sabre event.

Real Madrid winger Takefusa Kubo was on target again as hosts Japan eliminated France from the Tokyo Olympics men's football tournament with a 4-0 win on Wednesday.

Kubo netted in Japan's first two Group A games and gave Madrid another reminder of his quality by opening the scoring against France in Yokohama.

In doing so, the 20-year-old became the first Japanese player to score in each group-stage match at the same Olympic tournament.

Hiroki Sakai doubled Japan's lead prior to half-time before Koji Miyoshi and Daizen Maeda completed the rout, either side of Randal Kolo Muani being sent off.

Japan advance as the only side with a 100 per cent record, whereas France – who had Timothee Pembele and Andre-Pierre Gignac in their line-up – are out at the first stage.

Only Fiji (23 in 2016) and Serbia-Montenegro (14 in 2004) have let in more than the 11 goals France conceded at Tokyo 2020 in the 21st century.

"The tournament was really difficult for us, because we are young players and these are the first games we have played with the team," France midfielder Alexis Beka Beka said. 

"One of the big differences was the other teams knew each other much better. But it's all about the details. The game is never finished."

Mexico recovered from their loss to Japan last time out by beating South Africa 3-0 in a game in which both sides had a player sent off, seeing them through in second place ahead of France.

 


SPAIN MATCH CLASS OF '92

Spain were not perfect in the pool phase, having been held for the second time in three games in Wednesday's clash with Argentina, but they still went through as Group C winners.

It is the first time La Roja have achieved that feat at the Olympic Games since the likes of Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique went on to win gold in Barcelona in 1992.

Spain dominated possession against Argentina and took the lead through Mikel Merino's 66th-minute strike at Saitama Stadium.

Tomas Belmonte's late equaliser came against the run of play, but it was not enough to prevent 2004 and 2008 gold medallists Argentina crashing out early on.

London 2012 quarter-finalists Egypt finished level on four points with Argentina after beating Australia 2-0 and progress to the last eight, where heavyweights Brazil await, by virtue of a superior goal difference.

HISTORIC ACHIEVEMENT FOR OLYWHITES

New Zealand picked up the point they needed against Romania in a goalless draw to advance to the quarter-finals of the competition for the first time.

Goalkeeper Michael Woud redeemed himself for his horror show in the loss to Honduras by making a string of stops against Romania, who would have advanced with a win.

"It really came down to desire tonight," said OlyWhites head coach Danny Hay. "The boys really dug deep and showed a lot of that.

"I'm really proud of the performance. It's historic and we look forward to a quarter-final for a New Zealand men's team."

New Zealand also needed a favour from South Korea, who followed up a 4-0 win against Romania with a 6-0 victory over Honduras on Wednesday en route to topping Group B.

Hwang Ui-jo scored three of the goals, two of those from the penalty spot, and a showdown with Mexico is up next for rampant South Korea for a place in the semi-finals.

RIO FINALISTS GERMANY FALL SHORT

Germany will not get the opportunity to match or better their silver medal from Rio in 2016 as a 1-1 draw with Ivory Coast saw their opponents through at their expense.

Nothing less than a win would do for Stefan Kuntz's men but they fell behind to a Benjamin Henrichs own goal with 67 minutes played.

While Eduard Lowen's impressive free-kick did set up a tense finish in Miyagi, Germany were unable to find a winner and are on the plane home.

Ivory Coast will now take on Spain, the last European nation standing, in the quarter-finals.

Also through to the knockout stage are reigning champions Brazil after seeing off Saudi Arabia 3-1, with Richarlison's late double adding to Matheus Cunha's first-half opener.

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