Japan men's football captain Maya Yoshida has called on Olympics organisers to reconsider their decision to stage the Tokyo Games behind closed doors.

The call to ban spectators from attending events was taken earlier this month after Japan's capital city was placed into a state of emergency amid rising COVID-19 cases.

However, fans are still able to attend certain other sporting contests within the country away from the Olympics, such as Japan's friendly with Spain in Kobe on Saturday.

A socially distanced crowd was present for the 1-1 draw and Yoshida has questioned why locals will not be permitted to attend matches when the Games begin next week.

"I think a lot of people's tax money is going to hold these Olympics," Yoshida is quoted as saying by the Asahi newspaper.

"Despite that, people can't go and watch. So you wonder about who the Olympics is for, and what it is for. Of course athletes want to play in front of fans."

Tokyo 2020 officials confirmed the first coronavirus case at the Olympic Village on Saturday, since when two athletes have reportedly tested positive.

"Our families have sacrificed and put up with things, they supported us when we were competing in Europe," Sampdoria defender Yoshida added.

"It's not just the players who were competing, but the family members, every one of them.

"So if they can't watch the match, well who and what is that match for, there is that question. I really hope we can reconsider that seriously."

Japan will take on South Africa in their opening Group A game on Thursday, before facing Mexico and France. The top two sides will advance to the quarter-finals.

Germany's men's Olympic football head coach Stefan Kuntz says his players had no option but to walk off the field with five minutes remaining of their match against Honduras after defender Jordan Torunarigha was allegedly racially abused.

Saturday's pre-Tokyo 2020 friendly, which was played behind closed doors in Wakayama, was brought to an early close shortly after Felix Uduokhai had cancelled out Douglas Martinez's first-half opener.

A tweet from the official Germany team account read: "The game has ended five minutes early with the score at 1-1. The Germany players left the pitch after Jordan Torunarigha was racially abused."

The Honduras national team later tweeted that the incident "was a misunderstanding", but Kuntz stands by his side's decision to take a collective stand by making their way off the pitch.

"When one of our players is racially abused, playing on is not an option," Kuntz said at his post-match news conference.

"It was a strong statement. After the situation calmed down, the whole Honduras squad came to us and apologised. That was the end of the topic for us.

"We talked to each other about whether we should do anything else, but Jordan said 'No, that was a strong enough statement'.

"We want to end the subject there because now we fly to Yokohama to prepare for our next game."

Torunarigha plays for Hertha Berlin at club level and has represented Germany from Under-16s to Under-23s level.

The 23-year-old was also the alleged victim of racist abuse in February 2020 in a DFB-Pokal match between Hertha and Schalke.

Following the latest incident on Saturday, Hertha offered their support to the centre-back, tweeting of the decision to leave the pitch in unison: "That is the only right decision!"

"His team-mates picked him up straight away and hugged him for a few minutes," added Kuntz, who earned 25 caps for the Germany men's senior side in his playing days.

"He was very relaxed and you could tell he was happy to be with us. Afterwards we even started to joke a bit again.

"This team is great. It helps of course when you can see that your colleagues support you so much. It's also a strong statement from Jordan to say what we did was enough."

Germany face Brazil on July 22 in their opening Group D fixture at the Olympics, before taking on Saudi Arabia and Ivory Coast.

Jamaica long jumper Tajay Gayle looks set to add an Olympic medal to the gold he won at the 2019 edition of the World Athletics Championship in Doha.

The Jamaica national champion’s best distance this year is 8.29, well short of the 8.60 recorded by world leader, Greece’s Miltiadis Tentoglou in May.

However, track and field analyst and SportsMax.tv Tokyo Take host Leighton Levy believes the jumper's improvements in other areas will make him a force to be reckoned with when he faces the field in Tokyo.

“I think Gayle is going to fly in the long jump and be among the medals, gold even,” Levy said on this week’s episode. (See full episode below)

“His improved speed is an asset and once he makes the adjustments on the runway for that additional speed, we are in for a spectacular performance from Gayle.”

The jumper has, in fact, shown off plenty of improved speed after recording new personal bests in both the 60m and 100m sprints this season.  Gayle ran 6.78 in the later in February but was even more impressive in the 100, clocking 10.18 to shave huge chunks off his previous personal best of 10.74.  Gayle’s personal best of 8.69, in the long jump, was set in 2019.

Germany's men's football team walked off the pitch in a pre-Tokyo Olympics friendly against Honduras after defender Jordan Torunarigha was allegedly racially abused.

Saturday's match in Wakayama was tied at 1-1 when abandoned with five minutes to go, moments after Felix Uduokhai had cancelled out Douglas Martinez's first-half opener.

The Germany national team's official Twitter account later confirmed the reason for the game, which was split into three 30-minute sessions, being cut short.

"The game has ended five minutes early with the score at 1-1," the tweet read. "The Germany players left the pitch after Jordan Torunarigha was racially abused."

Torunarigha plays for Hertha Berlin at club level and has played for Germany from Under-16s to Under-23s level.

The 23-year-old was also the alleged victim of racist abuse in February 2020 in a DFB-Pokal match between Hertha and Schalke.

Following the latest incident on Saturday, Hertha offered their support to the centre-back, tweeting of the decision to leave the pitch in unison: "That is the only right decision!"

Germany face Brazil on July 22 in their opening Group D fixture at the Olympics, before taking on Saudi Arabia and Ivory Coast.

When we look ahead to the Olympics, we usually think about track & field sports, swimming, cycling, maybe even wrestling and boxing.

Given it dominates so much of the sporting agenda for the rest of the year, football may not be among those sports we initially associate with the Olympics, but it has offered numerous stars the opportunity to show their talents to a global audience and to potentially take home a coveted medal.

Of course, the Olympic football tournament is geared more towards lesser-established players, given the age-restriction rules in place.

While teams are usually allowed no more than three players over the age of 23, that age limit has been increased to 24 so not to penalise those around the cut-off who may well have missed out as a result of the 12-month delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Superstars such as Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi may be missing, but there are still plenty of familiar faces. Barcelona's Pedri will be involved after starring for Spain at Euro 2020; Brazil great Dani Alves is joined by Arsenal and Everton forwards Gabriel Martinelli and Richarlison; and dynamic Milan midfielder Franck Kessie will be the Ivory Coast's go-to man.

But there are plenty of other relatively unheralded talents ready to make you sit up and take note. Below, Stats Perform takes a look at 10 of them.

Facundo Medina, 22, centre-back – Argentina

It's fair to say Lens defender Medina has enjoyed a rapid rise to prominence. The French side brought him in from Club Atletico Talleres just last July and he's already being mentioned as a potential target for clubs like Manchester United.

While he may not be the most physically imposing central defender, he's a good technician, which is demonstrated by his ease on the ball – only three Ligue 1 centre-backs (more than 1,000 minutes played) embarked on more ball carries per 90 minutes (20) than Medina, while his average of 56 successful passes per game was more than any of his team-mates.

Bryan Gil, 20, winger – Spain

La Roja's squad is packed with familiar names – as many as six were at Euro 2020, and that doesn't include the likes of Marco Asensio, Carlos Soler and Dani Ceballos. But of the players with less global recognition, old-fashioned left-winger Bryan is arguably the most exciting.

He just completed a very encouraging loan spell away from Sevilla with Eibar, where his direct and brave style of play was frequently on display, with only Lionel Messi, Javi Galan and Yannick Carrasco attempting more dribbles than him (132). In January he became only the second player born this century to score a LaLiga brace, and he won his first senior Spain caps this year.

 

Diego Lainez, 21, winger – Mexico

It feels like Lainez has been tipped for a big future for a long time now – after all, he first burst on to the scene with Club America four years ago. Two-and-a-half years into his time in LaLiga with Real Betis, he's yet to really establish himself with only 13 of his 48 league appearances coming as a starter. He's still not scored a goal.

But there's no doubting he's a talent. In 2020-21, he attempted a dribble every 17 minutes, which was a record among Betis players and ahead of even Nabil Fekir (21 mins). Lainez is an entertainer and clearly gifted, but perhaps lacking consistency in his end product. Who knows, as one of the more talented players in the Mexico squad, being seen as a go-to player may aid his quest for maturity.

Teji Savanier, 29, central midfielder – France

Savanier is the odd one out in this list, given he's the only one who actually counts towards an over-age quota, though it could be argued that it's to players like him that playing at the Olympics may matter the most. Savanier's never even played for France's youth teams, let alone the senior side, and he only made his top-flight bow as recently as 2018, but he's one of those central midfielders that's a joy to watch with his wonderful ability on the ball.

He has completed 58.4 per cent of his 279 dribbles in Ligue 1 since July 2018, which is bettered by only three players (more than 150 attempts) in the same period. For greater context, Neymar's completion rate in that time is 52.5 per cent. Savanier should also provide France with a threat at set-pieces, as only Benjamin Bourigeaud created more chances (40) from such situations than the Montpellier star (37) in 2020-21.

 

Thiago Almada, 20, attacking midfielder – Argentina

La Albiceleste's squad boasts numerous talented young attacking players – Ezequiel Barco, Pedro de la Vega, Ezequiel Ponce, but Almada's arguably rated highest of the lot.

A diminutive attacking midfielder from Carlos Tevez's old neighbourhood in Buenos Aires, Fuerte Apache, Almada is skilful, explosive and creative. Among players born this century, Almada boasts the best chances created per game frequency (two) in the Copa Libertadores (at least two games played) this season, as well as being the youngest player to have netted at least twice in the competition in 2021.

Claudinho, 24, forward – Brazil

All roads point to Europe for Claudinho, who looks poised to be the first major export of Red Bull Bragantino, the energy drink giant's Brazilian club. While no move has been confirmed yet, it seems only a matter of time before RB Leipzig look to bring him over to Germany.

 

After all, he was the joint-top scorer in the 2020 Brasileirao (18 goals), with his finishing abilities highlighted by the fact a league-high seven of those were scored from outside the box. Claudinho also created 25 more chances than anyone else in the division, and scooped both the Young Player of the Year and MVP awards.

 

Nathanael Mbuku, 19, winger – France

He may not necessarily be a starter for Les Bleus, given they've plenty of attacking talent in the squad, but at the very least left-winger Mbuku could be an interesting option from the bench. Reims are reported to already value him at €15million, and he has previous when it comes to excelling in national team colours – he netted five goals in six games as France finished third at the 2019 Under-17 World Cup.

Mbuku enjoyed a smattering of Ligue 1 appearances that season, though it was in 2020-21 that he truly established himself, making 28 starts – that was tied with Eduardo Camavinga for the most by a player born in 2002 or after. He caught the eye with his ability to beat a man, completing a highly respectable 58.1 per cent of his 74 dribbles last term, a completion rate bettered by only 10 players who attempted at least 70.

Felix Uduokhai, 23, centre-back – Germany

Wolfsburg plucked Uduokhai from 1860 Munich in 2017 with much expected of him. He fell well out of favour in his second season before moving on loan to Augsburg, who triggered their purchase option on him last year. Since moving to Bavaria, he's hardly looked back.

He earned his first senior call-up to the Germany team in November and now there is chatter that some of the Bundesliga's biggest clubs are circling for him again. Whoever gets Uduokhai will land an imposing centre-back whose 102 aerial wins was the fourth-highest in the league last term, while only Amos Pieper (160) bettered his 157 clearances.

 

Brenno, 22, goalkeeper – Brazil

For years, goalkeeper was considered the only position where Brazil struggled to develop world-class players, though Alisson and Ederson have firmly disproved that notion and Brenno could be another to keep an eye on.

In the 2021 Brasileirao, Brenno is averaging the fourth-most amount of saves per 90 minutes (3.5) among those to have played at least four times, and is reportedly interesting Portuguese clubs. A solid showing in Japan might see a potential transfer sped up.

Amad Diallo, 19, winger – Ivory Coast

Manchester United fans will be eager to get a good look at Amad during the Olympics, given they only got glimpses of him in 2020-21 after joining from Atalanta. Amid those eight appearances, he certainly showed flashes of his exciting ability and silky footwork, but they will hope to see some performances of a little more substance.

As much as anything, it could be an opportunity for Amad to earn himself a loan move or prove to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer he's worth keeping around. Jadon Sancho's arrival will likely further impact his exposure to first-team football, but impressing in Japan might encourage his manager to use him as a regular back up to the England international, with Mason Greenwood moved into a central position.

The United States are always favourites at the Olympic Games – and rightly so. In 18 entries to the men's basketball event, Team USA have collected 18 medals, 15 of them gold.

But those three defeats serve as a warning for Gregg Popovich's side.

And any remaining complacency heading to Tokyo 2020 – in pursuit of a fourth straight title – should have been shifted by their initial pre-tournament exhibitions.

The United States lost to Nigeria last Saturday and then to Australia two days later, their third and fourth defeats in exhibitions since first fielding NBA players with the formation of the 'Dream Team' in 1992.

"It was better," as Popovich said, in Tuesday's win over Argentina – "bit by bit, every day, I hope," the coach added – but the pressure is still on, as consistent results must follow when the real action begins.

 

TOUGH START FOR TEAM USA SUPERSTARS

Of course, Team USA have never failed to advance from the preliminary round and that spotless record is highly unlikely to change this year. A kind draw has thrown up only one true test, but it comes first up: against France.

Indeed, Les Bleus dealt the United States their humiliating quarter-final exit at the FIBA Basketball World Cup two years ago.

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert – the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year – put up a game-high 16 rebounds in that France victory and his size is a real problem for familiar opponents.

Gobert led the league with 2.7 blocks and 10.1 defensive rebounds per game in 2020-21, snaring 33.5 per cent of defensive boards while on the floor for the third-best mark in the NBA.

Bam Adebayo and Draymond Green might be versatile but, as the two preferred American options at the five, finding joy in the middle seems unlikely, while Team USA might also struggle to stop 7ft 1in Gobert on defense. His 67.5 per cent shooting was another benchmark.

However, the talent elsewhere in the Team USA lineup should ensure they have enough to win most matchups.

Kevin Durant shot 52.3 per cent from the midrange and 45.0 per cent from beyond the arc in the regular season; only two players made more threes than Damian Lillard (275), who then broke Klay Thompson's record with 12 makes from deep in a single playoff game against the Denver Nuggets.

The opener could either see Durant and Co lay down a marker for the rest of the tournament or provide other contenders with a blueprint for beating the United States.

 

BOOMERS BANG UP FOR MEDAL PURSUIT

Australia are far from the biggest team at the Games, but they have already shown the joy that can be found in the paint against Team USA, scoring 44 points from inside the key in their exhibition win.

The Boomers' effective, well-executed gameplan was all the more impressive given the unsettled nature of their team.

They have changed coach three times since the World Cup, and star name Ben Simmons is absent – working to "develop that skill package and improve in a couple of areas", Brian Goorjian said, after averaging an awful 9.9 points per game in the playoff series defeat to the Atlanta Hawks.

But Philadelphia 76ers team-mate Matisse Thybulle is still on hand to provide defensive energy, having led the NBA in steal percentage (3.9), while Patty Mills remains more reliable at international level than for Popovich's San Antonio Spurs.

Four times beaten in the bronze medal game, Australia will expect to finally secure some hardware, yet Group B also contains a dark horse in the form of Nigeria, who followed up their own victory against the United States by dominating Argentina.

Miami Heat guard Gabe Vincent had 21 points against the country of his birth, a total he has only once topped in his NBA career to date.

Nigeria have chemistry, talent and, in Golden State Warriors associate head coach Mike Brown, coaching experience. They have also played so far like they have a point to prove.

 

DONCIC DRAWN INTO GROUP OF DEATH

Second and third pool games against Iran and the Czech Republic respectively should see that there is no jeopardy for the United States early on, but Group C shows how tough this tournament can be.

There will be a rematch of the 2019 World Cup final between Spain and Argentina, while hosts Japan will hope to make some noise. Then there is Slovenia, led of course by Luka Doncic.

One of the most exciting young talents in the world, Doncic has already shown himself capable of dragging a team to against-the-odds victories single-handedly.

The 22-year-old, whose 36.0 per cent usage rate led the NBA this year, was unsurprisingly named the MVP at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Kaunas just three weeks after forcing the Los Angeles Clippers to go to a Game 7 in the first round of the playoffs.

Doncic has averaged 33.5 points across his 13 career postseason games – all of which have come against the Clippers. No player in NBA history has played 13 playoff games or more and averaged more, with Michael Jordan second on 33.4.

But Doncic has lost both of those series to date and is now faced with some hugely experienced players at this level. Argentina's Luis Scola and Spain's Pau Gasol – who moved to Barcelona specifically to prepare for the Games – are both in their 40s.

Should Doncic guide his country into the knockout stage, though, Team USA would undoubtedly be wary of taking on the two-time All-NBA First Team selection.

Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal may be out of the Tokyo Olympics after entering the health and safety protocols at Team USA's camp in Las Vegas.

USA Basketball announced that a player had enter the protocols although they did not identify who, although he has widely been reported as Beal.

The Wizards guard played 30 minutes in Tuesday's 108-80 win over Argentina and was joint top scorer with 17 points, while he started both defeats to Australia and Nigeria.

“A member of the USA Basketball Men’s National Team has been placed under USA Basketball’s health and safety protocols,” the federation wrote in Wednesday's statement.

Beal could still be replaced in Team USA's final 12-member team for the Tokyo Olympics.

Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich is confident his side is getting better after responding to rare back-to-back losses with a 108-80 win over Argentina on Tuesday.

The gold medal favourite's preparations ahead of the Tokyo Olympics were shaken up after consecutive exhibition game defeats to Australia and Nigeria.

But the Americans were much improved 12 days out from their Olympics opener, led by Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal who both had 17 points and six rebounds.

USA led 58-42 at half-time and never looked back, as Bam Adebayo returned to the starting five with good impact.

“I thought we sustained it pretty well in our game against Australia, and we competed well, rebounded, played defense, ran the floor and had good pace for one half, but then it dissipated through the second half,” Popovich said.

“Tonight, I thought we maintained [effort] pretty much throughout the game, so hopefully that's a sign that we are in a little better condition.

"To play these games is huge for us. So, it was better, and it is getting better, bit by bit, every day.”

Popovich also praised Adebayo along with Draymond Green, while Jayson Tatum missed the game with a right knee injury with no timeframe confirmed.

"I thought both Bam and Draymond Green facilitated a lot of action, and they were very active," Popovich said. "They got everybody involved, which is something that's really important for us."

Beal added that the side had learned some important lessons from the Australia and Nigeria defeats.

"The biggest thing we have to realise is that it’s not the NBA, and coach Pop keeps re-emphasizing that to us every single day," Beal said.

"It’s more physical. These guys have been playing together for five, 10-plus years, so they have this experience and chemistry. We're trying to develop that in a short period of time."

USA have further games against Australia and Spain, before departing for Tokyo next Monday with the first Olympics game against France on July 25.

Iconic St Lucian high jumper Levern Spencer is yet to achieve her dream of standing on the Olympic medal podium, but very few could dispute the great heights she has already achieved for the tiny island and the wider Caribbean as a whole.

It would have been easy to sit back and accept that odds are stacked against her.  After all, she hails from an island with a population of less than 200,000 and much fewer resources to spare for sport than much bigger nations. 

She did not begin competing in the sport until 14, much later than many of her peers, and at 5’ 9’ in a field where competitors consistently range well over 6ft she is routinely one of the smallest.  But, throughout her life and career, Spencer has habitually slain her fair share of Goliaths.

What she may lack in height, is more than made up for in a big heart filled with determination that has driven her journey of unprecedented achievement so far and the burning desire to keep flying higher.

In total, Spencer, who began representing St Lucia as a junior some 22-years ago, has claimed 21 gold medals for her country so far.  Most famously, she won gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, a first for both herself and her country.  It was a proud moment.

“St Lucia had never won a gold medal at this event, and it was my fifth Commonwealth Games, and winning a gold, having won two bronze medals in 2014 and 2010, it was a big deal for us,” Spencer recalled.

 Levern Spencer Wins High Jump Title At Hvezdy v Nehvizdech | World-Track  and Field Website

 

“Being the one to create history is something I will always remember…whenever I stand on the podium hearing my country’s national anthem, seeing the flag being flown, it’s always very special and emotional.  I always had in the back of the mind that it is because of my efforts, because of something I did,” she added.

As with a great many things, barring a twist of fate, the world might never have heard of Spencer.  Things could have turned out much differently for herself and the country.  The athlete did not consider doing the jumps as a very young athlete and only gave it some consideration after it was suggested by a teacher.

“One of my teachers at the time just advised that I do the high jump for my house (intra-school team) and I won the event not knowing anything about technique or the high jump.  So, I’m so thankful that I did not say no and gave it a try,” Spencer said.

“I’m just happy that, that teacher who was my first coach as well, Mr. Gregory Lewin, introduced me to the sport.  Sometimes it’s good to listen and say yes, you’ll give it a try.  Maybe if I had said no, I probably would not have been the high jumper I am today.”

The rest as they say is history, in addition to winning numerous medals and awards, Spencer went on break the county’s national records on several occasions.  In fact, she set the first when she was just a 14-year-old, not too long after starting the event.  She set the current mark of 1.98m in 2010.

At 37, the jumper is heading into the twilight of her career and the time for Olympic glory has all but run out.  Heading into her fourth Olympic Games, however, hope burns eternal that she may be able to create history for St Lucia, yet again, but this time on the grandest of stages.  Spencer knows it will take something extraordinary.

“In order to win Olympic gold, I would definitely need something special on that day.  It might take around a clearance of 2m, which I haven’t done but it’s possible, anything is possible.  I would need something special on that day,” she said.

“Two high jumpers that inspire me are Ruth Beitia and Chaunte Lowe, Ruth despite her age and not having an Olympic medal after three attempts, just like me, she kept going until she won her gold medal and 37 and Chaunte because like me she is one of the smallest in the field and always manages to be competitive despite having to overcome so many challenges.”

In truth, however, even if the athlete were to leave the Games empty-handed, perhaps, for the final time, she had more importantly already served as inspiration for future generations and when it comes to putting her country on the map, flew well clear of that bar, with plenty to spare, a long time ago.

“Despite the many medals that I have won, what I regard as my biggest success in my athletic career is that coming from a tiny nation of only 180,000 people I was able to work hard and be competitive against the best in the world.  Sometimes on many occasions defeating them.  I am happy I have served as an inspiration for up-and-coming St Lucian athletes and I know that I gave my all and my best at whatever I did and persevered to the end.”

Novak Djokovic has admitted he is still "50/50" over whether he will take part in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics due to coronavirus countermeasures put in place in the Japanese capital.

The world number one made history on Sunday by beating Matteo Berrettini in the Wimbledon final to match Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 grand slam titles.

Djokovic has won all three majors in 2021 and recently suggested he would represent Serbia at this year's Olympics, with the tennis tournament due to begin on July 24.

However, with organisers this week confirming spectators will be banned from attending events in Tokyo amid rising coronavirus cases, Djokovic is unsure if he will travel to Japan.

"My plan was always to go to Olympic Games, but right now I'm a little bit divided," he said after his sixth Wimbledon triumph. 

"I also hear that there's going to be a lot of restrictions within the [Athletes'] Village. Possibly you would not be able to see other athletes perform live. 

"I can't even have my stringer that is very important part of my team. I can't have a stringer. I'm limited with the amount of people I can take in my team as well.

"It's kind of 50-50 because of what I heard in the last couple days."

 

Djokovic has competed at the Games on three previous occasions, but unlike Nadal and Federer he has never previously claimed a gold medal, the bronze he won in 2008 being the best the 34-year-old has managed.

Nadal, Dominic Thiem, Roberto Bautista Agut, Denis Shapovalov, Nick Kyrgios, Simona Halep and Serena Williams have previously confirmed they will not play at the Olympics.

Switzerland's Federer, who won gold in the men's doubles in Beijing 13 years ago, has yet to make a decision on his participation.

2011 World Champion Yohan Blake clocked his fastest time this year after winning the men’s 100m at Friday’s American Track League in Atlanta, Georgia.

The 31-year-old got a solid start before putting away the field to finish in a time of 9.95.  The Jamaican was the only athlete in the field to dip below 10 seconds.

American Elijah Hall was second in 10.08 and his compatriot Kyree King third in 10.12.  Another Caribbean athlete in the race, St. Kitts and Nevis’ Jason Rodgers was fifth in 10.26.  Another Jamaican, Javoy Tucker finished eighth in 10.35.

Blake finished in second position at his country’s national trials two weeks ago but has vowed to leave the Olympic Games later this month with a medal.  The sprinter, who has the second-fastest time recorded over both the 100m and 200m was excited by his performance with the Olympics just a few weeks away.

“I am very excited about the time; give God thanks,” said Blake.

“This is going to be my last Olympic, and I am looking forward to it. Definitely, I am not leaving that stadium (Tokyo 2020) without a medal.”

Naomi Osaka wants "some level of privacy and empathy" from the media when she returns to action and says she "could not be more excited" to play in the Olympics.

Osaka has not played since withdrawing from the French Open after revealing she would skip press conferences at Roland Garros as "people have no regard for athletes' mental health".

The four-time grand slam champion from Japan revealed she had suffered "long bouts of depression" since winning the US Open in 2018.

Osaka says she has not changed her stance on press conferences and feels she had been unfairly scrutinised.

The world number two wrote in Time magazine: "I communicated that I wanted to skip press conferences at Roland Garros to exercise self-care and preservation of my mental health. I stand by that.

"Athletes are humans. Tennis is our privileged profession, and of course there are commitments off the court that coincide. But I can't imagine another profession where a consistent attendance record [I have missed one press conference in my seven years on tour] would be so harshly scrutinised.

"Perhaps we should give athletes the right to take a mental break from media scrutiny on a rare occasion without being subject to strict sanctions.

"In any other line of work, you would be forgiven for taking a personal day here and there, so long as it's not habitual. You wouldn't have to divulge your most personal symptoms to your employer; there would likely be HR measures protecting at least some level of privacy.

"In my case, I felt under a great amount of pressure to disclose my symptoms - frankly because the press and the tournament did not believe me. I do not wish that on anyone and hope that we can enact measures to protect athletes, especially the fragile ones.

"I also do not want to have to engage in a scrutiny of my personal medical history ever again. So I ask the press for some level of privacy and empathy next time we meet."

 

Osaka is feeling the benefits of a break and is relishing representing her country in the Olympics on home soil in Tokyo.

"After taking the past few weeks to recharge and spend time with my loved ones, I have had the time to reflect, but also to look forward," the 23-year-old said. 

"I could not be more excited to play in Tokyo. An Olympic Games itself is special, but to have the opportunity to play in front of the Japanese fans is a dream come true. I hope I can make them proud."

The Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA), sports’ parent body locally, will be investing $15 million into its Equipment Grant to benefit its member bodies.

Financing for the program was secured through a three-year partnership worth $45 million with Supreme Ventures Limited (SVL). At the time when the agreement was signed in April, the JOA had made known its plans to make funds available to sporting associations for equipment, noting that it is critical to building capacity for sport and the performance of athletes.

This is the second activation of the Supreme Ventures partnership with the JOA after they invested $7.5 million in the Jamaica National Trials last month.

Also, for some associations, the acquisition of equipment has been expensive and beyond their grasp, which has consequences for athletes whose daily regimen of exercise constitutes training with equipment, which is vital to their preparation and overall development.

The Equipment Grant is another facet of the JOA’s Olympic Invest initiative that was launched in 2020, which has, among its primary objectives, the sustainability and viability of Olympic and non-Olympic sports. Some of the members that will be benefitting from this grant are Jamaica Triathlon Association, Jamaica Wrestling Federation, Jamaica Bobsleigh Federation, Jamaica Cricket Association and Jamaica Lawn Bowling Association.

With an oft-expressed view to equip and empower its member associations by providing the means to opportunity and success, the JOA further maintains the provision of the equipment is enabling sport with the required tools of the trade.

This program follows upon the recently announced partnership with select members of the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council to raise $200 million through a ‘Dollar Plan’ campaign that will be done later this year. These funds raised will be used to expand the JOA funding portfolio to support a wider diversity in sports over the next quadrennial.

 

 

Organisers for the Tokyo Olympics have confirmed spectators will be banned from attending events being held in the city after Japan's capital was placed into a state of emergency again.

The decision was taken following a meeting between organisers for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, plus the Japanese government.

It was announced Tokyo will once more enter a state of emergency, which will run until at least August 22, amid rising coronavirus cases.

Japan's Olympics minister Tamayo Marukawa is quoted as saying: "We reached an agreement on no spectators at venues in Tokyo."

Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto said it is "regrettable", while adding: "A very heavy judgement was made...[but we] no choice but to hold the Games in a limited way."

The decision was widely expected but marks a fresh blow for the Games, which were postponed by a year because of the global pandemic.

Many residents of Japan have expressed opposition to the Games due to the hordes of athletes, officials and media arriving from overseas.

While avoiding the huge numbers of infection rates seen in other nations, Japan has registered over 800,000 cases and 14,800 deaths, while 920 new daily cases were reported on Wednesday. There have also been concerns about the speed of the country's COVID-19 vaccine programme.

Despite the vocal opposition, the government has pressed ahead with plans for the Games, which organisers stated in December would cost a staggering $15.4billion.

The Olympic Games officially get under way on July 23 with the opening ceremony, although softball and football start two days earlier, and run until August 8. Following that, the Paralympics are set to take place between August 24 and September 5.

 

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