Top-ranked Novak Djokovic had his dreams of tennis gold dashed on Friday while Ethiopia’s Selemon Barega felled the reigning world 10,000 metres champion, on a day of upsets that saw doping allegations surface at the swimming pool.
The Serbian was aiming to become the first man to complete the Golden Slam – Olympic gold and all four majors in the same year – but was undone by fifth-ranked German Alexander Zverev who came back strong after conceding the first set.
The two men embraced briefly at the net and Zverev appeared to sob into his towel.
In the first final of the athletics programme, Barega sprinted the last lap to leave Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei, who also holds the 10,000m world record, trailing.
As viewer data suggested Tokyo 2020 has so far been less watched than other recent Games, the day was also marked by crashes on the BMX track, including one that saw 28-year-old American favourite Connor Fields rushed to hospital.
A sense of unease also spread through the Tokyo Aquatics Centre as American Ryan Murphy said his 200 metre backstroke final was “probably not clean” following the loss of a title he won in 2016 to the Russian Olympic Committee’s (ROC) Evgeny Rylov.
Murphy, who won three golds in Rio, however later backed away from any implication that his rivals had cheated.
Held in Tokyo without spectators and after a year’s delay because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Games have been characterised by tumult and scandals from the get-go, and have yet to set the ratings alight for global broadcasters.
With China pulling ahead in the medal tally, with 18 gold to Japan’s 16 and 14 for the United States, data from the opening ceremony and the first few nights showed viewing figures across Europe and America were lower for these Games than other recent editions.
TV viewership is up in Australia and Japan, however.
COVID-19 infections have also risen, totalling 3,300 in Tokyo on Friday, after hitting a record 3,865 a day earlier, adding to the strain on the medical system.
The government broadened a state of emergency to four more prefectures and extended Tokyo’s until the end of August from Aug. 22.
‘THOUGHTS WOULD GET ME INTO TROUBLE’
Murphy, who won gold in the 100 metre and 200 metre Rio finals, surrendered both titles to Rylov in Tokyo.
“I’ve got 15 thoughts, 13 of them would get me into a lot of trouble,” he said when asked by a reporter if he had any doping concerns about his races, subsequently suggesting the 200m had been tainted.
More than half of the expected 5,000 doping tests at have already been conducted, the International Testing Agency said, with no information yet on any positive cases.
But Rylov said Murphy was entitled to his thoughts given that there had been scandals.
The World Anti-Doping Agency handed Russia a four-year ban from top sporting events in 2019, although those were later lessened by a sports arbitration court.
More than 300 Russian athletes are competing at the Tokyo Games as part of the ROC. While they are not allowed to compete under their own flag, they can wear their tri-colour uniforms.
In other swimming events, the medals were again spread between countries other than traditional powerhouses.
South African Tatjana Schoenmaker won the women’s 200 metre breaststroke in a world record time, while Wang Shun’s victory in the 200 metre medley was China’s first men’s swimming gold
In gymnastics, Zhu Xueying led China to the top two podium positions in the women’s trampoline as Canada’s Rosie MacLennan was denied a golden hat-trick.
That sport has also been overshadowed by drama around U.S. star Simone Biles. On Friday, she spelled out her struggles to perform, days after pulling of competitions, but shed no clear light on whether she would take part in further events.
In fencing, the top four teams in the men’s team epee crashed out in the quarter-finals. One of the day’s biggest surprises, Japan, ranked eighth, defeated top-ranked France, who will miss out on a medal for the first time since 1992.
The final day of Olympic rowing delivered thrills when Greece’s Stefanos Ntouskos upset the favourites in the men’s single sculls and Canada ended U.S. dominance of the women’s eights. Four-time Olympian Emma Twigg, of New Zealand, ensured her country kept a grip on the sport with another gold in the women’s single sculls.
Athletics exploded into life with the women’s 100 metres round-one heats.
Ivorian Marie-Josée Ta Lou roared across the finish line with a blistering 10.78 seconds at a hot and spectator-less Olympic Stadium in Tokyo. Defending Olympic champion Jamaican Elaine Thompson-Herah ran 10.82 seconds while compatriot Shelly Anne Fraser-Pryce posted 10.84 seconds.
AMERICAN AWAKE AFTER CRASH
Reigning BMX champion Fields, who crashed heavily in the third run of his semi-final, was awake in hospital awaiting further checks to determine the extent of his injuries, an American team spokesperson said.
He was close to the front heading into the first steeply banked corner at the Ariake Urban Sports Park and appeared to tangle with another rider, crashing heavily.
The semi-finals were marred by other crashes after a 45-minute rain delay, although the course was dry and did not appear to be a factor.
“I don’t think that the track or the weather had anything to do with the crashes,” Dutch rider Merel Smulders, who took bronze in the women’s race after her sister Laura also crashed in the semi-finals, told Reuters.
“I feel like there were a lot more crashes in Rio. But there were some bad crashes today and no one wants to see that.”