In scorching mid-morning heat at the Oi Hockey Stadium, the hosts overcame an early deficit to enter the half-time break with the advantage. While the Kookaburras battled back to clinch victory in the second half, the tight result – against a team 14 places below them in the rankings – gave the Australians a scare heading into a tough encounter with India on Sunday.
An Algerian judoka has been suspended and sent home after withdrawing from the Tokyo Olympics when his draw set him on course to compete against an Israeli.
Speaking before his suspension, Fethi Nourine, a competitor in the men’s under-73kg division, said that his political support for the Palestinian cause made it impossible for him to compete against Israeli Tohar Butbul, who he was due to meet in the second round.
It is not the first time that Nourine has withdrawn from competition to avoid facing an Israeli opponent, having also pulled out of the 2019 world championships in Tokyo for the same reason.
The International Judo Federation responded by suspending Nourine and his coach Amar Benikhlef, who on Friday had told Algerian media: “We were not lucky with the draw. We got an Israeli opponent and that’s why we had to retire. We made the right decision.”
The men’s road race is well underway, and it is blistering hot in Tokyo. The heat could prove a decisive factor for the men in the latter stages of today’s race, and tomorrow in the women’s road race.
It might be tempting for Australians to think that our riders have the upper hand in hot conditions, given they spend the entire Australian summer battling it out in temperatures that sometimes exceed 40C. But Grace Brown, one of the four Australians racing for gold tomorrow, told me that the heat here feels very different. “It’s hot and humid and we get very sweaty,” she said. “You sweat and it just doesn’t evaporate. It’s uncomfortable, but you just have to accept that’s how you feel. It’s not like the scorching oven heat of an Australian summer.”
Nonetheless, the Australian Olympic Committee and Australian Institute of Sport have spent recent years preparing specifically for the Tokyo heat – they’re rolling out dozens of ice baths and 500 litres of slushy a day to keep the Aussies cool.
Last night was a big one for team Australia, with the pageantry and symbolism of the opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium. Even though just 63 members of Australia’s 480-odd delegation formally marched, the rest gathered around their televisions in the athletes’ village or their team hotels (for those out of Tokyo).
There might be a few sleepy heads this morning. It was an emotional night for the Aussies, with Patty Mills becoming the first Indigenous Australian to fly the flag in an opening ceremony. Mills has been a major force for Australian basketball, with Tokyo 2020 his fourth Olympics and he is widely-admired by his peers for his sporting success and social justice activism.
But this morning attention turns to the action on the pitch/pool/field. Australia do not have high medal hopes on day one, but there are plenty of important preliminary encounters around the venues. The Kookaburras face Japan in the hockey, Richie Porte, Lucas Hamilton and Luke Durbridge are all in action in the road race and Jian Fang Lay will make her sixth Olympic appearance in the table tennis. Tonight, all eyes will be on the heats at the Aquatics Centre, with Emma McKeon expected to shine in the 100m butterfly, Elijah Winnington and Jack McLoughlin jostling for lane position in the 400m freestyle and the women’s 100m freestyle relay closing out the night.
Following last night’s opening ceremony, the sun has risen on the first full day of action at Tokyo 2020. The heat has been stifling on the ground so far – even last night at the Olympic Stadium the temperature was in the high 20s celsius until past midnight. How the athletes cope with the humid conditions has been a major topic of conversation in the build-up; we saw the effects it could have yesterday when a Russian archer passed out from heat stress.
And we’re set for another scorcher today, with temperatures expected to hit 32C. That is sure to pose a test for the male cyclists in their gruelling road race on boiling tarmac around Mount Fuji while hockey players will also feel the heat on the astroturf of Oi Hockey Stadium, with the men’s tournament about to begin when Australia face the home nation.