Tokyo 2020: Schoolgirl scoops gold as Japan warms to Olympics

 Momiji Nishiya
Momiji Nishiya won gold in street skateboarding. Photo: Reuters

Tokyo: Japan mined more gold on Monday as sentiment towards the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics appeared to shift, and local fans defied organisers to grab a glimpse of the Games.

Pint-sized 13-year-old Momiji Nishiya won gold in street skateboarding -- new to the Olympics here in Tokyo -- while in one of the Games' staple sports a "Terminator" hunted down a dominator to set the swimming pool alight.

In a shock at the aquatics centre Britain's four-time Olympian Tom Daley and new diving partner Matty Lee pulled off a stunning victory in the men’s 10 metre synchronised platform to end China's golden run in the event.

Chinese divers had triumphed at the last four Olympics.

Ariarne Titmus lived up to her "Terminator" moniker by clawing back American Katie Ledecky's early lead to win the 400m freestyle final and pour petrol on the fierce Australia-U.S. pool rivalry.

"I can't believe it, I'm trying to contain my emotions," said Titmus, who praised her rival for raising the bar in the sport. "I thanked her, I wouldn't be here without her. She set this incredible standard."

Team USA got their victory in the 4x100m men's relay, while Adam Peaty roared with pride after becoming the first British swimmer to defend an Olympic title with gold in the 100m breaststroke.

The high-stakes swimming finals, staged in the morning in Tokyo to reach prime time American television viewers, were held in a nearly empty aquatic centre with spectators banned because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Thomas Daley and Matty Lee
Thomas Daley and Matty Lee of Britain pose with the gold medal. Photo: Reuters

The loud cheers of one fan, however, were heard across the world when video footage of Titmus' coach Dean Boxall headbanging and dancing in the stands became a focus for NBC commentators and went viral, making him an instant Games meme.

Some locals defied organisers and gathered along the route of the triathlon, grabbing a rare opportunity to see live competition at the pandemic-hit Games.

"I think the risk of getting infected is extremely low, almost equal to zero," said Masao Kitada, a 35-year-old finance worker standing at the roadside. "The Tokyo Games are very special, so I can't miss this chance."

Norwegian Kristian Blummenfelt took gold at the open air triathlon route on the island of Odaiba in Tokyo Bay.

Organisers reported 16 new Olympics-related coronavirus cases on Monday, bringing the total number to 148.

Support for Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga slid nine points to 34 per cent its lowest since he took office, a survey showed on Monday, as worries about COVID-19 clouded his hopes the Tokyo Olympics would boost his ratings ahead of an election this year.

But Japanese media was full of Olympic success.

The Yomiuri Shimbun broadsheet, one of the world's largest newspapers by circulation, splashed photos of judo gold medal winning Abe siblings, swimmer Yui Ohashi and skateboarder Yuto Horigome with the word "Gold" beneath each of their names.

Schoolgirl skateboarder Nishiya is sure to lead bulletins and adorn front pages now.

"I welled up in tears because I was beyond happy," Nishiya said, describing the moment when she realised she had won gold.

Naomi Osaka looked good to add to the local haul later in the Games when she sailed into the third round, sweeping past 50th-ranked Swiss Viktorija Golubic 6-3, 6-2.

"Well you know, definitely it would mean a lot for me to win gold here but I know it's a process," she said.

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