Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra entered India’s history book by delivering a first-ever Olympic track and field gold medal for his country as the Tokyo Games athletics competition drew to a close.
“It feels unbelievable,” Chopra said on Saturday as his overjoyed team-mates and coaches watched from the stands devoid of fans because of COVID-19 restrictions. The 23-year-old claimed the athletics gold with an 87.58-metre second throw.
It ended India’s 121-year wait for an athletics gold. The previous best had been two silver medals won at the 1900 Paris Games.
“This is our first Olympic medal for a very long time, and in athletics, it is the first time we have gold, so it’s a proud moment for me and my country,” he added.
On a pulsating final night of action, Dutch distance runner Sifan Hassan completed an incredible double with victory in the 10,000 metres and in the 5,000 metres while US star Allyson Felix brought the curtain down on her 17-year Olympic career with a record-extending relay gold.
Twenty-four hours earlier, Hassan had taken bronze in the 1,500 metres final, part of an audacious bid for an Olympic treble. The athlete was in action on five days of the nine-day schedule of track and field, running more than 61 laps in total on the way to her three-medal haul.
“I am just so thankful, and I don’t think I could have done any better than this,” said Hassan. “During the medal ceremony I was thinking: ‘It is over. Now you can sleep!'”
In the 10,000 metres, Hassan clocked 29 minutes 55.32 seconds for gold, with Bahrain’s Kalkidan Gezahegne, also born in Ethiopia, claiming silver in 29:56.18.
There was another superb tactical performance in the men’s 1,500 metres as Norway’s Ingebrigtsen won in an Olympic record of 3:28.32. The 20-year-old added Olympic gold to his European title, easing home after passing longtime leader Timothy Cheruiyot of Kenya, who took silver in 3:29.01. Britain’s John Kerr claimed bronze.
“I have been dreaming of this for my whole life,” said Ingebrigtsen. “It feels great.”
Mixed fortunes for US
Team USA claimed the 4×400 metres relay title with a decisive win, sparing them the ignominy of failing to get a title on the track for the first time in any Olympics they have entered in the games’ 125-year history.
The Americans won their 16th Olympic gold medal in men’s basketball, but the Olympic hosts foiled their attempt to bring the title home to baseball’s birthplace.
Japan’s 2-0 win deprived the Americans of what would have been only their second gold in their national pastime.
Muneteka Murakami broke open a pitching duel with a homer to put the hosts ahead, and a US throwing error enabled Tetsuto Yamada to score the second run.
In another first, karate’s Olympic debut ended in uproar as Saudi Arabian Tareg Hamedi was disqualified for a high-kick to Sajad Ganjzadeh’s neck, judged an illegal unchecked attack that gave the unconscious Iranian the gold.
Ganjzadeh and Hamedi hugged and posed for photographs at the medals ceremony. The winner said he was “happy about the gold medal but I’m sad that I had to win it like this”, while Hamedi was unhappy with the decision but satisfied with how he fought.
In Sapporo in Japan’s far north, where the heat was only slightly less oppressive than in Tokyo, a late burst in the women’s marathon propelled Peres Jepchirchir past compatriot and world record holder Brigid Kosgei as she secured Kenya’s second consecutive gold medal in the event.
“I said, wow, I’m going to make it. So I pushed the pace because I knew I was going to win,” Jepchirchir said. “I’m happy for my family, happy for my country Kenya for supporting us.”
Nelly Korda maintained a family sporting dynasty to take the women’s golf gold for Team USA, while New Zealand’s most-decorated Olympian, Lisa Carrington, had to settle for fourth in the women’s kayak four 500 metres.
In another famous family, Jessica Springsteen, daughter of rock star Bruce Springsteen, enjoyed the glory days with a silver medal in equestrian team showjumping.
“It was wild,” she said. The American called her family, who were “all screaming. I don’t think we understood a word that anyone was saying, lots of yelling. All smiles, I just saw their Team USA gear. There was lots of shouting.”
In boxing, Brazilian Hebert Sousa burst into wild celebration after knocking out Ukraine’s Oleksandr Khyzhniak with a fierce left, turning around a fight he had all but lost to win Brazil’s second-ever games gold in the sport. Sousa fell to his knees, screaming, and his team rejoiced as Khyzhniak staggered to his feet and demanded the fight continue.
The American basketball victory over France, their fourth consecutive gold, was a comeback from two straight exhibition game losses and a shock defeat in the preliminary round.
Kevin Durant led Team USA with 29 points before the biggest crowd of the Games, which are bereft of fans at almost all events because of a COVID-19 surge that is prompting widening states of emergency in Japan. Athletes, officials, media and volunteers, in place of fans, filled half of the bottom bowl of seats.