The first swimming medals of these Games are set to be handed out Sunday, while skateboarding makes its long-anticipated debut with the men’s street event. Oh, and some of Japan’s biggest stars with a racket are set to begin their quest for gold.
Here are the key events to look for on the first full day of competition, all of which are available for streaming in Japan at gorin.jp.
Tennis: Osaka debuts
Two of the biggest tennis stars in Japanese history will both begin their quest for singles gold on Sunday at Ariake Tennis Park.
Naomi Osaka, who you may have caught a glimpse of already at these Games at a certain ceremony on Friday night, hasn’t played a match since withdrawing from the French Open in June, opting to take a break over mental health concerns. The Tokyo Games present her with one of the biggest challenges of her young career — on and off the court — and how the world’s richest female athlete handles the spotlight at her home Games will be a big part of the story. She opens against China’s Saisai Zheng in the second match of the day on Center Court at Ariake Tennis Park. The match should begin at around 1 p.m.
On the men’s side, Kei Nishikori has struggled with injuries in recent years, but his name still carries a lot of weight in Japan. The Rio bronze medalist will hope his past success in Tokyo — he’s a two-time Japan Open champion — will help him push for the podium. Nishikori’s first-round match against Russian Andrey Rublev should begin at around 1 p.m. on Court 1.
Swimming: First medals in the pool
The first swimming medals of the Games will be handed out at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre, with four medal races on tap in the morning session.
One of Japan’s top gold medal hopes in the pool won’t be a factor Sunday morning, however. Daiya Seto, the gold medalist at the 2019 world championship who was seeking redemption after an extra-marital affair, failed to qualify for the men’s 400-meter medley final after a disappointing ninth-place in the heats.
The country’s only hope for a medal Sunday morning rests with Yui Ohashi in the women’s 400-meter medley. Ohashi won a bronze at the 2019 worlds and looked to be in fine form in the heats, posting the third-fastest time behind only Emma Weyant of the U.S. and Great Britain’s Aimee Willmott.
The medal races start at 10:30 a.m., while more heats are scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
Badminton: Call it a comeback
Kento Momota, the world’s top badminton player in singles, wouldn’t have even been able to play in his home Olympics if not for the pandemic-induced postponement.
The Kagawa Prefecture native, who is one of several top Japanese athletes to overcome adversity to qualify for the Tokyo Games, was severely injured in a car accident in January 2020 and was only able to resume training in December, writes the JT’s Kazuaki Nagatsuka. If that wasn’t enough, he also tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this year.
The gold medal favorite begins his Games at 6 p.m. against American Timothy Lam.
Judo: Superstar siblings
Hifumi and Uta Abe could be in for a special day.
The brother-sister pair, who say they draw inspiration from the other’s success, are each gunning for the podium in judo on Sunday at Nippon Budokan — and don’t be surprised if they both have gold hanging around their necks before all is said and done. Hifumi, competing in the men’s 66 kilogram weight class, and Uta, in women’s 52 kg, are both two-time world gold medalists. The siblings have completed the double gold feat once before, with both taking first at the 2018 worlds in Baku, Azerbaijan.
The lead-up to the medal bouts begins at 5 p.m.
Skateboarding: Taking it to the street
Several exciting new sports are on the menu at these Games as the IOC looks to modernize the Olympics and appeal to a generation of new fans.
Skateboarding makes a long-awaited debut on Sunday with the men’s street competition, which should see the U.S. and Japan duke it out for gold. Nyjah Huston and Yuto Horigome are two of the top athletes to watch in this year’s slate of debut sports, writes the JT’s Jason Coskrey, while Japan’s Sora Shirai should also be in the podium mix.
The final is scheduled to start at 12:25 p.m.
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