Tokyo Olympics Recap: Fiji enjoy back-to-back sevens glory while Zhiyong breaks weightlifting world record

By Sports Desk July 28, 2021

Fiji continued their Olympic men's rugby sevens dominance with a 27-12 win over New Zealand to retain the title they won at Rio 2016.

Their shorter-form rugby success represents their second gold in Games history, with Fiji's sevens team yet to lose at the Olympics after extending their unbeaten run to 12 games.

In April, COVID-19 forced the Fiji squad into isolation in the capital Suva before travelling to Australia in June for a pre-Games warm-up tournament.

Head coach Gareth Baber revealed some players, who had never been on a plane before nor played at an elite level, had not seen their families in "nearly 20 weeks".

"We locked them down for five months, basically," Baber said. "They came into a training camp on Easter Monday thinking they were going back on the Friday, and on the Tuesday they were told they couldn't go back and haven’t seen their families since. That takes a special kind of person to make that commitment.

"We were effectively locked up in a Christian hostel. We built a gym, basically in the garage of the hostel, and we were there for about 12 weeks.

"In fact, when the players go back and do their quarantine, it will have been about 20 weeks since they were last with their families."

Gold medal winner Asaeli Tuivuaka, whose try sealed the all-important final win, also spoke of the sacrifices involved for the sevens success.

"This gold medal is special to me. Back at home, their sacrifice and prayer motivated me through everything," Tuivuaka said. "I did not see them, only spoke to them on the phone, and that’s why it is meaningful to me.

"I have not seen my family for months. They are praying for me, they give me a lot of encouragement to keep on moving forward so that I can be here today.

Runners-up New Zealand claimed their first medal in a men's rugby event at the Games, though Great Britain lost out to Argentina, who claimed their first medal of the Olympics, for bronze.

ZHIYONG BREAKS OWN WORLD RECORD

China's Shi Zhiyong broke his own world record to secure gold in the men's 73kg weightlifting event.

The three-time world champion becomes the second weightlifter, after Waldemar Baszanowski in 1964 and 1968, to win back-to-back titles at the Games in the lightweight category, given his previous gold in the 69kg at Rio 2016.

"I prepared five years for Olympics so I really want to perform at the best," Zhiyong explained in Mandarin. "So if I didn't make to break my own record, just a gold medal, I would feel regret.

"I want myself to break the record in the Olympics... Even though I didn't make the 192kg [on my first attempt], I am still confident that I'm pretty sure I’m going to break my record so I did the 198."

A 166kg lift in the snatch achieved an Olympic record before a 198kg clean and jerk took his total to 364kg – one kilo more than his previous world record.

HASHIMOTO CONTINUES JAPAN'S GYMNASTIC DOMINANCE

Daiki Hashimoto captured a third straight men's gymnastics all-around title for Japan as he followed up Kohei Uchimura's back-to-back victories at London 2012 and Rio 2016.

Across all six events, the 19-year-old totalled 88.465 to win gold by a whisker, with China's Ruoteng Xiao and Russia's pre-event favourite Nikita Nagornyy, the reigning world and European champions, winning silver and bronze respectively.

Hashimoto, who could only manage third behind Nagornyy's Russians in the team event on Monday, was in third again before a near-flawless routine gained 14.993 points to put him top.

Japan also claimed more gold in judo as Chizuru Arai defeated Austria's Michaela Polleres to bring the host nation its eighth judo medal of the Games so far.

LATVIA AND USA CLAIM FIRST EVER 3X3 BASKETBALL TITLES

The United States dictated proceedings throughout the five-day women's tournament, winning nine games and losing only one as they etched their names in basketball history with the first ever 3x3 Olympic basketball triumph.

Stefanie Dolson, Allisha Gray, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young did the hard yards early before securing an 18-5 victory over the Russian Olympic Committee in the debut of 3-on-3 basketball at the Games.

In the men's edition, Latvia were the first winners as Karlis Lasmanis' two-point shot with 28 seconds left clinched a 21-18 win over the Russian Olympic Committee.

Though, basketball fanatics feel the real winner of the three-aside debut event is the sport itself.

"I think it's going to keep growing," the USA coach Kara Lawson said. "I think it's got a great future around the world, it's a lot of fun to play. Being an Olympic sport now, there's more converts probably than we've ever seen before."

SOUTH KOREA'S KIM MAKES EMPHATIC RETURN

Fencer Kim Jung-Hwan won gold at London 2012 but quit the sport before making a comeback from retirement in 2019.

After taking bronze in the men's individual sabre on Saturday, the 37-year-old may have felt fate would not be on his side.

However, Kim was part of South Korea's team that won the men's sabre on Wednesday as they coasted past Italy 45-26 in a one-sided final to defend their London 2012 title - after the discipline did not feature at Rio 2016.

Kim also becomes the first Asian fencer to claim four Olympic medals in the field, while Italy's silver medal reflected a record-extending 21st Olympic medal in the men's team sabre event.

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