Hello and welcome back to one and all! This week’s edition has a particular theme to it – and I’m sure it’s one that won’t surprise you at all…
Tokyo: I was wrong
I must admit to having some trepidation about the Tokyo Olympics. Exhausted from Euro 2020 and the Tour de France amongst other things, a number of sports I didn’t know a thing about being played in front of closed doors didn’t carry much appeal at all.
How wrong I was!
This has been a uniquely challenging games – I’m not sure we’ll ever see a behind closed doors Olympics again, no matter where we are in 2024 – but the action has been thrilling, awe inspiring, emotional and captivating.
New additions to the games have worked – skateboarding and surfing in particular have been fantastic, whilst the increased amount of mixed relay events has been brilliant (more below) – whilst established favourites have seen incredible performances, some with a new world record for good measure.
There are many great moments that will live long in the memory, but these are my favourite five (warning: there’s some bias in this):
Five of the Best
1. Roglic Reigns Supreme
It may seem weird to say that the last 12 months haven’t been kind to Slovenian cyclist Primoz Roglic; He’s won a second Vuelta a Espana in that time, has taken Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and been Slovenian National Champion, along with a hatful of stage victories.
However, those who follow cycling will know about the cruelty of his Tour de France defeat the hands of Tadej Pogacar on La Planche Des Belles Filles, with a victory that had looked his up until that point. The pair were set for an incredible battle this year if pre-race form was anything to go by, but an early crash for Roglic in a race marred by injury and misfortune robbed us of another potential clash between the two.
Roglic – an incredibly loveable person as well as a phenomenal bike rider – refocused himself on the road race, where he sadly disappointed, but in an absolutely brilliant time trial with the world’s best basically inseparable over the first and second time checks, he produced one of his greatest ever rides to beat a stacked field by a minute (and one second, to be precise).
Former TT World Champions Tom Dumoulin and Rohan Dennis, European Champion Stefan Kung, another former World Champion in the shape of Flippo Ganna (who took a World Record with Team Italy on the track today), three time Tour de France stage winner Wout van Aert, and Danish National Champion Kasper Asgreen.
How fitting that Roglic should get his moment in the sun by beating the best of the best.
2. Gold Medal Shared
I’ve written about this below, but really it’s worth putting here. I mean, what a moment, right?
3. The Sky’s The Limit
I know there’s a lot of recency bias with this, but a 13 year old skateboarder taking a meal – repeat, 13 year old skateboarder – is one of the widest things to happen this year and I for one, am absolutely here for it.
4. Richard The Great
Before these games had started, Ecuador had only one Olympic gold, courtesy of Jefferson Pérez taking the gold medal in the men’s 20 km walk at the 1996 Olympic Games. Richard Caparaz – one of the best athletes in Ecuador’s history, and in my mind the best – changed that with a fantastic attack on the Fuji Motor Speedway to take the Men’s Road Race.
It was another history making moment for Carapaz, a star of his home nation and the first Ecuadorian rider to win a Grand Tour and finish on the podium of the Tour de France, and the delight as he realises what he’s archived will always be a highlight of these games.
— País do Ciclismo (@DoCiclismo) July 24, 2021
5. Return of The Biles
By now you’ve all read the stories, the reaction, and the takes about Simone Biles. And, if you’ve any sense, you know how brave her decision was to pull out of the all-around, vault, floor and uneven bars after suffering the ‘twisties’ – which gymnasts describe as a kind of mental block.
Despite all that, she came back to win bronze in the individual balance beam final, an achievement beyond all but a select few gymnasts – and she did it was the same class and grace that she’s always shown.
All power to you, Simone!
Mixed Relay Events – More!
One of the best things to come from these Olympics has been the mixed relay events. With organisers for Tokyo adding nine more mixed events than were contested at Rio 2016, we’ve had 18 mixed events in Japan and they’ve all been brilliant – offering more medal opportunities, a chance for women to shine alongside male counterparts, and a huge number of fascinating tactical decisions.
Here’s to more in Paris!
Just A Little Longer
Those of you reading this who know me may well be aware that I love football; for all my sins, I’m an Arsenal fan.
I’ve been happily proven wrong by both Euro 2020 and Tokyo 2020 being fantastic events that have gripped me from beginning to end, and we’ve been blessed to have both events in full.
By the time you read this, you may already have seen the wise words of the Racing Post sport team analysing the next club season. And whilst I’ll be as excited as any to buy it – indeed whilst you’re reading this, I’ll probably be knee deep in the pullout – I must admit a sense of dread for the upcoming club football season.
Once a few weeks have passed, I’m sure I’ll be in love with the hustle and bustle of club football, but at this moment I want nothing less than a huge shedload of fixtures. I can still remember roaring Luke Shaw goals yesterday – is an extra two weeks so much to ask for?
Sharing The Joy
Picture the scene, involving two friends, who are both world class athletes. They reach the Olympics. They make it through to the final of the high jump. They are tied, neither able to better the other in the jump off after a first attempt at 2.39m. One asks if the medal can be shared. An official says yes.
Both agree, and the individual athletes and their coaching teams roar with joy.
And somehow, that isn’t good enough for some people, who must share their displeasure via Twitter.
I for one, will never understand it – but the moment when Qatar’s Mutaz-Essa Barshim and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi agreed to share was one of the finest things I’ll ever see in sport.
And if that hasn’t convinced you, then please, watch this reaction from the Italian Olympic broadcast.
Lara Says It Best
Finally! At last! A column from William Kedjanyi without something to do about vaccines!’, I hear you cry.
Well, this week I have to disappoint you yet again – but fear not, as the far more capable Lara Spirit has written a fantastic column here, which I urge you to read below.
Test Is Best
I’ve enjoyed The Hundred – the games have nearly always been interesting, the atmosphere comps through week and I have become a huge fan of the fantastic all-rounder that is Danielle Van Niekerk – but I have also been waiting for England’s five test series with India for what feels like years*, and to see the two taking each other on at Trent Bridge has been a joy (especially as yours truly had convinced himself that there was going to be rain on the first day).
There’s been much debate about what The Hundred has done to an already packed English cricket schedule – the amount of County Cricket some members of the teams had played was pitiful – but if the pair can coexist for the next six weeks, then I for one, shall not be complaining.
That said, give me a test match every day of the week.
Views of authors do not necessarily represent views of Star Sports Bookmakers.