From surprising Ariarne Titmus and Rebeca Andrade, to Kosovo’s exceptional judo performance, to historic French volleyball gold, the Olympics in Japan conclude with several names that weren’t in the early bets to triumph. Here are the revelations.
In pools in which all eyes were on the American Katie Ledecky, who aspired to five gold medals, much of the spotlight ended up going to the Australian Ariarne Titmus. The oceanic conquered the golds in the 200 free meters and the 400 free meters, imposing on Ledecky.
Despite the impact that these victories by Titmus had on one of the best swimmers in recent times, the truth is that the athlete arrived in Tokyo with the best marks in both distances. A 1 ‘53.09 “in the 200 and 3’ 56.90 ‘” in the 400.
Titmus’s merit comes, above all, for having certified this favoritism in his first Olympic Games and when he was just 20 years old. Not only did he dominate that pressure, but he added two other medals to his record in these jousts – silver in the 800-meter freestyle and bronze in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay.
Australia, also led by athletes Emma McKeon and Kaylee McKeown, leaves the Japanese capital with a total of nine gold medals in swimming, their best participation in the jousts.
Injuries kept Brazilian Rebeca Andrade low during the Olympic cycle, so her breakthrough in Tokyo was a worldwide surprise. At just 22 years old, this gymnast won the gold in the individual exercise of jumping of the colt and the silver in the complete exercise.
Born in Guarulhos, in the state of São Paulo, Andrade suffered three anterior cruciate ligament tears in her anterior knee in 2015, 2017 and 2019, which made her think about retirement. The latter prevented him from participating in the Pan American Games in Lima. In fact, he did not compete again until March 2020 and had it not been for the postponement of the games, he would have arrived with a very tight margin.
The daughter of a single mother and with six siblings, she began to show her skills in the last part of the year. She was the winner of the full year at the Pan American in Rio de Janeiro and in Tokyo she took advantage of the absence of Simone Biles.
A few flaws in her floor routine cost her gold in the full exercise, but she was the best in the jump of the colt. Never before has a Brazilian been a medalist in these disciplines.
- The Italian Weightlifting Team
With a delegation of five classified weightlifters, Italy won three medals at the Tokyo Olympics. There are three medals – one silver and two bronze – which, in number, equal the best weightlifting result in the transalpine country achieved at the Paris 1924 event, with three golds.
The achievements in Japanese lands were the bronzes of Mirko Zanni (67 kg), Antonino Pizzolato (81 kg) and the silver of Giorgia Bordignon (64 kg), the latter being the first Italian woman to climb an Olympic podium in the dumbbells. Zanni and Bordignon were the biggest surprises, having been ranked fifth and sixth best, respectively. Pizzolato itself was a contender for medals, with the second best qualifying mark in its category.
If you count the total number of wins, Italy was only behind the eight medals of China, which is the giant of this sport. It’s “stratospheric,” said Antonio Urso, president of the Italian Weightlifting Federation.
- France men’s volleyball team
France got its first Olympic gold in volleyball through the big door. The Gauls arrived in Tokyo as the fourth team in the world and beat the Russian Olympic Committee in the grand final.
‘Les Bleus’ advanced to the quarter-finals after finishing fourth in their group, with two wins against Tunisia and the Russian team, interestingly enough. The first bell was given in the quarterfinals by eliminating Poland, the second highest ranked on the planet. In the semifinals, they beat Argentina and in the final they repeated their triumph against Russia, who were the executioners of Brazil, the great favorites.
Despite the great result, France will experience a change of coach because before the Olympic event, the departure of Frenchman Laurent Tillie had already been agreed instead of Brazilian Bernardo Rezende, who will lead the process of the next Paris 2024.
- The golds of Nora Gjakova and Distria Krasniqi for Kosovo
Kosovo arrived in Tokyo for its second participation in the Olympic Games. This country, which declared its independence in 2008 and was recognized by the International Olympic Committee in 2014, benefited enormously from its eleven representatives.
The judokas Nora Gjakova and Distria Krasniqi added two golds in the 58 kg and 48 kg to leave their country in a privileged position in the medal table, above delegations such as those of Mexico or Colombia.
Nora came from being bronze in the World Cup, and in the final she beat the French Sarah-Léonie Cysique who eliminated the Canadian Jessica Klimkait, world champion and world number one in the semifinals. Just as shocking was Distria’s victory, which in its final beat the Japanese Funa Tonaki, world champion in 2017.
They are the second and third medals for Kosovo in a summer Olympic Games and, in addition, they follow the path of the first medal in history. It was the one that Majlinda Kelmendi achieved in Rio 2016, also in gold and also in judo.
The participation of Guatemalan Kevin Cordón in badminton in Tokyo has been a sum of milestones. Before their participation in these jousts, no Latin American had passed the last 16 of this sport in some Games.
With 34 years and extensive experience on the circuit, Cordón arrived in Tokyo in position 59 of the ranking for his third joust. In the group stage they achieved three victories that allowed them to get among the best 16 in the competition. There he beat the Dutchman Mark Caljouw to then give the final bell in the quarterfinals.
Cordón beat the South Korean Heo Kwanghee, executioner of the Japanese Kento Momota, number one in the world. The Guatemalan got into the semifinals and excited his country with getting what would be his second medal in the history of the Olympic Games.
The Danish Viktor Axelsen, a former Olympic champion, ended the dream of the Latin American, who also gave up in the fight for bronze. Cordón was left without a medal, but he left open a path that seemed impassable for Latin Americans in the midst of Asian and European domination.