Diary of an Olympics live blogger: Reliving the magic of Tokyo 2020


It all started with the lighting of the flame by Naomi Osaka on July 23. Over the next two weeks, we were treated to some magnificent sporting action. It was equal parts gruelling, magical, heartbreaking, and awe-inspiring — just as the best sport always is. Here, we attempt to recapture everything we witnessed during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Day 1, July 24

Oh, Saurabh Chaudhary! After topping qualification, he has a terrible, unprecedented, start to the final… and finishes 7th. And here we were thinking the non-qualification into the final of the 10m air rifle women must have been a blip.

Mirabai Chanu! The disappointment of early morning dissipates as a diminutive Manipuri strides onto the stage, banishes the nightmares of Rio past with a smile, and lifts her way to a silver to open India’s tally.

Day 2, July 25

An Indian in fencing at the Olympics. Ah, what a sight. She wins round 1, but then runs into the world no. 3 in round 2. The luck of the draw… never mind, though. CA Bhavani Devi has made history.

Halfway through the women’s 10m qualification, Manu Bhaker’s pistol malfunctions. Chaos ensues. Nothing is going as per plan for arguably the most planning-heavy federation in Indian sport.

Goodness me, this is going to be bad, isn’t it? Australia obliterate India 7-1 in men’s hockey, and if anything the score flatters India.

From the outside lane, 18-year-old Ahmed Hafnaoui of Tunisia stuns the world en-route winning the men’s 400m freestyle gold.

Day 3, July 26

Kathleen ‘Katie’ Ledecky hadn’t lost a 400m freestyle in a decade before Ariarne Titmus beat her in the 2019 World Championships. She repeats the feat in Tokyo. Titmus 1-0 Ledecky.

Thomas ‘Tom’ Daley, knitter of sweaters and Olympic gold medalist. He and Matty Lee win the men’s 10m synchronised diving. [Out of 8 possible diving golds, this is the only one China doesn’t win]

The podium for the women’s street final reads: Bronze, Funa Nakayama, 16 years old. Silver, Rayssa Leal, 13. Gold, Momiji Nishiya, 13. Yeah, the Olympic Games will never be the same again.

Day 4, July 27

Saurabh Chaudhary and Manu Bhaker rampage through qualifying 1, and then… just stop. They had walked into Tokyo having won five of six events they had entered as a team. The sixth had been a silver. Now, nothing. Shooting really isn’t going to plan.

An announcement to shock the world — Simone Biles has withdrawn from the women’s team event! The why of it, though, shall inspire athletes for years to come, more than any medal could. The greatest gymnast of all time opens up about mental health and how she is not feeling 100% and it is just incredible. The actual event is won by the Russian Olympic Committee.

Day 5, July 28

Ledecky v Titmus II is a no contest. Titmus wins 200m freestyle gold with an Olympic record, Ledecky finishes fifth. Scenes. Ledecky, though, bounces back almost immediately with a comfortable win in the 1500m freestyle.

Day 6, July 29

Oh, Atanu Das! The Indian archer pulls off one of the shots of the Games. He beats Oh Jin-Hyek of South Korea in a shoot-off, as he hits a perfect 10.

Arguably the greatest women’s boxer the world has seen, MC Mary Kom bows out of the grand stage with a lot of fight and a bit of a whinge. Champions don’t accept defeat well, do they?

In one of the greatest races of all-time, Ledecky v Titmus III is pushed to the background as China win the women’s 4×200 freestyle relay. Ledecky’s inspired anchor leg drags USA to silver, Titmus’ Australia win bronze. All three of the teams smash the previous world record.

Day 7, July 30

An San of South Korea. 20-years-old. Triple Olympic gold medalist. Feminist icon.

PV Sindhu shows why India takes her for granted as she smashes Akane Yamaguchi aside in making her second consecutive Olympic semifinal.

Lovlina Borgohain! What a performance! She edges out the more favoured Chen Nien-Chin of Chinese Taipei to win her welterweight quarterfinal, thereby ensuring she returns home with some kind of medal wrapped around her neck.

Ma Long becomes the first man to defend his individual Table Tennis gold as he beats compatriot Fan Zhendong in an epic final. There are GOATs and there’s Ma Long.

Day 8, July 31

A big shock! Amit Panghal, so heavily featured in the potential medal winners list (including by us) is destroyed in round 1. Amit’s uncharacteristically slow and defensive and it’s a shame for a man who was one of the best in the world over the past three years.

PV Sindhu is outplayed by the most talented player of this generation, Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu Ying. Those wrists of Tai’s… magic

The women’s hockey team have 1 win and 3 defeats to their name as they take on South Africa… and wow! A roller-coaster match ends 4-3, Vandana Katariya with the first hattrick an Indian woman has ever scored at an Olympics. She’s a superstar.

Elaine Thompson-Herah smashes the Olympic record en-route defending her 100m gold crown. Behind her are Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Sherika Jackson. It’s stunning 1-2-3 for Jamaica.

Titmus v Ledecky IV. The most intense rivalry this Games has seen ends with Katie Ledecky reminding Ariarne Titmus of her greatness. Gold for Ledecky, silver for Titmus.

As the ESPN headline on the day put it — Novak Djokovic denied bronze vs. Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta, throws racket.

Day 9, August 1

PV Sindhu recovers from the heartbreak of the semifinals to comprehensively beat China’s He Bing Jiao and win bronze. Two Olympics, two medals, one superstar.

Satish Kumar gets absolutely annihilated by Bakhodir Jalolov in the superheavyweight quarters, but it’s the nature of the fight that stands out. Bakhodir is taller, stronger, faster, and technically more adept – but at no point did Satish, battling through a cut above the eye, stop trying to attack. It was a fight that captured the very essence of what it means to be an Olympian.

History! India enter the first hockey semifinals in forever after a brilliant counter-attacking display that saw them beat Great Britain 3-1. Stunning stuff.

The day of Dressel and McKeon — Caeleb Dressel won the 50m freestyle by almost half-a-second (a country mile), then inspired the US to defend their 4x100m medley crown. He’s going home with five gold medals. Emma McKeon, meanwhile, wins the same thing on the women’s side to become the first woman to win 7 swimming medals at a single Olympics.

What a day! Lamont Jacobs of Italy stuns everyone to win gold in the 100m (this after China’s Su Bingtian did quite a lot of stunning already by becoming the fastest qualifier to the final, the first Asian to do so). Yulimar Rojas destroys the triple jump world record to win gold. The story of the day, though, and arguably of the Games itself comes when Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi share gold in the men’s high jump. It’s a moment that’s pure and lovely and just… heartwarming.

Day 10, August 2

David gets a hockey stick in place of a sling, and that’s enough to fell Goliath. India pull off a mighty upset by beating Australia 1-0 in the women’s quarters. It’s their first time here, and now they are into the semis.

Neither of India’s shooters qualify for the 50m 3 positions final to cap off what has been a terribly under-par display from a much-hyped squad. 15 shooters, zero medals, and just the one final.

Viktor Axelsen wins Olympic gold, to rubber-stamp his credentials of being the best in the world. Meanwhile, Guatemalan Kevin Cordon’s remarkable tournament burst sees him finish fourth.

What a display of long-distance running this is. Sifan Hassan, who had already won the 10,000m gold takes the 5000m gold by almost two whole seconds. [She would later win the 1500m bronze – no one in history has ever done that before. One of the all-time great athletic feats]

Day 11, August 3

In the morning, one of the greatest track finals of all time. Karsten Warholm warps time as he obliterates the 400m hurdles world record. Behind him Rai Benjamin beats the old WR too, while Alison Santos finishes 0.02s off the old WR. Of the eight runners, 6 create new national records.

In the evening, Armand Duplantis wins pole vault gold with unreal ease, and Elaine Thomspon-Herah defends her 200m crown with the studied nonchalance of an all-time great. .

Day 12, August 4

Neeraj Chopra walks out for the javelin, stretches a bit, throws 86.65m and into the final he goes. He doesn’t look too shabby, does he?

Lovlina Borgohain gets thoroughly outboxed by Busenaz Surmeneli, but no matter. Lovlina returns to India an Olympic bronze medalist.

In the evening session, Andre De Grasse wins 200m gold. Finally a gold for the Canadian who has had so many near-finishes at major events over the past half-decade

Day 13, August 5

The Indian men win bronze! A medal in hockey after 41 years, and it came about in the most dramatic of fashions, from 3-1 down to beat Germany 5-4. Incredible.

Vinesh Phogat, in desperate search of redemption after an injury saw her bow out in the Rio quarters, has lost in the quarters here! With her opponent losing in the semis, there will be no repechage either. Heartbreak for one of the best wrestlers in the world.

Ravi Kumar Dahiya returns home a hero, winning silver in the 57kg division after losing 7-4 to the great Zavur Uguev! Deepak Punia, meanwhile, gets nudged away from a medal at the very last seconds of his bronze medal bout! So close! The man who beat him? San Marino’s Myles Amine. That’s the tiny nation’s 3rd medal of these Games! (They only sent 5 athletes!).

The men’s shot put podium in 2016: Ryan Crouser (US), Joe Kovacs (US), Tomas Walsh (NZ). The men’s shot put podium in 2020: Ryan Crouser (US), Joe Kovacs (US), Tomas Walsh (NZ). The first time in Olympic history that this has ever happened.

Day 14, August 6

The Indian women go 2-0 down, then 3-2 up and finally lose their bronze medal match to Great Britain 4-3. What a match. They may have finished fourth, but they return home true heroes.

China beat Germany 3-0 to take home TT team gold. The three players they put out? Ma Long, Fan Zhendong (you may remember them from above), and Xu Xin (world no. 3). It wasn’t even fair.

A God-tier Jamaica team (they have the gold, silver, and bronze medalist from the 100m at these games. What else do you call them?) canter home to take 4×100 gold. There is, though, much more drama in the men’s. When was the last time you saw a podium like this in the men’s 4x100m? Italy, Great Britain, Canada. It was a sensational race that GB thought they had won till the anchor for Italy, Filippo Tortu, made up nearly 7 yards to take gold.

Day 15, August 7

World no. 200 Aditi Ashok comes this close to pulling off the upset of the games — in the medal positions till the second last hole on the fourth round (i.e. 70 of 72), the class of her opponents sees her finish fourth.

After struggling with a bandaged knee all yesterday, Bajrnag Punia ditches it and utterly destroys Daulet Niyazbekov to bring home bronze. Incredible display.

The U.S. canter home to take both the men’s and women’s 4x400m golds. This is Allyson Felix‘s eleventh Olympic medal – easily the most for a female track athlete. One of the GOATs.

Brazil defend their Olympic gold against Spain. Dani Alves returns home with the 42nd title of his career – the most of any active footballer.

Neeraj Chopra stretches. He sprints. He draws his massive right arm back. He flings himself to the ground, and a javelin through the air. 87.58 metres. Gold medal. Chopra has thrown himself into the record books — the first track and field medal in independent India’s Olympic history is gold.

What a way to close India’s participation at these Games. The gold takes them to seven medals in Tokyo, beating their previous record of six in London 2012.

Day 16, August 8

Eliud Kipchoge wins marathon gold. But you didn’t need me to tell you that, did you? The greatest marathon runner of all time. Wow.

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