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TOKYO OLYMPICS 2020

Cycling Race Kicks Off This Weekend At Tokyo Olympics

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The men’s and women’s Olympic road races that begin the cycling program at the Tokyo Games this weekend are similar only in their start amid the forests of Musashinonomori Park and their finish line at Fuji International Speedway.

After identical stretches through the outskirts of Tokyo, their courses differ with the men tackling the iconic climb of Mount Fuji twice and the women avoiding it entirely.

The men also have the punchy climb of Mikuni Pass that the women avoid, and will end up riding 145 miles to the 85 for the women while nearly doubling the amount of climbing.

Yet the biggest difference between the men’s and women’s races is this: More than a dozen men have a chance to capture the gold medal in Saturday’s wide-open ride through the Tokyo countryside, while the women’s race Sunday amounts to a showdown between the four-woman Dutch team and everyone else.

“Everybody in the world is trying to figure out how to beat the Dutch girls,” acknowledged Jim Miller, the high-performance director for USA Cycling, which will roll with Ruth Winder, Coryn Rivera, Amber Neben and Chloe Dygert on Saturday.

“It’s the Dutch’s race to win or lose and every other nation is going to race off how they control the race. I think we have a good team for that,” Miller added. “We have good tactics to at least have a crack at the Dutch women.”

So, who is on this so-called Dutch dream team?

It starts with Anna van der Breggen, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, fresh off a dominant victory in the Giro d’Italia Donne. Joining the world champ are Marianne Vos, who captured gold at the 2012 Games in London; La Course by Le Tour and Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner Demi Vollering; and Annemiek van Vleuten, who was leading the Rio Olympics road race before a crash on a downhill section left her with a concussion and three spinal fractures.

Together, the four riders from the Netherlands have won nine world championships, three Olympic medals and just about every marquee race for professional women — Amstel Gold, La Fleche Wallonne and many others.

“We have a very strong crop of cyclists at our disposal from which we could select three fully-fledged Olympic teams. That really is a luxury position,” Dutch national team coach Loes Gunnewijk said. “We’re one of the favorites but we are used to that. And the riders can also do very well there. It’s still sport, there are no guarantees in advance. All the pieces of the puzzle have to come together that day. But we leave with one goal: that is gold and a third consecutive title.”

Before the women take to the course, though, the men will race for one of the first medals of the delayed Tokyo Games.

Among those at the start line Saturday will be Tadej Pogacar, just six days removed from his second consecutive victory in the Tour de France. He’ll be racing alongside his Tour rival, Primoz Roglic, on the four-man Slovenian team.

Olympic courses typically suit one-day specialists rather than Grand Tour riders, but the huge amount of climbing coupled with a fast run-in to the finish means both Pogacar and Roglic could well factor into the finish at Fuji. So could Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz, who was third at the Tour, and Top 10 finisher Guillaume Martin of France.

But they’re just part of a handful — or several handfuls — of riders with an opportunity to claim Olympic gold.

Defending champion Greg van Avermaet is back for Belgium, but he’ll likely be riding in support of young standouts Remco Evenepoel and Wout van Aert, a three-time Tour stage winner. Colombia’s climbing specialists headlined by Nairo Quintana and Sergio Higuita have an opportunity to shine; Britain brings experience with Geraint Thomas and brothers Simon and Adam Yates; Australia has Richie Porte, Denmark features Jakob Fuglsang and Kazakhstan has Alexey Lutsenko.

Then there’s the Dutch men, who are out to prove they’re every bit as strong as their women counterparts. Bauke Mollema won a stage at the Tour and Wilco Kelderman finished a surprising fifth place in the overall standings.

“There are several guys who did their Tour to prepare for the Games. Maybe they still have an edge,” Evenepoel said. “But someone like Tadej recovers quickly from such a tough race. He also knows how to do it, so I don’t see why he wouldn’t be a joint top favourite. Then when you see how Wout flew in the past few weeks, you can say he’s in the shape of his life.

“He has always said he would work towards his goal and that his Tour would be to prepare for the Games,” Evenepeol added. “He’s done that well. He looks sharp and fresh. This Wout shouldn’t be afraid of this course.”

You can count former Tour winner Bradley Wiggins among those in the brilliant Belgian’s camp, too.

“Wout is the best rider in the world at the moment,” he said said on his Eurosport podcast. “The guy is phenomenal. I have huge respect for him. He’s now the favorite for the road race. He has to be. And I’d love to see him win it.”

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TOKYO OLYMPICS 2020

Paris To Host Paralympic Games In 2024

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Paris city of France will host the 17th edition of Paralympic Games scheduled for 2024.

The curtain fell on the 16th Paralympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on 5 September, in Tokyo Japan.

The Governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike passed the Paralympic flag to International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons, who then passed it to the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo. The orange Paralympic flame turned purple — the colour of WeThe15.

The entire Stadium was alight with the glow of a sunset, which went smaller and smaller, fading into the Cauldron. The Paralympic Flame was extinguished like the setting sun.

“These Games helped fulfill the dreams of many here in Tokyo and fuelled the ambitions of many more watching at home,” said Parsons.

“The Paralympic Movement has a message for you: Tokyo ga daisuki desu, We love you Tokyo; Nihon ga daisuki desu, we love you Japan! Immense gratitude to all the people that delivered these Games.”

And finally, the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games came to a close. The spirit of the Games will be carried now in the 2024 Games.

The just concluded Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics show how Japan made the world sit back and take notice of their organisational capabilities and more importantly, their will and determination to keep their promise, made eight years ago, of delivering a mega event.

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TOKYO OLYMPICS 2020

Peru Gets First Medal in 21 years With Paralympic Taekwondo Gold

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Angelica Espinoza was a young 15-year-old schoolgirl when she started following the London 2012 Paralympic Games on TV from her home city of Lima, Peru.

“That is when I got to know about the Paralympic Movement and when I promised myself that I had to be there one day,” she recalled.

Little did she know back then that nine years later she would become taekwondo’s first Paralympic champion ever and Peru’s first gold medallist in over two decades.

“From that first time I watched Para sport until now, I made everything I could to fulfil my dream. I fell in love with taekwondo, which I realised I was good at, and knew I had chances of improving and hopefully reaching the Paralympics one day.”

Fast-forward eight years and Espinoza was arriving in Tokyo as one of the heavy favourites for gold in the women’s K44 -49kg event.

At her home Parapan American Games in Lima in 2019, she had provided the hosts with one of the event’s enduring memories by winning gold. She followed that up with multiple titles at five of the six competitions she took part in prior to Tokyo 2020.

Not even the pandemic made her lose focus on her big goal. “I even feel the pandemic gave me this opportunity to prepare myself for an extra year. I trained hard over the last month and it was my dream to be here today standing on that podium and listening to the national anthem.”

In a thrilling final, she beat Turkey’s world No.2 Meryem Cavdar, therefore achieving Peru’s first Paralympic title in 21 years and first medal in 17.

“It is really exciting for me; all three combats were really tough and I feel very proud with the result, being the first taekwondo Paralympic champion feels great.”

Espinoza is confident her victory will help raise further awareness of Para sports in her country. “There will be more support and visibility,” she said.

Looking ahead to her next competitions, including the Santiago 2023 Parapan Ams and the Paris 2024 Paralympics, the 23-year-old does not want to want to lose her place atop of the podium. “I want to keep winning medals.”

She also has a final message for all her followers in Peru and around the world: “I want to tell them to strive and work hard to achieve what they want. Dreams do come true.”

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TOKYO OLYMPICS 2020

Rwanda Takes On Japan In Sitting Volleyball

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Rwanda is scheduled to takeon Japan on Friday evening in the womens sitting volleyball at the ongoing Paralympics in Tokyo.

The World ParaVolley kicked off on August 24 and will conclude on September 5 according to the fixture list for both the men’s and women’s competitions at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

Team Rwanda is drawn from Group B alongside USA, China, Russia. Meanwhile Group A includes; Japan, Canada, Brazil and Italy.

Team Rwanda are the African champions in the women’s sitting volleyball.

Rwanda is the first Sub-Saharan women’s team in history, in any sport, to compete at the Paralympic Games at Rio 2016.

Meanwhile, with the U.S. leading 24-22 and about to serve for match point in a must-win women’s sitting volleyball encounter Wednesday, the Russian Paralympic Committee called a time out.

U.S. coach Bill Hamiter took the occasion to offer his team a little advice.

“Let your training do the work,” Hamiter told his players during the break.

The Americans returned to the court at Makuhari Messe Hall, and Heather Erickson immediately served for the deciding point that gave the U.S. a 3-0 victory over the RPC (25-19, 25-15, 25-22) and propelled the defending Paralympic gold medalists into the semifinals.

The U.S., which scored the final five points of the third set, will face Brazil, a 3-1 winner over Italy, in the first semifinal on Friday. China and Canada will square off in the other semifinal.

“We know them pretty well,” said Hamiter of Brazil. “Of course, we’ll start looking at the video that we have, breaking things down, start our preparations tonight, actually, so we can go through our practice plans tomorrow.”

The U.S. and the RPC had entered the match with identical 1-1 records in Pool B preliminary round play. They had each defeated Rwanda in straight sets but lost 3-0 decisions to China. The U.S. was coming off the loss to China.

“We sided out way better today than we did against China,” Hamiter said. “I don’t know that we attacked better. I think it was maybe more well-timed plays, some things like that.

“Our vision of the court was way better today — seeing blocks, seeing what’s open, making smart shots, limiting our errors — all those little things that matter.”

After the Americans won the first two sets with relative ease, the RPC fought back to lead most of the way in the third set and threatened to extend the match.

“I don’t know if they were feeling as much pressure as I was,” Hamiter said of his players. “Every one of the games that I’ve coached, we’ve always had to win one of those matches to make it into the medal rounds. So, we’re used to it, but it’s always one of those things where you sweat it out.

“I liked the first two sets, and then that third set (we) had to struggle a little bit, but then (had) a great comeback.”

The U.S. battled back and eventually tied it at 20-20 on a Lora Webster serve. The RPC scored the next two to go up 22-20, but then the Americans went on their closing spurt to put away the match.

“What we did today directly built off of what we tried to work on yesterday,” Webster said. “In the third set, we came out behind, and we had to dig ourselves out of a hole, and there was no frantic energy.

“Everybody was calm. We all knew what we had to do. And that just goes to show what we worked on yesterday really showed up on the court, and I’m just excited by what we did.”

According to Webster, as the Americans head into the semifinals, they will focus on what they can control on their side of the net.

“People are going to falter, but it’s a team sport for a reason,” Webster said. “So, we’ve got to figure out how to pick each other up, and we did that here. And as long as we continue to do that, then we’ll be on the right trajectory going into the semifinals and, hopefully, into the finals.”

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