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Japan’s Aaron Wolf and Shori Hamada grabbed gold medals in their respective judo finals Thursday, taking the host nation’s tally to eight golds from the sport at the Tokyo Games and matching their record haul from Athens 2004.Wolf, 25, and world champion in 2017, threw South Korean Cho Gu-ham to secure a dramatic ippon victory that ended more than five minutes of grueling Golden Score sudden-death overtime in the men’s -100kg final.It was the first time in 21 years that a Japanese judoka had dominated the -100 kg category at the Olympics.Wolf, whose mother is Japanese and whose father is from the United States, raised his fist in victory and burst into tears when he won the final. He later said he had used painkillers on both his bad knees the previous day.”What I’ve done up until now paid off finally, so I felt the surge of emotion,” he told reporters.
“I was just brought up as Japanese in the low city area of Tokyo. Japanese athletes of mixed parentage are increasing, so I hope that will help diversity among Japanese as a whole.”Earlier, Wolf overcame Uzbekistan’s Mukhammadkarim Khurramov to make it to the quarter-finals, where he defeated Israel’s Peter Paltchik.In the semi-finals, Wolf beat Georgian Varlam Liparteliani, the world number one and Rio silver medalist, with a dynamic o-uchi-gari throw to score a waza-ari victory.South Korea’s Cho won silver, while the bronze medals went to Jorge Fonseca of Portugal and Niiaz Iliasov of the Russian Olympic Committee.In the women’s -78 kg division final, 2018 world champion Hamada defeated French world number one Madeleine Malonga with a quick and solid pin to win the gold medal.Earlier, Hamada, 30, had pinned Beata Pacut of Poland for an ippon victory in the elimination round of 16, then downed Aleksandra Babintseva of the Russian Olympic Committee via a sliding lapel choke to reach the semi-finals.Hamada, ranked second in her division, triumphed over German Anna-Maria Wagner with a cross armlock for an ippon victory in the semi-finals.The bronze medals went to Wagner and Mayra Aguiar of Brazil. 

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China’s new ambassador to Washington, Qin Gang, on Wednesday wished the United States victory against COVID-19 and said great potential awaited bilateral relations, striking an optimistic tone as he arrived at his new post amid deeply strained ties.

Qin’s arrival comes days after high-level talks in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin between U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and senior Chinese diplomats ended with both sides signaling that the other must make concessions for ties to improve.

Qin, 55, a vice foreign minister whose recent past portfolios have included European affairs and protocol, is replacing China’s longest serving ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, 68, who last month announced his departure after eight years in Washington.

“I firmly believe that the door of China-U.S. relations, which is already open, cannot and should not be closed,” Qin told reporters at his residence in the U.S. capital after arriving from the airport.

“The China-U.S. relationship has come to a new critical juncture, facing not only many difficulties and challenges, but also great opportunities and potential,” Qin said.

He said relations kept moving forward “despite twists and turns,” and added that the U.S. economy was improving under President Joe Biden’s leadership.

“I wish the country an early victory against the pandemic,” he added.

Qin, who did two stints as a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson between 2006 and 2014, has earned a reputation for often pointed public defenses of his country’s positions.

Relations between Beijing and Washington deteriorated sharply under former President Donald Trump, and Biden has maintained pressure on China, stepping up sanctions on Chinese officials and vowing that the country won’t replace the United States as the world’s global leader on his watch.

China’s Foreign Ministry has recently signaled there could be preconditions for the United States on which any kind of cooperation would be contingent, a stance some analysts say leaves dim prospects for improved ties.

The post of the U.S. ambassador to China has been vacant since October, when Republican Terry Branstad stepped down to help with Trump’s reelection campaign.

With many U.S. ambassador posts to allied countries still unfilled, Biden has yet to nominate a replacement for China, though former ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns is considered a favorite candidate in foreign policy circles.  

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Former U.S. president Barack Obama has purchased a minority share of NBA Africa, the National Basketball Association announced Tuesday.NBA Africa was established this year to oversee the league’s business activities on the continent.The NBA said in a statement that Obama is a strategic partner and would use any profits from the new entity to “fund Obama Foundation youth and leadership programs across Africa.”NBA Africa was created in May as a partnership between the NBA and the International Basketball Federation. The Basketball Africa League, the continent’s first professional basketball league featuring top teams from 12 countries, is part of the entity.  The league began play for the first time in May after being delayed for a year by the coronavirus pandemic.African NBA Scout Eyes Talent in BAL TourneySarah Chan, manager of Africa scouting for the 2019 NBA champion Toronto Raptors team, says the BAL tournament will be a breeding ground for the next generation of African athletesThe NBA has had a presence in Africa for decades. It opened its African headquarters in Johannesburg in 2010 and has since promoted basketball through the NBA Africa Games, the launch of the BAL, social responsibility initiatives, corporate partnerships and player development.”I’ve been impressed by the league’s commitment to Africa, including the leadership shown by so many African players who want to give back to their own countries and communities,” Obama said in the NBA’s press release.”That’s why I’m proud to join the team at NBA Africa and look forward to a partnership that benefits the youth of so many countries.”Voice of America radio simulcast the BAL’s 26 games in English and French and provided play-by-play coverage in Bambara, Kinyarwanda, Wolof, and Portuguese for the games involving teams from Mali, Rwanda, Senegal, Angola, and Mozambique.The broadcasts were aired on more than 30 VOA-owned and operated FM radio stations in 16 African countries and were available to VOA’s network of commercial and public radio stations across the continent.Information from Reuters and AP was used in this report.

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Japan on Wednesday reported over 9,500 new coronavirus infections, an all-time high, raising fresh questions about whether the ongoing Tokyo Olympics are worsening the country’s pandemic situation.

Over 3,000 of the country’s infections were reported in Tokyo, which has set a record high for two consecutive days. The numbers were compiled by NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster. 

Tokyo is already under a state of emergency that some local commentators have criticized as ineffective. Many of the rules are voluntary. For example, restaurants have been asked to close early and not sell alcohol. Not all have complied.

The virus is also spreading outside the capital. The three prefectures surrounding Tokyo – Kanagawa, Chiba, and Saitama – have all seen infections spike. Local media report that officials are considering strengthening pandemic measures in those areas.

“The medical system has already started becoming more strained,” Shigeru Omi, the Japanese government’s top COVID-19 adviser, told a parliamentary hearing, according to the Kyodo News agency.

Overall, Japan’s pandemic approach has been relatively successful. It has reported only 15,000 coronavirus deaths, much fewer than other countries its size. Even though Japan reported a record number of cases Wednesday, it reported a total of only eight deaths.

Whether it can continue its less forceful lockdown may depend on how bad the current outbreak gets and whether the tens of thousands of athletes, officials and media from around the world stay in their protective bubbles as planned. 

So far, 169 Olympics-related individuals have tested positive for the virus. Olympics organizers stress the overall positivity rate is very low. They also say most Olympics-related visitors are vaccinated.

Japan is one of several Asian countries to initially contain the virus but lag other developed countries in vaccinations. 

At least 37 percent of Japan’s population has received one coronavirus vaccination, according to government figures.

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Momentum is building among congressional Democrats to provide significant funding for the Civilian Climate Corps – an initiative originally proposed by President Joe Biden earlier this year as part of the American Jobs Plan. 

The plan envisions a federal program that would hire young Americans to work on a wide variety of projects meant to remediate existing damage from climate change, to make at-risk areas of the country more resilient to climate change, and to help establish the kind of infrastructure that would allow renewable energy sources to be more thoroughly integrated into the U.S. economy.

If their plan comes to fruition, Democrats will insert at least $10 billion in funding for the new organization into what is expected to be a $3.5 trillion package that could be forced through Congress on a Democrats-only vote later this year.

A nod to FDR

Particularly in the early days of his presidency, Biden’s rollout of major proposals has invited comparisons to past Democratic presidents, including Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon Baines Johnson.

The proposal for a Civilian Climate Corps might be Biden’s most explicit callback to the days of FDR, echoing, as it does, the Civilian Conservation Corps founded in 1933. That version of the CCC was conceived as a jobs program, in the depths of the Great Depression, which would have the added benefit of creating projects of longstanding value to the country and its people.

Participation in the original CCC, however, was explicitly limited to men, and in many cases practically limited to white men. Advocates of the new CCC have made it plain that they expect any such program to be diverse in its membership and management.

Driver of diversity

Proponents of the new CCC see it as an organization that could partner with existing federal and state agencies to deliver manpower and resources to parts of the country where the need is greatest, while simultaneously offering opportunities to women and minorities in fields where they are underrepresented.

Scott Segerstrom, executive director of the Colorado Youth Corps Association, said that the kind of resources that the CCC could bring to bear in his state would be able to improve wildfire mitigation and prevention projects, and would help expand on the work that existing organization are already undertaking. One example, he said, is a program meant to draw a more diverse group of people into the work of wildland firefighting – typically an area dominated by white men.

“We have a program called the Women’s Fire Corps, and it’s exactly what it sounds like – a cohort of young women who are trained and get their first hands-on experience in a supportive, inclusive environment,” Segerstrom said. “And an outcome of that program is that we will see more young women entering the wildland firefighting sector. Our hope is over time that that sector better reflects the face of Colorado, and by extension, the face of America, and the Civilian Climate Corps is a mechanism that can grow programs like that.”

Broad Democratic support

On July 20, more than 80 Democratic members of the House and Senate sent a letter to the party’s congressional leadership, calling on them to include funding for the CCC in the package.

“The urgency of this moment recalls past chapters of national mobilization,” the letter said, nodding to the creation of both Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps, and AmeriCorps, which employs 75,000 Americans every year in various public service programs.

“In standing up the Civilian Climate Corps,” the lawmakers said, “we will build on that legacy and existing infrastructure, provide robust economic and educational opportunity, and promote inclusive and equitable Corps.”

Wide discrepancy over funding

While support for the CCC, in principle, is broad within the Democratic party, there is considerable divergence among members as to how much funding the program would require. 

Democratic Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden and Colorado Rep. Joe Neguse, for example, claim that a bill they co-sponsored, which recommended a $9 billion appropriation for “21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps” served as the model for President Biden’s slightly larger $10 billion.

However, other Democrats are calling for an investment that is an order of magnitude larger. Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said that the minimum necessary for an effective CCC is $132 billion. That’s a figure that the Sunrise Movement, a grassroots climate organization active in the push for a new CCC, has also advocated.

Without committing to a specific figure, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has promised, “I will fight to get the biggest boldest CCC possible.”

Republicans dubious

Because it will likely be part of a much larger spending bill that receives only Democratic support, any funding for the CCC that passes will not have the imprimatur of a bipartisan agreement. But in discussing the proposal, some in the GOP suggested that it might not get much support even on its own. 

“I’m concerned that Democrats are taking what could be a popular, bipartisan concept, and hijacking it with reckless spending and unneeded federal involvement,” Idaho Rep. Russ Fulcher said in a hearing on the CCC before the House Natural Resources Committee. 

Like many Republicans, Fulcher said the creation of a new government entity made the effort unnecessarily complex.

“As an alternative to creating an entirely new Civilian Climate Corps, Congress can simply encourage public-private partnerships and allow the private sector to innovate and continue existing, successful corps programs,” he said.

Republican Rep. Bruce Westerman of Arkansas expressed similar concerns, saying, “The administration has yet to release its strategy for how the proposed Civilian Climate Corps will be implemented or how this new program will interact with existing corps or federal workforce programs.”

Westerman added, “We should avoid creating a new federal bureaucracy and instead focus on creating win-win solutions by leveraging private funding and targeting future corps work on important activities like rebuilding trails, addressing deferred maintenance and conducting active forest management projects.”

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Simone Biles will not defend her Olympic title. The American gymnastics superstar withdrew from Thursday’s all-around competition to focus on her mental well-being. USA Gymnastics said in a statement on Wednesday that the 24-year-old is opting to not compete. The decision comes a day after Biles removed herself from the team final following one rotation because she felt she wasn’t mentally ready. Jade Carey, who finished ninth in qualifying, will take Biles’ place in the all-around. Carey initially did not qualify because she was the third-ranking American behind Biles and Sunisa Lee. International Gymnastics Federation rules limit countries to two athletes per event in the finals. The organization said Biles will be evaluated before deciding if she will participate in next week’s individual events. 

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Some Nigerian companies are using coconut and palm shells to make charcoal briquettes in an effort to slow ongoing deforestation. Nigeria banned charcoal exports after a World Bank report showed the country lost nearly half its forest cover in just a decade. Timothy Obiezu reports from Kuje, Nigeria.

Camera: Emeka Gibson 

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Russia is already interfering in next year’s midterm U.S. elections, President Joe Biden said Tuesday in a speech at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).  

Referencing the day’s classified briefing prepared by the intelligence community for him, Biden said: “Look at what Russia’s doing already about the 2022 election and misinformation.” 

Such actions by Moscow are a “pure violation of our sovereignty,” the president said, without elaborating, in remarks to about 120 representatives of the U.S. intelligence community who gathered in northern Virginia at the ODNI headquarters.  

Biden’s public reference to something contained in that day’s top secret Presidential Daily Brief is certain to raise some eyebrows.  

“He’s the president. He can declassify anything he wants to whenever he wants to,” said Emily Harding, deputy director and senior fellow with the international security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. 

“And I’m not sure it’s going to be a shock to anybody that Russia is looking at disinformation for the 2022 election. I think it is a really good reminder, though, that Russia continues to do this and that nothing has dissuaded them yet,” she said. 

The president also had an ominous prediction about the escalating cyberattacks targeting the United States that his administration has blamed on state-backed hackers in China and those operating with impunity in Russia.    

Biden said he believes it is growing more likely the United States could “end up in a real shooting war with a major power,” as the consequence of a cyber breach.  

Such cyber capabilities of U.S. adversaries are “increasing exponentially,” according to the president.  

Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed much on Biden’s mind during his remarks to the intelligence community.  

Putin has “nuclear weapons, oil wells and nothing else,” Biden said, adding that the Russian leader knows he is in real trouble economically, “which makes him even more dangerous.”  

Biden also praised the U.S. intelligence community for its superiority over its counterpart in Moscow.  

Putin “knows that you’re better than his team. And it bothers the hell out of him,” Biden said.  

“I can see the wheels in Moscow turning to respond to that one,” Harding told VOA.  

Biden referred to both Russia and China as “possibly mortal competitors down the road.”  

In his remarks, the U.S. president said that Chinese President Xi Jinping “is deadly earnest about becoming the most powerful military force in the world, as well as the largest and most prominent economy in the world” by the mid-2040s.  

Biden made several cryptic references to hypersonic weapons of adversaries. But he stopped himself once in midsentence after saying, “I don’t know, we probably have some people who aren’t totally cleared” in the room. In fact, a group of White House reporters was present, and a television camera was recording the speech on behalf of the media.  

The president also appealed to his intelligence team, which is composed of elements from 17 different agencies, “to give it to me straight. I’m not looking for pablum … and when you’re not sure, say you’re not sure.”  

Biden said he “can’t make the decisions I need to make if I’m not getting the best unvarnished, unbiased judgments you can give. I’m not looking to hear nice things. I’m looking to hear what you think to be the truth.”  

Those words are “a big deal. That’s the thing that he probably most needed to say” to this particular audience, according to Harding.  

Biden stressed that the intelligence agencies should not be swayed by which political party holds power in Congress or the White House. He said it is “so vital that you are and should be totally free of any political pressure or partisan influence.”  

Biden vowed that while he is president he will not try to “affect or alter your judgments about what you think the situation we face is. I’ll never politicize the work you do. You have my word on that. It’s too important for our country.”  

The appearance by the 46th U.S. president was intended, in part, to demonstrate a different relationship with the intelligence community than experienced by his predecessor, Donald Trump.  

“I think you can all make the inherent contrast,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters the previous day.  

Trump’s attitude toward the intelligence community publicly soured after he sided with Putin’s denial of the U.S. government’s conclusion that the Kremlin had meddled in the 2016 presidential election. Trump, a Republican, narrowly defeated Democratic Party challenger Hillary Clinton in that election.  
 

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Four U.S. police officers told a congressional investigating committee in tearful, gripping detail on Tuesday how an angry mob of supporters of then-President Donald Trump rampaged into the U.S. Capitol last January 6 in a futile attempt to block certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in last November’s presidential election.

The officers – two on the U.S. Capitol Police force and two with the Washington city police department — said they feared for their lives as about 800 rioters stormed past outmanned law enforcement authorities, taunted them with racial and political epithets, fought hand-to-hand with police, sprayed chemical irritants at them and grabbed for their shields and sidearms.

Their testimony came on the first day of public hearings on the deadly mayhem more than six months ago, the worst attack in more than two centuries on the U.S. Capitol, often seen as the symbol of U.S. democracy. Seven Democratic members of the House of Representatives and two Republican lawmakers on a select committee listened raptly to the testimony– along with a national television audience. 

During the three and a half hour hearing, U.S. Capitol Police officer Aquilino Gonell testified, “The rioters called me a ‘traitor,’ a ‘disgrace,’ and shouted that I (an Army veteran and police officer) should be ‘executed.’”

“What we were subjected to that day was like something from a medieval battlefield,” Gonell said. “We fought hand-to-hand and inch-by-inch to prevent an invasion of the Capitol by a violent mob intent on subverting our democratic process.”

Gonell said at one point he was crushed by the onslaught of rioters.

“I thought, “This is how I’m going to die,’” he said.

Washington police officer Michael Fanone told lawmakers, “I was grabbed, beaten, tased, all while being called a traitor to my country. I was at risk of being stripped of and killed with my own firearm.”

“I was electrocuted again and again and again with a taser,” he recalled. “I’m sure I was screaming but I don’t think I could hear even my own voice.”

In the months since the chaos at the Capitol, numerous Republicans, in attempting to exonerate Trump’s admonition to his supporters to “fight like hell” to overturn the vote showing he had lost to Biden, have minimized the violence at the Capitol. One lawmaker said the 800 who entered the Capitol were much like tourists, while some Republicans voted against honoring police for protecting the Capitol.  

Republican leaders have maintained that the riot is being adequately investigated by law enforcement agencies and other congressional committees, arguing that the latest investigation is simply a political exercise designed to cast the Republican Party in a poor light ahead of mid-term elections next year.

Pounding his hand on the witness table, Fanone exclaimed, “The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful.”

Washington police officer Daniel Hodges, who was crushed between a door to the House floor and a door frame, said one rioter shouted at him, “You will die on your knees!”

He said police were unable to hold the line against the surge of protesters. He said one rioter “put his thumb in my eye and tried to gouge it out.”

As he was pinned in the doorway, Hodges said, “I screamed for help” and “thankfully, more and more police” came to his rescue.

U.S. Capitol policeman Harry Dunn, who is Black, said the rioters unleashed vile racial epithets at him after an exchange in which he acknowledged having voted for Biden.

“I’m still hurting from what happened that day,” Dunn said. He asked for a moment of silence to remember fellow officer Brian Sicknick, who helped defend the Capitol on January 6, but died of natural causes a day later.

One rioter was shot dead by a Capitol policeman during the mayhem, three rioters died of medical emergencies and two other police officers committed suicide in the ensuing days. More than 500 of the rioters have been charged with an array of criminal offenses.

Dunn said the memories of January 6 are “still not over for me, physically and emotionally,” and that he is undergoing psychological therapy.

But he had a last thought for the protesters: “You all tried to thwart democracy that day and you failed.”

Senate Republicans blocked creation of a bipartisan investigative commission to consider why and how the deadly chaos of January 6 unfolded.

Instead, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who heads the Democratic-controlled chamber, appointed the nine members of the House select committee, including two vocal Republican Trump critics, Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, over the objection of House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy.

McCarthy had named five Republicans to the panel, but Pelosi, as was her prerogative, rejected two staunch Trump supporter –, Congressmen Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana — as biased against the investigation. McCarthy then withdrew his other three appointments.  

As he opened the hearing, the chairman of the panel, Congressman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, said, “Some people are trying to deny what happened. To whitewash it. … Let’s be clear. The rioters who tried to rob us of our democracy were propelled here by a lie,” that Trump was defrauded out of a second four-year term in the White House.

Trump, to this day, makes unfounded claims that he, not Biden, was the legitimate winner.

McCarthy on Monday derided Cheney’s and Kinzinger’s participation on the Democratic-led investigative panel, calling them “Pelosi Republicans.” 

But Cheney, the daughter of former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, rebuffed the claim that the investigation was pointless.

“If those responsible are not held accountable,” she said at the outset of the hearing, “and if Congress does not act responsibly, this will remain a cancer on our constitutional republic.”

In the weeks ahead, the investigative panel could subpoena numerous witnesses, possibly including Trump, to testify about what they knew ahead of the confrontation and as it was unfolding.

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Tuesday’s slate of competitions at the Tokyo Olympics has been filled with a number of stunning defeats and setbacks over a variety of events.One of the biggest shocks of the day came when U.S. gymnast Simone Biles, seeking to burnish her already legendary career, withdrew from the overall team finals after failing to execute her planned maneuver in the vault and stumbling backward on her landing. She then briefly left the floor with her coach, then returned to rejoin her teammates with her ankle wrapped in a bandage.”Simone Biles has withdrawn from the team final competition due to a medical issue. She will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions,” said a statement from USA Gymnastics.Official statement: “Simone Biles has withdrawn from the team final competition due to a medical issue. She will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions.”Thinking of you, Simone! Gold medalist Lydia Jacoby, center, of the U.S., stands with silver medalist Tatjana Schoenmaker, left, of South Africa, and bronze medalist Lilly King, of the U.S., after the final of the women’s 100-meter breaststroke.Hundreds of people packed into a railroad terminal in Jacoby’s hometown of Seward, Alaska, launched into a wild celebration as they watched her come from behind in the last lap overtake Schoenmaker.STAND UP ALASKA!17-year-old Lydia Jacoby WINS GOLD, and everybody’s celebrating! From left to right, Britain’s Duncan Scott, South Korea’s Hwang Sunwoo and Britain’s Tom Dean swim in a 200-meter freestyle semifinal at the 2020 Summer Olympics, July 26, 2021, in Tokyo.Olympic history was also made Tuesday when Italo Ferreira of Brazil and Carissa Moore of the United States won the first-ever gold medals for men and women’s surfing.   Ferreira, the reigning World Surf League champion, overcame a broken board on his first wave on his way to his historic victory at Tsurigasaki Surfing Beach in Ichinomiya town, outpointing Japan’s Kanoa Igarashi and Owen Wright of Australia, who won the silver and bronze medals respectively.   The Hawaii-born Moore, a four-time world champion and current top-ranked surfer, dominated her first two waves in the finals for a combined 14.93, easily outpointing South Africa’s Bianca Buitendag, who scored 8.46 to win the silver medal.  Amuro Tsuzuki of Japan took home the bronze.   In other Olympic events Tuesday, Flora Duffy of Bermuda won the women’s triathlon in 1:55:36 (one hour, 55 minutes, 36 seconds), which included a 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike ride and 10-kilometer run. Duffy’s gold medal victory is the first for the Caribbean island nation, and the second-ever Olympic medal since boxer Clarence Hill won bronze in the 1976 Montreal Games. Georgia Taylor-Brown won the silver medal, while Katie Zaferes of the United States won bronze.   Another gold medal event is taking place later Tuesday in Tokyo when the U.S. takes on host country Japan in women’s softball in Yokohama Baseball Stadium.The United States leads the overall medal count with 22, with China in second place with 22 and host country Japan in third with 17. The U.S., China and Japan are all tied in the gold medal count with nine, followed by five for the ROC.  Host country Japan took gold  in women’s softball, defeating the U.S. team 2-0.The United States leads the overall medal count with 25, with China in second place with 21 and host country Japan with 18.  Some information for this report came from the Associated Press. 

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Sparsely populated and isolated from most of the outside world, Turkmenistan has finally won its first Olympic medal since independence from the Soviet Union.Weightlifter Polina Guryeva won a silver medal for the Central Asian nation at the Tokyo Games on Tuesday, and then predicted she would go down in the country’s history.”I was in shock because it’s the first Olympic medal in the history of the Turkmen people. It’s the first medal, which I won. No sport in Turkmenistan has had a medal, not one medal,” the 21-year-old Guryeva said. “I think I’ve entered the history of Turkmenistan by winning a medal. I’m so in shock.”Guryeva lifted a total 217 kilograms in the 59-kilogram category, edging Mikiko Andoh of Japan for second place. Kuo Hsing-Chun of Taiwan won gold by lifting 236kg.Guryeva, who calls Kuo her “idol” and copies her training exercises, finished in 28th place at the 2019 world championships while competing one weight category higher. On her coach’s advice, she used the one-year Olympic delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic to reset, dropping down a class.”When the pandemic began, I didn’t have a chance of qualifying,” she said. “In October, I dropped down and started training. And I went to the Asian Championships in Uzbekistan, lifted 211 total, and then I got the chance to go to the Olympics. And then I started training even harder to get this medal.”Guryeva will return home to a country which has often had little contact with the outside world but is trying to make its name in the world of sports. The gas-rich nation sent two medalists to the Soviet Union’s Olympic teams for the 1956 and 1960 Games but success has been rare since.Hosting the 2018 weightlifting world championships at a lavish new sports complex in the capital, Ashgabat, was one step toward raising the country’s profile. Turkmenistan’s authoritarian president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, is a fan of cycling and the country was scheduled to hold the track cycling championships this year, too, but they were moved because of the pandemic.The Turkmenistan government says it has not had any cases of COVID-19 but has made vaccinations mandatory.For Kuo, the victory was about completing a set of major championship medals. The Taiwanese lifter finally added Olympic gold to her four world titles.”I have all the pieces together. Now I am very happy,” she said through a translator.Andoh lifted a total of 214kg for bronze despite what she later revealed was severe pain in her feet. After her last lift, she fell to the ground on stage with a smile and was helped away by her coaches.In the 64-kilogram category, Maude Charron got hear a song at the Olympics that her “idol” never did — the Canadian national anthem.Charron won an unusually open competition with six women in the running for a place on the podium ahead of their last lifts. Charron’s total of 236kg was four more than silver medalist Giorgia Bordignon of Italy and six ahead of Chen Wen-Huei of Taiwan.Christine Girard, the Olympic champion from the 2012 London Games, never got to stand on the top step of the podium while “O Canada” was played because she originally finished in third place. The lifters that finished above her, from Kazakhstan and Russia, both later tested positive for doping.”I asked her how to prepare for the games, how not to be too intimidated by the rings, and she wrote me a message,” Charron said. “Now I just feel like that’s her medal, that’s her moment because she didn’t have it in real time.”Weightlifting has reallocated dozens of past Olympic medals and cut the Tokyo allocation for countries which racked up the most doping offenses.”For sure anti-doping made a great deal in just cleaning the sport,” Charron said. “There is a progression in this clean way.”

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China’s Jiang Ranxin and Pang Wei out-dueled their Russian rivals in a riveting contest to secure gold in the 10-meter air pistol mixed team event at the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday. The Chinese pair scored a 16-14 victory against newly minted women’s Olympic champion Vitalina Batsarashkina and Artem Chernousov at the Asaka Shooting Range. Jiang and Pang, bronze winners in their individual events in Tokyo, overcame an 8-4 deficit to lead 14-10 before the Russians staged a comeback to level the scores. The Chinese shooters, however, held their nerve to reach the 16-point mark and claim gold. Russian athletes are competing in Tokyo under the flag of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) as part of sanctions for several doping scandals. Ukraine won the bronze medal match after Olena Kostevych and Oleh Omelchuk beat Serbians Zorana Arunovic and Damir Mikec 16-12. South Korean pistol great Jin Jong-oh will return empty-handed from his fifth, and possibly final, Olympics as his pairing could not get through the qualification round. The four-time Olympic gold medalist failed to qualify for the final of the men’s individual event on Saturday. 

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The Tokyo Olympics got off to a busy start Tuesday at the Tokyo Aquatics Center with a trio of high-profile finals in the men’s and women’s swimming.   In the women’s 100-meter breaststroke, the highly anticipated race between Lilly King of the United States, who won the event in the 2016 Rio Olympics, and Tatjana Schoenmaker of South Africa ended in an upset when Lydia Jacoby, King’s 17-year-old teammate, edged both women to win the gold. Schoenmaker finished in second place to win the silver medal while King ended in third, taking home the bronze medal.  Hundreds of people packed into a railroad terminal in Jacoby’s hometown of Seward, Alaska, launched into a wild celebration as they watched her come from behind in the last lap overtake Schoenmaker.STAND UP ALASKA!17-year-old Lydia Jacoby WINS GOLD, and everybody’s celebrating! #TokyoOlympics x @USASwimming📺: NBC💻: https://t.co/GFrdWbcFoO📱: NBC Sports App pic.twitter.com/leYOC2Mzju— #TokyoOlympics (@NBCOlympics) July 27, 2021Jacoby is the first swimmer from the remote northwestern state to qualify for a Summer Olympics.   In another surprise finish, Ryan Murphy of the United States finished third in the men’s 100-meter backstroke final, as teammates Evgeny Rylov and Kliment Kolesnikov of the Russian Olympic Committee, or the ROC, finished in first and second place respectively. Murphy had hoped to repeat his 2016 gold medal Rio performance, but took the bronze medal instead. His loss also ended a streak of six consecutive U.S. wins in the 100-meter backstroke dating back to 1996.   Meanwhile, Australia’s Kaylee McKeown won the women’s 100-meter backstroke and set a new Olympic record of 57.47 seconds. Canada’s Kylie Masse won the silver medal while Regan Smith of the United States took the bronze medal.   And British swimmers Tom Dean and Duncan Scott won the gold and silver medals, respectively, in the men’s 200-meter freestyle final. Brazil’s Fernando Scheffer won the bronze medal.   Yet another upset occurred Tuesday in women’s tennis as Japan’s Naomi Osaka, the world’s second-ranked player, suffered a shocking 6-1 6-4 defeat to Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic in the third round. Osaka, a four-time Grand Slam winner and a favorite to win gold for her native country, struggled during the match with 32 unforced errors. In other Olympic events Tuesday, Flora Duffy of Bermuda won the women’s triathlon in 1:55:36 (one hour, 55 minutes, 36 seconds), which included a 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike ride and 10-kilometer run. Duffy’s gold medal victory is the first for the Caribbean island nation, and the second-ever Olympic medal since boxer Clarence Hill won bronze in the 1976 Montreal Games. Georgia Taylor-Brown won the silver medal, while Katie Zaferes of the United States won bronze.   Another historic gold medal victory occurred Monday in women’s weightlifting, when Hidilyn Diaz of the Philippines won the 55-kilogram division to win the first-ever gold medal for the Pacific archipelago. Diaz also set two Olympic records when she lifted 127 kilograms in the clean and jerk section as well as an overall total of 224 kilograms.   And fencer Edgar Cheung won Hong Kong’s first Olympics gold medal in 25 years when he beat Italy’s Daniele Garozzo by a score of 15-11.   Two gold medal events will take place later Tuesday in Tokyo when the U.S. takes on host country Japan in women’s softball in Yokohama Baseball Stadium. And gymnast Simone Biles will seek to burnish her already legendary career when she leads the U.S. women in the overall team finals.   The United States and China are tied in the overall medal count with 19, while the Russian Olympic Committee has 15 and host country Japan has 13 medals. The U.S. and Japan are tied in the gold medal count with eight, followed by seven for China and 5 for the ROC.  Some information for this report came from Reuters and AFP. 

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Bermuda has been sending athletes to the Olympics since 1936. Until Tuesday, the Atlantic island’s highest honor was a bronze medal won 45 years ago. Flora Duffy changed that in just less than two hours, swimming, cycling and running through the wind and rain around Tokyo Bay to win the Olympic women’s triathlon for Bermuda’s first gold medal. A self-governing British overseas territory with a population of less than 65,000, Bermuda has two athletes competing in Tokyo: Duffy and men’s rower Dara Alizadeh. It is the smallest contingent Bermuda has ever sent to the Summer Games. Bermuda hadn’t medaled at the Olympics since Clarence Hill’s bronze in heavyweight boxing in Montreal in 1976. “I think (the medal) is bigger than me. It’s going to inspire the youth of Bermuda and everyone back home that competing on the world stage from a small island is really possible,” said Duffy, a Bermuda native who grew up there. Duffy, 33, had never finished higher than eighth in her previous three Olympic tries. But the two-time former world triathlon series champion was one of the favorites for gold and was among the leaders Tuesday for the entire race. She closed out the victory with a dominant final leg to finish in 1 hour, 55:36 minutes. Duffy pumped her arms over her head as she hit the final 50 meters to the finish line, then held her head in her hands as she pushed through the victory banner and collapsed. She got up to cheer on her competitors. “I tried to just keep my composure and not allow my mind to drift to the fact that this was really happening until about the last kilometer of the run,” Duffy said. “I saw my husband — he’s my coach — on the side of the road and just gave him a little smile. From there I just sort of allowed all the emotions to come.” Georgia Taylor-Brown of Britain, who got a tire puncture near the end of the cycling stage but rode through it, finished more than a minute behind. American Katie Zaferes was third. “I just rode on the flat,” Taylor-Brown said. “I did panic … the whole race I had been right at the front.” Zaferes, who was selected for the U.S. team despite a string of disappointing finishes over the last year, backed up the decision to bring her to Tokyo by winning bronze. “I’m so happy that I was here,” said Zaferes, whose father died in April. “To have the confidence I would be ready for today and to be able to execute that and be on the podium. I’m just so proud.” Ukrainian Yuliya Yelistratova did not compete after the International Testing Agency reported Sunday that she had tested positive for the banned blood-booster EPO in a sample collected at a June competition. Yelistratova had competed in the two previous Olympics. 

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