ost nation Japan won the first event of the pandemic-postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympics, crushing Australia 8-1 in a spectatorless softball game held in Fukushima.
“I feel relieved,” said Japan’s starting pitcher Yukiko Ueno, who surrendered just two hits over 4-1/3 innings, but saw her team easily prevail with a trio of two-run homers.
Olympics and Japanese officials could also stop holding their collective breath after more than a year of uncertainty over whether the Games could be staged with deadly waves of coronavirus infections forcing athletes to train alone and spectators to stay home.
The opening ceremony is on Friday.
Ueno, ace of the softball team’s 2008 gold medal run, struggled to throw strikes early and hit two Australians.
Coach Reika Utsugi said Ueno was too cautious after the pandemic had limited scrimmages.
Ueno blamed her excitement on the “very long time” between Olympics – a remark she illustrated for reporters by outstretching her arms.
Ueno quickly bounced back.
Australian designated player Tarni Stepto said her side failed to exert patience at the plate, leaving bases loaded in the first after scoring the game’s initial run.
The game ended after five innings due to a mercy rule.
Only buzzing cicadas and polite applause from a few hundred staff were heard as Japan’s shots cleared the fence.
The United States defeated Italy 2-0 in Wednesday’s second game, with Mexico versus Canada to follow.
U.S. left-hander Cat Osterman, who is back from retirement, struck out nine and let a single hit over six shutout innings, leaving her with two runs allowed in 39.4 innings across three Olympics.
On the bench, Italy and the United States draped heads with towels or their gloves to cool off in a balmy 34 degrees Celsius (94 Fahrenheit).
Teams face each other once over six days before the top four advance to medal games.
The first two days are at a baseball stadium in Fukushima, a region badly affected by the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster.
After the 2008 Beijing Olympics featured a softball-specific venue, the temporary fencing in the outfield and an electronically lowered pitching mound in Fukushima have attracted scorn from fans.
There was at least one hiccup. Though rules require one, a chalk pitching circle was not laid until the first game’s fourth inning.
To offer some semblance of fan support, concourses at stadiums including the one at Fukushima have been lined with young plants bearing messages from children urging athletes to “go for gold”.
Tokyo Olympics: All Nigeria’s table tennis reps knocked out
Africa’s highest-ranked player Quadri Aruna on Tuesday crashed out of the men’s singles event of the table tennis competition at the ongoing Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Aruna who reached the quarter-finals of the event at the Rio Games in 2016 could not go far this time around as he lost 2-4 in the third round.
He lost to Brazil’s Gustavo Tsuboi at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium 15-13 9-11 6-11 11-7 7-11 6-11.
His exit has brought a sad end to Team Nigeria’s campaign in the sport at this Games.
His three teammates in the sport —— Funke Oshonaike, Offiong Edem, Olajide Omotayo —- have all been eliminated.
Nigeria did not qualify for the doubles events.
John Terry leaves Aston Villa, reveals next plan
Aston Villa assistant coach, John Terry, has announced his departure from the club.
Terry, in a statement via Aston Villa’s official website on Monday, also revealed his next plan.
The Chelsea legend had since been linked with vacancies at Bristol City and West Brom United.
Terry’s statement read in part, “It has been a tremendous honour and privilege to have spent these last three years at Aston Villa, but I feel now is the right time to make the extremely difficult decision to move on.
“My immediate plan is to spend some quality time with my family and, thereafter, hopefully, take up some invitations to visit clubs and managers around Europe to develop my aim and objective of becoming a manager.
“I’ll forever be indebted to the gaffer for giving me the opportunity to start my coaching career at such a wonderful club.
“Finally, I would also like to thank all the players and staff and wish them all the very best for the season ahead and say a huge thank you to the wonderful Aston Villa fans for their support.”
Solskjaer opens up on Pogba rejecting new Man United contract to join PSG
Manchester United boss, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has opened up on midfielder, Paul Pogba rejecting a new contract at the club in a bid to join Paris Saint-Germain.
Solskjaer also expressed confidence that Pogba will be part of his Man United squad next season.
He said this while reacting to reports that the France international has rejected a new deal at the club because he wants to join PSG.
Pogba, whose current deal with Man United will expire next summer, has been linked with a move away from Old Trafford to join PSG.
But Solskjaer has now described the report as ‘speculations’.
Asked if Pogba has rejected a contract and whether Man United will need to sell him, Solskjaer told reporters following the Red Devils’ pre-season 4-2 defeat against QPR on Saturday: “There are always speculations about Paul.
“The talks between the club and Paul’s representatives, I am not in the detail of every single one of them, so I have got nothing to say really about that.
Asked further on PSG’s interest in Pogba, Solskjaer continued: “There’s always speculation about Paul and there’s always clubs being interested.
“Of course, we have seen Paul at his best and Paul knows what we feel about it. And of course, I have enjoyed my time working with him and hopefully, we can work together. Let’s see what happens.”
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