Dressel eyes 100m freestyle gold as Olympic golf tees off

Dressel eyes 100m freestyle gold as Olympic golf tees off

US swimming star Caeleb Dressel
US swimming star Caeleb Dressel

TOKYO: US swim star Caeleb Dressel seeks a second gold medal at the Tokyo Games on Thursday in his pursuit of Olympic greatness while the absence of Simone Biles will be keenly felt in the women's all-around gymnastics.

Newly crowned British Open winner Collin Morikawa and Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama tee off in a golf competition packing star power despite high-profile coronavirus pull-outs.

And Novak Djokovic will be aiming for a place in the semi-finals of the men's singles as he faces home hope Kei Nishikori at Ariake Tennis Park.

Dressel spearheaded the USA to the 4x100m relay title, but reigning champion Kyle Chalmers stands in his way in the 100m freestyle in the Olympic battle of the pool between Australia and the Americans.

The 24-year-old US star is attempting three individual events in Tokyo, with the 50m freestyle and 100m butterfly still to come, and more medals are on offer in the relays.

"I know what my job is as I hit the water. It's not different if it's relay or individual," Dressel said after qualifying on Wednesday.

Biles's decision to ditch a second event due to mental health concerns, hot on the heels of her dramatic withdrawal from Tuesday's team event, has raised serious doubts about the American superstar's further participation in the Games.

The 24-year-old's struggles follow those of Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka, another face of the Tokyo Olympics, who lost in the third round on her return from a break to restore her own mental health.

- 'Pressure a privilege' -

Biles, unbeaten in all-around competition since 2013 and widely touted as the "GOAT" (greatest of all time), arrived seeking to equal or even better Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina's career haul of nine Olympic titles.

Japanese teenager Daiki Hashimoto on Wednesday became the youngest-ever men's all-around Olympic gymnastics champion, propelling the host nation to the top of the medals table.

Djokovic, chasing a Golden Slam of all four Majors plus Olympic gold in the same year, said after beating Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in straight sets in the third round on Wednesday that pressure was inescapable.

"Pressure is a privilege. Without pressure there is no professional sport," the Serb said.

"If you are aiming to be at the top of the game, you better start learning how to deal with pressure and how to cope with those moments."

Biles has hinted that the unprecedented environment of the Tokyo Olympics -- largely spectator-less and with competitors' movements strictly limited to prevent coronavirus infections -- had contributed to her anxiety.

On Wednesday, Dutch athletes in quarantine in Tokyo after testing positive for the virus revealed they had staged a sit-in strike over the harsh conditions, eventually earning the right to stand by an open window for 15 minutes fresh air a day.

"Not having any outside air is so inhuman, and it is mentally super-draining," said street skateboarder Candy Jacobs, while taekwondo fighter Reshmie Oogink called it "Olympic jail".

The International Olympic Committee said athletes in quarantine had access to psychologists in the athletes' village and phone helplines.

On the eve of the athletics competition, 10 Nigerian athletes were among 18 competitors from "high-risk" nations barred from competing after failing to meet minimum standards for out-of-competition drug testing.

World Athletics' independent anti-doping arm said the athletes had failed to comply with rules that require athletes from countries deemed to be at highest risk of doping to undergo three no-notice out-of-competition tests in a 10-month period.

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