There were early gold medals for China, Iran and South Korea on a sweltering opening day of the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Athletes complained about exhausting conditions given the combination of high temperatures and humidity, with several tennis players asking for matches to be moved to start later in the day.
Cyclists in the men’s road race in particular felt the strain, but Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz managed to defy the conditions, convincingly winning his nation’s second ever gold medal.
China’s traditional early dominance of the medal table endured, with Yang Qian winning the first available gold in women’s 10m air rifle final.
Shortly afterwards, Hou Zhihui celebrated victory in the women’s -49kg weightlifting, with a combined score of 210, breaking the Olympic record.
Elsewhere, a nurse from Iran became the Olympic champion in the men’s 10m air pistol competition. Javad Foroughi only took up the sport in 2017, after he was shown how to use an air pistol in a basement under the hospital where he works.
South Korean pair An San and Kim Je-deok took gold in the mixed team archery.
‘Humidity is brutal’
World number one Novak Djokovic made a good start as he continues his bod for the ‘Golden Slam’, opening with a routine 6-2 6-2 win over Bolivia’s Hugo Dellien in the men’s singles.
But the Serb became the second player to question the scheduling of matches, after Russian Daniil Medvedev suggested a later start time would make conditions more bearable.
“Humidity is brutal… I agree with him 100%,” said Djokovic. “To be honest, I don’t understand why they don’t start matches at, say, 3pm.
“Maybe the ITF [International Tennis Federation] can give you a better answer to why they chose to be played in the middle of the day. I doubt they will change the decision, but we’re hoping that they will.”
The ITF has said the schedule has taken into account factors such as local authority restrictions around Covid-19 and the unpredictability of the weather.
It said player health was paramount, adding that there was an extreme weather policy in place, which allowed for drinks breaks and even suspension of play should certain conditions be reached.