Eliud Kipchoge produced a marathon masterclass and the USA edged China at the top of the Tokyo Olympics medals table as the curtain fell on the biggest sports event since the pandemic on Sunday.
After Kipchoge’s marathon win for Kenya, the United States scored victories in volleyball, track cycling and basketball to top the tally with 39 gold medals, just one ahead of China.
The 339th and final gold medal went to Serbia’s men’s water polo team, capping a Games that were in serious danger of cancellation after they became the first postponed Olympics last year.
Thirty-three sports have been contested across 16 days in largely empty stadiums, with fans barred over coronavirus risks and athletes living in strict biosecure conditions.
“Some were already speaking of ‘Ghost Games’,” Olympics chief Thomas Bach told an International Olympic Committee session ahead of the closing ceremony on Sunday.
“What we have seen here is that on the contrary the athletes have brought soul to the Olympic Games.”
The Olympics were plagued by low Japanese support over fears they would become a super-spreader event but officials maintained that a record haul of 27 gold medals, putting Japan third on the table, has won hearts.
“We believe our athletes’ earnest spirit and all-out performance moved people,” said Tsuyoshi Fukui, chef de mission for the Japanese team.
Britain finished fourth with 22 golds and the Russian Olympic Committee, the team for Russian athletes after Russia were banned for systematic doping, were fifth with 20.
Tokyo Olympics close with USA topping medals table For the rest of the medal count, go here.
A succession of big names have failed to perform in Japan, where new sports skateboarding, surfing, sport climbing and karate have brought young new stars to the fore.
But marathon world record holder Kipchoge showed his class, kicking in the closing stages and clocking 2hr 08min 38sec to retain the title he won in 2016.
“I know there were a lot of people against holding this Olympics due to the coronavirus,” said a flag-waving, 47-year-old fan on the marathon route who gave his name as Tsujita.
“But I am glad it took place.
This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for everyone.”
The marathon, moved north to Sapporo to avoid Tokyo’s summer heat, was one of the few events to allow spectators.—AFP