The Hockeyroos were handed a heartbreaking 1-0 upset at the hands of India to be knocked out of the women’s Olympic hockey quarter-finals.
Playing in only their third Olympics, India were given little chance against an Australian side that had won all five games and conceded just one goal to reach the final eight.
The upset came just hours after one of the most inspiring of Olympic moments, when Dutch runner Sifan Hassan made an epic recovery during the 1500-metre heats.
Chasing an unprecedented 1500-5000-10,000-metre treble in Tokyo, Hassan was knocked to the track with one lap to run in the second heat on Monday morning, only to dust herself and win the remarkable race.
— Kyle Wendel (@kylewendel) August 2, 2021
The Hockeyroos were unable to crack the Indian defence, as a Gurjit Kaur drag flick that bobbled home on 22 minutes proved the difference in the India women’s finest hockey moment.
Australia were unable to score from any of their nine penalty corners – they converted just two-of-25 across the tournament – while Rosie Malone hit the post after 90 seconds.
India, who only snuck into the final eight with wins over Ireland and South Africa, earned their win defending valiantly as Australia pressed in the final quarter.
India didn’t win a game in Rio five years ago but will now play for a medal for the first time, while three-time Olympic champions Australia continue to wait for a first medal since winning gold in 2000.
Hassan’s ‘incredible’ feat
Earlier on Monday, after falling to the ground Hassan immediately got back to her feet before mowing down the field in the concluding 400 metres to top her heat.
Not only did she finish the race, but Hassan secured her place in the semi-final with a time of 4:05.17.
The expert recovery was a definite highlight during day 10 of the Games and received accolades from fellow athletes as well as those watching on.
The swift comeback was described as “incredible” by Argentinian tennis star Diego Schwartzman, and “mind-blowing” by NBC Sport’s Reuben Frank.
Another astounded sports broadcaster, Anthony Bruno said it was “the most impressive thing” he’s seen at the Games so far.
All eyes will likely be on Hassan, willing her not to fall, as she runs towards a gold medal in the 5000-metre final on Monday night.
Meanwhile, gun Australian duo Linden Hall and Jessica Hull made it through to the semi-final with a minimum of fuss, though Hassan’s glorious win inched Hull out of first position by just 0.11 seconds.
Australian record holder Hall was rewarded for a brave display of front-running by cruising through third in a slick time of 4.02.27 in the quickest heat.
Defending Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon from Kenya finished that heat in first. Hall told the Seven Network she played it safe after Hassan’s fall.
“It’s so nice just to get that done,” said Hall.
“Watching the other guys over the last few days has been exciting but stressful.
“I just wanted to play it safe and stay out of trouble after seeing some tripping (of Hassan) in the heat before.”
Having decided to target the 1500-metre rather than the 5000-metre in Tokyo, the US-based Hull was untroubled in advancing to the semis to be held on Wednesday evening.
“Definitely you want to do one (event) and do it well,” Australian 5000-metre record holder Hull told the Seven Network.
“At this point in my career, the 1500 is where I’m most confident.
“I’ve raced it the most times, I know how to navigate the tactics a bit better.
“And it’s pretty brutal conditions for a 5K here, so choosing the 1500, when my coach decided a couple of weeks ago, I was all in.”
Fellow Australian Georgia Griffith was never in contention in the opening heat as she finished second-last in 4:14.43.
Hull will race in the first heat on Wednesday, while Hall will be in the second heat of the semi-finals.
Meanwhile on the women’s 200-metre track, Australian Riley Day has earned her place on the semi-final track for Monday night.
Day told the Seven Network she plans to “absolutely floor it” to make the final.
“Feeling really good. I’m a semifinalist, so it’s unreal,” Day said.
“I was very overwhelmed before I got on the track. So I didn’t know what to expect. But I think I handled myself well.”
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Olympic debutant Tom Green has advanced directly through to semi-finals of the men’s K1 1000 metres in Monday’s opening day of canoe sprint racing in Tokyo.
The 22-year-old Queenslander, who is coached by three-time Olympic medallist Ken Wallace, finished second in his heat behind Rio silver medallist Czech Josef Dostal.
Green led the field at the halfway mark after a blistering start and looked comfortable cruising to the line with the top two avoiding the repechage.
Australian teammate Jean van der Westhuyzen finished third in his heat and will go into the repechage (quarter final) later on Monday.
Jamie Roberts and Jo Brigden-Jones will appear in the women’s kayak double 500-metre repechage after finishing fifth in their qualifying heat.
Aussies caught up in COVID scare
But it’s not all about the competition for Australia’s athletes in Tokyo, with 10 Aussies reprimanded – but not punished – for breaking COVID rules over the weekend.
The group sparked a virus scare in the national Olympic team after mingling with other residents inside the Games village.
Team chef de mission Ian Chesterman said none of the Australians involved in the Saturday night incident had tested positive and he wasn’t majorly concerned.
“It was a very minor offence – I’m not taking any disciplinary action, none was necessary,” Mr Chesterman said.