Unexpected canoeing and skateboarding triumphs in Tokyo have propelled Australia to equal its best-ever gold-medal haul at an Olympics.
In a golden hour for Australia. paddlers Tom Green and Jean van der Westhuyzen won the canoe sprint, while 18-year-old Keegan Palmer won gold in the men’s park skateboarding.
It was a tense half hour for fans, flipping between the skate park and the water to catch a glimpse of a potential medal.
The wins brought Australia’s gold medal haul to 17, equalling its record haul from the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Australia was fourth on the medal table midway through Thursday’s competition with only China (32 gold), the United States (27) and Japan (21) above it.
Palmer completely dominated the competition to claim Australia’s first-ever skateboarding medal and its 16th overall of the Tokyo Games.
The teenager, who was born in the US and raised in Australia, produced a final ride of 95.83 points to blitz the competition, but his second-best of 94.04 would also have guaranteed him gold.
Teenager Palmer won gold for Australia at the skate park. Photo: Getty“That is a such a huge honour and I am so grateful that I was able to do it for Australia,” said Palmer, who is presently living in California.
“It means the world to me because it’s where everything started for me. I’m so grateful and I just can’t believe it,” he added.
Brazil’s Pedro Barros claimed silver with a score of 86.14 with American world No.2 Cory Juneau taking bronze with 84.13.
Fellow Australian Kieran Woolley finished fifth with a best ride of 82.04.
Just minutes after Palmer’s victory, Green and van der Westhuyzen held off the world champion German duo of Max Hoff and Jacob Schopf to claim Australia’s first gold in the K2 1000-metre canoe sprint.
The pair of 22-year-olds, who had never paddled together internationally before the Olympics, followed up their Olympic record in the heats.
Green and van der Westhuyzen got off to a flying start and led for the entire race, just managing to hold off the charging German pair with the Czech Republic’s Radek Slouf and Josef Dostal taking bronze
The Australians crossed in three minutes 15.280 seconds, just 0.304 clear of Germany.
Green said it was an “unbelievable” result.
“I didn’t want to claim it until I saw our names on the top of the screen, but then I saw this guy (van der Westhuyzen) claim it and I thought we had it so it’s unbelievable,” Green told Network Seven.
The pair are based in Queensland, with Cape Town-born van der Westhuyzen moving from South Africa to Australia in 2018 to pursue his sprint canoe career.
Meanwhile on the basketball court, hopes of making the gold medal match have been dashed for the Aussie Boomers.
Australia lost 78-97 to the US in a thrilling match after leading 45 to 42 at halftime.
The US got back in front in the 3rd quarter for the first time since the first 30 seconds of the game and just kept that momentum going.
Australia will now play for a potential bronze medal.