Morning report from Team Ireland on Day 15 of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
All focus for Team Ireland was on the marathon and golf this morning as the women’s marathon got underway in Sapporo, while the final day of the Women’s Individual Stroke Play was held in Tokyo.
With the Games now in their penultimate day, it has also been announced that Natalya Coyle has been selected as the Flagbearer for Team Ireland for the Tokyo 2020 Closing Ceremony, which takes place on Sunday, August 8th, at 12 noon (Irish time) – more detail below.
Team Ireland’s Marathon women got the Athletics action started on Day 15 at a rescheduled start of 6am local time due to the heat and humidity conditions.
Team Ireland’s Fionnuala McCormack put in an excellent performance to finish in 25th place in a Season’s Best time of 2:34:09. Unfortunately, Aoife Cooke’s Olympic debut came to an end just after the 20km mark as she had to withdraw from the race.
The earlier start time was intended to give the athletes a reprieve from the extreme heat in Sapporo, but as the race began, the temperature had already reached 25°C, with over 80% humidity. These gruelling conditions saw 15 athletes retire early and forced Lonah Salpeter of Israel to a halt with just 4km remaining while in the bronze medal position.
Ireland’s McCormack went out with the lead pack from the start, where over 40 athletes settled in with the early pace, and that large group remained intact throughout the first 10km. The field then began to string out, and McCormack passed the halfway marker in 27th place (1:15:41), less than 30 seconds down on the leaders. Just shy of halfway, Cooke had passed through the 20km mark in 1:16:57 before she was forced to step off the course.
The second half of the race saw the leaders begin to wind it up, and McCormack held a mid-twenties position throughout, moving up two spots with a strong final 2km to claim a top 25 placing.
Ever ambitious, she said afterwards that she had wanted a higher finish from the race, saying: “It wasn’t the result I had hoped for…it was a battle out there today, both physical and mental.”
Acknowledging the tough nature of the endurance events, McCormack added: “Running has broken my heart so many times, so I should probably be used to it, but I still love it so I’ll be back again.”
It was a fourth Olympic Games for the Wicklow athlete, her second appearance in the Marathon, after 20th in Rio, as well as appearances on the track in the 3000m Steeplechase (2008), 5000m, and 10000m (2012).
With a final round of 66, Stephanie Meadow has secured herself a seventh-place finish at the Women’s Individual Stroke Play at Kasumigaseki Country Club. Meadow kicked off her final round with 6 pars before birdies on the 7th and 8th got her to 9-under par and within sight of the leading pack.
The Jordanstown native held a 25-foot putt on her 12th hole in the first round to stop herself from dropping to 4-over-par. She was 12-under for the closing 7 holes over the 4 rounds, again today adding 3 birdies on this stretch.
“It’s funny to look back on that point, that putt goes in and all of a sudden I’m 12-under so, it’s been a great week,” said Meadow who holed a 15-footer on the 18th green to finish the tournament on 12-under. “I’ve played some really good golf over the last few days. I’m really happy with that and just overall to finish top 10 in the Olympics which is something I’ll cherish forever.”
Meadow had struggled to find her form in the early part of the season, but a top 30 finish at the Evian Championship and now a top 10 at the Olympics has given her a much-needed boost.
“It’s an interesting mentality here, there’s no cut and all you think about is getting a medal so I think I might take some of that and set the sights higher and kind of focus on that and let nothing else slow you down. That’s something I’ve learned from this week and hope to take on to the next coming weeks.”
Meanwhile, Leona Maguire also finished her Olympic bid on a high as she was 3-under for her final 9 holes having dropped out of contention in the early stages. Never a player to give up easily, she was determined to finish as high as possible on the leader board and ended out her Olympic campaign tied for 23rd.
“I mean I think it’s a week of what could have been,” said Maguire who reached 8-under par during her third round yesterday. “There were flashes of medal golf in there, just not enough of it. I’ll take the positives from it, I played a great front 9 yesterday and a great back 9 today. I kind of got it going on the back today, I figured out a few things with my driver. I just didn’t drive the ball well enough this week, got on the wrong side of a few slopes and things like that. It was a week of near misses and what could have been, but at the same time hung in well to still post a score.
“It’s not going to be your week every week,” she continued, “But at the same time I’ll finish 20-something out of the best field in golf so. It’s still early on in my LPGA career, I’ll learn what I can from this week and take it into the next two, we’ve two big weeks coming with the Scottish and Open so just keep trying to keep myself in contention and keep knocking on the door.”
Just as Meadow was signing her card, play was suspended with three groups remaining out on the course. The leader, Nelly Korda (USA) held a one-shot advantage over Mone Inami (Japan) with 2 holes remaining while Aditi Ashok (India) and Lydia Ko (New Zealand) were tied for the bronze medal. Play resumed at 5.15am with Korda securing the gold and Inami taking silver in a play-off with Ko adding a bronze to her 2016 Olympic silver medal.
Modern Pentathlete, Natalya Coyle has been named as the flagbearer for the Closing Ceremony for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games. The three-time Olympian was selected to close out what has been a successful Games for Team Ireland, with four medals already guaranteed going into the last 24 hours of competition. The Closing Ceremony takes place in the Olympic Stadium on Sunday, August 8th at 12 noon (Irish time).
Speaking about the announcement, Coyle said, “I’m still a bit shocked by it all and overwhelmed by it all. It’s an incredible honour to be able to walk the team out to the Closing Ceremony and to carry the flag. It is really going to cap a good end to my Games, which is something that I’m delighted about. I think it’s going to be pretty overwhelming; it’s going to be amazing, and I’m really looking forward to it now. I just can’t put into words, to be nominated and to accept it, it’s a highlight for me.
“The Japanese [people] have been incredible from the start. When we had our holding camp in Fukuroi, it was amazing, and they were incredible there and they're even better here. To host the Games, I don't think Japan has got enough credit and enough thanks. We've been training for this for years and even though it mightn't have gone as well for me as I'd hoped, it has gone well for other people and just to be able to host the Games, the Japanese need a big round of applause for that.”
MORNING RESULTS DAY 15: AUGUST 7TH, 2021
Women’s Marathon: Fionnuala McCormack, 25th in 2:34:09
Women’s Marathon: Aoife Cooke, DNF
Women’s Individual Stroke Play, Round 4 – Leona Maguire, 71, 67, 70, 71 - finishes T23
Women’s Individual Stroke Play, Round 4 – Stephanie Meadow, 72, 66, 68, 66 - finishes 7th
DAY 15 SCHEDULE (ALL TIMES ARE IRISH TIME): August 7th, 2021
Schedule may be subject to change 08:55 Cycling Track – Mark Downey and Felix English - Men’s Ma