Nhat Nguyen announced his arrival at the Tokyo Olympic Games in style this evening with an impressive straight set win over Niluka Karunaratne of Sri Lanka in his opening group game.
Nguyen was one of a host of athletes in action this evening, with Ireland’s men’s rugby sevens coming agonizingly close to their first group game victory, while Annalise Murphy rounded off a tough day of sailing and now sits in 32nd place overall. Darragh Greene and Ellen Walshe were in action in the pool, with Greene posting a Season’s Best time in his heats.
Nhat Nguyen got his Olympic Badminton debut off to a fantastic start today in the first round of Group Play stages. Ranking 54th in the world, Nguyen faced Niluka Karunaratne of Sri Lanka in a testing group match, beating Karunaratne in straight sets, 21-16 21-14.
Speaking afterwards, he said: “I am happy to be able to walk off the court as a winner. I am very grateful for the support that I had today. It was overwhelming walking out to all the staff there with me; my physio, my coach and a couple of others in support as well. I wanted to give my all for every single point, especially for the support I was given. I was happy I was able to do that even though I didn’t play my best, I am happy that I took the win.
“I feel I shook off the nerves there than rather playing free and playing my style so it was just getting the job done and I was happy that I crossed that line. I have a day to rest with late practise tomorrow. Today gave me a chance to test out the hall so I have no excuses going into the next game unprepared. I am excited and buzzing for it.”
Nguyen proudly dedicated his win to his family, especially his parents who are supporting him from home: “I dedicate today’s win to my family and my parents at home. They have sacrificed a lot for me and my sister and I am happy to give back by giving them something to cheer about and something to be happy about. They have worked very hard for us and I am pretty sure that they are working today as they work all day every day! I am going to give them a call after this game and I am happy that I made them proud. That is why I play badminton.”
Nguyen will now face Top 10 Seed Tzu-wei in the final game of the three-man group in Wednesday’s Group Play stages with the winner of the group moving on to the round of 16 knockout phase.
It was so close and yet so far for the Irish men’s Rugby Sevens team this evening, as they came agonisingly close to pipping USA in their second group game in Tokyo Stadium, but lost out in the end 19-17.
A very slow start from Ireland saw USA roll out a number of phases early on to run out into a 12-0 lead midway through the first half. With Ireland left chasing a fast and speedy USA, it took a lot of time for them to finally break into the other half, and super work from Foster Horan and a neat pick up from Hugo Lennox finally opened Ireland’s account on the stroke of half time, to leave it 12-5 at the break.
A much-improved second half from the Irish saw Horan once more to the fore, and with momentum still with the Irish after Lennox’s late first half try, Harry McNulty was next to cross the line, making it 12-10 in favour of USA. The USA replied in kind seconds later though, and as the clock wound down, it was Horan who got a much-deserved score over the line and – with a Dardis conversion – closed the gap to two points, 19-17. Time had already run out though and that was to be the last of the action.
Speaking afterwards, Lennox said: “Gutted really. I felt like we really had the beating of these guys before the game. They kept the ball well and kept us out of the game really. They tired us out, which was disappointing and something we’re going to have to work on before tomorrow.
“USA probably went through seven or eight phases at the start of that game, that’s a real killer. It kind of just blows any momentum - and when you do get the ball, you’re tired and it’s tough to get going. I think we’re going to have to get a real focus on keeping the ball early and going from there tomorrow.”
Offaly man Jordan Conroy added; “I don’t think that game reflects how we actually play. I think we have a lot more to give, so I think we just need to shift our focus now onto tomorrow against Kenya and see what we need to do and just execute it. I’m annoyed but that said, day one is done. Tomorrow is the big one for us now, so all eyes on that now. We play these teams in the World Series. They’re nothing new to us. We know we have to do our job in order to beat these, we just didn’t do it today.”
Ireland now faces a must-win clash against Kenya tomorrow in their final pool game. Kenya also come into the clash off the back of losses to the USA and South Africa earlier today.
After her second day of racing, Annalise Murphy is currently lying in 32nd position overall in the Laser Radial fleet. She finished 24th and 37th in Races 3 and 4 respectively earlier today, the wind starting off stronger for the first race but dropping off slightly for the second.
Speaking after today’s two races, Murphy said: “Having such a bad day makes it really hard for me to get a result that I want from this regatta with only six races left. I’m upset for Rory (coach), for my family and everyone who supported me because I really wanted to do them proud. I actually thought it was going to be a good day for me today - I love those conditions - small things just didn’t go the way I wanted them to.”
Racing continues for Murphy tomorrow with Races 5 and 6, while fellow sailors, Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove will begin their Olympic campaign tomorrow as the 49er class gets underway.
Team Ireland swimmers Brendan Hyland and Ellen Walshe were in action this evening, with Hyland securing a Season’s Best time in his 200m Butterfly heat. Hyland came into the event ranked 27th, but his SB time of 1:57.09 saw him finish his heat n 3rd to place him in 23rd position overall, with the top 16 progressing to the semi-finals.
Hyland was ecstatic after his swim: “I looked at the Olympic rings about 40 times! I was just thinking that this is unbelievable, that’s what everyone says about an Olympics. You’re waiting your whole life for this so it definitely spurred me on.
“The build-up to this Games has been frustrating and tough but I was blessed with a bit of luck and that’s my second fastest swim ever! It’s actually nice to swim well, it took me a while to see the clock so when I saw 1:57 I was genuinely so happy.”
Hyland now turn his attention to the 4x200m relay tomorrow evening alongside Finn McKeever, Shane Ryan and Jack McMillan: “I’ll be trying to keep the morale high and keep everyone excited for tomorrow. The guys will be nervous for their first race but I’ve one under my belt now - so that will be my job, to steady the ship now that I’ve the nerves out of the way.”
Swim teammate Ellen Walshe was also in the pool this evening, competing in the 200m Individual Medley heats, where she posted a time of 2:13.34 to finish 8th in her heat and 19th overall. Walshe’s heat included three-time Olympic champion Katinka Hosszú of Hungary, who won the heat in a time of 2:09.70.
EVENING RESULTS DAY THREE: JULY 26TH, 2021
Men’s Singles Group Play: Nhat Nguyen (IRL) v Niluka Karunaratne (SRI) – win for IRL straight sets 21-16, 21-14.
Pool C, Game 2: USA 19-17 Ireland
Laser Radial, Race 3: Annalise Murphy, 24th
Laser Radial, Race 4: Annalise Murphy, 37th
Currently in 32nd position overall.
Men’s 200m Butterfly Heat 2 – Brendan Hyland 3rd in heat and 23rd overall with a time of 1:57.09
Women’s 200m Individual Medley Heat 4 – Ellen Walshe 8th in heat and 19th overall with a time of 2:13.34
DAY FOUR SCHEDULE (ALL TIMES ARE IRISH TIME): July 27th, 2021
22:30* Triathlon – Carolyn Hayes (*this event takes place on the night of July 26th Irish time)
03:00 Rugby Sevens – Ireland v Kenya, Pool Game 3
03:17 Swimming – Mona McSharry – 100m Breaststroke Final
03:30 Boxing – Aidan Walsh – Men’s Welterweight Round of 16
04:05 Sailing – Annalise Murphy – Laser Radial Races 5 and 6
06:50 Sailing – Robert Dickson and Sean Waddilove, 49er, Races 1, 2 and 3
11:50 Swimming – Darragh Greene – 200m Breaststroke Heats
12:03 Swimming – Relay – 4x 200m Freestyle
12:31 Swimming – Daniel Wiffen – 800m Freestyle