Australia has equalled its best Olympic performance of all time, with two gold medals won in the space of 30 minutes on an eventful Thursday afternoon taking the nation’s Tokyo 2020 haul to 17 golds. With three days remaining, the team’s historic performance at Athens 2004 has already been matched.
Skateboarder Keegan Palmer was dominant in the men’s park final, putting up the two highest scores to comfortably win gold. Less than half an hour earlier at the Sea Forest Waterway, Jean van der Westhuyzen and Tom Green stunned the world champions Germany to win the men’s K2 1000m canoe sprint.
The medal rush continued into the afternoon and evening. Four-time Olympian Melissa Wu won bronze in the diving, while the Kookaburras collected silver after losing the gold medal clash with Belgium in a nail-biting penalty shootout. In late-night action at the Olympic Stadium, Ashley Moloney won Australia’s first track and field medal of Tokyo 2020, collecting bronze at the end of the 10-event decathlon.
Eighteen-year-old goofy-footed Palmer was the only skater to put up scores above 90 in the final – recording 94.04 in his first run and 95.83 in his third to win gold. Brazil’s Pedro Barros took silver, while American Cory Juneau was third. The men’s park final concludes skateboarding’s debut at the Olympics.
Palmer, who was born in San Diego before moving to Australia at an early age, was the only non-Japanese competitor to win gold at the Ariake Park skateboarding venue.
“It’s an absolute honour to skate with my friends,” Palmer said. “I can’t believe I’m here in Tokyo for the Olympics, skating with so many of my best friends from when I was little. And now we’re all on the podium together, and it’s an absolute honour. I have no fucking words, man. It’s fucking insane.
“Everyone’s been training for so long, missing out on the last year. I worked my ass off a long time for this, and I saw it through to the end. I’m just grateful for everyone that’s been there for me, and I’d just like to say thank you.”
In the canoe sprint, Van der Westhuyzen and Green went out strong to gain an early lead. The German pair of Max Hoff and Jacob Schopf are known for their fast finishing, but despite a surge at the halfway mark, they were unable to overhaul the Australians. Van der Westhuyzen and Green powered home to win the K2 race, with Germany in second and the Czech Republic taking bronze.
After failing to win a medal in the individual canoe sprint sprint, Van der Westhuyzen and Green put any lingering disappointment behind them with a remarkable display of endurance. Their gold is the second medal in the men’s K2 1000m race in consecutive Games, after Ken Wallace and Lachlan Tame finished third in Rio.
Later in the afternoon, Australia’s medal streak at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre continued. But this time it was not in the 50m swimming pool but in the adjacent diving pool, as veteran Wu finished third in the 10m individual platform. Wu’s bronze medal is her first individual medal at her fourth Olympics, after she won silver with Briony Cole in the 10m synchronised platform event at the 2008 Beijing Games.
In the men’s hockey gold medal match, a tightly-fought encounter between Australia’s Kookaburras and Belgium went to penalties. But the Australians had to settle for silver after the Belgians showed composure to take the shootout.
Moloney, in his Olympic debut, then collected Australia’s fifth and final medal of the day. The 21-year-old decathlete was sitting in third ahead of the last event, the 1500m. His time of 4.39 was enough to secure the bronze medal - Australia’s first in Olympic history in the multi-discipline track and field event.
Australia sat fourth on the medal table midway through Thursday’s competition, behind China, the USA and Japan, but ahead of Great Britain, the Russian Olympic Committee and Germany.