Japan's Ohashi Rides Wave Of Public Support To Win Women's Olympic 400m Individual Medley

Japan's Ohashi rides wave of public support to win women's Olympic 400m individual medley

Tokyo, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 25th Jul, 2021 ) :Japan's Yui Ohashi credited a wave of hometown support after she swept to Olympic gold in the women's 400m individual medley on Sunday, toppling defending champion Katinka Hosszu of Hungary in the process.

The Japanese public were desperate for success in the pool after seeing local superstar and red-hot favourite Daiya Seto crash out of the men's 400m individual medley on the opening day of competition.

Salvation arrived less than 24 hours later in the form of Ohashi, an unheralded 25 year-old who entered the Tokyo Games ranked six in the world.

She was up against world record holder Hosszu, who has dominated the event in recent years, and emerging US talents Emma Weyant and Hali Flickinger.

Ohashi said the backing of the Japanese people helped her to victory.

"A lot of people supported me so that I could exert all my strength. I really appreciate it," she said.

"I spent time in the Olympic Village with all the staff and all the volunteers. They supported me. I think their support made this become real." The delight stirred by her win was evident even in the spectator-free Tokyo Aquatic Centre, where tense volunteers watched the race's final moments before erupting in cheers.

Flickinger set the early pace, turning first after the butterfly leg with Hosszu second, and the American maintained her lead through the backstroke.

But Ohashi pulled a body length clear with a scintillating breaststroke leg and nobody could rein her in, with the battle unfolding for the minor medals.

She touched in 4mins 32.08 secs, ahead of Weyant (4:32.76) and Flickinger (4:34.90).

Multiple world champion Hosszu was in touch for the first 200m but faded badly and the result will raise questions about the future of the 32-year-old once dubbed the "Iron Lady".

Ohashi singled out her parents for praise after the win, thanking them for helping her through two health crises that threatened her career.

The first was when she suffered extreme fatigue before being diagnosed with extreme anaemia in 2015 and the second was in 2019, when she faced a mental barrier believing her performance had peaked after placing third at the world championships "When I was nauseous, they were there for me," she said.

A tourism student when not in training, Ohashi said she was still coming to terms with being an Olympic champion.

"I really did not think of winning the gold," she said. "It doesn't feel real. It's like a dream to me."