Sword fight: Green and gold teams face their day of reckoning in Tokyo
In the land of the samurai, Australia will attempt to put years of Olympic heartache to the sword on Thursday.
Australia's Patty Mills, left, and Matthew Dellavedova (8) celebrate a score against Argentina during a men's basketball quarterfinal round game. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
From historic firsts to drought-breaking triumphs, a day of reckoning looms for the green and gold – none more so than for Australia’s men’s basketball team, who take on the US in a semi-final knowing victory will secure a first Olympic medal.
It’s a place they’ve been before, having four times finished fourth at the Games, most recently a heart-breaking one-point loss to Spain in the bronze medal game in Rio five years ago.
Their task could not be tougher – the US having won six of the past seven men’s basketball gold medals – and they will be smarting after the Boomers handed them a shock loss in a pre-Olympics warm-up game.
And while the Boomers can still break their medal duck even if they lose to the US, that’s not how they will approach their semi-final.
“I don’t think in 15 years I’ve gone in expecting to lose a game,” small forward Joe Ingles said.
“I think that’s the worst mindset you can have regardless of the situation or who you’re playing or where it is or whatever. We’re well aware that they’re tough games, but we’re a confident group.”
No-one needs to tell Melissa Wu about near misses – she has finished fourth, fifth and sixth in the 10m platform diving at the past three games.
The 29-year-old qualified fourth for Thursday’s semi-final – with the top 12 to progress to the afternoon final.
Like the Boomers, the Matildas can secure a first Olympic medal when they take on the US in the bronze medal match.
And like the basketball, the US are a powerhouse in women’s soccer, having won four golds and a silver the six times the event has been held at the Olympics.
Having beaten the world No.1 combination from Canada in the quarter-finals, Mariafe Artacho Del Solar and Taliqua Clancy have started the day in the perfect way for Australia by claiming their their beach volleyball semi-final against Latvian pair Tina Graudina and Anastasija Kravcenova – putting them into the gold medal playoff.
Australia has only medalled once in the sport – Natalie Cook and Kerri Pottharst’s epic effort on the sands of Bondi in 2000 – but one more win by Artacho Del Solar and Clancy can break that drought.
The Kookaburras can add a second men’s hockey gold medal to their 2004 triumph when they meet Belgium in Thursday’s final.
Having lost back-to-back semi-finals in 2008 and 2012, Tuesday’s 3-1 victory over Germany helped get the monkey off the back, and victory over Belgium would go some way to easing the disappointment of the women’s shock quarter-final loss to India.
Ash Moloney is sitting in second place with the last five events of the decathlon to be held on Thursday, while national record holder Nicola McDermott and 2014 Commonwealth Games champion Eleanor Patterson are both legitimate medal chances in the women’s high jump heading into the qualifying round.
Stewart McSweyn is expected to advance from the 1500m semi-finals, while fellow Australian Oliver Hoare is also in contention to book a place in the medal race on Saturday.