From the water lanes to the fencing hall, the opening days of the 2020 Games were full of upsets. However, none of the underdog victories compared to the bike race on Sunday, as Austria’s Anna Kiesenhofer, a postdoctoral mathematics researcher at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, won gold at the Women’s Cycling Road Race. Kiesenhofer won Austria’s first gold medal in cycling since the inaugural 1896 Games in Athens.
Kiesenhofer pulled off the upset by breaking away from the peloton with a staggering 41 kilometres remaining in the race, eventually finishing two minutes ahead of the second-place Annemiek van Vleuten of the Netherlands. The leaders of the peloton, which included numerous favourites from the Dutch team and the eventual bronze-medal winner Elisa Longo Borghini of Italy, did not realise she was pulling away. When van Vleuten crossed the finish line, she thought that she had secured the gold medal.
An amateur cyclist, this was only Kiesenhofer’s first ever international competition since 2016, where that year she had won the Coupe d’Espagne and won one of the legs at the Tour de l’Ardèche. She had also gotten to the Olympics with minimal support from her national team.
The upset victory is also another testament to the occasional lapse in reliability of radio intel, as this year’s race finish also echoed the ending to the Women’s Road Race at the 1992 Games in Barcelona. That year, Australian Kathy Watt was also alone in the front when she won gold at the race. France’s Jeannie Longo, who won silver, also thought that she had won gold when she crossed the line.
Eighteen-year old Ahmed Hafnaoui of Tunisia completed another remarkable upset on the same day at the 400 metre Freestyle in Men’s Swimming. Medal favourites such as Italy’s Gabriele Detti and Australia’s Elijah Winnington finished near the bottom of the final heat.
France’s Romain Cannone, originally scheduled as a replacement athlete, defeated defending world champion Gergely Siklósi to win a gold medal at the Men’s Fencing Individual Epée.
Japan’s Yuto Horigome won the first ever Olympic medal in skateboarding on home soil.
In Men’s Basketball, the United States dropped a 83-76 decision to France. The current American roster has lost three of their last four games while their Olympic unbeaten streak of 25 games also ends. France’s Evan Fournier put up 28 points.
On the previous day, Hungary’s Áron Szilágyi became the first man to win three straight gold medals in an individual fencing event.
In a story that has become a common theme before the start of the Olympics, Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine has dropped out of the Games in order to avoid a potential matchup with an Israeli matchup. Nourine had cited support for Palestine during the latest escalation of tensions as the reason for the exit, but not before being suspended by the International Judo Federation. This is not the first time a similar forfeit happened. At the 2016 Games, an Iranian wrestler threw his match to avoid an Israeli opponent.
Above Featured Image: Austria’s Anna Kiesenhofer reacts after winning the Women’s Road Race. (Getty Images)