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Tokyo 2020

Biggest flop shows by top athletes at the Tokyo Olympics

The Tokyo Olympics was quite dramatic and saw some of the biggest stars faltering and failing to deliver and led to massive upsets.

Novak Djokovic, Johannes Vetter and Naomi Osaka

Novak Djokovic, Johannes Vetter and Naomi Osaka


Sohinee Basu

Updated: 10 Aug 2021 7:10 AM GMT

The fact that performance pressure can be the harshest of reality check's was on full-display at the Tokyo Olympics as the top-most athletes in an array of sports succumbed to the pressure and failed to deliver their best at the Games.

The Tokyo Olympics saw shocking upsets take centre stage as top seeds, medal favourites and the biggest of names in certain sports choke under the pressure and fail to cross the hurdles and claim their Olympic glory.

Let's take a look at the biggest upsets that the Tokyo Olympics saw:

#Novak Djokovic - Tennis

Novak Djokovic (Source: Reuters)

Few would have believed that World No. 1 tennis ace Novak Djokovic's invincible run at the top of the game can be brought to a halt, especially at the Olympic Games.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion has been in raging form all season and has collected the 3 Slams already played this year - the Australian Open, French Open and the Wimbledon and was well en route to staying on-track of winning a Calendar Golden Slam by bagging the gold at the Olympics.

For the unversed, a Calendar Golden Slam is a rare opportunity for a tennis player to win all 4 Majors in the same calendar year and also a gold at the Olympics. Only Steffi Graf has been able to achieve this feat.

While Serbia's Novak Djokovic was undoubtedly the favourite to win gold at Tokyo, his dream run was brought to a drastic halt in the semi-finals by Germany's Alexander Zverev, who went on to eventually win gold.

In the bronze medal clash as well, Djokovic's disappointing run continued as the World No. 1 lost to Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta and had to return empty-handed from the Games, his chance of getting a Calendar Golden Slam well-shot in the arm.

#Kento Momota - Badminton

Kento Momota (Source: Reuters)

Having missed out on participating in the 2016 Rio Olympics, all eyes were on World No. 1 Kento Momota as he entered the competition, the favourite for the gold. Playing on home soil, Japan's Kento Momota was an assured medal contender given his dream run in 2019 where he clinched a record 11 BWF titles.

It has been a particularly difficult couple of years for Kento Momota as the World No. 1 player survived a car crash, underwent eye surgery and also battled COVID-19 to finally come back on the tour.

However, at the Tokyo Olympics, Momota did get off to a winning start in his first Group A match against America's Timothy Lam but in the second Group encounter against unseeded South Korean opponent, Heo Kwang-hee, Momota lost in straight games and crashed out most unceremoniously of the Tokyo Olympics. Later, the Japanese star revealed that the pressure of winning a medal in his debut Games had started to get to him.

#Naomi Osaka - Tennis

Naomi Osaka (Source: AFP)

Following Kento Momota, another Japanese star who did not enjoy the best of fates at the Tokyo Olympics, was tennis star Naomi Osaka. Having taken a 'mental health' break since the French Open, Osaka even sat out the Wimbledon Championships keeping Tokyo on her mind.

Yet again, the 23-year-old was the favourite for gold at the Games, given that it was being played on home soil.

Although it was smooth sailing for the 4-time Grand Slam champion in the first two rounds, Naomi faltered in her third round encounter against Marketa Vondrousova of Czech Republic.

Osaka's usual game was amiss in that match and she lost in the most crushing manner in straight sets, 6-1, 6-4. Even Naomi Osaka, like Momota admitted that the pressure of delivering with a medal in her debut Olympics got a "bit too much" for her to handle as well.

#Johannes Vetter - Athletics (Javelin Throw)

Johannes Vetter (Source: AFP)

All eyes were on Germany's Johannes Vetter to bring gold from the Olympics as the ace javelin star had entered the Games with as many as seven 90m and up throws to boast of. Vetter was in top form and even had the season best of 96.29m and was naturally a favourite medal candidate alongside India's Neeraj Chopra.

However, pressure got to Vetter as well, as he failed to create much of an impression at the Games.

In the finals of the Javelin Throw event on the penultimate day of the Olympics, Vetter did begin with a 82.52m throw but his next two throws were fouled and he failed to qualify further and had to finish 9th, in the most disappointing manner. Neeraj Chopra, on the other hand, oozed confidence and threw a 87.58 m to take home the prized gold for India.

#Kochei Uchimura (Artistic Gymnastics)

Kochei Uchimura (Source: Japan Times)

Yet another medal favourite from Japan, Kochei Uchimura's dream of continuing his fairytale run at the Olympics was upset horribly as the top gymnast failed to qualify in the Individual horizontal bars event.

Having won the gold in 2012 and 2016 in the all-around event, Uchimura had decided to opt out of defending it owing to shoulder trouble and instead wanted to focus on the individual event. However, Uchimura slipped on the bars and failed to qualify for the finals and dashed his Olympic medal plans.

#Trayvon Bromell - Athletics

Trayvor Bromell (Source: Getty Images)

America's Trayvon Bromell was the favourite for gold in the 100m event at the Tokyo Olympics. Only in July, Bromell clocked the fastest time in the world at 9.77 seconds of this year and therefore looked in good shape to deliver the gold.

However, the stars never aligned for the 26-year-old sprinter as he finished fourth in his opening heat, clocking 10.05 seconds and in the semi-finals as well, Bromell could do no better than 10.00 seconds and it cost his Olympic dream heavily as it came to an abrupt, shocking end.

#US Women's Football Team

Megan Rapinoe (Source: AFP)

Looking to brush away the memories of a quarter-final exit in Rio 2016, the star-studded US Women's Football team with the likes of Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan in the mix were eager to win the Olympic gold. Having won the World Cup already, the US Women's football team wanted to become the first to clinch this double feat but it was not to be.

The Americans had their 44-match winning streak snapped by Sweden in their opening match itself when the American side lost 3-0. The golden dream had to stay unfulfilled as the US Team also suffered their first loss to Canada in two decades in the semi-finals. However, they settled for the bronze, after defeating Australia, 4-3.

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