TOKYO 2020/Monday Review & Preview: English and Hancock score Skeet golds for U.S.; 13-year-olds go 1-2 in women’s Skate; Titmus beats Ledecky in 400 Free

American gold for Amber English and three-time Olympic champ Vincent Hancock in a Skeet sweep for the U.S. in Tokyo! (Photo: ISSF)

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= TOKYO 2020 =
From Lane One

The International Olympic Committee is making a major push on gender equity, with Sports Director Kit McConnell (NZL) telling Monday’s daily press conference:

“I wanted to highlight also why gender equality for us is not just about numbers and percentages.

“We know for every opportunity we give to a female event in the Olympic program, this often leads to the same event being added to other multi-sport Games, to being further promoted in World Championships, World Cup events in the IF’s own programs, so it really has a ripple effect beyond the Olympic Games as well.

“And equally, for every additional female quota place we bring into the Olympic Games we often see that being reflected also in increased quotas outside the Games. But that leads to a lot of investment, a lot of development around the world in different countries, through National Olympic Committees, through sport ministries, through others who invest in female athletes to go for that qualification place, to go into a qualification process to qualify to the Games.

“So there is really a positive ripple effect that amplifies the impact for every single one of those additional quota places that we create for women athletes and that’s why it’s so important to reach the numbers we have here in Tokyo and reach that absolute equality in terms of numbers of athletes in Paris as well. So it has a wider impact than just the Olympic Games, and why it’s so important that we lead on that change as well.”

The Games are in full swing now with 50 events completed through Monday; the medal leaders:

1. China, 18 (6-5-7)
2. United States, 14 (7-3-4)
3. Japan 13 (8-2-3)
4. Russia, 12 (4-5-3)
5. Italy, 9 (1-4-4)

Of course, TSX prefers our 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 scoring by event, giving a much more “diverse, equitable and inclusive” view of the relative achievements of the teams:

1. United States, 172
2. China, 167.5
3. Japan, 145
4. Russian Olympic Committee, 118.5
5. Italy, 105
6. Great Britain, 95.5
7. France, 91.5
8. Korea, 84.5
9. Canada, 54
10. Hungary, 52
11. Netherlands, 50.5
12. Australia, 48

This is after just 50 of 339 total events in the Games.

The weather continues to be a major issue at the Games, with a tropical storm – or a “typhoon” – depending on who you talk to, heading toward Japan and expected to make landfall sometime Tuesday.

The Tokyo area is not expected to be heavily impacted, but winds have already required re-scheduling of archery and rowing events. The current forecast:

● 27th/Tuesday: 84 F high, 76 F low with rain and thunderstorms
● 28th/Wednesday: 88 F ~ 78 F with some thunderstorms
● 29th/Thursday: 89 F ~ 77 F and cloudy
● 30th/Friday: 90 F ~ 77 F with some thunderstorms
● 31st/Saturday: 90 F ~ 77 F with rain

More schedule changes are possible, but no major changes are contemplated at present.

The Opening Ceremony was a big hit in Japan, with a blockbuster 56.4 ratings and more than 70 million watching. Reports indicate that more than 80% of the Japanese public ha already watched some part of the Games.

NBC reported a total audience of 8.2 on Saturday across NBC-NBCSN-CNBC-USA Network. That’s behind Rio, but the audience for daytime and late-night shows were above Rio totals from 2016.
~ Rich Perelman

= RESULTS: MONDAY, 26 JULY =

Archery: Men’s Team
Never a doubt, as Korea – Je-Deok Kim, Jin-Hyek Oh and Woo-Jin Kim – won its fifth gold in the last six Games, shutting out Chinese Taipei in the final (6–0) after winning a tight semi against Japan, 5-4, in a three-arrow shoot-out.

The Japanese squad did not walk away empty-handed, however, winning the bronze in another shoot-out, over the Netherlands, 5-4.

The U.S. won in the round of 16, but was eliminated by Japan in the quarterfinals, 5-1.

Canoe-Kayak: Men’s Canoe Slalom
Experience counts and 34-year-old Benjamin Savsek – the 2017 World Champion – knew exactly what he had to do to win his first Olympic medal in three tries: stay away from penalties.

He navigated the course in 98.25 seconds with no penalties and after an eight in London and sixth in Rio, he was a convincing winner over Lukas Rohan (CZE: 101.96 with 2 penalties) and London silver medalist Sideris Tasiadis (GER: 103.70 with 0 penalties).

American Zachary Lokken, in his first Games, was seventh, an impressive finish since his best prior placement in a World Championships was 27th!

Cycling: Men’s Mountain Bike Cross Country
Swiss stars Nino Schurter – the Rio 2016 winner – and Mathias Flueckiger had to be the favorites, and they were the leaders along with Britain’s Tom Pidcock by the end of the first of seven laps of the 3.85 km circuit.

New Zealand’s Anton Cooper came to join the party a couple of laps later, but by the halfway point of the 28.25 km course, Pidcock took the lead and made a break. He was six seconds up on Flueckiger by lap 4, 14 seconds up by lap 6 and kept extending until he won the gold medal by 20 seconds on Flueckiger and 34 seconds on David Valero Serrano of Spain. Schurter, 35, was fourth in 1:25:56, 42 seconds behind the winner. Cooper finished sixth; Dutch star Mathieu van der Poel did not finish.

Diving: Men’s 10 m Synchro
Shocker. Stunner. Unbelievable. That’s how dominant China has been, that a victory by Britain’s Tom Daley and Matty Lee comes as a complete surprise.

Not that they aren’t great. Daley was the 2009 and 2017 World Champion at 10 m and he and Daniel Goodfellow won the 2012 10 m Synchro bronze. But reigning World Champions Yuan Cao and Aisen Chen were heavy favorites and had the lead after three dives, with the best score on each.

Then came their fourth dive, a back 3 1/2 somersault that was much less than perfect and scored only a tie for sixth out of eight teams. That opened the door for Daley and Lee, who had been second, second and third, and who then tried the same dive, but won it with 93.96 points to 73.44 for Cao and Chen and that was the difference.

The Chinese won each of the last two dives, but Daley and Lee were second on each and the final scores showed 471.81 for the Brits and 470.58 for China. Russia’s Aleksandr Bondar and Viktor Minibaev were a clear third, but well behind at 439.92. Wow.

Fencing: Men’s Foil
Italy was supposed to score well here and defending Olympic champion Daniele Garozzo was in the final against Hong Kong’s Ka Long Cheung … and lost, by 15-11. Cheung moved up from 14th in Rio and scored a sensational win, especially since he had never won an FIE World Cup or Grand Prix event! In fact, he had only been a finalist once, winning silver in Turin two seasons ago.

The big names were also absent in the bronze-medal match, as Alexander Choupenitch (CZE) defeated Japan’s Takahiro Shikine, 15-8. Who?

The U.S. had high hopes in this event, but Rio silver winner Alexander Massialas was eliminated in the round of 32, as was Gerek Meinhardt. Nick Itkin made it to the round of 16 before losing.

Fencing: Women’s Sabre
The final was all-Russian affair between 2018 World Champion Sofia Pozdniakova and London 2012 silver medalist Sofiya Velikaya, with Pozdniakova winning, 15-11 for Russia’s second straight 1-2 Olympic finish in this event.

For Velikaya, she won the silver medal for the third straight Games.

France’s Manon Brunet won the bronze over Hungary’s Anna Marton, 15-6. The U.S. had high hopes, but Dagmara Wozniak and Eliza Stone were eliminated in the round of 32 and Mariel Zagunis – the 2008 and 2012 gold medalist – made it to the quarterfinals, but lost to Velikaya, 15-8 and finished fifth.

Gymnastics: Men’s Team
It came down to the final rotation, but the “Russian Olympic Committee” team of Nikita Nagornyy, Artur Dalaloyan, David Belyavskiy and Denis Ablyazin eked out a 262.500-262.397 win over a disappointed Japan for the gold medal.

China was a not-too-distant third at 261.894, well ahead of Great Britain (255.760) and the U.S. (254.594).

Japan out-scored the Russians on Floor, Pommel Horse and High Bar, but fell short on Rings, , Vault and Parallel Bars. While Nagornyy had to score 14.666 on Floor – best of the day – to win at the end, the nearly two-point difference on Rings (44.399-42.433) was decisive. The Russians moved up from 261.945 in the qualifying to 262.500 in the final: not a big jump, but just enough to win. It was Russia’s first win in this event since 1996.

The U.S. was fourth in qualifying and fell to fifth in the final; Sam Mikulak scored an impressive 15.000 on the Parallel Bars, the best score of the day for the American men.

Judo: Women’s 57 kg
Kosovo is making a name for itself on the tatami, as Nora Gjakova won its second gold of this Games and third in its history by beating France’s surprise finalist Sarah-Leonie Cysique by ippon in just 2:45 of the final.

Gjakova, a 2021 Worlds bronze winner, had to defeat Japan’s 2018 World Champion, Tsukasa Yoshida in the semis to get to the final. But Yoshida did win a bronze, defeating Elena Liparteliani by ippon. The other bronze went to 2021 World Champion Jessica Klimkait (CAN) over Kaja Kajzer (SLO), by waza-ari.

Judo: Men’s 73 kg
Japan’s Shohei Ono repeated as Olympic champion with a win over Rio bronze medal winner Lasha Shavdatuashvili (GEO) by waza-ari in overtime. It took until 9:25 to produce a point in this match and it was finally Ono who found the magic.

It was the second straight cliff-hanger for Ono, who got to the final with a waza-ari in 4:53 of extra time in the semis against two-time 2021 Grand Slam winner Tsogbaatar Tsend-Ochir (MGL). Tsend-Ochir won a bronze by beating Canada’s Arthur Margelidon; Rio silver medalist Rustam Orujov (AZE) won a bronze this time by defeating 2018 World Champion Chang-Rim An (KOR).

Shooting: Men’s Skeet
Beijing and London gold medalist Vince Hancock of the U.S. was determined to avenge his 15th-place finish in Rio and did, shooting an Olympic Record 59/60 in the final to defeat Denmark’s Jesper Hansen (55). Hancock ran off 21 shots without a miss, then missed one and hit his final 34 shots to claim a third Olympic gold.

Hancock is the first three-time winner in men’s Olympic Skeet, in fact, in any men’s Shotgun event at the Games.

Abdullah Al-Rashidi, who shot for the Refugee Olympic Team and won a bronze in Rio, shot for Kuwait this time and won another bronze (46).

At just 32, Hancock could continue for a while … perhaps even to Los Angeles in 2028!

Shooting: Women’s Skeet
Defending champion Diana Bacosi (ITA) had a 29-28 edge over 2018 Worlds bronze medalist Amber English of the U.S. halfway through the final, but after 50 shots, both had 47. That was enough to eliminate bronze winner Meng Wei of China (46) and the duel was on for gold.

Bacosi hit two, then missed, while English ran off nine straight hits and when Bacosi missed again on her sixth shot, the American had a two-shot lead and even with a final miss, scored an Olympic Record to win, 56-55.

Shooting icon Kim Rhode of the U.S. had gone silver-gold-bronze in the last three Games, and now English joins her as a second U.S. winner in Skeet and an American medalist for the fourth straight Games.

Skateboarding: Women’s Street
If the International Olympic Committee wants to go young, it is succeeding. The medal winners were 13, 13 and 16 and fourth-place American Alexis Sablone is 34.

New Zealand’s Roos Zwetsloot had the best runs at 3.34 and 3.80, but executed only one trick and ended up fifth. The 2021 Worlds silver medalist, Japan’s Momiji Nishiya had good runs of 3.02 and 2.91, then got hit with trick scores of 4.15, 4.66 and 3.43 on her final three tries to score 15.26, good enough to win.

Brazil’s Rayssa Leal, a two-time Worlds medalist, had a 3.13 run score and solid tricks scores of 3.91, 4.21 and 3.39 on her three good tries and that was good enough for second at 14.64. Japan’s Funa Nakayama was third (14.49) and Sablone was fourth at 13.57.

The course difficulty was high, with 26 of the 40 trick attempts resulting in 0.00 scores.

Having children win Olympic medals is fine on its own, but homeowners around the world are cringing at the thought of millions more youngsters taking up the sport in their neighborhoods.

Swimming: Women’s 400 m Freestyle
Katie Ledecky (USA) led the prelims at 4:00.45 with Bingjie Li (CHN) at 4:01.57 and Australian Ariarne Titmus at 4:01.66.

In the final, Ledecky had the lead at 100 m, 150 m, 200 m, 250 m, and 300 m, but Titmus got closer and took the lead by 350 m and held on, stroke for stroke, during the final 50 m and moved away in the final 20 m to win in 3:56.69, the no. 2 time in history to Ledecky’s world record of 3:56.46. Ledecky swam 3:57.36, the fourth-fastest time ever and the fastest non-winning time ever by more than three seconds.

China’s Li was third in 4:01.08, as Asian Record and American Paige Madden was seventh in 4:06.81.

Ledecky is just getting started and will swim the prelims in the 200 m and 1,500 m frees about seven hours later.

Swimming: Women’s 100 m Butterfly
World leader Torri Huske was second at the turn and looked like a possible winner with 15 m to go, but the field rushed up on her at the touch and Canada’s Maggie McNeil backed  up her 2019 World Championships gold with a world-leading 55.59 – the third-fastest swim in history behind only two Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) marks – to win … barely.

China’s Yufei Zhang, the qualifying leader, finished strong for second in 55.64 (equal-fifth performance all-time), followed by Australia’s Emma McKeon (55.72: national record) and Huske, who swam 55.73 and missed a medal by 0.01.

Defending Olympic champ Sjostrom finished seventh in 56.91.

Swimming: Men’s 100 m Breaststroke
Britain’s defending Olympic champ Adam Peaty came in with the top 18 times in the history of the event, including the Olympic Record of 57.13.

And he won in style, taking the lead by the 25 m mark, turning first and then swimming away from the field, winning in 57.37, the no. 4 mark in history. He’s the second two-time Olympic Champion in this event, joining Kosuke Kitajima (JPN) in 2004-08.

Dutch star Arno Kamminga was game, and a solid second for most of the race, winning the silver in 58.00, just short of his lifetime best of 57.90. Ilya Shymanovich of Belarus was third for much of the race, but was overtaken in the final meters by Italy’s Nicolo Martinenghi (ITA) for third in 58.33. American Michael Andrew seemed to be out of the medals, but rushed at the end to challenge for fourth at 58.84; Andrew Wilson of the U.S. tied for sixth in 58.99.

Swimming: Men’s 4×100 m Freestyle
The U.S. was the favorite and superstar Caeleb Dressel took over immediately on the first leg with a 47.26 opening leg, the fastest 100 m Free swim in the world in 2021. But that created only a 0.26 lead for Blake Pieroni and France’s Florent Manaudou took the lead during the second leg but Pieroni came back to touch first (47.58) as Bowen Becker took over.

Becker swam a brilliant 47.44 and gave Zach Apple the lead up 0.20 … and then the race was over. Apple took off and raced away from the field with a sensational final leg of 46.69 to bring the U.S. home in 3:08.97, the no. 3 time in history.

Italy followed in 3:10.11 and Australia was third in 3:10.22.

This event has been held 13 times since first appearing at the 1964 Tokyo Games, and the U.S. has now won it in back-to-back Games and 10 times overall.

Table Tennis: Mixed Doubles
Fans hoped that this event would see China’s Shiwen Liu and Xin Xu against Japan’s Jun Mizutani and Mima Ito in this first-ever edition of this event. Wish granted.

The final lived up to expectations, with Liu and Xu running off sets of 11-5 and 11-7 before Mizutani and Ito came back to win three straight sets by 11-8, 11-9 and 11-9. Naturally, the Chinese evened it at 11-6, but Mizutani and Ito triumphed with an 11-6 win in the final set and the gold medal in an hour and 17 minutes.

France’s Emmanuel Lebesson and Jia Nan Yuan won the bronze, sweeping Chinese Taipei’s I-Ching Cheng and Yun Ju Lin, 4-0.

Taekwondo: Women’s 67 kg
Among all the returning Olympic and Worlds medal winners, no one much noticed Croatia’s Matea Jelic, 23, who had never made it past a quarterfinal in the World Championships. But after winning the 2021 European title in this class, she had all the confidence she needed and crushed three opponents by 22-2, 30-9 and London 2012 bronze medalist Paige McPherson of the U.S. by 15-4 to reach the final.

There, she met the equally-determined, three-time European Champion Lauren Williams (GBR). The score was 10-10 after two periods and led to an all-out brawl in the final period, where Jelic managed a 15-12 edge for a 25-22 final and the gold medal.

In the bronze-medal matches, McPherson lost to Egypt’s Hedaya Malik, 17-6; former 62 kg World Champion Ruth Gbagbi (CIV) defeated Brazil’s 2019 Worlds bronze winner Milena Titoneli for the other bronze, 12-8.

Taekwondo: Men’s 80 kg
Russia’s 2017 World 74 kg Champion and 2021 European 80 kg Champion Maksim Khramtcov was the top seed in this weight in the World Taekwondo rankings. And he won.

Khramtcov, 23, won his bouts by 13-6, 22-0, 13-1 and 20-9 in the final over surprise finalist Saleh Elsharabaty to win Russia’s first Olympic Taekwondo gold.

The bronze matches saw Seif Eissa (EGY) decision Richard Ordemann (NOR) by 12-4 and Toni Kanaet (CRO) beat Nikita Rafalovich (UZB), 24-18.

Triathlon: Men
As always, it came down to the run. It was France’s two-time World Champion Vincent Luis who was out of the water first and then Swiss Andrea Salvisberg first at the end of the 40 km bike phase.

But then it was Alex Yee (GBR) who took charge on the run, leading a pack of almost 20 and with visions of a third straight gold medal for Great Britain. One of those in the pack was Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, 27, a second-time Olympian who was 13th in Rio, and a two-time winner on the World Triathlon Series.

Yee maintained his lead to 2.5 km remaining to the finish, but then Blummenfelt – who had moved from sixth up to second in the pack, unleashed a powerful final drive and blew past Yee to finish in 1:45:04, 11 seconds ahead of Yee and 20 seconds up on unheralded Hayden Wilde from New Zealand, who claimed the bronze.

It’s the first Olympic medal in triathlon for Norway and with Yee, Britain has won a men’s medal in this sport for three Games in a row. Wilde’s bronze is the first medal for New Zealand in this sports since 2008.

Britain’s 2016 silver winner, Jonathan Brownlee, finished fifth and American Kevin McDowell was sixth (1:45:54).

Weightlifting: Women’s 55 kg
China’s Qiuyun Liao won the 2019 World Championship and came in as the world-record holder. She left as the Olympic silver medalist as 2016 Olympic silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz (PHI) went for broke and made her final lift at 127 kg in the Clean & Jerk to win by one kilo, 224-223 and claim the Olympic Record.

Both lifted 97 kg in the Snatch, but Liao’s program called for a final C&J lift of 126 and Diaz programmed 127. Both made the lifts; with Liao’s world record at 227, maybe she could have been more aggressive.

It was history for Diaz, who won the first-ever Olympic gold for the Philippines.

Zulfiya Chinshanlo (KAZ), fourth at the 2019 Worlds, lifted a combined 213 kg for the bronze.

Elsewhere:

Swimming: Just about seven hours after taking the silver medal in the women’s 400 m Freestyle, Katie Ledecky was back in the pool on her longest day of the Games. She won her heat in the 200 m Free in 1:55.28, the no. 9 time of the year, then set an Olympic Record in the first appearance of the women’s 1,500 m in 15:35.35, fastest in the world this year, the eighth-fastest swim in history!

She will be in the 200 m Free semifinals tonight.

Team/3×3 Basketball: The U.S. won continued their winning ways, beating Italy by 17-13 and China by 21-19 to move to 6-0 and clinch a place in the semifinals with one pool game left against Japan. Russia, Japan and China are all 4-2.

In the men’s tournament, Serbia is 6-0 with one game to play, ahead of the Netherlands (4-2) with Belgium, Russia and Latvia at 3-3.

Team/Basketball: The U.S. will play its second game in Group A on the 28th against Iran after losing to France, 83-76. The maddening part of that loss was that the U.S. had battled back from a 62-56 deficit at the end of the third quarter and went on an 18-5 run to lead 74-67 in the fourth. But a 14-0 run for the French in 3:07 flipped the score to 81-74 for France and the game ended with the French on a 16-2 run in the last 3:17.

In Group C, Slovenia used 48 points from NBA star Luka Doncic to ease past Argentina, 118-100. Only Brazil’s scoring machine Oscar Schmidt has ever scored more in the Games: 55 in the 1988 Games in Seoul.

Team/Beach Volleyball: Only one match today among the American teams, with Sarah Sponcil and Kelly Claes winning their opening match by 2-1 over Anastasija Kravcenoka and Tina Graudina (LAT).

Team/Football: Japan scored an impressive 2-1 win over Mexico in Group A of the men’s tournament to lead the group at 2-0. France will be next on the 28th, with Mexico (1-1) playing South Africa. In Group D, defending champion Brazil won its opening match vs. Germany by 4-2, then drew – 0-0 – with the Ivory Coast! The Brazilians should advance, however, playing Saudi Arabia next on the 28th.

The U.S. women (1-1) need to win their final group match tomorrow against Australia (1-1) to be assured of moving on. Sweden (2-0) will play New Zealand (0-2). The playoffs begin on the 30th.

Team/Rugby Sevens: The U.S. men have won their first two matches in pool play, 19-14 over Kenya and 19-17 over Ireland. The last group game is vs. South Africa (also 2-0) tomorrow.

The U.S. women will start on the 29th.

Team/Volleyball: The U.S. men’s team (1-1) lost to Russia (2-0) in six-team Group B, in four tightly contested sets by 25-23, 27-25, 21–25, 25–23. Next up is Tunisia, on the 28th. The U.S. women (1-0 in Group B) play China next, on the 27th.

Team/Water Polo: The U.S. men are at 1-0 and will play South Africa (0-1) today in its second of five group games. The U.S. edged Japan, 15-13, in its opener yesterday.

The American women, the gold-medal favorites, are 2-0 in the five-team Group B after a 12-7 win over China earlier today. The game was 6-6 at half, but the U.S. tightened the defense and out-scored China by 6-1 in the final half. Makenzie Fischer led the Americans with three goals.

= PREVIEWS: TUESDAY, 27 JULY =
(22 events across 14 sports)

Canoe-Kayak: Women’s K-1 Slalom
Winners of five of the six medals awarded in London and Rio are back: Rio winner (and Rio bronze) Maialen Chourraut (ESP), silver medalist Luuka Jones (NZL) and London silver and Rio bronze winner Jessica Fox (AUS).

Fox starts as the favorite, having won the 2014-17-18 world titles and a silver in 2019 to Slovenia’s Eva Tercelj (who is also in the field). Two-time Worlds medalist Ricarda Funk will challenge, as will Klaudia Zwolinska (POL), who a Slalom World Cup earlier this year.

Medal hopes from the Americas include 17-year-old American Evy Leibfarth, a World Cup sensation in 2019 and 2020, winning four medals, and the 2019 Pan American Games gold. Brazil’s Ana Satila is also dangerous, with two World Cup medals in K-1 and six in C-1.

Cycling: Women’s Mountain Bike/Cross Country
The entire Rio podium of Jenny Rissveds (SWE: gold), Maya Wloszczowska (POL: silver) and Catharine Prendel (CAN: bronze) is back, but none are favored.

Neither is France’s Pauline Ferrand Prevot, the 2015-19-20 World Champion or Swiss star Jolanda Neff, the 2017 World Champion, or Australia’s Rebecca McConnell the Worlds bronze winner in 2019-20. Not even American Kate Courtney, the 2018 World Champion.

It’s all about French sensation Loana Lecomte, 21, winner of all five World Cup competitions this season. Rissveds has been second twice, Ferrand Prevot second once and American Haley Batten has won a silver and bronze. But can anyone beat Lecomte?

Diving: Women’s 10 m Synchro
China offers Jiaqi Zhang, the 2019 World 10 m Synchro champion with Wei Lu, and Yuxi Chen, the 2019 World 10 m gold medalist. To say they are the favorites is an understatement; China has won this event all five times it has been contested at the Games.

The chase for the other medals will come from 2019 Worlds silver medalists Pandelela Pamg and Mun Yee Leong (INA) and Canadians Meaghan Benfeito and Caeli McKay; Benfeito is looking for a third straight Olympic medal, as she won bronze in 2012 and 2016 with Rose Filion.

Britain’s Eden Chang and Lois Toulson were sixth at the 2019 Worlds and figure in the medal hunt, as do Americans Jessica Parratto and Delaney Schnell and perhaps Gemany’s Christina Wassen and Tina Punzel.

Equestrian: Team Dressage
This event dates back to the 1928 Games and has been won by a German team 13 times and in eight of the last nine Games. For 2021, the brilliant Isabell Werth is back again to lead the German entry, gold medalist in the 1992-96-2000-08-16 Games and five World Championships, including the last in 2018. Rio teammate Dorothee Schneider is also back, along with Jessica van Bredow-Wendl.

Carl Hester and Charlotte Dujardin are back from the Rio silver winners from Great Britain and Steffen Peters is the returning member of the bronze medalists from the U.S. Adrienne Lyle is also aboard for the U.S.; she and Peters were part of the American silver winners at the World Equestrian Games in 2018.

Prime challengers start with Sweden, with Therese Nilshagen, Antonia Ramel and Juliette Ramel up, as well as the Denmark, Netherlands and Portugal.

Fencing: Women’s Team Epee
Four different nations have won this event in the five times on the Olympic program, and China is the reigning World Champion from 2019, having defeated Russia in the final, with Italy besting Ukraine for the bronze.

China’s Yiwen Sun took the gold in the individual event and teammates Sheng Lin and Mingye Zhu were in the top 11. That makes them favorites, but threatened by Italy, which claimed places 6-8-10 with Federica Isola, Rossella Fiamingo and former World Champion Mara Navarria.

Russia, led by Aizanat Murtazaeva (4th) and teammates placed 23 and 29 is a medal contender, as is Korea and Poland.

The U.S. won the Worlds in 2018 in this event, with Kelley and Courtney Hurley and Kat Holmes: they placed 12-26-24 in the individual event, but must be considered dangerous.

Gymnastics: Women’s Team
Can the U.S. pull it off? Led by the great Simone Biles, the American women have long been expected to romp to the women’s Team gold for a third straight time. True, Biles and Sunisa Lee went 1-3 in the All-Around qualifying, but Jade Carey was ninth, MyKayla Skinner was 11th and Grace McCallum was 13th.

In the meantime, Russia was 4-5-6 with Angelina Melnikova, Vladislava Urazova and Viktoriia Listunova and Liliia Akhaimova was 28th. The qualifying results were Russia 171.629 to 170.562 for the U.S. China was third at 166.863, with France fourth in 164.561.

China looks like the bronze medalist, absent a breakdown, but what will the U.S. do? Russia appeared to max out in the qualifying, but the Americans were not in top form. Nerves?

What appeared to be a coronation now looks like a fight, but with the U.S. with a much higher ceiling – so to speak – than its opponents. The U.S., Russia and Italy were 1-2-3 at the 2019 Worlds, with the U.S. scoring 172.330 to Russia’s 166.529. It may take a similar score for a third straight American gold.

Judo: Women’s 63 kg
Rio gold medalist Tina Trstenjak is back for another try and perhaps for another showdown with French star Clarisse Agbegnenou.

Trstenjak also won the 2015 World Championship and the 2017 silver and 2018 bronze at this weight, but Agbegnenou holds Worlds golds from 2014-17-18-19-21, making her the favorite … but not by much.

Of late, Agbegnenou has been fighting off Japan’s Miku Tashiro, Worlds finalist in both 2018 and 2019 and Slovenia’s Andreja Leski in 2021. There are lots more bronze winners ready for a shot at a higher step, including two-time Worlds medalist Juul Franssen (NED), Anja Obradovic (SRB: 2021), and Martyna Trajdos (GER: 2019). Canada’s Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard, ranked seventh in the world, is another contender.

Judo: Men’s 81 kg
Belgium’s Mattias Casse stormed to the 2021 World title in June and is ranked no. 1 worldwide, moving up from a silver in 2019. His principal challengers are expected to be Georgian Tato Grigalashvili (2021 silver) and bronze medalists Frank de Wit (NED) and Anri Egutidze (POR).

But the drama in this class is with 2019 World Champion Sagi Muki of Israel and the former Iranian star Saeid Mollaei, the 2018 World Champion, who was ordered to lose matches at the 2019 Worlds so that he would not face an Israeli fighter (Muki). Mollaei left in fear of his life, went to Germany and eventually was adopted by Mongolia, the country he now represents. Will they meet in Tokyo?

There are other worthy contenders in the field, such as Japan’s 2015 World Champion and Rio bronze medalists Takanori Nagase, Antoine Valois-Fortier (CAN), a three-time Worlds medalist and the London 2012 bronze medalist, the 2018 Worlds silver medalist Vedat Albayrak (TUR) and eighth-ranked Alan Khubetsov (RUS).

Shooting: Air Pistol Mixed Team
This is a new, mixed-gender event at the Games, with Russia, China and Ukraine winning the medals at the 2018 World Championships. During the 2021 World Cup season, India, Iran and Russia were the top performers. Those five countries should split the medals.

The U.S. has Lexi Lagan, Sandra Uptagrafft, James Hall and Nick Mowrer ready to go; making the final is likely the goal, and a medal would put them in dreamland.

Shooting: Air Rifle Mixed Team
Another new event in Tokyo, with China going gold-silver at the 2018 Worlds and Russia winning the bronze. The 2021 World Cup season – a good predictor at the Games so far – saw India, Hungary, the U.S. and two different Russian teams win medals.

The American entries, with Mary Tucker, Alison Weisz, Lucas Kozeniesky and gold medalist Will Shaner should be formidable.

Softball:
The U.S. and Japan entered the final round-robin game undefeated and their match-up was as tight as expected.

Japan got a run in the first inning, as Saki Yamazaki reached on error, a sacrifice bunt, a single and a passed ball. But Ally Carda then shut down the home team into the sixth and then teamed with Cat Osterman to retire Japan in the sixth.

The Americans scratched out a run in the bottom of the sixth on a Valerie Arioto single that scored Haylie McCleney to tie 1-1, and then Kelsey Stewart opened the bottom of the seventh with a home run to right field for a walk-off win. Monica Abbott got the win for a scoreless seventh.

That was Monday. The two meet again in the gold-medal game, with the U.S. having won all five of its games, scoring just nine runs (vs. 2) in the process. Japan was 4-1 and outscored its opponents by a combined 18-5.

Canada will play Mexico for the bronze.

Surfing: Men and Women
The unstable weather conditions forced the condensation of the competition by a day, with finals moved to the 27th. So, it will be a wild ride for the first edition of Olympic surfing in Tokyo, with both competitions now down to the quarterfinals.

Many of the biggest names are still afloat in the men’s division, including 2019 World Surfing Games champ Italo Ferreira (BRA), silver medalist Kolohe Andino (USA) and bronze winner Gabriel Medina (BRA), and 2021 silver medalist Kanoa Igahashi (JPN).

Medina won twice and had three runner-up finished in the 2021 World Surf League and appears as the favorite. Ferreira also won once.

The women’s quarterfinals features reigning World Surfing Games champ Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), 2019 silver medalist Silvana Lima (BRA) and bronze winner Bianca Buitendag (RSA). But Buitendag has a tough assignment in her quarter against 2018 silver winner Yolanda Hopkins (POR).

However, Americans Carissa Moore and Caroline Marks are both contenders. Moore has a win and two seconds from six World Surf League events this season and Marks won at the Rip Curl Narrabean Classic in Australia. Fitzgibbons also has a win this season and is a medal favorite.

Swimming: Women’s 100 m Backstroke
Australia’s world-record holder Kaylee McKeown set the Olympic Record in 57.88, the no. 4 time of the year, in the heats, but American teen Regan Smith (19) – the 2019 World 200 m Back Champion – won the first semi in another Olympic Record of 57.86. Fellow American Rhyan White was second in 58.46 and Kathleen Dawson (GBR) third in 58.56.

McKeown was in semi two, but 2021 world no. 2 – and two-time World Champion – Kylie Masse of Canada won in 58.09 to 58.11 for McKeown and 58.59 for Emily Seebohm (AUS).

Clearly, McKeown as the world-record setter, is the favorite, but Masse and Smith appear just as capable of getting on the top step of the podium. If any of these aren’t in form, White, Seebohm and especially Dawson could get a medal.

Swimming: Women’s 100 m Breaststroke
The first statement was made in the heats with South Africa’s Tatjana Schoenmaker setting an Olympic Record of 1:04.82 and moving to no. 2 in the world for 2021 and equal-fifth all-time.

The U.S. came in to Tokyo with the three fastest performers in the world (now 3 of 4) and American teenager Lydia Jacoby – just 17 and no. 2 on the world list – impressed as the winner of the first semi in 1:05.72, her third-fastest time of the year, ahead of Sophie Hansson (SWE: 1:05.81) and Russia’s Yuliya Efimova (1:06.34).

World leader, reigning Olympic champ, World Champion and world-record holder Lilly King was expected to win the second semi, but it was Schoenmaker who won with a steady pace in the second half, 1:05.07-1:05.40. Martina Carraro (ITA) was third in 1:06.50 and qualified seventh.

The U.S. is looking good for two medals here, but King is going to have to be in her Olympic Trials form (1:04.72 semis/1:04.79 final) to win. Hansson is the best other challenger.

Swimming: Men’s 200 m Freestyle
Korea’s Sunwoo Hwang had the fastest time in the heats at 1:44.62, but world leader Duncan Scott (GBR) won semi two in 1:44.60 and 400 m Free bronze medalist Kieran Smith (USA) was second in 1:45.07, leading the field into the final. Lithuanian star Danas Rapsys, the 2018 Worlds Short-Course silver medalist, was third (1:45.32) and Tom Dean, with the second-fastest time in the world in 2021, was fourth (1:45.34) with Hwang fifth (1:45.53).

Russia’s Martin Malyutin and Romania’s 16-year-old sensation David Popovici went 1-2 in the first semi in 1:45.45 and 1:45.68, with American Townley Haas, the 2017 Worlds silver winner, in fifth at 1:46.07 and did not qualify for the final.

Scott, Smith, Rapsys, Dean, Malyutin and Popovici are the medal contenders; that’s a lot of names for an event which really is wide open. This event has not seen a time under 1:44.00 since 2012.

Swimming: Men’s 100 m Backstroke
Defending Olympic champ and world-record holder Ryan Murphy won the first semi in 52.24 – just 0.02 off his seasonal best – ahead of Australia’s Mitch Larkin in 52.76 and Thomas Ceccon (ITA: 52.78).

Russian Kliment Kolesnikov, the 2021 world leader at 52.09, won the second semi neatly at 52.29, with teammate Evgeny Rylov second at 52.91 and China’s Jiayu Xu third (52.94). American Joseph Armstrong tied for fifth at 53.21.

The six under 53 will contend for the medals, but Murphy looks primed for a big performance in the final, which would mean a second Olympic gold.

Taekwondo: Men’s 80+ kg
Two Olympic silver medalists return, both from Africa in Anthony Obame from Gabon (2012) and Niger’s Abdoul Issofou (2016).

However, they can hardly be considered favorites against 2019 World 87 kg champ Vladislav Larin of Russia or World 87+ kg gold medalist Rafael Alba of Cuba. These two Worlds winners must compete in this class since the Olympics allows only four classes per gender instead of the eight used by World Taekwondo in its Worlds.

Other 2019 Worlds medalists in the field are Ivan Sapina (CRO), bronze winner at 87 kg and Mexico’s Carlos Sansores, silver medalist at 98+ kg. From the 2017 Worlds at 87 kg, champion Alexander Bachmann(GER) and Ivan Trajkovic (SLO: bronze) are in the field, as is 87+ kg runner-up Mahama Cho (GBR).

Larin and Alba are favored, but the talent is deep in this class. Also lined up is Tonga’s Pita Taufatofua – the bare-chested Opening Ceremonies star – who also competed in this class in 2016 and lost his first-round match by 16-1.

Taekwondo: Women’s 67+ kg
Defending champion Shuyin Zheng (CHN) headlines this field, with bronze medalist Bianca Walkden (GBR) also back, but they will have to deal with the London 2012 gold medalist, Milica Mandoc (SRB, also a 2017 World Champion at 73 kg).

Walkden owns the 2019 World title at +73 kg, where she beat Zheng straight up, with Mexico’s Briseida Acosta third. And Walkden also won in 2019, with Zheng third. At 73 kg, Korean Da-Bin Lee won the 2019 title and Turk Nafia Kus won bronze.

But doesn’t it seem like another Walkden-Zheng showdown is inevitable?

Triathlon: Women
London gold medalist and Rio silver medalist Nicola Spirig (SUI) and bronze winner Vicky Holland (GBR) are back, but are only some of the contenders in what should be a wide-open race.

The British trio includes reigning World Champion Georgia Taylor-Brown, 2019 World Series runner-up Jessica Learmonth and Holland, who was also the 2018 World Champion.

The U.S. has Katie Zaferes, the 2019 World Champion who has been off of her best and had to survive a selection process to make the team, plus Taylor Knibb, who won the World Triathlon Series stop in Yokohama this year, and Summer Rappaport, second in that Yokohama race.

Then there is two-time World Champion Flora Duffy (BER), second in the 2020 World Championships and if fit, may be the one to beat. German Laura Lindemann was the Worlds bronze winner in 2020 and Australia’s Ashleigh Gentle, a two-time World Series winner, should not be counted out.

Zaferes, a former Syracuse trackster, will be dangerous if she is within striking distance in the run.

Weightlifting: Women’s 59 kg
The 2019 World Champion and current world-record holder is Hsing-Chun Kuo of Chinese Taipei and she is the favorite to win. With North Korea not competing and China skipping this weight class, it’s hard to see her losing.

Japan’s Mikiko Andoh, fifth at the 2019 Worlds, Britain Zoe Smith (6th), Yusleidy Figueroa (VEN: 7th) and Vietnam’s Hoang Thi Duyen (9th) are the most likely candidates for the other medals.

Weightlifting: Women’s 64 kg
Injury has prevented China’s reigning Olympic champ Wei Deng from winning another gold here, opening the door for others like Mercedes Perez (COL), Maude Charron (CAN), Britain’s Sarah Davies and Giorgia Bordignon.

Perez has a bronze from the 2017 World Championships and three golds from 2011,15-19 Pan American Games and should be considered the favorite, but this class has been devastated by injuries, withdrawals and national doping bans.

= INTEL REPORT =

Asked who was the first person to congratulate him on his gold-medal performance in the men’s 10 m Air Rifle final, Will Shaner of the U.S. replied:

“My drug testing guy.”

Veterans of Olympic organizing committees can empathize with Tokyo 2020 spokesman Masa Takaya, who was asked about delays in athlete transport to training sites, even athletes taking taxis there. His response is one that has been heard in almost every Games:

“I am aware that transport is experiencing some issues, including delays. So they always have buses on standby … so we are trying to do everything that we can so that we can move the transport services smoothly and my understanding is that the situation is improving.”

Transport is one of the most unmanageable of all elements, no matter how well planned or how much money is spent. Let’s hope he’s right.

Through 26 July, the Tokyo 2020 report on Covid positives is at 148 (+16). Of these, 79 are residents of Japan and 69 are not; the leading group continues to be contractors (70), followed by “Games-concerned personnel” including coaches and officials (48), then athletes (136), news media (9) and Tokyo 2020 staff and volunteers (5).

The testing report by stakeholder group:

Athletes and team officials: 17 positives out of 790,136 tests through 24 July (0.02%)
Media/Tokyo 2020 staff: 25 positives out of 114,080 tests through 24 July (0.02%).

There are another 67 positives from outside groups not being tested by Tokyo 2020 and 28 caught at the airport for a total of 137 through 24 July.

In addition, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee is now publishing positives, with one positive reported among the 1,038 athletes and officials in Tokyo as of 24 July, and none among 1,144 on 25 July.

It’s not Olympic news, but elsewhere, the CONCACAF Gold Cup is rolling on, with the semifinals set for the 29th between the U.S. and Qatar and Mexico and Canada. In the quarters, played Saturday, Qatar edged El Salvador, 3-2 while the U.S. got a goal from Matt Hoppe in the 83rd minute to edge Jamaica, 1-0. Mexico clubbed Honduras, 3-0, and Canada shut down Costa Rica, 2-0. The final will be played on 1 August.

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