TOKYO 2020/Thursday Review & Preview: Dressel supreme in 100 m Free, Finke stuns in 800 m Free; Lee takes women’s All-Around!

Four-time Olympic gold medalist Caeleb Dressel (USA)

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= TOKYO 2020 =
From Lane One

NBC’s Tokyo primetime audience is far lower than in 2016 and you can read headlines like “The Tokyo Olympics are turning into NBC’s worst nightmare” but a more in-depth analysis shows that U.S. Olympic viewing is not as bad as all that.

So far, NBC’s total primetime audience has been steadily rebounding from very modest Opening Ceremony viewing last Friday:

● 23 July (Fri): 8.2 million for the Opening Ceremony
● 24 July (Sat): 15.3 million
● 25 July (Sun): 19.2 million
● 26 July (Mon): 16.8 million
● 27 July (Tue): 16.2 million

These numbers are for the “total audience” for primetime programming across NBC-NBCSN-CNBC-USA Network, but way behind the 27.5 million average primetime audience for Rio in 2016, when events were live in U.S. time zones.

However, NBC notes that the Tokyo “Total Audience Delivery” primetime average of 17.5 million viewers through Tuesday night is on pace “to rank with NBC’s Sunday Night Football as the two most-watched primetime shows in 2020-21.”

The trade magazine Adweek reported that while NBC is preparing to offer bonus advertising – known as “makegoods” – to deliver the total audience promised to advertisers, the overall viewership decline is not as severe as the primetime ratings might indicate.

NBC’s advertiser audience guarantees are based on the total amount of viewership of the Games and this includes a mammoth amount of online streaming, which is way up from prior Games. Per the report:

“While the company will be on the hook for makegoods to advertisers, and those conversations are already underway, the gap isn’t as major as the one-third primetime ratings drops, and is within the same 15-20% range as other sports events, said a source for NBCUniversal.”

Adweek’s reporting is that the Olympic ratings – at least so far – are unlikely to impact the profitability of the Games for NBC. The network is reported to have sold $1.2 billion in ads for the postponed Games, after selling $1.25 billion for the event in 2020.

(This is crucial for NBC, the International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee, whose finances are strongly tied to NBC’s commitment to the Games through 2032. In 2011, NBC agreed to a $4.38 billion contract for the 2014-20 games, then extended for 2022-32 via a $7.75 billion contract in 2014.)

It is worth remembering that the 2021 Academy Awards audience was down to 9.2 million in 2021 – an all-time low – and the 2020 World Series had a record-low average of 9.6 million viewers on Fox. Even the NFL’s Super Bowl had a 14-year low, but still drew 96.4 million viewers in February.

The Tokyo Games has reached the one-third post, with 112 of 339 events (33%) completed. The current medals leaders:

1. 38: United States (14-14-10) /corrected/
2. 31: China (15-7-9)
3. 28: Russian Olympic Committee (8-11-9)
4. 25: Japan (15-4-6)
5. 20: Australia (8-2-10)

So far, 66 countries have won at least one medal.

Our exclusive TSX team scoring uses the familiar collegiate system of 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 per event to give a much better view of the relative achievements of the teams:

1. 439.5 United States
2. 333.0 China
3. 291.0 Russian Olympic Committee
4. 287.0 Japan
5. 238.0 Great Britain
6. 235.0 Italy
7. 200.5 Australia
8. 175.5 France
9. 164.5 Netherlands
10. 155.5 Germany
11. 141.0 Korea
12. 126.0 Canada

Another interesting measure of this tally is the number of top-8 finishers produced by each country. Thus far, the U.S. has 79 placements across 112 events (wow!), compared with 53 for China, 52 for the Russian Olympic Committee and 47 for Japan.

The weather continues hot and winds as a factor due to Tropical Storm Nepartak. Tennis players have complained about the heat, which reached a “feels-like’ level of 99 F on Thursday and matches have been moved to 3 p.m. and later to avoid the mid-day roasting.

Asked by the umpire if he could continue during his Thursday match against Spain’s Pablo Carreno, Russian Daniil Medvedev said he could, but that might die! He ended up losing, 6-2, 7-6.

The forecast is for heat and some rain:

● 30 July (Fri.): 85 F high, 75 F low and thunderstorms
● 31 July (Sat.): 90 F ~ 74 F and sunny
● 01 Aug. (Sun.): 89 F ~ 77 F and some thunderstorms
● 02 Aug. (Mon.): 89 F ~ 78 F and some thunderstorms
● 03 Aug. (Tue.): 90 F ~ 77 F and some thunderstorms
● 04 Aug. (Wed.): 91 F ~ 77 F and some thunderstorms

Additional heat precautions are being taken, but it’s an issue for athletes and the public alike.
~ Rich Perelman

= RESULTS: THURSDAY, 29 JULY =

Canoeing: Women’s Slalom C-1
No mistakes for Australia’s Jessica Fox, which means she was the runaway winner of the first-ever women’s C-1, timing 105.04 seconds, more than three-and-a-half seconds clear of the field.

Fox’s hopes for gold in the K-1 were dashed by two penalties, but she maneuvered through the course without being penalized for her first Olympic gold after three other medals in the K-1.

Behind her came 2017 World Champion Mallory Franklin (GBR: 106.68 with 2 penalties) and German Andrea Herzog, the reigning World Champion (109.13, also 2 penalties). Franklin was faster on the clock, but the penalties moved her to silver.

Fencing: Women’s Team Foil
After American Lee Keifer upset Russia’s Inna Deriglazova in the women’s Foil final, naturally the two teams had to meet up in the Team Foil event, in the semifinals.

Deriglazova defeated Nicole Ross, 5-1 and Jackie Dubrovich, 8-4, while Kiefer stomped Adelina Zagidullina, 9-4 and Larisa Korobeynikova, 6-4 before the two stars met in the final match. Russia was in control by 39-36 at that point and Deriglaziva and Kiefer dueled to a 6-6 tie and Russia won the match by 45-42.

That put Russia into the final against France, a much easier task as the Russians took the gold with a 45-34 win. It’s Russia’s second gold in the last three times the event has taken place.

The U.S. advanced to the bronze-medal final, but was waxed by 2019 Worlds silver medalists Italy, 45-23. The Italians won all but one match and collected the third-place medal.

Gymnastics: Women’s All-Around
With Simone Biles out, the qualifying scores said the medals should come down to Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade, Suni Lee of the U.S. and Angelina Melnikova of Russia. That’s exactly what happened.

● Andrade took the lead on Vault, scoring 15.300 to 15.200 for American Jade Carey, with Lee fourth at 14.600.

● On Bars, Belgian star Nina Derwael was expected to win and posted an excellent 15.266 score. But Lee was better and won the event at 15.300 to move closer to Andrade, who posted a 14.666 total, only fifth best in the rotation. After two: Andrade, 29.966; Lee, 29.900; Melnikova, 29.533.

● On Beam, Russia’s Vladislava Urazova had the best score at 14.200, trailed by Lee at 13.833, who took the lead from Andrade, fourth at 13.666, just behind Melnikova (13.700). Scores: Lee, 43.733; Andrade, 43.632; Melnikova, 43.233.

● On Floor, Melnikova went third, Andrade fourth, Lee fifth and Carey sixth. Melnikova scored 13.966 and was followed by Lee with a good score of 13.666. That brought up Andrade, who needed 13.768 or more to win. But she stepped out twice on an otherwise strong routine and scored 13.666 to finish at 57.298 to Lee’s 57.433 and a fifth straight All-Around win for U.S. women, going back to 2004.

Carey finished at 13.966 to tie Melnikova for the best score.

Melnikova won the bronze at 57.199 and Urazova wad fourth at 56.966. Carey was eighth at 54.199. It climaxed a remarkable rise for Lee, 18, who emerged only in 2019 and placed eighth in the All-Around at the World Championships, but won individual medals on Floor (silver) and Bars (bronze). The delay from 2020 to 2021 was clearly a help for her development, not only on skills, but also for poise. She was solid.

Andrade zoomed from 11th in the Rio All-Around to the silver medal and Brazil’s first-ever medal in Olympic women’s gymnastics.

Judo: Women’s 78 kg and Men’s 100 kg
Japan continued its march through the 2020 Olympic tournament with Shori Hamada and Aaron Wolf both winning their classes in spectacular fashion.

Hamada, the 2019 Worlds runner-up, crushed her first three opponents by ippon in 2:32. 2:38 and 1:23 before facing 2019 World Champion Madeleine Malonga (FRA) in the final.

No problem, and Hamada overpowered Malonga and won her fourth straight match by ippon in just 1:09. Her total mat time on the way to the gold medal was just 7:42. Wow!

In the bronze-medal matches, Wagner – the 2021 World Champion – defeated Kaliema Antomarchi (CUB) by waza-ari and Brazil’s Mayra Aguiar ipponed Hyunji Yoon (KOR).

In the men’s 100 kg class, it wasn’t clear that 2017 World Champion Wolf – American dad, Japanese mom – was Japan’s best selection for this weight, but he left no doubt.

Wolf won his first two matches in 1:23 (ippon) and 4:00 (waza-ari) before meeting Georgia’s Varlam Liparteliani, a three-time Worlds medalist. Wolf had defeated him in the 2017 Worlds final and did so again, by waza-ari, in 4:00. That sent him to the final against Korea’s 2018 World Champion, Gu-Ham Cho.

This was a classic and went into overtime. It took 9:35 all together Wolf to find the winning attack and won by ippon to take the gold medal, Japan’s fifth in six men’s classes at these Games. It was Japan’s first win in the 100 kg class since 2000.

Portugal’s Jorge Fonseca defeated Shady Elnahas (CAN) for one bronze medal and Russian Niiaz Iliasov beat Liparteliani for the other.

Rowing: Women’s Pair-Lightweight Double Sculls
In the women’s Pair, it ended as expected with Grace Pendergast and Kerri Gowler (NZL) crossing first in 6:50.19, slower than their world-best performance in the semis, but still an impressive win by 1.26 seconds over a surprising Russia.

Vasilisa Stepanova and Elena Oriabinskaia started in the middle of the pack, but worked their way up to third by the 1,500 m mark and then to the silver medal at the finish, passing Canada’s Caileigh Filmer and Hillary Janssens, the early leaders.

In the Lightweight Women’s Double Sculls, Marieke Keijser and Ilse Paulis had the lead by halfway and looked like possible winners at the 1,500 m mark. But they were passed by Italy’s Valentina Rodini and Federica Cesarini, who ended up winning in 6:47.54, just 14/100ths ahead of the fastest closers of all, France’s Laura Tarantola and Claire Bove.

Keijser and Rodini were not on the form charts as favorites beforehand, but had the a world’s best time in the semis and had more in the tank than anyone else over the back half of the race.

It was Italy’s first-ever Olympic medal in this event.

Rowing: Men’s Pair-Lightweight Double Sculls
Croatian brothers Martin and Valent Sinkovic are now among the rowing immortals, winning the men’s Pair in Tokyo after taking the men’s Double Sculls in Rio!

It wasn’t that close, as they grabbed the lead from the start and went wire-to-wire, claiming a 1.29 second win over the 2018 Worlds silver medalists, Marius Cozmiuc and Ciprian Tudosa (ROM), who started slowly, then took second just after the 1,000 m.

Denmark and Canada were third and fourth, 4.59 and 5.14 seconds behind the winners.

The men’s Lightweight Double Sculls figured to be the property of Ireland’s World Champion Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy and it was, barely. They grabbed the lead from Germany’s Jonathan Rommelmann and Jason Osborne – the 2019 Worlds bronze medalists – only in the second half of the race and held on for an 0.86-second win.

That was a move up from silver to gold for O’Donovan, who had been the silver medalist with his brother Gary in Rio.

Rommelmann and Osborne won Germany’s first-ever Olympic medal in the event. Italy’s Stefano Oppo and Pietro Ruta were third, 7.87 seconds behind the winners.

Shooting: Men’s Trap-Women’s Trap
Considered carefully, the concentration, precision and marksmanship in this sport is almost unthinkable. So even after 60 shots in the men’s Trap final between Czechs Jiri Liptak and David Kostelecky, more were needed.

Both shot 43/50, with Liptak hitting 20 of his last 21 targets to pull even. The tie required a shoot-off and Liptak won that one close, 7-6, to clinch the gold medal. At 39, Liptak had been 18th in London in 2012 but did have two Worlds bronze medals to his credit before Tokyo.

Kostelecky, 46 won his second Olympic medal after winning in 2008 and finishing fourth in Rio.

Britain’s Matthew Coward Holley finished third at 33.

The women’s Trap was similarly dramatic, with American Kayle Browning – who had a best World Championships finish of 11th coming in – getting off to a rough start, missing three of her first four targets. But then she hit 19 in a row to begin eliminating others. After 17 hits in her first 20, she had 24 out of 30, but barely in it. Then she hit 10 straight targets and was in the gold-medal final.

There, she faced Olympic 2008-12 silver medalist Zuzana Stefecekova (SVK) and both had 34 hits. Browning hit three of her first five targets, but Stefecekova hit four. In the final set, both hit all five and Stefecekova had an Olympic Record for hits and a 43-42 win for her third Olympic medal.

Browning won the first silver by the U.S. in this event after bronzes by Corey Cogdell in 2008 and 2016.

Swimming: Women’s 200 m Butterfly-4×200 m Freestyle
China’s world leader Yufei Zhang took it out immediately, leading Americans Regan Smith and Hali Flickinger at the first turn. Zhang was ahead of world-record pace at the 100 m, but Flickinger started gaining on the third lap and was 1.34 seconds behind at the last flip.

Zhang did not tire enough to lose the lead and won in an Olympic Record 2:03.86, the no. 3 performance in history; the top two were both set in the plastic-suit era in 2009.

Smith came on hard in the final 15 m to just edge Flickinger, 2:05.30 to 2:05.65, with Hungary’s Boglarka Kapas fourth in 2:06.53. Two more medals for the U.S. and Smith and Flickinger are now nos. 2-3 in U.S. history.

Australia entered as a huge favorite in the 4×200 m Free and expected to shatter the world record; after all, they led the qualifying at 7:44.61, with the U.S. second at 7:47.57.

Titmus led off, but Junxuan Yang (CHN) touched first in 1:54.37-1:54.51 – what? – then Emma McKeon took over on the second leg and had the lead briefly, but Muhan Tang (1:55.00) regained command at the change. Something was definitely going on here, with Titmus and McKeon unable to claim the lead. Paige Madden kept the U.S. in contact in third.

Aussie Madison Wilson got the lead again on the third leg over China, with Katie McLaughlin keeping the U.S. in medal contention, just ahead of Canada. But Yufei Zhang – who had just finished the 200 m Medley medal ceremony – touched first.

Now China was leading, Australia had its weakest leg in Leah Neale and Katie Ledecky was in the water as the U.S. anchor and smelling blood. She couldn’t catch Bingje Li (1:55.30), but she charged after Neale. Ledecky was second by the end of her third lap and moved in Li, only to fall short, but with the fastest split of the race in a sensational 1:53.76.

China was the one to smash Australia’s world record from the 2019 World Championships, finishing in 7:40.33 (vs. 7:41.50), with the U.S. setting an American Record of 7:40.73 and Australia third in 7:41.29, also ahead of the old world mark and setting a national record.

This was an important race for China to confirm that they can compete with anyone in the pool and they will be coming in future years. For the U.S., it was their 21st swimming medal of the meet to 12 for Australia and four each for four others, including China. And the meet isn’t done yet.

Swimming: Men’s 100 m Free-800 m Free-200 m Breast
The sensational 47.11 semifinal win by Russian Kliment Kolesnikov scared everyone in the field except American Caeleb Dressel. The 2017 and 2019 World Champion and no. 3 all-time at 46.96, Dressel exploded off the blocks, had the second-fastest reaction time and got up and swimming before everyone else, leading by a meter halfway through the first lap.

Dressel never let up, turning first in 22.39 and maintaining his lead over Kolesnikov (22.49) right through the second lap. Australia’s Rio winner Kyle Chalmers made a charge over the last 25 m, but Dressel found a little extra in the final 10 m to win by daylight in 47.02, fastest in the world this year and the no. 4 performance of all time.

Chalmers powered home second in 47.08, equaling his lifetime best, the no. 7 performance ever. Kolesnikov faded to third in 47.44, with Maxime Grousset (FRA) fourth in 47.72.

Dressel was hooked up to his family’s watch party back home by NBC and was overcome with emotion. This was his first individual Olympic gold after three in relays, including one in Tokyo. He still has the 50 m Free, the 100 m Fly and a couple more relays ahead of him and more chances to see his family afterwards.

The first-ever men’s 800 m in Olympic history started with a familiar sight for distance fans, with the Rio 1,500 m gold medalist, Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri, in the lead. Swimming in lane eight, he had more than a second on American Record-setter Bobby Finke at the halfway mark.

Then the race changed, with German open-water star Florian Wellbrock and Ukraine’s two-time Worlds 1,500 m medalist Mykhailo Romanchuk moving to 2-3, and Finke dropping to fifth. With four laps to go, Paltrinieri and Romanchuk were only 0.45 apart, and then Paltrinieri, Wellbrock and Romanchuk were all close, with Wellbrock taking the lead on the last turn.

Coming home, it looked like Wellbrock, Romanchuk and Paltrinieri were the medalists, but then Finke came on from fifth and cut in another gear to pass everyone in the final 15 m and touched the wall first in 7:41.87, smashing the American Record again!

Paltrinieri finished second in 7:42.11 and Romanchuk claimed the bronze in 7:42.33, with Wellbrock fourth in 7:42.68. For Finke, 21, he’s not done, as the 1,500 m Free is still to come!

In the men’s 200 m Breaststroke final, Dutch star Arno Kamminga took it out from the start, was ahead of world-record pace after 100 m (60.09), and led Finn Matti Mattison at the final turn.

But as Kamminga decelerated on the final lap, Australian Zac Stubblety-Cook – the 2021 world leader – came hard in the final 25 m and got to the lead in the final 12 m to win in an Olympic Record of 2:06.38, just 0.10 slower than his world-leading mark from the Australian Trials.

Even slowing badly in the final 25 m, Kamminga held on for second (2:07.01) and Mattson held on for third (2:07.13), shunting world-record holder Anton Chupkov (ROC) to fourth (2:07.24).

American Nic Fink finished fifth (2:07.93).

Table Tennis : Women’s Singles
Top-seed Meng Chen of China came through with her first individual world title by defeating teammate (and second seed) Yingsha Sun, 4-2 in the final. Chen had won three World Championships gold, all in team events and won silvers in the 2018 Asian Games and 2019 Worlds singles finals.

But her win extended China’s streak of winning this event to all nine Olympics in which it has been contested.

Japan picked up another medal as Mima Ito took the bronze with a 4-1 win over Singapore’s Mengyu Yu.

Elsewhere:

Team/Beach Volleyball: The U.S. team of Nick Lucena and Phil Dalhausser won their third match in pool play, defeating Julian Azaad and Nicholas Capogrosso (ARG) by 21-19, 18-21, 15-6 to finish 2-1. Brazil, Netherlands and the U.S. all finished at 2-1 (Argentina at 0-3), but the U.S. ranked third on the sets won-sets lost tiebreaker. As a third-place team, the Lucena and Dalhausser could qualify for the playoffs, but this will depend on the results of the other pools.

The U.S. women’s duo of Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil went to 2-0 by beating Gaudencia Makokha and Brackcides Khadambi of Kenya, 21-8 and 21-6. The group title will be decided on the 31st as the Americans face Brazilian stars Ana Patricia and Rebecca, also 2-0.

Team/Rugby Sevens: The U.S. women zoomed into the quarterfinals in Tokyo with pool-play wins over China (28-14) and Japan (17-7). Australia is also 2-0 and will meet the U.S. for the pool title on the 30th.

Team/Volleyball: The U.S. rebounded from their loss to ROC (Russia) with a 25-14, 23-25, 25-14, 25-23 win over Tunisia in Pool B to go to 2-1. Next up is Brazil, also 2-1, on the 30th.

On Thursday, the U.S. women moved to 3-0 with a tough win over Turkey in five sets: 25-19, 25-20, 17-25, 20-25, 15-12. Jordan Thompson led the U.S. with 15 points and the win propels the U.S. into the quarterfinals, regardless of its other matches against Russia (2-1) or Italy (3-0).

Team/Water Polo: The U.S. lost to Italy, 12-11, in a Group A game that leaves the American men at 2-1 and in fourth place – the last qualifying spot for the playoffs – with two games left against Hungary (2-1) and Greece (2-0-1).

= PREVIEWS: FRIDAY, 30 JULY =
(21 events across 13 sports)

Archery: Women
Korea dominated the Ranking Round, going 1-2-3 with San An, Min-Hee Jang and Chae-Young Kang and winning the Women’s Team title easily. Korean archers have won this event twice in a row and eight of the last nine times in the Games.

However, stuff happens. A Korean archer has won the World Championship title only once in the last five editions. Dane Maya Jager won in 2013, Russian Ksenia Perova in 2017 and Taipei’s Chien-Ying Lei won in 2019.

Kang was already eliminated in the round of 32 by Japan’s Miki Nakamura, 6-2. Beyond the former World Champions, look for India’s Deepika Kumari, American Mackenzie Brown, China’s Jiaxin Wu and Russian Elena Osipova as possible medal candidates.

Athletics: Men’s 10,000 m
Track & Field finally get underway on Friday with a full schedule, but only one final: the men’s 10,000 m at 8:40 p.m., with 25 starters.

The two-time winner Mo Farah (GBR) is not in Tokyo, but the world-record holder, Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei (26:11.00 in 2020) is. But that mark was set in a staged race and although he was the 2019 Commonwealth Games and World Champion, he may not have the best finishing speed if the race descends into a kicker’s sprint.

Cheptegei’s teammate, Jacob Kiplimo is also highly capable and is the world leader at 26:33.93 in Ostrava in May. Will the two work together?

They will be opposed by an East African phalanx including Ethiopia’s Selemon Barega, Yomif Kejelcha and Berihu Aregawi who went 1-2-3 in the national Trials (held in the Netherlands this year!) in 26:49.51, 26:49.73 and 26:50.37. Kenya lost Geoffrey Kamworer (27:01.06 at altitude!) to injury, but is still dangerous with Rhonex Kipruto (26:50.16 in 2019), Rodgers Kwemoi and Weldon Langat.

If the race is slow enough to favor the kickers, Canada’s Mo Ahmed (26:59.35 in 2019), Marc Scott (GBR:27:10.41), Americans Woody Kincaid (27:12.78) and Grant Fisher (27:11.29) and maybe even Eritrea’s Aron Kifle (27:09.92 in 2017) could all be factors for medals.

Even with the great new shoes, someone still has to run in them.

American Sam Kendricks, the reigning World Champion and Rio bronze medalist in the men’s vault, tested positive for the coronavirus in Tokyo and will not be able to compete at the Games, imploding what would have another great match-up with Swede Mondo Duplantis. The replacement could be Matt Ludwig, if he can get to Tokyo in time; vault qualifying is on Sunday.

Badminton: Mixed Doubles
China has dominated badminton almost everywhere, but has “only won” three of the six golds in this event since it was introduced in 1996. But it will win in 2021 as two Chinese pairs will face off in the finals, the third such occurrence at the Games.

Siwei Zheng and Yaqiong Huang will face off against Yilyu Wang and Dongping Huang in the final, with Zheng and Huang the reigning World Champions from 2018 and 2019, with Wang and Huang the 2019 bronze medalists.

Japan’s 2019 Worlds bronze medalists Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino will favorites in their bronze-medal match against Hong Kong’s Chun Man Tang and Ying Suet Tse.

Canoe-Kayak: Men’s Slalom K-1
Three-time World Champion and Rio 2016 bronze medalist Jiri Prskavec (CZE) is the favorite, with enormous experience and savvy, including a big win at the ICF World Cup in Prague last June.

Chasing him will be 2019 Worlds runner-up David Llorente of Spain, 2018 World Champion Hannes Aigner (GER), Russian bronze winner Pavel Eigel, and two-time World Champion Peter Kauzer (SLO).

Surprises? How about from Jakub Grigar (SVK), fifth in Rio, or 2014 World Champion Boris Neveu (FRA) or even American Michal Smollen, the 2015 Worlds bronze medalist.

Cycling: Men’s and Women’s BMX
The men’s quarterfinal winners were Sylvain Andre (FRA), Niek Kimmann (NED), Joris Daudet (FRA) and American Connor Fields, all capable of winning the whole thing. Andre was the 2018 World Champion, Daudet was World Champion in 2011 and 2016; Kimmann won in 2015 and was runner-up in 2019 and Fields is the reigning Olympic Champion.

That’s four riders for three medals, but there are other challengers, including 2015 World Champion Corben Sharrah of the U.S., 2019 Worlds gold medalist Twan van Gendt (NED), Colombia’s Carlos Ramirez and Britain’s Kye Whyte.

The women’s BMX quarters had familiar names like Mariana Pajon (COL), Laura Smulders (NED) and American Alise Willoughby, and also third-race winner Bethany Scriever (GBR).

Pajon is a three-time World Champion and the Rio 2016 gold medalist, Smulders won the world title in 2018 and was second in 2019; Willoughby is the reigning World Champion from 2019 and runner-up in Rio in 2016.

They will be challenged Dutch Worlds bronze medalist Judy Baauw, Russian Natalie Afremova and Aussie Saya Sakakibara. American Felicia Stancil and Dane Simone Christiansen have both been steady riders on the World Cup circuit, but not international championship medal winners … yet.

Fencing: Men’s Team Epee
France and Switzerland have dominated this event at the World Championships level, going 1-2 in 2017, the Swiss winning in 2018 and 1-3 in 2019. With Romain Cannone as Olympic Champion in the individual event in Tokyo, surely the French – defending golds medalists from Rio – start as favorites.

The Swiss, led by Max Heinzer, are prime contenders, as are Italy with Enrico Garozzo from the Rio Team silver medalists, Korea, Russia and Ukraine. The U.S., with Jacob Hoyle, Curtis McDowald and Yeisser Ramirez, are considered long-shots.

Gymnastics: Women’s Trampoline
This will be the sixth time for this event in the Games and Rosie MacLennan of Canada will be going for her third straight win.

She beat out Britain’s Bryony Page in Rio and she is also back, along with China’s 2014 World Champion Lingling Liu (CHN), 2019 World Champion Hikaru Mori (JPN) and 2018 Worlds runner-up Xueying Zhu (CHN).

MacLennan was the bronze medalist in 2019 and appears to be ready to go. American Nicole Ahsinger is considered a long-shot for a medal.

Judo: Men’s +100 kg
Teddy Riner.

France’s 32-year-old, 6-8 superstar is the two-time defending Olympic Champion and a 10-time World Champion. After winning in Rio, he won both the +100 kg world title and the Open Weight world title and then laid low. He won 154 straight from 2010-20. He decided to come back for Tokyo and more history and qualified easily to get into the field. Is he rusty, or the well-known icon?

He will have plenty of challengers, however, such as 2019 World Champion Lukas Krpalek (CZE), who moved up from 100 kg, where he was Rio gold medalist and the 2014 World Champion. Japan’s Hisayoshi Harasawa was the Rio silver medalist to Riner and the 2019 Worlds runner-up to Krpalek. Georgia’s Guram Tushishvili won the 2017 World title, with Ushangi Kokauri (AZE) second and Mongolia’s Duurenbayar Ulziibayar third.

Also in the field is 2021 Worlds silver medalist Tamerlan Bashaev of Russia and back from the Rio medal stand are bronze medalists Brazil’s Rafael Silva and Israel’s Or Sasson.

This is about Riner, and history.

Judo: Women’s +78 kg
The women’s +78 class starts with Japan’s Akira Sone, the 2019 World Champion, who defeated Cuba’s 2012 Olympic champ and two-time World Champion Idalys Ortiz in the final; bronze medalists Larisa Ceric (BIH) and Turkey’s Kayra Sayit are also in. The 2021 Worlds bronze winner Maria Seulen Altheman (BRA) is the only current-year medalist in the field.

These medal winners will face third-ranked Iryna Kindzerska (AZE) and France’s sixth-ranked Romane Dicko, among others. Japan has only won this class in the Games once, in 2004, and is primed for a victory to finish a brilliant tournament.

Rowing: Men’s Single Sculls-Eights
New Zealand’s Mahe Drysdale was one of the stars of the 2012 and 2016 Games, winning this race twice; over three-time medalist Ondrej Synek (CZE) in London and Damir Martin (CRO) and Synek in Rio.

Drysdale has retired and Jordan Perry has replaced him; Synek is home, but Martin is back and looking to move up on the podum.

But the favorite’s role might be with World Champions like Oliver Zeidler (GER: 2019) or Norway’s Kjetil Borch (2018); Borch was also the bronze medalist in 2019.

Obvious challengers include 2018 bronze winner Mindaugas Girskonis (LTU) and 2019 runner-up Sverri Nielsen (DEN). Borch, Nielsen, Martin and Zeidler won the quarterfinals and looked impressive.

The men’s Eights has Great Britain as defending champion, holding off Germany in Rio, after the Germans won in London. Going into Tokyo, the Germans are riding a streak of three straight World Championship golds, beating the U.S. and Italy in 2017, Australia and the British in 2018 and the Netherlands and the British in 2019.

In the heats, Germany and the U.S. were 1-2 in the first race and the Netherlands beat New Zealand in the second heat with Great Britain third. All five are in the final, but the race appears to be for second.

Rowing: Women’s Single Sculls-Eights
You know the women’s Single Sculls is a tough event with reigning World Champion Sanita Purpure (IRL) can’t make the medal final.

She finished fifth in the first semifinal, held Thursday morning, and won by Russia’s 2021 European Champion Hanna Prakatsen, ahead of Swiss Jeannine Gmelin, the 2017 World Champion.

New Zealand’s Emma Twigg won the second semi, almost five seconds ahead of Britain’s 2016 Olympic Double Sculls silver medalist Victoria Thornley and Worlds two-time bronze medalist Magdalena Lobnig (AUT).

Twigg, now 34, has vast experience, was the 2014 World Champion and won Worlds medals each available year from 2010-14. She left the sport for a couple of years after Rio, but won the 2019 Worlds silver and looks to be the favorite for a gold to crown her career.

The women’s Eight has been owned by the United States, winning of this showcase event in 2008-12-16. But Romania won at the 2017 World Championships as the U.S. re-tooled, with Canada and New Zealand taking the other medals.

The American re-fit got done quickly and the U.S. won the world title in 2018 over Canada with Australia third. In 2019, it was New Zealand winning the Worlds, over Australia and the U.S.

New Zealand won its heat in a very tight finish with Canada, 6:05.65-6:05.97 and the U.S. won heat two in 6:08.69, ahead of Romania (6:09.95). Then in the repechage, Romania pulled a stunner, not only winning, but riding good winds to a 5:52.99 timing, a world best!

The conditions will be the same for everyone in the final and the top four in the heats: New Zealand, Canada, the U.S. and Romania, will fight for three medals? Four in a row for the Stars & Stripes?

Shooting: Women’s 25 m Pistol
This is a two-part competition, including a precision segment and a rapid-fire segment. Greece’s Anna Korakaki returns as the Rio gold medalist, but Ukraine’s Olena Kostevych and Russia’s Vitalina Batsarashkina won gold and silver at the 2018 World Championships.

Through the precision section, Serbia’s Zorana Arunovic – the 2010 World Championships silver medalist – was the leader (296/300), followed by Korakaki (294) and Bulgaria’s Antoaneta Kostadinova, the eighth-place finisher in Rio (293).

Batsarashkina (292), 2021 ISSF World Cup medal winner Mahu Bhaker (IND) and Kostevych were all at 292. Only the top eight from 44 starters qualify for the final. Americans Lexi Lagan and Sandra Uptagrafft were 21st and 24th (both 288) after the first round.

Swimming: Women’s 100 m Free-200 m Breast
The women’s 100 m Free was expected to be a showcase for Australia, but Siobhan Haughey – the 200 m Free silver medalist – won the first semifinal over Aussie star Cate Campbell, 52.40-52.71, the no. 4 performance of the year. Rio co-champion Penny Oleksiak (CAN) was third in 52.86.

World leader and Olympic favorite Emma McKeon headlined the second semi and had the lead at the turn, with Britain’s Anna Hopkin second. McKeon was smooth coming home and won the heat in 52.32, the no. 3 performance of 2021. A close finish behind her saw Swedish star Sarah Sjostrom finish second (52.82), American Abbey Weitzeil got a lifetime best of 52.99 for third and Hopkin was fourth (53.11). American Erika Brown was seventh in 53.58.

McKeon is the clear favorite, but does Haughey have a surprise in store? Can Oleksiak duplicate her Rio magic? And what about Campbell: 1st-3rd-2nd in the 2013-15-19 World Championships but only sixth as the favorite in Rio in 2016.

Australia has not won this event at the Games since 2004.

South Africa’s Tatjana Schoenmaker, the 100 m Breast silver winner, set an Olympic Record of 2:19.16 in the women’s 200 m Breaststroke heats, the fastest time in the world in 2021.

American Lilly King and Britain’s Molly Renshaw had the lead for most of the first semifinal, but they were both passed in the last 10 m by South Africa’s Kaylene Corbett in a lifetime best of 2:22.08. King was second in 2:22.27 and Renshaw third in 2:22.70.

Schoenmaker grabbed the lead right away in the second semi, with 16-year-old Evgeniia Chikunova (ROC) second at the half. Schoenmaker pushed right to the end and finished in 2:19.33, the second-fastest performance in history!

Chikunova came in second in 2:20.57, second on the 2021 world list behind Schoenmaker and American Annie Lazor charged to third on the final lap, finishing in 2:21.94, third-best of the prelims.

Schoenmaker looks unbeatable and the world record – 2:19.11 – is in danger. Chikunova, Lazor, Corbett and King qualified 2-3-4-5 and will fight for the other medals.

Swimming: Men’s 200 m Back-200 m Medley
Defending Olympic champ Ryan Murphy was in the second semifinal, but Britain’s Luke Greenbank took the early lead, followed by Murphy at the 100 m mark and Murphy and American Bryce Mefford at 150 m.

Greenbank, the 2019 Worlds bronze medalist in this event, maintained a small lead over what appeared to be a relaxed Murphy to the wall, 1:54.98-1:55.38. Nicolas Garcia (ESP) was third in 1:56.35 with Mefford fourth in 1:56.37 and easily into the final.

Russia’s Evgeny Rylov, already the 100 m Back gold medalist, won semi one comfortably in the no. 5 performance of 2021 in 1:54.45, easily ahead of Adam Telegdy (1:56.19) and Radoslaw Kawecki (POL: 1:56.68).

The U.S. has won this race in six straight Games, including Murphy in 2016, but Rylov is the favorite to add the 200 m to his 100 m triumph. Murphy and Greenbank look like the other medal winners.

Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh, the two-time Olympic medalist in the 200 m Medley, led for most of the race, but Japan’s Daiya Seto – the 2019 World Champion – came on after the final turn to lead heading home in the first semifinal. He faded slightly and was passed by Britain’s Duncan Scott – silver medalist in the 200 m Free – for the win in 1:56.69-1:56.86.

Swiss Jeremy Desplanches was third (1:57.38), with Cseh fourth (1:57.64). The shocker was American Chase Kalisz – the 400 m Medley winner – finished sixth (1:58.03) and did not qualify for the final.

World leader Michael Andrew got off like a shot in semi two, leading big on the first three legs, and then faded again on the Freestyle, leaving the win to China’s Shun Wang, 1:56.22-1:57.08. Japan’s Kosuke Hagino was third (1:57.47).

Andrew has three of the four fastest times in the world in 2021 and will be leading at the final turn. If he can hang on during the Freestyle leg, he will win. But Scott, Wang and Seto will all be gunning for him.

Table Tennis: Men’s Singles
Very little doubt that China would dominate this event, as it has won the last three titles and five of the last six. Three-time Olympic gold medalist Long Ma – Rio in Singles, London and Rio in Team – is back for another shot at the gold medal, making it to the final against countryman Zhendong Fan.

Ma, 32, has been at the top for a while and is the 2015-17-19 World Champion. Fan, 24, has been coming on, winning the 2017 Worlds silver and a 2015 Worlds bronze.

Top-seeded Fan has charged through the bracket with 4-0, 4-1 and 4-0 wins until he got to the semis against Taipei’s Yun-Ju Lin, and then had to work for a 4-3 victory to advance to the final. Ma, the second seed, won his matches by 4-1, 4-1 and 4-1 and then faced 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Dmitrij Ovtcharov (GER) and had to fight for a 4-3 win as well.

Ovtcharov and Lin will meet for the bronze medal.

Tennis: Men’s Doubles
Tokyo’s first tennis final will be an all-Croatian affair, with top-seeded Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic facing Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig.

Mektic and Pavic are fresh from their Wimbledon title; Pavic has won Doubles titles with other partners at the 2018 Australian open and 2020 U.S. Open. Dodig also has two wins in majors, with other partners, at the 2015 French and 2021 Australian; Cilic is better known as a Singles player, having won the 2014 U.S. Open and reached the finals of Wimbledon in 2017 and the Australian Open in 2018, losing both times to Roger Federer.

Regardless of who wins, this will be Croatia’s first gold and silver in tennis; it has previously won three bronzes.

The bronze-medal match will feature Americans Austin Krajicek and Tennys Sandgren against Marcus Daniell and Michael Venus of New Zealand.

= INTEL REPORT =

Doping has been a major issue in Olympic sport for decades and the Athletics Integrity Unit slammed the door hard on seven countries on Wednesday by disqualifying 20 athletes from seven countries for “not meeting the minimum testing requirements.”

This included 10 athletes from Nigeria, three from Belarus and Ukraine, two from Kenya and one each from Ethiopia and Morocco, countries which were identified as “high-risk” for doping. Under this classification, “an athlete from a ‘Category A’ country must undergo at least three no-notice out-of-competition tests (urine and blood) conducted no less than 3 weeks apart in the 10 months leading up to a major event. Only then do they become eligible to represent their national team at the World Athletics Championships or the Olympic Games.”

The names of the impacted athletes to be removed were not provided.

Mishaps in the management of the Olympic cycling competitions have come under scrutiny after BMX star Niek Kimmann (NED) hit an official trying to cross the track area during a warm-up run and both went to the ground. Kimmann wrote on Twitter that his knee hurt but that he was going to compete.

On Wednesday, a security official at the Fuji International Speedway pulled World Champion Anna van der Breggen (NED) from the track while a security sweep was underway prior to the time trial events. The guard did not know that van der Breggen was a competitor and she went down, but was unhurt.

Greek journalist Dimosthenis Karmiris, working as a guest television commentator for ERT has been fired for racist comments during the match between Korea’s Jeoung Young-Sik and Panagiotis Gionis of Greece in men’s table tennis.

The Associated Press reported that Karmiris said of the Korean players, “their eyes are narrow so I can’t understand how they can see the ball moving back and forth.” He was fired shortly afterwards.

The Tokyo organizers announced the largest positives day so far for Covid-19 among Olympic-related personnel. A total of 24 positives were noted, with 15 among contractors, always the largest group and one which is not completely sequestered as the athletes and other officials are.

The total through 29 July is 193: 95 contractors (47.7%), 61 “Games-concerned personnel,” 20 athletes, 11 media and six Tokyo 2020 staff and volunteers.

The testing report by stakeholder group through 27 July:

Athletes and team officials: 23 positives in 142,012 tests (0.02%).
Media/Tokyo 2020 staff: 41 positives in 168,101 tests (0.02%).

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, none among 1,144 on 25 July, none among 1,172 delegates on 26 July, none among 1,175 on 27 July, and none among 1,214 for 28 July.

Outside of the Games (there’s an outside?), the CONCACAF Gold Cup has reached the semifinal stage, with the U.S. first up against Qatar – host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup – playing as a guest. The U.S. edged Jamaica, 1-0, in the quarterfinal on an 83rd-minute goal from Matt Hoppe while Qatar went up 3-0 on a surprised El Salvador squad and then held on for a 3-2 victory. This game will be played tonight at the new Q2 Stadium in Austin, Texas.

The second semi – on the 30th – will have Mexico vs. Canada at NRG Stadium in Houston. Mexico scored three first-half goals to club Honduras, 3-0 and Canada shut down Costa Rica, 2-0 in its quarterfinal.

Canada has won the Gold Cup once, in 2000, but Mexico (8) and the U.S. (6) have otherwise won all the rest.

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