Current time in Tokyo: July 28, 8:32 p.m.
Simone Biles, the four-time Olympic gold medalist, will not compete in Thursday’s individual all-around competition after withdrawing from the team finals because of a mental health issue, according to an emailed statement from U.S.A. Gymnastics.
Biles will be evaluated daily to see if she will participate in the event finals next week.
“We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her well-being,” the statement said. “Her courage shows, yet again, while she is a role model for so many.”
Biles, 24, had qualified for all four event finals and was expected to win gold in at least three of those events. In the all-around, she was hoping to repeat her title from the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games to become the first woman to win back-to-back titles in the all-around in 53 years.
Biles stepping back from the Olympic all-around marks the end of an era in the sport. She hasn’t lost an all-around competition since 2013 when she was 16 and still wore braces. The contest tests individual athletes on all four disciplines: vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor competition, to determine the most complete gymnast.
While she had come to the Tokyo Olympics feeling “pretty good,” the weight of expectations on her as Team U.S.A.’s biggest star at the Tokyo Games became tougher by the day, and in the hours before the team final she said she was shaking and couldn’t nap. In the end, the pressure was just too heavy for her to bear, she said after withdrawing from the team final on Thursday.
During her vault, the first event of the team final, Biles got lost in the air and didn’t know where her body was in relation to the ground. She ended up performing a much simpler vault than her usual daring ones. On the landing, she bounded forward, trying to stay on her feet.
Biles told her coach and a team doctor that she was not in the right “head space” to continue because she was afraid of injuring herself, and also because she didn’t want to jeopardize the team’s chances at winning a medal.
“I’m still struggling with some things,” Biles said after the event. “It just sucks when you are fighting with your own head.”
The U.S. team had dominated the sport for more than a decade before the Russians won the gold medal on Tuesday. The U.S. team, with Sunisa Lee, Jordan Chiles and Grace McCallum, finished the competition while Biles cheered them on. They won the silver medal.
Jade Carey, who had the ninth highest score in qualifications, will take Biles’s place in the all-around final. Lee, of St. Paul., Minn., will be the other gymnast in the all-around for the U.S. team. It is not clear whether Biles will compete in any of the individual apparatus finals.
In the days leading up to the Olympics, Biles had been struggling with a few skills and was trying to overcome a mental block that kept her from easily performing her routines. That mental block is not uncommon in gymnastics, Jess Graba, Lee’s coach, said, but it usually happens at practice, not at a competition.
“I think a lot of people don’t realize that it’s such a mental sport,” Graba said in a telephone interview on Wednesday, explaining that the mental blocks take a while to work through before a gymnast can begin trusting herself enough to perform her skills again.
Regarding Lee’s experience with those mental blocks, he added, “If you have a week or two to prepare, you could probably get her back to what she needed to do.”
In Biles’s case at these Games, however, she did not have two weeks to spare.
Simone Biles’s withdrawal from Thursday’s individual all-around final has opened a spot in the competition for her teammate Jade Carey, who would have qualified for the event if not for a rule that allows only two gymnasts from any country to compete in it.
Carey, who finished ninth in the all-around during qualifying and third best among the Americans, will take Biles’s place, joining Sunisa Lee. It is not clear whether Biles will withdraw from any of the individual apparatus finals.
Read more about Lee and Carey:
Sunisa Lee, known as Suni, is the second-best all-around gymnast in the United States, behind Biles, and is a strong contender for a medal in the all-around final. She also has a good chance of being the Olympic champion on the uneven bars, where she performs the most difficult routine in the world.
She finished third in the all-around in qualifying, behind Biles and Rebeca Andrade of Brazil, and second on the bars, behind Nina Derwael of Belgium, though she outdid herself on the bars in the team final.
At the Olympic trials, she outscored Biles on one of the two days of competition, something no other gymnast has done since 2013.
Lee, 18, who is the first Hmong American to represent the United States at the Olympics, said on social media this month that her goals for the Games were to win gold with the American team, silver in the all-around, gold or silver on bars and a medal of any color on beam.
Jade Carey, 21, is primarily a vault and floor specialist, though her performance on the other apparatuses in qualifying was good enough for ninth overall. She secured her own spot at the Olympics, separate from the U.S.A. Gymnastics selection process, by finishing first on vault in the multiyear World Cup series.
She is capable of winning medals on vault and floor and has already qualified for both of those finals. She placed second on both at the 2017 world championships and second on vault at the 2019 world championships.
She can also execute the hardest tumbling pass ever performed by a woman, a layout triple-double. That’s a double back flip with three twists, like Biles does — but while Biles does it with her knees tucked toward her chest, Carey does it with her body straight, which is significantly harder. If she attempts the skill in Olympic competition — which would be risky — and lands it successfully, it will be named after her.
It was expected to be a coronation. A triumphant run to the gold medal for the highest-profile athlete at the Games.
But suddenly the women’s all-around event on Thursday is completely different. With the withdrawal of Simone Biles because of a mental health issue, it is now an actual competition.
So, who’s going to win?
There is a strong field of contenders, and their scores and abilities are close. Here are our best guesses for the podium:
Sunisa Lee, United States
Lee placed third in the qualifiers, but she has an ace up her sleeve: Based on the preliminaries, her degree of difficulty will be higher than anyone’s, other than Biles. That gives her a big upside. If she nails her routines, the other gymnasts may not be able to match her no matter how well they do. Lee’s bars routine in particular is a marvel: harder even than the one Biles planned.
Rebeca Andrade, Brazil
As the second-placed qualifier behind Biles, Andrade automatically slips into a favorite’s role, too. Few predicted she would do that well; she has struggled with injuries in her career, and Brazil has never won a women’s Olympics gymnastics medal. But her routines are comparable to the rest of the field’s, and she could be underestimated.
Angelina Melnikova and Vladislava Urazova, Russia
Melnikova was the bronze medal winner at the most recent world championships in 2019. Both she and Urazova were part of the Russian team that knocked off the United States in the team competition after Biles pulled out. The two have similar strengths and weaknesses — Melnikova is a bit stronger on the floor and Urazova on the beam — and either could medal with a good performance.
Tang Xijing, China
Only eighth in qualifying, she is another competitor who could benefit from her degree of difficulty. Her beam routine could be the best (not counting Biles). She also has the highest honor in the field, a silver medal behind Biles at the world championships.
Jade Carey, United States
Given that she qualified ninth, got a spot in the all-around only with Biles’s withdrawal, and did not even participate in the team event for the United States, Carey would seem like a long shot. Her beam is weak, but she has a special floor routine and can score well on the vault as well. She could be a surprise medalist.
In her third Summer Games, Katie Ledecky was finally able to swim for Olympic gold in what is essentially her best event: the 1,500-meter freestyle, the longest race contested in the pool.
Since 1904, the event had been available only to men in the Olympic Games. Women who contested the event in other meets had to settle for the 800 meters at the Games, an event that Ledecky will try to win for a third time on Saturday.
On Wednesday morning, though, she finally got her chance in the 1,500 and delivered her first gold of the Tokyo Games. Ledecky’s time of 15 minutes 37.34 seconds was more than four seconds faster than her American teammate Erica Sullivan (15:41.41), who won the silver, and more than five seconds ahead of the bronze medalist, Sarah Kohler of Germany (15:42.91).
Ledecky holds the world record and had the top qualifying time on Monday. Her victory in the swimming equivalent of a 5-kilometer run — a grueling marathon that requires 30 trips up and back the length of the pool — came a little more than an hour after Ledecky had finished fifth in the 200 freestyle final.
But in just competing in the race, Ledecky — who has won three 1,500-meter world championships and has set world records six times, more than any swimmer in the event, male or female — was getting an opportunity denied to distance-swimming greats like Janet Evans, Debbie Meyer, Shane Gould and Jennifer Turrall.
Until 1968, the longest Olympic event in women’s swimming was only 400 meters. Meyer won the first 800-meter Olympic race for women at the Mexico City Games that year, as well as the 200 and 400 freestyle.
She held the world record in both the 800 and the 1,500 back then, and she told The Times in 2014 that she questioned why the longer race was not available at the Olympics. Meyer said she had been told that there weren’t enough countries with women competing in the 1,500.
“It really was all about the thinking then,” she said, “which was, women were the weaker sex and because men were stronger people, they could last the distance.”
Over the years, other discrepancies in swimming have been resolved. From 1984 to 1996, for example, the men had three relays and the women two. At the Atlanta Games, the women gained parity, with a 4×200-meter freestyle relay.
But FINA, the international governing body for aquatics, had long resisted allowing women to compete in the 1,500 at the Summer Games, despite efforts in every sport to make the Olympic experience equal for women and men.
In 2015, Julio Maglione, the FINA president, said he doubted that the 1,500 could be added to the Olympic program, which was already packed with races at multiple distances for every stroke.
Yet now, not only have women gained the 1,500, but male distance swimmers also have an 800 on their schedule for the first time since 1904. A mixed medley relay has been added, with two men and two women on each team.
The longest swim in Tokyo, however, will not take place in the pool. The 10-kilometer open-water event was added to the Olympics in 2008, with races for men and women.
SAITAMA, Japan — The United States men’s basketball team got a morale-boosting victory on Wednesday, shellacking Iran, 120-66.
Ever since the first Dream Team was assembled in 1992, convincing victories like this one have been expected from the U.S. men’s team. Just one Olympic team in that era has failed to win gold, and the bronze medal the 2004 team did win was treated as a disaster.
So there was plenty of disquiet after this year’s men’s team lost exhibitions to Nigeria and Australia, then its Olympic opener, 83-76, to France.
But while each of those U.S. opponents had at least some N.B.A. and N.B.A.-quality players, Iran was simply overmatched on Wednesday. A glance at its roster reveals that its best players are employed by the Sichuan Blue Whales of China and Iranian teams like Chemidor Qom.
The U.S. was up by 16 after the first quarter and by 30 at the half. The Americans’ speed and ball rotation helped them get more than their share of open shots, particularly 3-pointers, and their defensive intensity prevented Iran from gaining any real momentum on offense.
Damian Lillard led the U.S. with 21 on seven 3-pointers, six of them in the first half. At one point in the second quarter, after Lillard swished a perfect 3, his defender, Hamed Haddadi, Iran’s best player, raised his hands in a gesture that said, “What are you going to do?
“Today we came out with more freedom as individuals and took the shots that we normally like to take, and they went in tonight,” Kevin Durant of the U.S. said. “And we guarded up, so it was a good step.”
Iran’s Saeid Davarpanah said: “We play against superstars of the world and we just enjoy it.”
The U.S. will finish its pool play on Saturday night against the Czech Republic, a team that beat Iran by only 6 points. The top two squads in each of the three groups will advance to the quarterfinals, along with the two top third-place teams, so a U.S. berth in the knockout stage was never in doubt. And the team still has undeniably the most accomplished roster at the Games.
But matchups against some serious teams led by N.B.A. stars — perhaps Spain with Ricky Rubio and the Gasol brothers, or Slovenia with Luka Doncic — are still to come. And the U.S. must win three straight knockout games to take the gold medal that everyone expected.
As the U.S. team integrates the three players who played in the N.B.A. finals and did not join the team until Sunday — Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday — it should continue to improve.
But in an Olympics that has already had its share of upsets, no one is booking a sure gold medal for the U.S. yet.
Tennis, an incredibly difficult game, has become incredibly easy for Novak Djokovic, or at least it looks that way.
Djokovic, the superstar from Serbia, captured his third consecutive victory of this Olympic tennis tournament without losing a set, defeating Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain, 6-3, 6-1, in 83 minutes.
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina
The win was not a surprise. Djokovic has established himself as far and away the top player in the world right now. But the ease of the victory was impressive. Davidovich Fokina is one of the better young players on the tour and has been playing deeper into the most important tournaments.
Davidovich Fokina was largely helpless against Djokovic, who pinned him toward the back of the court for most of the match. Djokovic even sent him sprawling to the ground twice, not by headhunting but by keeping him so off-balance.
Djokovic plays a hometown favorite, Kei Nishikori, in the quarterfinal on Thursday. He is now 10 more wins away from becoming the first man to win a “Golden Slam” — the four Grand Slam tournaments and the gold medal in a calendar year.
Hungary stunned the top-ranked United States in women’s water polo, rallying for a 10-9 victory in preliminary round play on Wednesday against an American squad that has won gold at the last two Olympics.
Hungary scored twice in the final two minutes and won on a backhanded, overhead flip by its New Zealand-born star Rebecca Parkes with 45 seconds remaining. It was Parkes’s third goal of the game, and her second of the fourth quarter.
Hungary, which finished fourth at the last three Olympics, is only the second country to beat the Americans since they won their second consecutive Olympic title at the 2016 Rio Games.
In the five years since collecting that medal, the United States went 128-3, losing only to Australia. But after starting the Tokyo Games with a 25-4 win over host Japan, the Americans had to rally to beat China on Monday. They remain the favorites to win the group.
TOKYO — A day after the softball tournament ended at the Tokyo Games, it was time for the return of another long-absent sport: baseball.
And if not for a furious ninth-inning rally, the tournament would have begun on Wednesday with a remarkable upset. Trailing 3-1 with two outs to go, host Japan, the top-ranked team in the world, came back to beat the Dominican Republic, 4-3.
At Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium, the closer for the Dominican Republic, Jairo Asencio imploded, in the bottom of the ninth inning. Japan’s Yuki Yanagita, Kensuke Kondoh and Munetaka Murakami each singled, the last driving in a run and trimming Japan’s deficit to 3-2.
Japan then tied the score when Takuya Kai bunted up the first-base line and pinch-runner Sosuke Genda slid home in time.
Dominican Republic Manager Hector Borg hooked Asencio, replacing him with Jhan Marinez, but that couldn’t stop Japan. Hayato Sakamoto, the longtime standout shortstop in baseball-mad Japan’s top professional league, smacked a single to center field, scoring Murakami for the walk-off victory.
Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, was in attendance and congratulated Japan’s players after the win. Like softball, baseball made its Olympic comeback after 13 years out of the Games.
Through the first six innings on Wednesday, the game was scoreless thanks to the stout pitching of Cristopher Mercedes and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Japan’s hard-throwing 22-year-old. But after taking leads of 2-0 and 3-1, the Dominican Republic couldn’t hold on.
While disappointing for the seventh-ranked Dominican team, the loss hasn’t doomed its medal chances. The team plays Mexico on Friday to wrap up pool play before the modified double-elimination format begins.
Israel, the lowest seed in the tournament, plays its first-ever Olympic baseball game on Thursday, against a young South Korean squad. The last time baseball was played in the Olympics, in Beijing in 2008, South Korea bested Cuba, 3-2, for the gold medal.
No one could imagine the pressure. No one could understand the difficult decision she faced. After all, there’s only one greatest gymnast of all time.
Simone Biles’s decision to leave the Olympic gymnastics team event on Tuesday because she wasn’t in the right head space sparked an outpouring of support from fellow athletes, politicians, celebrities and others.
Her withdrawal follows similar decisions by other top Black athletes, including Naomi Osaka, who withdrew from the French Open in May, to prioritize their mental health over competing.
Biles said after the team final that she had hoped to compete for herself, but “felt like I was still doing it for other people.” She added, “So that just, like, hurts my heart, because doing what I love has been kind of taken away from me to please other people.”
It’s impossible to understand the pressure Simone Biles—the greatest gymnast in the history of the sport—and Naomi Osaka are feeling, but we’re lucky to live in a time where young Black trailblazers are publicly prioritizing their mental health above all else. That’s power.
— Evette Dionne (@freeblackgirl) July 27, 2021
Black women are continuously shifting the narrative on what it means to be a “strong Black woman”. To be strong is to thrive, and not suffer. There is strength in putting yourself first. Especially in these systems that do not serve us. Thank you @naomiosaka and @Simone_Biles.
— Dr. Raven the Science Maven (@ravenscimaven) July 27, 2021
Some noted that Biles’s decision signaled a larger shift in the culture of professional sports.
“Watching these Black women athletes use and navigate power over the last 25 years,” Franklin Leonard, a film producer, said. “What an extraordinary gift it has been.”
The journalist Wesley Lowery echoed Mr. Leonard’s assessment.
it’s still playing out, but this new generation of young athletes setting a new set of boundaries around mental health/what they owe the public and the media//their own agency (in part downstream of them having more power but not only that) feels paradigm shifting
— Wesley (@WesleyLowery) July 27, 2021
Some criticized U.S.A. Gymnastics as having placed too much pressure on Biles.
Simone Biles is the greatest gymnast of all time, but USAG’s strategy of not caring about team composition or lineups because Simone will save the day is not a healthy or sustainable method. It’s too much to put on a person, no matter how great she is.
She deserves better.
— m!a j merr!ll (@ameliamerr_) July 27, 2021
And if anyone could relate, it was her fellow athletes.
Just a friendly reminder: Olympic athletes are human & they’re doing the best they can. It’s REALLY hard to peak at the right moment & do the routine of your life under such pressure. Really hard.
— Alexandra Raisman (@Aly_Raisman) July 26, 2021
So glad @Simone_Biles made that call tonight.
As a gymnast, I can tell you, if you don’t trust yourself, you can’t keep going. It’s no joke; you could get seriously hurt. It’s not worth the risk. No medal is worth the risk.
Let’s normalise putting your mental health first.
— Mary-Anne Monckton (@Monckton07) July 27, 2021
There are favorites, and there are underdogs. And the favorites usually win, of course.
But with more than 300 gold medals to be awarded at these Olympics, the laws of chance say that sometimes the favorites will stumble. It has happened before. The Russian ice hockey team in 1980. The wrestler Aleksandr Karelin in 2000. The American softball team in 2008.
In just the first few days of the Tokyo Olympics, some big names are joining the list.
U.S. women’s gymnastics team
After Simone Biles abruptly withdrew from the team competition Tuesday night, the U.S. took home the silver medal in an event they had long dominated and were favored to win. Russia won gold, and Britain claimed bronze.
Osaka became the face of the Games when she lit the cauldron at the opening ceremony. A gold medal in tennis would seem to have been the logical end to her story. Yet Osaka lost Tuesday to the 42nd-ranked player in the world, Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, in a third-round trouncing, 6-1, 6-4. It took less than an hour.
Barty, the Australian tennis player who is the world No. 1, was eliminated in the first round after she fell in straight sets to Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain, 6-4, 6-3.
U.S. men’s basketball
The United States men’s basketball team had a couple of stumbles in exhibitions leading to the Games but was still a big favorite going in. It lost its opening game to France.
U.S. women’s soccer
The World Cup-winning U.S. women’s soccer team showed little of its customary swagger in a 3-0 capitulation to Sweden. It also played Australia to a scoreless draw, although that was good enough for the U.S. to advance to the knockout round. On the men’s side, the pretournament favorite Spain opened with a draw against Egypt.
Japan beat the U.S., 2-0, on Tuesday in a replay of the last time these two rival teams faced off for the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Games, when Japan won and softball was then dropped from the Olympics. The win marks Japan’s second consecutive Olympic gold in the event.
Chinese synchronized diving team
China rarely loses in diving, and even less often in synchronized diving. Yet the men’s team lost to Britain in the synchronized platform event.
Chinese table tennis team
Another bad day for China, as Japan ended China’s dominance in table tennis with a gold medal in mixed doubles.
China won all four gold medals at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games and the team of Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen was a heavy favorite this time. But Jun Mizutani and Mima Ito defeated them.
Granted, it was foretold, as her emerging rival, Ariarne Titmus of Australia, had posted better times than her recently in the 400-meter freestyle. But it was still stunning to see Ledecky, one of the most dominant distance swimmers in a generation, out-touched at the wall to be relegated to the silver medal.
Will there be more?
There’s a long way to go, and many more favorites. The U.S. women’s basketball team. The Serbian three-on-three basketball team. The Russian synchronized swimmers. Believe it or not, the Sinkovic brothers of Croatia in the pair rowing event.
Here’s a not very daring forecast: They might not all win.
TOKYO — Just four days after Naomi Osaka mounted the stairs to light the Olympic cauldron, an event presented as a symbol of a new, more inclusive Japan, that image was undermined on Tuesday by a backlash that followed her surprise defeat in Tokyo.
Many Japanese were stunned by Osaka’s third-round loss to Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic after she had been favored to take the women’s tennis gold medal on home soil.
But as the face of a Summer Games riddled with scandal and anxiety over an unstinting pandemic — Tokyo posted a record number of new coronavirus cases on Tuesday — Osaka took a drubbing on Japanese social media, with some questioning her identity or her right to represent the country at all.
“I still can’t understand why she was the final torchbearer,” one commenter wrote on a Yahoo News story about her loss. “Although she says she is Japanese, she cannot speak Japanese very much.” Several comments like that one that were harshly critical of Osaka were given “thumbs up” by 10,000 or more other Yahoo users.
Her selection as the final torchbearer at the opening ceremony demonstrated how eager the Olympic organizers were to promote Japan as a diverse culture. The Washington Wizards star Rui Hachimura, who is of Japanese and Beninese descent, also featured prominently as a flag-bearer for the Japanese Olympic team.
But in some corners of society, people remain xenophobic and refuse to accept those who don’t conform to a very narrow definition of what it means to be Japanese.
Here are some highlights of U.S. broadcast coverage on Wednesday morning, including synchronized diving, medals in three-on-three basketball and rugby, and lots of soccer. All times are Eastern.
DIVING Andrew Capobianco and Michael Hixon of Team U.S.A. will compete for gold in the men’s synchronized 3-meter springboard event at 2 a.m. on the USA Network.
RUGBY The USA Network will air the men’s gold and bronze medal matches at 4:30 a.m.
THREE-ON-THREE BASKETBALL The inaugural three-on-three basketball tournaments have won over quite a few converts. In the women’s semifinals, the U.S. faces off against France at 4 a.m., and the Russian Olympic Committee plays China at 5:10 a.m. In the men’s semifinals, Serbia plays Russian Olympic Committee at 4:30 a.m. and Belgium plays Latvia at 5:40 a.m. Watch on NBCOlympics.com and the USA Network.
SOCCER Germany faces Ivory Coast in the group stage of the men’s tournament. Kickoff is at 4 a.m. on NBCSN. France will take on the home team Japan at 7:30 a.m., also on NBCSN. Other matches to follow on NBCOlympics.com: Germany vs. Ivory Coast and Saudi Arabia vs. Brazil at 4 a.m.; Romania vs. New Zealand and South Korea vs. Honduras at 4:30 a.m.; Australia vs. Egypt and Spain vs. Argentina at 7 a.m. Telemundo will air South Africa vs. Mexico at 7:15 a.m.
CANOE/KAYAK NBCSN will air heats of women’s whitewater slalom at 6:30 a.m.
FENCING Men’s team sabre bronze matches are at 5:30 a.m. and gold matches are at 6:30 a.m. on NBCOlympics.com.
Tokyo 2020 organizers on Wednesday reported 16 new coronavirus infections among Olympic personnel, bringing to 174 the total number of people connected to the Games who have tested positive since July 1.
No new infections were reported among athletes. Organizers also removed two earlier cases from their tally, including of one athlete, but did not offer details.
A total of 20 athletes are confirmed to have tested positive since arriving in Tokyo, derailing many of their Olympic hopes, but so far Covid-19 has mostly been a sidelight to the Games.
That is far from the case outside the Olympic bubble, where the virus is surging. Tokyo officials said on Tuesday that 2,848 people had tested positive for the virus, the city’s highest total in one day since the pandemic began. Government data also showed that 14.5 percent of coronavirus tests in the city were turning up positive, suggesting that many cases may be going unrecorded.
Tokyo is currently under its fourth state of emergency since early 2020, with bars and restaurants closing early and sales of alcohol tightly restricted. But health experts said that the continuing surge in cases suggests that the measures, which had helped subdue earlier outbreaks, may no longer be as effective as the more contagious Delta variant accounts for a larger proportion of new cases.
A Moroccan boxer tried to bite his opponent’s ear during a heavyweight match on Tuesday.
Youness Baalla’s attempt to latch on to David Nyika’s ear failed while the pair were clinched together late in their 81- to 91-kilogram preliminary match on Tuesday. Nyika, 25, of New Zealand went on to win the match by unanimous decision and advance to the men’s quarterfinals.
“He didn’t get a full mouthful,” Nyika said. “Luckily he had his mouth guard in, and I was a bit sweaty.” While the referee missed the bite attempt during the match, it was caught on TV cameras.
According to his profile on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics website, Baalla, 22, was ranked No. 17 in the men’s heavyweight 91-kilogram class at the 2019 World Championships in Yekaterinburg, Russia. That same year, according to the profile, he was ranked No. 2 in the heavyweight division at the African Games in Rabat, Morocco.
Baalla, who is from Casablanca, secured a spot on the Moroccan national team at the 2020 African Olympic qualification tournament in Dakar, Senegal.
“I don’t have the right words to describe really what I am feeling,” Baalla said at the time, according to the Olympics live-blog that covered the African qualifiers. “I am going to Olympics! I trained so hard, you can’t imagine what I do for this.”
After the match, officials disqualified Baalla from the Tokyo Games.
Baalla’s desperation move was reminiscent of Mike Tyson biting Evander Holyfield’s ears during a heavyweight championship fight in Las Vegas in 1997. Tyson was disqualified in the third round, and Holyfield needed stitches to repair the tip of one ear.