Current time in Tokyo: July 30, 12:13 p.m.
American swimmers added two silvers and a bronze to their growing medal haul in swimming on Friday morning, widening their advantage on their rivals in the pool but falling short of the golds they covet most of all.
Ryan Murphy won a silver in the men’s 200-meter backstroke, and Lilly King and Annie Lazor earned silver and bronze in the women’s 200-meter breaststroke, beaten to the wall only by a South African, Tatjana Schoenmaker, who set a world record.
With four more finals on Friday, the Olympic swim meet has reached the point where it’s safe to begin drawing some broad conclusions about what has gone on in the world’s strongest swimming countries the past five years.
Americans have captured 24 medals overall heading into the final two days of competition, compared with 14 for their biggest rival, swimming-mad Australia, which, it should be noted, has about one-tenth the population of the United States. The United States will most likely not match its high-water mark of 2016, when the team won 34 medals, 16 of them gold, but it should get within spitting distance of that total.
Friday morning’s finals brought three more.
In the 200-meter breaststroke, Schoenmaker lived up to expectations, topping King and Lazor and claiming both a world record (2 minutes 18.95 seconds) but also South Africa’s first gold of the Games.
King came out blazing and had the lead until the final 50 meters of the race, but Schoenmaker, the silver medalist in the 100-meter event, came off the turn flying and with 25 meters to go nudged ahead of King on the strength of a relentless kick, beating her to the wall by nearly a second.
Lazor, whose father died earlier this year, took the bronze by four-hundredths of a second. After the race, she and King swam over to congratulate Schoenmaker, who did not initially realize she had broken the world record. When she did, she gasped, and Lazor raised her rival’s arm in triumph.
In the 200-meter backstroke, Evgeny Rylov of Russia won a two-man duel with Murphy of the United States. Rylov set an Olympic record of 1 minute 53.27 seconds. Murphy was the defending Olympic champion in the event, and Americans have historically been reliably strong in the backstroke. But Rylov took control of the race on the second turn, stretching his lead to a half-second at the halfway mark and finishing about a half-body ahead of Murphy. He won by 0.88 of a second.
Then the women took the spotlight once more for the 100-meter freestyle. And this was Australia’s chance to shine.
With Cate Campbell and Emma McKeon swimming next to one another in lanes 3 and 4, and a crowd of their green-and-yellow-clad teammates and coaches packing one section of the empty arena, the race quickly turned into an Aussie celebration.
McKeon was the favorite in the event and won easily, setting an Olympic record of 51.96 seconds, more than a quarter of a second faster than Siobhan Haughey of Hong Kong. Campbell took the bronze, just ahead of Canada’s Penny Oleksiak.
The last final of the morning was the men’s 200-meter individual medley, which gave the Americans yet another shot for some hardware in Michael Andrew, who has been eyeing his Olympic moment for years. Andrew, 22, turned professional at 14 and was home-schooled, in part, to maximize his training opportunities.
Andrew was right on the pace for the first three-quarters of the race. He led after the butterfly leg, gave up the lead to Shun Wang of China on the backstroke leg, but reclaimed it by the end of the breaststroke. Then Wang proved too much, steaming past Andrew with a water-churning freestyle. So did Duncan Scott of Britain, who took the silver, and Jeremy Desplanches of Switzerland, who captured the bronze. Andrew finished fifth, behind Daiya Seto of Japan.
Australia will not catch the U.S. in overall medals, but the country has already achieved a massive improvement over 2016, when it won only three gold medals and 10 overall. McKeon’s gold was Australia’s sixth in swimming in Tokyo — the same number won by American swimmers — and the weekend holds the promise of more for both countries.
In the 100-meter butterfly semifinals on Friday, Caeleb Dressel of the U.S. and Kristof Milak of Hungary set themselves up for showdown in Saturday’s final. Dressel holds the world record in the event and set the Olympic record in a preliminary heat. Milak then broke it in the semifinal and held it for about three minutes, until Dressel broke it in his heat, clocking in at 49.71 seconds, just 21-hundredths of a second off his world record.
The numbers, if you are the United States women’s soccer team, do not tell the story you were hoping to write at the Tokyo Olympics: three games, one win, countless questions.
But that is all in the past now, defender Crystal Dunn said Thursday. Yes, the Americans were shut out twice in their first three games. Yes, they have struggled to turn their chances into goals. Yes, they could have been better in many areas.
But the only game that matters now, Dunn said, is Friday’s quarterfinal against the Netherlands in Yokohama, a match she described as “all or nothing.”
The quarterfinals will be an unwelcome memory for many of the United States players; this was the stage at which they exited the Olympic tournament at the Rio Games in 2016, the first time the United States women had ever failed to win a medal at the Olympics.
That night in Brasília was a look-in-the-mirror moment, a crossroads game from which the Americans’ next steps could have led to disaster. Instead, the defeat became a milepost on the road to the 2019 Women’s World Cup championship, a title claimed by many of the same players on the team now and in a final against many of the same Netherlands players they will face on Friday.
The problem, at least for the Americans, is that the current Netherlands team might be better than the one they beat, 2-0, two years ago. The Dutch, the reigning European champions, have been devastating offensively here: They scored 21 goals in their first three games and have two players — Vivianne Miedema (eight) and Lieke Martens (six) — with as many goals as the entire United States squad has produced.
And they may be looking to rewrite some recent history of their own. But the Americans will be looking to prove a point, too, after some frustrating performances in the first round. First up will be avoiding another early Olympic exit.
“I think that the team is really hungry,” U.S. forward Christen Press said. “The group stage has left us feeling like we have more to give. And I think that’s a great thing, it’s a powerful thing and it’s intimidating.”
TOKYO — It never quite feels like the Olympics until track and field starts. The meet begins Friday morning in Tokyo with preliminary heats in the women’s 100 meters, and continues all day until a lone final, the men’s 10,000, in the evening.
After a loss, a win and a draw, the U.S. women’s soccer team faces a do-or-die quarterfinal against an impressive Netherlands team that outscored its opponents by 21-8 in the preliminary round. Expect goals in this one, too. It’s at 8 p.m. Tokyo time, 7 a.m. Eastern.
The marquee events of any rowing regatta are the eights, and the men’s and women’s races will be contested on Friday morning (Thursday evening in the United States). On the women’s side, the U.S. team will be going for a fourth straight Olympic gold, but they may be underdogs to New Zealand.
Four more swimming finals begin at 10:41 a.m. in Tokyo, 9:41 p.m. Eastern on Thursday. Michael Andrew of the United States is a strong contender for gold in the 200-meter individual medley. Lilly King of the United States will be swimming for a gold medal in the 200 women’s breaststroke. She won an individual gold and a relay gold at the 2016 Games.
And it’s time to bounce. The women’s trampoline competition gets underway.
TOKYO — Athletes in track and field spent the first half of the year taking aim at — and shattering — a smorgasbord of world records. No one should be surprised to see more of those records fall in the coming days, when runners and jumpers take center stage at the Games. Despite the absence of fans, the Olympic Stadium has not been short on drama.
In these uncertain times, reaching the starting line could be considered an achievement. But many of the athletes have come to Tokyo with ambitious goals.
There are 10 consecutive days of track and field, beginning on Friday in Tokyo (Thursday evening in the U.S.) with the first rounds of the men’s 400-meter hurdles, the women’s 800 and 100 meters and more before concluding with the men’s 10,000-meter final. The competition runs through Aug. 8, when the men’s marathon will punctuate the festivities in Sapporo, about 500 miles north of Tokyo, where organizers expect cooler weather.
Allyson Felix, 35, the grande dame of U.S. track and field and a six-time gold medalist, is set to compete next week in the 400 meters in her fifth and final Olympics.
In the women’s 100 meters, Sha’Carri Richardson, the American star whose positive marijuana test cost her a spot in the Tokyo Olympics, would have been a favorite. But though Richardson will be absent, the event remains a draw with sprinters like Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica, 34, who is already a two-time Olympic champion in the event.
Here’s our complete guide to track and field at the Games, including a breakdown of the rules of competition, a list of the sport’s star Olympians, and the more intriguing events to watch for.
Here are some highlights of U.S. broadcast coverage on Thursday evening and overnight. All times are Eastern.
GYMNASTICS Sunisa Lee, an 18-year-old Hmong American who is known primarily as an uneven bars specialist, chases gold in the women’s all-around final, airing at 8 p.m. on NBC Primetime.
BEACH VOLLEYBALL April Ross and Alix Klineman, an American power duo in beach volleyball, take on the Netherlands at 8 p.m. on CNBC.
ROWING The men’s and women’s eights will compete for gold at 9 p.m. on CNBC.
RUGBY Ilona Maher, who has been creating TikTok videos that take followers inside the Olympic Village, and the U.S. sevens team will play Australia at 9:30 p.m. on CNBC.
SWIMMING Caeleb Dressel kicks off the night at 9:30 p.m. on NBC Primetime in a semifinal of the 100-meter butterfly, in which he holds both the world and Olympic records. But there are also medals on the line, with Lilly King and Annie Lazor from Team U.S.A. competing in the 200-meter breaststroke final at 9:40 p.m. on NBC, followed by finals in the men’s 200-meter backstroke, the women’s 100-meter freestyle and the men’s 200-meter individual medley.
BMX RACING CNBC will cover the men’s and women’s finals at Ariake Urban Sports Park starting at 10:40 p.m.
TENNIS Coverage of the semifinals in men’s singles and mixed doubles, and the gold medal match for men’s doubles begins at 11 p.m. on the Olympic Channel.
BASKETBALL Sue Bird, Tina Charles and Diana Taurasi take on Japan at 12:40 a.m. on USA Network.
Twelve more medals will be draped around swimmers’ necks in the Friday morning session at the Tokyo Aquatics Center. The finals of the women’s 200-meter breaststroke, the men’s 200-meter backstroke, the women’s 100-meter freestyle and the men’s 200-meter individual medley also give viewers the chance to see a familiar image of athletes looking as if they are taking a bite out of their prize.
Why do they bite medals?
This isn’t a practice that’s exclusive to swimmers, of course. The short answer is that the cameras simply love the pose. Photographers and videographers are after what they consider to be a quintessential shot from the Olympics.
It can be risky, though. David Moeller, a German luger who won a silver medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, famously chipped his tooth in his display for the cameras.
“The photographers wanted a picture of me holding the medal just with my teeth,” he told the German newspaper Bild. “Later at dinner, I noticed a bit of one of my teeth was missing.”
There’s a longer tradition behind that practice as well. It started during the California gold rush in 1849, when many people bit down on parts of the rocks they had just panned to test whether they were the real thing. Chomping on gold, a soft metal, will leave a mark. But that’s not what the athletes could be doing, right?
So, what are the medals made of anyway?
As you probably guessed from the last answer, gold medals are not made of pure gold. Remarkably, the 5,000 gold, silver and bronze medals for the Summer Games were made from metals extracted from electronic devices recycled by people across Japan, the Tokyo Organizing Committee says.
The gold medals are about 99 percent silver and 1 percent gold. Silver medals are 100 percent silver, while bronze medals are 95 percent copper and 5 percent zinc.
Why do swimmers wear two caps?
It creates less drag. To achieve that effect, they pair an inner latex cap with an outer silicone one. The first one is used to cover their hair, as latex clings to the head better. The second silicone one doesn’t crinkle as much as latex, so it smooths any lingering bumpiness on the head. Without the second cap, there is more drag in the water because the first one could wrinkle. This all could add up to a loss of valuable split seconds in a world-class race.
At the 2012 Games in London, the American swimmer Dana Vollmer’s outer silicone cap slipped off during the 100-meter butterfly final, but she still managed to win gold and set a world record.
Twin caps are also used for insurance on goggles. Putting the goggle straps between the first and second caps is as close as possible to sealing them in place.
Why do swimmers splash themselves?
It helps lessen that first shock on the body when the swimmer hits the cool water. Shocking the body just before mounting the blocks can provide an adrenaline boost. It also helps the swimsuit cling to the body. And swimmers are obsessed with reducing drag. Rightfully so, when hundredths of a second often determine the winner.
TOKYO — For years, Sunisa Lee, a teenager from Minnesota who became the Olympic all-around gymnastics champion on Thursday night, wasn’t training just for herself.
Lee, a Hmong American, went to the gym every day for all the first-generation Americans who wanted to achieve success when their parents had come to the United States with nothing. And she trained through grueling practices and painful injuries for her father, John, who sustained a spinal cord injury in 2019 and now uses a wheelchair.
Lee, 18, came into the Olympics wanting to win a gold medal for her father, who is her biggest fan, and for all the Hmong Americans who she feels are unseen in the United States. But she had publicly stated that her goal was to win silver in the all-around because her teammate Simone Biles, the four-time Olympic medalist, had been considered a lock to win that title.
But after a lifetime of chasing Biles in the all-around because Biles hasn’t lost that marquee event since 2013, Lee took advantage of her shot to do so in Tokyo. Biles, considered the best gymnast of all time, withdrew from the team event and the all-around because of mental stress, leaving Lee in position to win it all.
“I didn’t even think I’d ever get here,” Lee said. “It doesn’t even feel like I’m in real life.”
On Thursday, Lee hit routine after routine, often as if she were at practice, not at the most important competition of her life. She even nailed the floor exercise in her last rotation of the night, with new choreography and elements that had been changed by her coach, Jess Graba, that morning.
The change worked. Lee had her best floor exercise score of these Olympics.
Rebeca Andrade of Brazil won silver and Angelina Melnikova of Russia won the bronze.
As Sunisa Lee won gold in the women’s all-around gymnastics final on Thursday, cheers erupted halfway around the world, where her family and friends — including her father in a Team Suni shirt — were celebrating her victory at a watch party in the St. Paul suburb of Oakdale, Minn.
In March, Olympic organizers announced that overseas spectators would be barred from the Games. Then just weeks before the Games were set to open, organizers announced that even domestic spectators would be prohibited from attending most of the events.
That left athletes to compete in extraordinarily daunting and unusual circumstances: at largely empty venues, devoid of raucous fans and family members, the familiar faces who know more intimately than most all that it took to arrive at that moment.
“These are the people I do it all for,” Lee tweeted after the competition, sharing a video of her family’s watch party. “I LOVE YOU ALL!” Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota was among the Olympics fans watching Lee’s win. On Thursday, he issued a state proclamation designating Friday, July 30 as Sunisa Lee Day.
Athletes’ closest supporters have gotten creative and found ways to celebrate, holding watch parties that commence at dawn or go late into the night to follow events live.
And at least one athlete didn’t have to wait long to share her excitement. The U.S. swimmer Brooke Forde’s father, Pat Forde, is a writer at Sports Illustrated and is covering his ninth Olympics.
What a small and simple word.
What transformative power it possesses.
Simone Biles used it to ultimate effect at the Tokyo Olympics this week.
“Today it’s like, you know what, no,” she said, explaining to reporters her decision to withdraw from the team gymnastics competition to protect her mental and physical health.
It was a “no” that shook the Olympics and put the sports world on notice. It also showed that athlete empowerment, a hallmark for this era in sports, continues to develop and grow. Athletes are more than ready to stand up now, not only for social justice but also for themselves.
Biles is the greatest, most decorated gymnast of all time. She won four gold medals in Rio five years ago and was expected to take home at least three more in Tokyo. But by saying “no,” bowing out this week, and standing up for her well-being in a sports world that commodifies athletes and prizes winning at all costs, she surpasses all of those achievements in importance.
Biles has thrown a wrench in the system. What that “no” says is really this: Enough is enough.
This was an act of individual resistance, putting up a firm wall between herself and the glaring burden of competition.
In the end, the midsleeved, long-legged unitard didn’t make it to the gymnastics team final at the Olympics. The German women who wore it to combat the “sexualization” of their sport were eliminated during the qualifying rounds.
The earlier shock over the Norwegian female beach handball players being fined for daring to declare that they felt better in tiny spandex shorts rather than tinier bikini bottoms was not revisited because handball is only an Olympics Youth sport, and none of the beach volleyball players lodged a similar protest.
Yet, in many ways these Olympic Games have been shaped as much by what is not there as by what is.
Like the questions about the ban on marijuana — now legal in many states — spurred by the absence of the sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, or about what makes a woman, raised by the decision of the middle-distance champion Caster Semenya not to compete rather than forcibly lower her natural levels of testosterone, the controversies over clothing have triggered a re-examination of the status quo.
They have cast a spotlight on issues of sexism, the objectification of the female body and who gets to decide what kind of dress is considered “appropriate” when it comes to athletic performance.
For as long as there have been women in competitive sports, it often seems, there have been attempts to police what they wear. This is especially clear in tennis. In 1919, Suzanne Lenglen shocked Wimbledon by wearing a calf-length skirt with no petticoat and corset; she was called “indecent.” It happened again 30 years later, when the American player Gertrude Moran wore a tennis dress that hit midthigh and again the Wimbledon powers that were declared she had brought “vulgarity and sin into tennis.”
At this point, an alien landing on Earth could be forgiven for being confused about the so-called skirts worn by women in tennis, field hockey, squash and lacrosse, since they resemble the vestige of a skirt more than an actual garment.
Likewise, it would make no sense that men and women wear such strikingly different amounts of clothing in, say, track and field, whereas in sports like rowing, basketball and softball they wear close to the same thing.
The answer, when sought, is usually “it’s the culture of the sport.” Culture, in this sense, being synonymous with history and legacy; with what got athletes involved in their sports in the first place; and with the symbols of what connects extraordinary players of today to those who came before.
“Culture is maybe used as a reason and an excuse, but that doesn’t make it right,” said Cassidy Krug, a member of the 2012 Olympic diving team.
The sports director for Germany’s cycling program has been stripped of his duties and sent home one day after he repeatedly shouted a racial slur during a televised time trial at the Olympics, the country’s Olympic sports federation said on Thursday.
Watching from the sidelines as a German cyclist trailed two competitors from Algeria and Eritrea in a men’s time trial on Wednesday, the director, Patrick Moster, could be heard on camera yelling, “Get the camel drivers,” according to an English translation by the news website Deutsche Welle.
The episode came one day after a Greek broadcaster had cut ties with a commentator for a racist comment about South Korean table tennis athletes, further undermining the themes of inclusion and good will that are an emphasis for organizers of the Games.
Mr. Moster apologized for his derogatory reference to the two cyclists from African countries, which have large Muslim populations. They were Azzedine Lagab of Algeria and Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier of Eritrea.
“In the heat of the moment and with the overall burden that we have here at the moment, my choice of words was not appropriate,” he told D.P.A., a German news agency. “I am so sorry, I can only sincerely apologize. I didn’t want to discredit anyone. We have many friends with North African roots. As I said, I’m sorry.”
Mr. Moster’s exhortation drew widespread condemnation in Germany, from figures including Alfons Hörmann, the president of the country’s Olympic sports federation.
Mr. Hörmann said that the federation had accepted Mr. Moster’s apology as sincere but that his comments had breached Olympic values. He said that “fair play, respect and tolerance” were “nonnegotiable.”
The Union Cycliste Internationale, the world cycling association, announced on Thursday that its disciplinary commission had decided to provisionally suspend Mr. Moster, saying that his remarks had been contrary to basic rules of decency.
At the start of the games, a South Korean broadcaster apologized for airing “inappropriate” photos next to countries in the opening ceremony. The images drew criticism from viewers, who said they were offensive or had perpetuated stereotypes.
TOKYO — Teddy Riner, perhaps the world’s most famous judoka, started his pursuit of a third straight Olympic gold medal by winning his two matches on Friday morning.
Riner, 32, won gold medals in the over 100-kilogram category in London and Rio de Janeiro (he also won a bronze medal at the Beijing Games). The 10-time world champion had his 152-match winning streak, which spanned nearly a decade, snapped in February 2020.
Riner dispelled any questions about whether he was sharp after fighting only sparingly since the start of the pandemic. In the first match, he waited patiently for Austrian Stephan Hegyi to provide an opening, then pulled him down with a clean ippon with 1:54 remaining in the four-minute match.
In his round-of-16 match, he beat Or Sasson of Israel with a waza-ari, the only point Riner needed to secure the win.
If Riner wins gold today, he’ll share the record for most consecutive gold medals with Tadahiro Nomura of Japan, who won in 1996, 2000 and 2004.
“The record is not the priority,” Riner said about Nomura in a recent interview. “I want to win the gold medal. If I got it, then I will take the time to see him and tell him that I know how much it means. But first, I need to do it for myself and go as far as I can to be able to do that.”