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The biggest news early Tuesday morning may very well end up being the biggest news of the entire Olympics: Simone Biles was removed from the gymnastics team finals. This happened right around the time we were planning to send today’s newsletter, so we don’t have all the details yet, but she competed on the vault and then spent time talking to a team trainer before being pulled. Soon after, the NBC broadcast feed said it was not injury-related, but a mental issue. USA Gymnastics later released an official statement: "Simone Biles has withdrawn from the team final competition due to a medical issue. She will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions."
On the vault, Biles bailed out of her Amanar and landed poorly. It was clear right away that something was wrong, and that was the last anyone got to see of her performing on Tuesday morning in the U.S. She did stay on the sidelines to cheer on her teammates, as Team USA continued competing without its biggest superstar in the team finals.
Biles, who won four golds and a bronze in Rio, had qualified for the individual finals in every discipline, but it’s unclear if she’ll be able to compete. SI.com will continue to update the breaking news here, and Stephanie Apstein will report from the gym in Tokyo later today.
The story of the night in the pool was the Alaskan Assassin, Lydia Jacoby, the 17-year-old who stunned everyone by winning gold in the 100-meter breaststroke. I’ll leave most of the swimming analysis to Pat Forde, but if you missed the race, make sure you see the reaction in Alaska:
Rowdy Gaines said on the broadcast that they have one 50-meter pool in the entire state of Alaska. Incredible.
Speaking of reactions, it’s sad not to have friends and family in the stands, but I can’t get enough of the reactions from loved ones watching back home. Here’s Tom Daley’s husband and mom when he won gold in diving:
Not the last of those I’ll share before the Olympics are over.
And this one doesn’t involve any screaming, but one more great tweet from the winner of the fourth women’s 1,500-meter freestyle heat in Olympic history.
While You Were Sleeping
U.S. Men's Rugby
The U.S. men’s rugby team’s showing in the Tokyo Olympics constitutes progress over its performance in Rio, but Day 4’s doubleheader is going to sting until Paris. After beating Kenya and Ireland on the first day of rugby competition, the U.S. was assured of a spot in the quarterfinals. That was an improvement over 2016, when the team finished third in group play and failed to advance. But a pair of losses has now knocked it out of the running for a medal.
In a matchup with South Africa in the rain, the U.S. went up 5–0 early and then fell victim to a questionable call when a referee ruled that a player had gained possession just before the ball crossed over the goal line. The team eventually lost 17–12.
The U.S. advanced to the quarterfinals anyway, but the loss gave them a harder first-round opponent in 2016 silver-medalist Great Britain. In that nightcap, the U.S. was electric in the first half, racing out to a 21–0 lead and barely letting GBR touch the ball in the first half. From there, it was all Great Britain, scoring four straight tries to put the game away 26–21.
Instead of advancing to play New Zealand in the semifinals, the U.S. will play Canada at 9 p.m. Tuesday in what is basically an exhibition bracket to determine who will finish in fifth through eighth place. That game is still worth watching though. I became a huge fan of rugby sevens when it debuted in Rio (though, admittedly, I did not watch too much in between Olympics) and it absolutely lived up again in the first two days in Tokyo. The action is very fast and the games only last 14 minutes. Frankly, I wish they’d double the length of the tournament. The U.S. has a nice mixture of speedsters and bruisers, and it’s fun to watch them interact on the field. You only have one more day to do so.
Also, the U.S. women’s team has a legitimate chance to medal in a tournament that starts the following day. So if you haven’t watched any rugby yet, it’s a great chance to check in and catch up on some of the rules before tuning in to another round of games that count.
One of the biggest stars with one of the biggest spotlights at these Olympics was knocked out in the middle of the night. Naomi Osaka went down in straight sets, 6–1, 6–4 to the Czech Republic’s Markéta Vondroušová. Osaka had won her first two matches, but her run ended there. Vondroušová is ranked No. 42 in the world and made the 2019 French Open final. With world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty already eliminated, the women’s singles tennis tournament is wide open.
Osaka had the once-in-a-lifetime moment of getting to light the Olympic cauldron at the Opening Ceremony, but she will not have a medal to go along with that experience as a memento from an Olympics with which she’ll always be associated.
The U.S. women are perfect no more. The team that showed up with WNBA players and hoped to rampage through the tournament fell to 6–1 with a 20–18 loss to Japan. Team USA jumped out to an early lead, but Japan battled back to take a late lead.
The strategy at the very end of the game was interesting to me. Japan had the ball, sitting on 20 points, with about a second between the game clock and the shot clock (which is 10 seconds). The U.S. could have fouled and given Japan a chance to end the game at the line (it’s over if a team gets to 21 points before time expires), a move that would have preserved enough time for a real possession if they’d missed. Instead, they played D, forced a shot clock violation and took back over with less than a second left, needing a two-pointer. The game theory aspect fascinates me because we knew coming into the Olympics that the U.S. has a ton of talent but is short on 3x3 experience. These sorts of situations (and plenty of others) become easier with reps. I’m sure the team has studied all kinds of game play scenarios, but it’s different being out on the court in crunch time. We’ll see if they find themselves in another close game in the medal rounds.
Team USA’s other women’s basketball stars started their Olympic tournament with a win over Nigeria. It was the U.S.’s 50th consecutive Olympic win (maybe they should celebrate at Chick-fil-A with Giannis Antetokounmpo). Nigeria was a notable first opponent, given the story surrounding Nneka Ogwumike, a former WNBA MVP who has dual citizenship in both countries and petitioned to join Nigeria after she was left off the U.S. roster. Her appeal was denied just days before the Olympics.
The U.S. got off to a sloppy start, trailing 8–1 with four turnovers before making a basket. They recovered and led comfortably for much of the game, until a 12–0 run by Nigeria cut the lead to 75–67 with 3:19 left. In the end, the team that has won the last six Olympic gold medals kept its historic streak going.
If you woke up at 4:00 a.m. ET (or stayed up for a 1:00 a.m. PT start) to catch the USWNT, you were treated to a scoreless tie against Australia. They’ll advance out of group play, but definitely haven’t looked as sharp as U.S. soccer fans would have hoped.
More U.S. medals
Hawaiian Carissa Moore is officially the first women’s surfing champion in Olympic history. Cool story!
Delaney Schnell and Jessica Parratto won silver in women’s synchronized platform diving. They weren’t even partners until 10 days before trials, which is incredible.
Katie Zaferes won bronze in the women’s triathlon.
Every year there is a random sport or event that catches my attention, sometimes for the first time. While I follow the highest-profile events, have my favorites and have tried to keep up with this year’s new sports, I was surprised how much I was drawn in by the women’s mountain bike race in the early morning hours Tuesday.
I know there are hardcore cycling fans out there, but I’ve never been one to keep up with the Tour de France. But the mountain bike was great fun, watching them ride over tree roots, go up and down steep hills and around muddy curves. At one point a French rider fell off her bike while riding up a steep, stony hill and the bike slid back down the hill behind her. Not what you want in a bike race!
This is one of my favorite things about the Olympics: You can come in with 50 things you want to watch and stumble across something unexpected but entertaining. It wasn’t all bloopers though. Switzerland swept the medal podium, and it was impressive to watch them navigate the course in the elements.
What to Watch
We’re trying to stay a day ahead on these, so you can plan for the following day. Given the time zones, we’ll be sending this in the morning before all of the previous day’s sports are completed. So here are some leftovers mentioned in yesterday’s newsletter happening early Saturday morning:
Gymnastics: The women’s team final began at 6:45 a.m. ET.
Softball: The gold medal game between the U.S. and Japan started at 7:00 a.m. ET. Team USA is undefeated, and looking to avenge a loss to Japan in the 2008 gold medal game, the last time softball was in the Olympics.
Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. All times ET.
Swimming: It’s one of the biggest nights of swimming at these Olympics. Another full slate starts at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday with five medal races, including Katie Ledecky in both the 200-meter and 1,500-meter free. The others are the men’s 200-meter fly, women’s 200-meter IM and men’s 4x200-meter free.
Gymnastics: The men’s all-around final starts at 6:15 a.m. Wednesday.
3x3 basketball: It’s your last chance to catch 3x3 if you haven’t yet! The medal games start at 7:45 a.m. Wednesday with the women’s and men’s bronze games. The women go for gold at 8:55 a.m., followed by the men at 9:25 a.m.
Rowing: Men’s and women’s double sculls, four and quadruple skulls finals, starting at 8:18 p.m. Tuesday
Cycling: It's a road cycling individual time trial day, with the women at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday and the men at 1:00 a.m. Wednesday
Diving: The men’s synchronized springboard final is at 2:00 a.m. Wednesday
Equestrian: The dressage individual grand prix freestyle starts at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Rugby: Men’s bronze medal match at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday and the gold medal match at 5:00 a.m.
Fencing: Men’s sabre team medal matches start at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday. This team includes Eli Dershwitz and Daryl Homer, two of the bigger U.S. names in Tokyo.
Judo: Matches take place overnight, with finals around 5:30 a.m. The U.S.’s Colton Brown is in the bracket.
Weightlifting: The men’s 73kg finals are at 6:50 a.m. Wednesday.
Beach volleyball: Jake Gibb and Tri Bourne play against the Swiss at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Rugby: USA men vs. Canada in the bracket to settle fifth through eighth place at 9:00 p.m.
Volleyball: The U.S. men play Tunisia at 10:05 p.m.
Boxing: Duke Ragan fights at 11:51 p.m. Tuesday
Basketball: The men’s team looks to rebound from the opening loss against Iran at 12:40 a.m. Wednesday.
Water polo: The U.S. women play Hungary at 1:00 a.m. The U.S. is favored to win gold, but Hungary is one of the team’s top competitors.
Archery: The U.S. has several archers in individual action, most notably Brady Ellison at 3:13 a.m. He is looking to rebound from disappointing showings in the mixed team and men’s team events.
Badminton: U.S.’s Beiwen Zhang plays Brazil’s Fabiana Silva at 7:20 a.m.
Boxing: Naomi Graham at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday
Caz’s Medal Picks
Every day Brian Cazeneuve will give us a few medal predictions for some upcoming events.
Equestrian, individual dressage
Gold: Isabell Werth (Germany)
Silver: Cathrine Dufour (Denmark)
Bronze: Jessica von Bredow-Werndl (Germany)
Werth won her other individual gold in Atlanta 25 years ago. She has ten Olympic medals in all. Charlotte Dujardin of Great Britain nipped her in Rio and will also contend in Tokyo. Watch for Australia’s Mary Hanna. At 66, she’s a grandmother of four.
Weightlifting, men’s 73 kgs.
Gold: Shi Zhiyong (China)
Silver: Julio Ruben Mayora Pernia (Venezuela)
Bronze: CJ Cummings (U.S.)
Shi holds world records in the snatch, clean & jerk and total. Cummings, 21, is a four-time junior world champ and the new face of U.S. weightlifting.
Gymnastics, men’s all-around
Gold: Daiki Hashimoto (Japan)
Silver: Nikita Nagornyy (ROC)
Bronze: Sun Wei (China)
The top scorer in qualifying, Hashimoto hopes to carry the grips from his legendary countryman Kohei Uchimura, winner in London and Rio. Nagornyy landed the first piked triple back on floor earlier this year.
Fencing, men’s team sabre
Gold: South Korea
The U.S. could contend here if it can get past Hungary in the quarter-finals. The Hungarians feature individual gold medalist Aron Szilagyi.
• Greg Bishop caught up with Sue Bird, chasing her fifth gold medal.
• Here’s Pat Forde on Alaskan Assassin Lydia Jacoby.
• Stephanie Apstein on Fire & Ice: USA Softball’s Monica Abbott and Cat Osterman.
• Stephanie also broke down the men’s team gymnastics final.
• Michael Rosenberg wrote about a Somali boxer making history.
Until next time. Thanks for reading.