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As the Olympics stretch on into their second week, the U.S. and China are jockeying for position atop the overall medal table. At the moment, China has more golds, while the U.S. has more total medals.
However things end up by the time we reach the Closing Ceremony, it’s clear at the conclusion of (indoor) swimming that the Americans held up their end of the bargain in the pool.
After eight action-packed nights that brought excitement and drama every time, the U.S. lapped the field with regard to hardware. The final tally? The most gold (11). The most silver (10). The most bronze (nine). That’s 30 total—10 more than second-place Australia (20) and more than triple third-place Great Britain (eight).
Caeleb Dressel led the way with five gold medals, a feat he capped off Saturday night (U.S. time) by setting the Olympic record in the 50-meter free and then hopping right back in the pool on the U.S.’s gold-medal-winning 4 x 100-meter relay team. That crew won the U.S.’s 15th straight gold in the event and did it from lane 1. If you want to see some very excited swimmers one last time, this is the link for you.
Bobby Finke also helped the U.S. finish with a flourish, winning 1,500 gold. His final 50 was even faster than his last split when he stunned the world by coming from behind to win the 800 earlier in the week. NBC spliced the two finishes together:
The U.S. women did their job too. Katie Ledecky now owns four more medals than she did last month, and many of her friends made trips to the podium too.
I also thought NBC did a great job showcasing everything. As I’ve written, it was made easy on them that the finals were in the morning in Tokyo and in prime time in the U.S., so they didn’t have to make any difficult decisions about when to show what. (The network has been criticized for how and where it’s shown other events, but not swimming.) I think just about everyone agrees at this point that Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines are great together. I have also written in praise of the meters/second graphics which were new this year. And NBC had some great camera angles, like the replay that showed how Australia had a faster exchange than the U.S. in the women’s 4 x 100 relay Saturday night.
The Olympics, as an entity, has its warts (as we’ve also been over). But the athletes always make it worth tuning in, and the daily story lines that swimming brings just creates a mesmerizing way to spend that first week. Many things about this year’s Olympics are different. That part was no exception.
Before we get to the rest of the newsletter, I thought I’d put out a call for mail. I answered some questions before the Olympics officially started, but then we just dove into the round-the-clock action with little time to do anything else.
But we’re halfway through, so what’s on your mind? What have you enjoyed? What have you not liked? What questions would you like me to answer, complaints would you like to get off your chest or fun facts would you like to share with the group?
Track and field
My favorite track and field story so far is probably that of Raven Saunders. The shot putter has bright hair, bright shades, a Hulk mask and now, a silver medal. She gave NBC an incredible interview that I have not been able to find online yet, but is worth clicking on if you come across it. Here’s more about her.
She has spoken openly about mental health, about her injury struggles and about representing the LGBTQ community. She also twerked after her medal-winning performance.
And here’s more from Chris Chavez on the Jamaican women sweeping the podium in the 100-meters, with Elaine Thompson-Herah taking down Florence Griffith Joyner’s Olympic record.
The U.S. was in action against the Czech Republic when Saturday morning’s newsletter hit inboxes. After a brief, early scare (losing the first quarter 25–18), the U.S. pulled away and won 119–84. The big headline is that Kevin Durant passed Carmelo Anthony for first place on the all-time Team USA men’s scoring list. The full top five: Durant, Anthony, LeBron James, David Robinson and Michael Jordan. The team will advance out of group play and into the knockout stage, despite the opening game loss to France.
Novak Djokovic had a total meltdown in his singles bronze-medal match, that involved thrown and mangled rackets and a verbal warning. The world No. 1 was going for the Golden Slam—all four Grand Slams and an Olympic gold in the same year—but was beaten twice in singles play and once in mixed doubles.
Afterward, he pulled out of the mixed doubles bronze medal match, citing an injury, costing both himself and his partner a chance to win a medal. I’d like to be sympathetic that he played a lot of tennis in some pretty grueling conditions, but it’s worth pointing out that after Simone Biles withdrew from competition, Djokovic said, “If you are aiming to be at the top of the game you better start learning how to deal with pressure and how to cope with those moments—on the court but also off the court.” So, yeah. (Ann Killion of The San Francisco Chronicle called out his hypocrisy in a column here.)
While You Were Sleeping
The U.S. came away with two medals in the morning gymnastics event finals. Mykayla Skinner, who thought her Olympics were over until Simone Biles withdrew from the vault, won a silver. Jade Carey also competed, but she mistimed her steps and stumbled on her first vault. Suni Lee, who won gold in the individual all-around, won a bronze medal on the uneven bars. Along with her silver for the team final, she now has a medal of every color.
Skinner also made some news by saying she expects Biles to compete in the balance beam final.
The absolute wildest event in the middle of the was … golf! I know the golf has been criticized by many for a boring format that does nothing to distinguish the Olympic tourney from any run-of-the-mill PGA event. But there is one important difference that didn’t come into play in 2016 but added considerable drama in Tokyo. In almost every stroke-play golf tournament you’ll ever see, they settle ties for first and don’t worry about any T2s, T3s or T50s. But with Olympic medals on the line for first, second and third, it sets up scenarios like a tie for second and third coming down to a playoff. Or, say, a three-way tie for second, third and fourth requiring a playoff to settle two medals and someone who goes home empty handed. Or, what we actually got in the early hours Monday night: a seven-way tie for third!
Yes, it’s true. There were multiple playoff outcomes possible as the leaders played the back nine. (I lost my mind throughout the whole thing.) and Rory Sabbatini nearly required a playoff to determine gold and silver, but Schauffele’s excellent up-and-down from the fairway on the 72nd hole gave the American a gold.
But an incredible seven golfers from seven different countries finished in a dead heat and required four more holes to settle the bronze medal winner. The broadcast explained that had it been six golfers, they would have all teed off in the same group. Because it was seven, they split into a foursome and a threesome, combining after golfers were knocked out, which they were, one at a time, over the course of four dramatic holes, ending in a medal for C.T. Pan.
Hideki Matsuyama had a 12-foot birdie putt on 18 that would have given him the bronze medal and deprived us of the chaos. I felt bad for him that he missed, but I enjoyed the anarchy. It was a dizzying final day. Golf.com’s Sean Zak summed things up well, noting that Sabbatini and Pan started the day seven groups back of the leaders and both won medals.
Many of the golfers seemed to love the tournament (see this full quote from Justin Thomas, who called the Olympics “the coolest thing I’ve ever been a part of”). I would absolutely be in favor of adding some team elements to the Olympic golf program (this may be a 1,200-word topic for another day), but I wouldn’t eliminate the singles tournaments to do it. You can tell the singles medals matter to the players, and I think the men’s tournament showed how fun it can be.
The women’s tournament starts Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.
It was a tough night for U.S. beach volleyball. All four pairs made it to the round of 16, but two of those teams made it no further. Early on Saturday evening (probably before most people were sleeping), Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil lost 22–24, 21–18, 15–13. The Americans won the first set and led the second 10–4, but were unable to put it away. The third set featured a strange and controversial replay review on a very close play and a scoreboard that incorrectly displayed the result of the challenge. After the confusion, that play swung the score from a 12–12 tie to a 13–11 Canadian lead, and they finished off the first-to-15 tiebreaker set soon after.
Later at night, 2008 Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and his teammate Nick Lucena also suffered elimination after winning the first set, dropping a match 14–21, 21–19, 15–11 to a pair from Qatar. One duo from Team USA remains in each bracket.
Adeline Gray won three matches to qualify for the finals and guarantee herself a medal. Gray is a five-time world champion, spanning from 2012 to ’19. She was upset in the second round back in Rio, and is one of many athletes who waited a long time to come back in hope of a better outcome. She will face Germany’s Aline Rotter-Focken.
Krysta Palmer won a bronze medal in the 3m springboard, making her the first American woman to win an individual diving medal since 2000. She has a cool story. She didn’t take up diving until she was 20 (she’s 29 now) and she competed on a torn ACL!
This one is a day old, but I decided I had to pass it along. I hyped up the trampoline, so I wanted to pass along a video from the men’s finals. Outstanding. I promise it’s worth four minutes and 33 seconds of your time.
Snapshots from Tokyo
Our photographers are running all over Tokyo and coming away with great shots everywhere. Here’s our latest photo gallery with their best work.
What to Watch
Sunday night and Monday morning, all times ET.
Gymnastics: We’ll see three event finals, starting at 4:00 a.m. Monday—the men’s rings, women’s floor exercise and men’s vault. Simone Biles has withdrawn from the floor exercise, but has not made a decision yet on balance beam the following day.
Track and field: The evening session starts at 8:00 p.m. Sunday, and you’ll likely see even more of it on NBC’s prime-time coverage, now that swimming is over. The finals are the men’s long jump and women’s 100-meter hurdles. The morning session starts at 6:20 a.m. Monday. Medals will be awarded for women’s discus, men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase and women’s 5,000-meters.
Sailing: The women’s skiff medal race starts at 1:33 a.m. Monday, followed by the men’s skiff race an hour later.
Weightlifting: Women’s 87 kg starts at 2:50 a.m. Monday
Shooting: Shooting concludes with the men’s rapid fire pistol at 1:30 a.m. Monday and the men’s rifle at 3:50 a.m.
Equestrian: The eventing jumping team final starts at 4:00 a.m. Monday, and the eventing individual jumping final starts at 7:45 a.m. Monday.
Cycling: The first track cycling events start in the early morning Monday. The women’s sprint finals start at 5:06 a.m.
Badminton: The final day of action will see a midnight ET session with women’s doubles bronze and gold games. At 7:00 a.m. Monday, it’s the men’s singles bronze and gold.
Wrestling: Adeline Gray’s gold-medal match takes place during the 7:55 a.m. Monday session. Her match will be third on her mat when action starts.
Beach volleyball: April Ross and Alix Klineman play a round of 16 game against Cuba at 8:00 p.m. Sunday.
Canoe/kayak: The canoe sprint starts at 8:30 p.m. Sunday with all sorts of events: men’s and women’s, singles and doubles, kayaks and canoes, various distances, etc.
Table tennis: The U.S. men play Sweden in the men’s team round of 16 at 9:00 p.m. Sunday
Volleyball: The U.S. women play Italy at 10:05 p.m. Sunday
Water polo: The U.S. men play Greece at 10:30 p.m. Sunday
Wrestling: Tamyra Mensah-Stock and G’Angelo Hancock begin their Olympic tournaments in the 10:30 p.m. Sunday hour.
Basketball: USA women vs. France at 12:40 a.m. Monday
Diving: The men’s springboard preliminaries start at 2:00 a.m. Monday
Soccer: The U.S. women’s semifinal against Canada starts at 4:00 a.m. Monday. (Note: Some people are mad about this! It’s very early in the morning for both countries, while the Australia vs. Sweden game starts three hours later. What can you do?)
Baseball: The U.S. has entered the knockout round and plays against Japan at 6:00 a.m. Monday. It’s the first round in a very complicated double-elimination set-up, explained here.
Artistic swimming (aka synchronized swimming) starts at 6:30 a.m. Monday. with the duet competition. The U.S. qualified in duet, but not team.
Beach volleyball: Jake Gibb and Tri Bourne play a round of 16 game against Germany at 9:00 a.m. Monday.
Caz’s Medal Picks
Every day Brian Cazeneuve will give us a few medal predictions for some upcoming events.
Track & field, men’s long jump
Gold: Tajay Gayle (Jamaica)
Silver: Juan Miguel Echevarria (Cuba)
Bronze: Juvaughn Harrison (U.S.)
Harrison is also entered in the high jump, so if you need a jumper, he’s your guy.
Gymnastics, women’s floor exercise
Gold: Angelina Melnikova (ROC)
Silver: Vanessa Ferrari (Italy)
Bronze: Mai Murakami (Japan)
Now 30, Ferrari (a.k.a. The Cannonball), was world all-around champ in 2006. Jade Carey (U.S.) could figure in the medals.
Badminton, men’s singles
Gold: Chen Long (China)
Silver: Viktor Axelsen (Denmark)
Bronze: Anthony Sinisuka Ginting (Indonesia)
Chen, 32, is the defending Olympic champ. He beat Axelsen, 21-14, 21-15, in the semi-finals in Rio.
Wrestling, women’s 76kg
Gold: Adeline Gray (U.S.)
Silver: Aline Rotter Focken (Germany)
Bronze: Hiroe Minigawa (Japan)
Bronze: Aiperi Medet Kyzy (Kyrgyzstan)
A five-time world champ, Gray is the first female U.S. wrestler to have a signature shoe.
• Pat Forde on Caeleb Dressel and the U.S. relay team’s final gold.
• And Pat on Katie Ledecky, who isn’t done yet, with Paris three years away.
• Greg Bishop says it's time to appreciate the Olympic legacy of U.S. long jumper Brittany Reese.
• More from Greg: After Elaine Thompson-Herah broke FloJo’s 100 meters record, her husband Al Joyner shared his thoughts.
• Remember yesterday when I wrote about mixed team events? Well, so did Michael Rosenberg.
It’s August, and it’s officially the final week of the Olympics. New sports are starting, long-running sports are getting into their knockout stages and we’ll have everything covered for you in the newsletter.
Thanks for reading.