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NBC Missed the Mark with Italy's Tamberi-Jacobs Moment, Track Coverage

The Olympics schedule makes it impossible for the network to cover athletics as thoroughly as swimming.
Very Olympic Today

One of the best moments of the Olympics so far took place a little after 8:30 a.m. ET Sunday, about the same time our latest edition of Very Olympic Today hit inboxes. Two high jumpers—Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi and Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim—matched each other jump for jump.

Rather than go into a jump-off, they decided to share the gold medal. (They don’t have to literally share it—I get Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays; you get Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and every other Sunday—they both get their own.)

That led to this reaction:

I wouldn’t normally lead the newsletter with news that’s 23-plus hours old, but I highlight it partly because I think if you are consuming the Olympics mostly through my newsletter and NBC’s prime-time telecast, you missed out on a ton on Sunday.

It was a wild morning session on the track. About 10 minutes after this incredible high jump scene, fellow Italian Lamont Jacobs shocked everyone by winning the men’s 100 meters. He came seemingly out of nowhere, and SI’s Michael Rosenberg wrote that no one was more stunned than he was.

And one of the coolest parts of the whole experience was watching them happen back-to-back. One minute an Italian was writhing around on the ground in celebration and disbelief, and immediately after that, two Italian Olympic champions were embracing and celebrating their achievements together.


For some reason, NBC didn’t show us those moments in order. The 100-meters was a highly produced event with light shows and introductions for each athlete. It was treated like the massive deal that it always is. But then Jacobs crossed the finish line and hugged … this mystery person with long hair who seemed excited for him. If you hadn’t been watching earlier that morning, or caught up on the news in the meantime, you wouldn’t have known what made the whole thing so great.

After the race, they cut back to Mike Tirico in the studio, and he offered a little, Now if you want to know who that guy was spiel. But why not show it in order? Why treat this like an afterthought instead of letting coverage build to this moment and helping viewers appreciate the full context of the monumental morning.

Look at this man!

How could you not want to make this one of the highlights of the night? What is the primetime broadcast for if not for building us up into moments like this.

I know the idea of a high jump final between two non-Americans is not a priority for NBC going into the Olympics, but the network knew all day what a great Olympic moment this was.

I wrote very early in the Olympics about how the swimming medal events were in primetime in the U.S., mostly because of the money NBC pays the IOC. That made it very easy to give the American TV audience every big race. The network has a much tougher task figuring out how to best show track and field. I am sympathetic to the fact that there are a lot of track and field events, and a lot of things NBC wants to show you in general. But just be aware that because track and field will have medal events in both the morning and the evening, you won’t get as thorough a look at all of the moments that matter.

Before we leave this topic, I just want to say that the more I learned about these guys, the more I came to love them. I tweeted a not-particularly-original joke that they should get a TV show together, and then they did legitimately spend some time together as gold medalists.

Posing in front of the rings:

Eating together:

@HumphryJoey on Twitter passed along this story that Tamberi wrote about Mutaz and their friendship back in January 2018 (which also tells more about Tamberi’s ankle injury—for those who noticed the cast in the photo above). It makes a lot more sense now to see how happy they were to share the moment with each other, knowing they are not just competitors but real-life friends.

More track and field

Two more stories to pass along. One is Team USA’s Isaiah Jewett, who fell during the 800 and then helped his competitor get up and cross the finish line. The other is Dutch runner Sifan Hassan, who fell in the 1,500-meters, got back up and won the heat. Hassan is a name to know—she is trying to win the 1,500, 5,000 and 10,000.


A sprinter from Belarus says she was pressured to leave Tokyo after criticizing her country’s Olympic offices on social media. This story was developing throughout the day. Here’s an initial explanation from The Washington Post. And Reuters reported early Monday morning (U.S. time) that she had entered the Polish embassy in Tokyo after refusing to fly home.

In Sunday’s newsletter, I wrote about U.S. shot putter Raven Saunders. She could now reportedly face discipline for raising her arms and forming an “X” on the medal stand. When asked what it meant she responded, “it’s the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet.” You can read more about her response here.

While You Were Sleeping


The USWNT’s bid to become the first team to follow up a World Cup win with Olympic gold has fallen short. It was the U.S.’s second loss of the Olympics, and first loss to Canada in 20 years. Goalie Alyssa Naeher, who was the star of the quarterfinals shootout win over the Netherlands, left the game with an injury in the first half.

Backup goalie Adrianna Franch allowed a goal on a VAR-given penalty kick in the 75th minute, and that was the lone goal of the game. The U.S. will now face the loser of Sweden vs. Australia with a bronze medal on the line.


Jade Carey absolutely crushed her floor routine to win another individual gold medal for U.S. gymnastics. She went early in the rotation and then sweated out the results of an extremely close competition, but nobody was able to top her 14.366, a better score than she had in qualifications. It’s a great moment for a gymnast who got extra chances to compete with Simone Biles’s withdrawal, but stumbled in the vault final. Now all six U.S. gymnasts in Tokyo go home with a medal, and hers is gold.

Speaking of Biles: U.S. gymnastics announced that she will compete in the balance beam final. This was not a total surprise, given that MyKayla Skinner had said she thought Biles would, but it’s still major news.


The U.S. women’s basketball team escaped group play with its perfect record intact, but not without a minor scare from France. The French team shot the lights out early, racing to a 22–19 lead after the first quarter. They gave that lead back, but reclaimed it at 72–71 very early in the fourth quarter. In the end, the U.S. pulled away to win 93–82.

For what it’s worth, the game mattered more to France. The team kept the score close enough to advance to the quarterfinals based on a point differential tiebreaker. But Team USA will have to play three more solid games to win gold. This has not been a cakewalk like it was earlier in the team’s now 52-game Olympic winning streak.


When last we checked in on the U.S. women’s volleyball team, the team had lost to the ROC after star Jordan Thompson left the match with an injury. Even without Thompson, and despite another injury to setter Jordyn Poulter, the team pulled out a gutty win over Italy to claim first place in the group with a 4–1 overall record. The U.S. fell one set behind twice, but recovered each time to win in five sets: 21–25, 25–16, 25–27, 25–16, 15–12.


This is a leftover item I missed yesterday, but 22-year-old Katherine Nye’s silver medal in weightlifting is the U.S.’s best result in the sport since the Sydney Games in 2000. Here’s NBC’s video of the event.

Snapshots from Tokyo

Have I mentioned SI’s photographers are running around Tokyo taking great shots every day? Here’s our latest photo gallery.

Image from iOS (9)

What to Watch

Monday night and Tuesday morning, all times ET.


Track and field: The evening session starts at 8:00 p.m. Monday, with medals given out in the women’s long jump and men’s 400-meter hurdles. The morning session starts at 6:10 a.m. Tuesday, with medals in the men’s pole vault, women’s hammer throw, women’s 800 and women’s 200.

Canoe: Men’s and women’s canoe and kayak medal races start at 10:37 p.m. Monday.

Boxing: We have two gold-medal bouts on tap, with Japan’s Sena Irie vs. the Philippines’s Nesthy Petecio at 12:05 a.m. Tuesday and Great Britain’s Pat McCormack vs. Cuba’s Roniel Iglesias at 6:05 a.m.

Sailing: Medal races start after 1:00 a.m. Tuesday, but multiple races were postponed yesterday due to weather, so it’s best to look up the most up-to-date information later in the day Monday.

Diving: The men’s springboard final is at 2 a.m. Tuesday.

Gymnastics: It’s the final day of artistic gymnastics (rhythmic is still come), with event finals starting at 4 a.m. Tuesday in men’s parallel bars, women’s balance beam and men’s horizontal bar. Simone Biles will compete on the balance beam.

Soccer: These are not technically medal games, but the men’s soccer semifinals will determine medalists. Mexico plays Brazil at 4 a.m. Tuesday, followed by Japan vs. Spain at 7 a.m.

Cycling: The women’s team pursuit and men’s team sprint finals start at 4:19 a.m. Tuesday, after a full night of heats.

Weightlifting: The men’s 109kg medal round starts at 6:50 a.m. Tuesday.

Wrestling: Tamyra Mensah-Stock qualified for the finals in her weight class. The gold-medal match will be in the Tuesday morning session, likely in the 8 a.m. hour, just like Adeline Gray’s bout on Monday.

Team USA

Beach volleyball: April Ross and Alix Klineman have a quarterfinal against Germany at 8 p.m. Monday.

Wrestling: Wrestlers beginning their tournaments in the 10 p.m. Monday session include Alejandro Sancho, Kayla Colleen Kiyoko Miracle and John Walter Stefanowicz Jr.

Boxing: Duke Ragan has a semifinal against Ghana’s Samuel Takyi at 10:30 p.m. Monday, followed right after by Keyshawn Davis’s quarterfinal against ROC’s Gabil Mamedov.

Basketball: The U.S. men have a quarterfinal against Spain at 12:40 a.m. Tuesday.

Water polo: The U.S. women have a quarterfinal game against Canada at 1 a.m. Tuesday.

Sport climbing: Climbing makes its Olympic debut with men’s competition at 4 a.m. Tuesday.

Equestrian: The jumping individual qualifier begins at 6 a.m. Tuesday. (Worth a reminder: This is Jessica Springsteen’s event.).

Synchronized swimming: The duet technical routine starts at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Baseball: The schedule depends on the outcome of the U.S. vs. Japan game early Monday morning, so check for updates later in the day if you’re interested.

Caz’s Medal Picks

Gymnastics, men’s horizontal bar

Gold: Daiki Hashimoto (Japan)
Silver: Nikita Nagornyy (ROC)
Bronze: Milad Karimi (Kazakhstan)

Hashimoto had the highest high-bar score in qualifying and during the all-around final, which he won.

Athletics, women’s 800 meters

Gold: Athing Mu (U.S.)
Silver: Natoya Goule (Jamaica)
Bronze: Habitam Alemu (Ethiopia)

New Jersey-born Mu just turned 19 in June. U.S. women have won this event just once at the Olympics (Madeline Manning in 1968) and have not been on the medal stand since Kim Gallagher took silver in 1984 and bronze in 1988.

Boxing, men’s welterweight (69kg)

Gold: Roniel Iglesias (Cuba)
Silver: Pat McCormick (Great Britain)
Bronze: Andrei Zamkovoi (ROC)
Bronze: Aidan Walsh (Ireland)

Iglesias, 32, won his first Olympic medal, a bronze, in Beijing in 2008. Pat McCormick’s twin brother, Luke, lost in the round of 16 to Iglesias' teammate Andy Cruz.

Cycling, women’s team pursuit

Gold: Germany
Silver: Great Britain
Bronze: U.S.

The Germans set a world record 4:07.307 in qualifying.

SI’s Best

• Avi Creditor’s quick reaction to the USWNT loss.

• Michael Rosenberg asks: When will the IOC finally take a stand and protect its athletes?

• And again, Michael on the surprising new World’s Fastest Man.

• Stephanie Apstein wrote about MyKayla Skinner’s silver medal on the vault.

• And Stephanie on gymnasts calling for one touch warm-ups at the Olympics. This one feels like a no-brainer.

• And Pat Forde has a postmortem on the U.S.’s performance in the pool.

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Feel free to keep those messages coming. You can send me tweets, Facebook messages or emails to answer or include in the newsletter during the final week. Thanks for reading.