Simone Biles provides replace on ‘twisties’

Track and field is finally ready to begin at the Tokyo Olympics, with the opening qualifying rounds getting underway Friday. At the 2016 Games in Rio, the U.S. led all countries with 32 track and field medals.

In swimming, two-time Olympic gold medalist Lilly King, who won bronze in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke earlier this week, took home silver in the 200 breaststroke final, with teammate Annie Lazor getting bronze. In addition, Ryan Murphy claimed a silver in the men’s 200 backstroke.

Later, the U.S. women’s basketball and soccer teams will be back in action. Sue Bird and Co. will hoop it up against Japan in group play, and it will be a rematch of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup final when the USWNT takes on the Netherlands in the Olympic quarterfinals. 

THURSDAY RECAP: Suni Lee wins women’s all-around title, U.S. swimmers continue gold rush

LATEST FROM TOKYO: Sign up for our Olympic newsletter to get exclusive insight

OLYMPIC TEXT ALERTS: We’ll be your guide to the Games with the inside scoop sent directly to your phone

US MEDAL WINNERS: Full list of every American who has earned hardware in Tokyo

TOKYO — U.S. divers Krysta Palmer and Hailey Hernandez competed in the women’s individual three-meter springboard preliminary on Friday and both advanced to the semifinal round.

Hernandez, 18, finished sixth with 309.55 points in the field of 27 divers. Her best dive of the preliminary was a forward three and a half somersaults tuck that she executed in the second round, which ranked fourth among competitors.

The Southlake, Texas native’s best international performance in the event came in 2019 when she placed first in the FINA Diving Grand Prix. At the FINA Diving World Cup in 2018, Hernandez finished in ninth place. A recent high school graduate, Hernandez begins her freshman year at the University of Texas in Austin in a few weeks.

Palmer, 29, took 15th place with 279.10 points. The first-time Olympian also competed in the women’s synchronized three-meter springboard with partner Alison Gibson, where she placed eighth in the field of eight. Palmer was the 2019 national champion in three-meter synchronized diving.

The semifinal is on Saturday, July 31 at 3 p.m. local time. The top 12 divers will qualify for the final, which is on Sunday, August 1 at 3 p.m. local time.

— Olivia Reiner

TOKYO — The controversy over the International Olympic Committee’s decision to allow about 330 athletes from Russia to compete at these Games despite years of state-sponsored doping finally bubbled to the surface Friday at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre after the men’s 200-meter backstroke, where the silver and bronze medalist called into question the Russian gold medalist’s victory.

“It is a huge mental drain on me … that I’m swimming in a race that’s probably not clean,” Ryan Murphy, one of the captains of the U.S. Olympic swimming team, told reporters in the mixed zone after winning the silver medal behind Russia’s Evgeny Rylov.

“It frustrates me, but I have to swim the field that’s next to me,” Murphy said. “I don’t have the bandwidth to train for the Olympics at a very high level and try to lobby the people who are making the decisions that they’re making the wrong decisions.”

— Christine Brennan

The U.S. women’s water polo team rebounded from a rare Olympics loss to overwhelm ROC, 18-5, in preliminary play on Friday. 

In the win, Maggie Steffens became the all-time leading scorer in Olympic women’s water polo. She now has 49 career goals.

Steffens and Stephanie Haralabidis led the U.S. with four goals apiece against ROC. Paige Hauschild had three goals and Makenzie Fischer added two. Four other players had a goal apiece.

After opening the Olympics with wins over Japan (25-4) and China (12-7), the U.S. lost to Hungary (10-9) on Wednesday. With Friday’s win over the Russian Olympic Committee, the U.S. finished group play 3-1 and will advance to the quarterfinals, which take place Tuesday. 

TOKYO – After getting pushed by Nigeria in its Olympic opener, the U.S. women’s basketball team had a tough time putting away Japan on Friday in its second game of pool play. Though the final score ended up 86-69, this was essentially a 10-point game for the entire second half until a couple 3-pointers for the Americans finally broke it open with fewer than three minutes remaining. 

Japan proved tough to defend with its ball movement and spacing, continually generating open looks from the perimeter. Early in the game, Japan made those shots in flurries and actually led 30-28 after the first quarter.

Ultimately, Japan couldn’t keep up that pace and finished 10-of-38 from the 3-point line.

Team USA led 49-40 at halftime but couldn’t extend its lead beyond that, largely due to 17 turnovers – which was also a problem in the Americans’ 81-72 win over Nigeria.

Unsurprisingly, the U.S. dominated in the post where Brittney Griner had 15 points (7-of-11 shooting) while A’Ja Wilson finished with 20 points (9-of-15) and 10 rebounds.

The U.S. concludes group play against France on Monday. 

— Dan Wolken

Simone Biles is having the “twisties” on all four events, something she’s never experienced before, and it raises new doubts about whether she’ll be able to compete again at the Tokyo Olympics.

Biles posted two videos of her trying to do her uneven bars dismount Friday on her Instagram story, and it’s clear she is not her usual self. She is supposed to do a double twisting somersault and, in the first video, she gets through a half twist before suddenly dropping out of the air and landing flat on her back. In the second, she makes it 1½ times around.

In both videos, she is landing on mats placed over a pit filled with foam blocks. In competition, however, she would have to do her skills on a hard, unforgiving surface. 

The videos on Biles’ account were removed within an hour of when they were posted.

— Nancy Armour

Simone Biles celebrates after Sunisa Lee won the gold medal in the women's gymnastics individual all-around final.

TOKYO — The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee said Friday afternoon that swimmer Michael Andrew’s decision not to wear a mask in the mixed zone at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre is a “violation” of COVID-19 protocols and that it is reviewing the matter with USA Swimming and “will take action as needed.”

Andrew, the highest profile unvaccinated American Olympian, did not wear a mask in the mixed zone after finishing a disappointing fifth in the men’s 200-meter individual medley Friday morning. Every other U.S. swimmer has worn a mask everywhere journalists can see them at the swimming venue except for when they are in the water competing and for a moment after the medal ceremony when they are told to briefly take off their masks for an official photo.

USA TODAY Sports shared the news and a photo of Andrew on Twitter, and then received this comment from the USOPC: 

“Not wearing a mask is a violation of the covid mitigation protocols put in place by both the USOPC and TOCOG (the Tokyo Olympic organizers) – protocols we have been adamant in following as a delegation. We are currently reviewing this matter with the National Governing Body and will take action as needed.”

— Christine Brennan

TOKYO — American Connor Fields, a medal favorite in BMX cycling, was awake and awaiting further medical evaluation after crashing during a semifinal heat Friday at the Olympics, according to a spokesperson for the U.S. BMX racing team. 

There was no information on Fields’ injuries, said Angelina Palermo, the spokesperson. 

Fields, 28, was taken off the course on a stretcher, loaded into an ambulance and transported to a hospital. 

The crash took place on the first turn of the race. Fields was in second place when his front wheel appeared to catch the back wheel of the leader, France’s Romain Mahieu.  

Fields tumbled to the ground and two other riders fell over him. 

— Josh Peter

Connor Fields, right, crashed after a collision with France's Romain Mahieu during the Men's BMX semifinal at Ariake Urban Sports Park.

The American beach volleyball duo of April Ross and Alix Klineman completed an undefeated run through pool play with a three-set victory Friday over Sanne Keizer and Madelein Meppelink of the Netherlands to advance to the knockout stage.

Ross and Klineman dropped the first set, but rallied for a 20-22, 21-17, 15-5 victory. They’ll play next in the Round of 16, which begins this weekend. 

TOKYO – For a second consecutive day, Tokyo organizers announced a record number of coronavirus cases.

Friday’s total of 27 cases includes three athletes and 15 contractors. On Thursday, organizers announced 24 new coronavirus cases, also with three athletes and 15 contractors in that total.

Since July 1, 220 positive cases have been reported by Olympic organizers. Half are of contractors who work for third parties hired by Tokyo’s organizing committee to work the Games. A total of 23 athletes have tested positive here this month, most recently with American pole vaulter Sam Kendricks announcing Thursday that he tested positive and will not be able to compete here.

The Olympic positives come as cases of coronavirus are surging in Japan. The country eclipsed 10,000 daily cases for the first time on Thursday, with a record 3,177 coming from Tokyo. The capitol city set a new record for a third consecutive day and eclipsed 3,000 cases for the first time, The Japan Times reported.

Olympic organizers have said they do not see a connection between cases from the Games and the increasing cases in Japan because participants are restricted to their accommodations and Games venues.

“We have been implementing robust counter measures on COVID-19 in that respect,” said Masa Takaya, spokesman for the organizing committee. “We are delivering the safest possible environment from most perspectives, from the perspective of participants and also from the perspective of the people in Japan.”

— Rachel Axon

TOKYO – Russian Evgeny Rylov set an Olympic record in 1:53.27 in the men’s 200-meter backstroke, beating American Ryan Murphy by .88 of a second. 

The 24-year-old Russian has swept both the 100 and 200 back in Tokyo and has a silver in the 4×200 free relay.

Murphy was the defending Olympic champion in the 100 and 200. In the 100 back in Tokyo, Murphy won bronze, finishing behind Rylov and Russian teammate Kliment Kolesnikov.

— Roxanna Scott

TOKYO – American Lilly King won silver in the women’s 200-meter breaststroke Friday morning, finishing second to South Africa’s Tatjana Schoenmaker, who set a world record in 2:18.95.

King finished .97 of a second behind Schoenmaker. American Annie Lazor, King’s training mate in Indiana, won the bronze.

King won a bronze medal in the 100 breaststroke Monday, finishing behind Alaskan teammate Lydia Jacoby, who won gold. King swept both the 100 and 200 breast in Rio five years ago.

— Roxanna Scott

TOKYO — American Caeleb Dressel swam the fastest time in the men’s 100-meter butterfly semifinals Friday, setting an Olympic record in 49.71 seconds.

Kristof Milak of Hungary was second in qualifying for Saturday’s final, finishing in 50.31 seconds.

Dressel won his first individual Olympic gold Thursday, in the 100 free. He won in 47.02 seconds, an Olympic record and the fastest time in the world this year.

TOKYO — The U.S. men’s and women’s eight each finished fourth in their respective A finals, concluding an Olympic regatta in which the nation failed to reach the medal table.

It’s the first time that the U.S. failed to win an Olympic medal in rowing when the Americans have entered boats. The U.S. had no rowers entered in the Olympics in 1908 and 1980.

The women’s eight finished with a time of 6:02.78, roughly four seconds behind first-place Canada. New Zealand finished in second and China in third. The women’s placement breaks an Olympic gold medal streak — they had finished first in 2008, 2012 and 2016, a record tied with Romania.

The men’s eight crossed the finish line with a time of 5:26.75, about two seconds behind first-place New Zealand. Germany and Great Britain took silver and bronze, respectively.

— Olivia Reiner

A then 17-year-old Sydney McLaughlin stepped on the track in Rio de Janeiro as the youngest U.S. track and field athlete since 1976 to compete at the Olympics. The teenage phenom had enormous potential but little expectations. She finished fifth in her semifinal heat and failed to advance to the women’s 400-meter hurdles Olympic final.

What a difference four, plus an additional year, can make.

The 21-year-old is now the only woman in history to run under 52 seconds in the women’s 400-meter hurdles. As she prepares for her second Olympics and first as a world-record owner and prohibitive favorite, McLaughlin enters Tokyo as one of the key athletes ushering a new era of U.S. track and field.  

Sydney McLaughlin defeats Dalilah Muhammad to win the women's 400-meeter hurdles in a world-record time of 51.90 seconds.

“It’s a crazy time, so much change. I think it’s really important and really cool to be a part of it. It’s kind of just this new wave and kind of this new generation,” McLaughlin said. “It’s kind of pushing the boundaries as much as possible.”

— Tyler Dragon

Videos of Suni Lee’s family reacting to the gymnast winning an Olympic gold medal in the all-around competition quickly went viral on Twitter, with fellow Olympians, celebrities and viewers at home cheering alongside Lee’s joyful family.   

“Golden reaction for a golden moment,” NBC’s Olympics account tweeted on Thursday, alongside video of a crowded room of Lee’s family and friends watching her finish in first place at the Tokyo Games. 

Lee responded to the footage, which has received millions of views, on Thursday, calling her loved ones “the people i do it all for.”  

“I LOVE YOU ALL,” she shared.  

Her father, John Lee, told the “TODAY” show after her victory that their family was holding their breath as she competed. 

“There’s no words that can express this right now,” he said.

Meanwhile, back in her hometown of Saint Paul, Minnesota, city mayor Melvin Carter and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz are both declaring Friday “Sunisa Lee Day” in her honor.

— Marina Pitofsky

TOKYO — If nothing else, Tennys Sandgren is honest about the position he finds himself in as the last hope for American tennis to avoid being shut out from the medal stand at the these Olympics, something that hasn’t happened since 1920, when no Americans entered the tournament.

“To be fair, we probably shouldn’t even be playing,” Sandgren said, referring to himself and doubles partner Austin Krajicek, who only made the U.S. team because the highest-ranked American men decided that playing an ATP 250 event in Atlanta this week would be a better use of their time.

But regardless of how they made it here, Sandgren and Krajicek could very well leave with a bronze medal. They face New Zealand’s Marcus Daniell and Michael Venus on Friday for third place.

And yet, Sandgren understands as well as anyone that a lot of tennis fans – a lot of American tennis fans – will be actively rooting for him to lose Friday.

— Dan Wolken

Comments are closed.