TOKYO — On the track, the low point for the United States on Thursday was bungling a handoff in the men’s 4×100 relay and failing to qualify for the finals. It was the fourth straight Olympics that the men’s team has had baton problems. It hasn’t won a medal in the event since 2004 or a gold since 2000.
Katie Nageotte of the United States won the gold medal in the women’s pole vault, and Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas won the men’s 400 meters.
In the 110-meter high hurdles, Hansle Parchment of Jamaica upset the world champion Grant Holloway of the U.S. The shot put ended with the same three medalists in the same order as 2016: Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovacs of the United States and Tom Walsh of New Zealand.
The United States men’s basketball team trailed at the half but blew open the game in the third quarter to beat Australia, 97-78, and advance to the final. Kevin Durant had 23 points.
The U.S. women’s soccer team rebounded from a semifinal disappointment with a 4-3 victory over Australia in the bronze medal game. Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd had two goals each in what might have been their final game in a major tournament. The gold medal match between Canada and Sweden was rescheduled from Friday morning in Tokyo to Friday evening in Yokohama after teams expressed concerns about the heat.
Nevin Harrison, 19, was the only American sprint canoer or kayaker to qualify for the Games, but she won the gold medal in the 200 meters.
David Taylor won the second gold medal in wrestling for the United States at these Games. Florian Wellbrock of Germany won the marathon swim event, in a hot, murky, polluted bay.
YOKOHAMA, Japan — The Olympic gold medal in baseball, a sport absent from the Summer Games for 13 years, will come down to the two biggest baseball countries in the world: Japan and the United States.
In a semifinal at Yokohama Baseball Stadium on Thursday, the United States topped South Korea, 7-2, behind another strong all-around performance from a roster of veteran players and young prospects. Joe Ryan, a right-handed starter, allowed one run over four and one-third innings. Four relievers, led by Anthony Gose, combined to allow just one more run the rest of the way.
All tournament long, it has felt like a collision course between top-ranked Japan, which has never won a gold medal in Olympic baseball, and the United States, which won its only one in 2000. The United States’ only blemish so far at the Tokyo Games is a 7-6 loss in 10 innings to Japan on Monday.
Because of that defeat, the United States had to beat the Dominican Republic and South Korea to advance to the gold medal game. Japan simply had to beat South Korea, which it did on Wednesday.
On Thursday, leading 2-1, the United States exploded for a five-run sixth inning that put the game out of reach. Mark Kolozsvary, Jack Lopez and Eddy Alvarez each drove in a run, while Tyler Austin capped the offensive outburst with a two-run single.
After the game, United States third baseman Todd Frazier said he told his teammates to get a good night’s sleep and that on Saturday, “You’re going to play in the best game of your life.”
By advancing to the final game, the United States is guaranteed a medal, and so is Alvarez, the team’s starting second baseman. That means Alvarez, 31, will become the sixth person — third American — to win a medal in both the Winter and Summer Olympics. At the Sochi Games in 2014, Alvarez won a silver medal as part of the United States’ 5,000-meter relay team in short-track speedskating.
“I still can’t believe it,” he said after Thursday’s game. “But the job’s not done yet.”
After the final out on Thursday, Alvarez sat in the dugout with his head down and cried. Afterward, he explained that he had been thinking about his path from his hometown, Miami, where his family ended up after fleeing Cuba, to becoming a two-time Olympian and a major league player with the Marlins last year.
“I started this journey since I was 6 years old,” he said. “I didn’t know it was going to take me to being a major-league baseball player. I never thought I would ever make it to the Olympics in baseball. I owe a lot to my family and the generations that have sacrificed a lot of their time to move from a different country and that ended up giving me opportunities. I got emotional because this is much more than my accomplishments.”
South Korea, which won a gold medal the last time baseball was played in the Olympics in 2008, will face the Dominican Republic on Saturday afternoon for the bronze medal game.
What Adam Ondra could not have expected in anticipation of sport climbing’s debut in the Olympics was that he would finish higher in speed climbing, a discipline he respects but detests, than in bouldering, a discipline where he excels and has won a world championship.
His disappointing finish in bouldering, one of three climbing types mashed into a single Olympic event, upended the medal aspirations for Ondra, who is from the Czech Republic and is widely considered the world’s top climber on both artificial walls and giant rock formations.
But it helped open the possibilities to others, and 18-year-old Alberto Ginés López of Spain climbed his way to the gold medal with an unexpected all-around performance.
Nathaniel Coleman of the United States won silver, and Jakob Schubert of Austria, who barely seemed in the competition until its last moment, lifted himself to bronze.
Each athlete’s finish in each of the three disciplines — speed, bouldering and lead climbing — was multiplied together. It created an ever-changing leaderboard, shuffling again and again like a flip-number schedule at an old train station.
For a moment in Schubert’s final crawl up the wall, Ondra was in position to win gold. But when Schubert passed Ondra’s high mark, Ondra’s score doubled in an instant, and he fell all the way to sixth place.
Ginés López capitalized on a first-place finish in speed and a second-place finish in lead — two events that could not be more different.
Coleman, a steely jawed 24-year-old from Utah, did not expect to be in the finals just two nights earlier, when his qualification round ended with a mediocre boulder performance and an early slip in lead. Dejected, he congratulated his American teammate Colin Duffy for reaching the finals and said he would be in the audience to cheer him on.
But as the scores shuffled, he found himself in the eighth and final spot in the final. On Thursday he seized first place for a time, only to be passed on the lead wall, and in the lead, by Ginés López.
Tomoa Narasaki of Japan, a powerhouse on the boulder and lead circuits and a surprisingly strong speed climber, finished fourth.
Ondra’s disappointing sixth-place performance in bouldering, out of seven competitors, put him far behind. He went into the final event of lead, his best discipline, knowing that only a winning performance might rescue a medal.
It nearly did. He got higher than anyone in lead, as if to prove a point, before Schubert came along. But as Ondra dropped from first to second place in lead, his total score flipped from 24 points to 48 points, knocking him down five places overall.
TOKYO — Once again, the U.S. men’s basketball team struggled in a first half against a tough opponent.
Once again, the Americans silenced doubts by finding their rhythm and pulling away for victory, this time in a semifinal match against Australia, winning 97-78 and heading to the gold medal game on Saturday (Friday night in the U.S.). They will play France, who they lost to in their opening game, to try to win their fourth consecutive gold medal.
Australia, ranked No. 3 in the world, led at the half, 45-42, but that was deceptive. The Americans, once in a 15-point hole, had already begun to rally and take permanent control in the second half.
They were backed by Kevin Durant’s 23 points and Devin Booker’s 20. Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday added 11 apiece.
Durant said people should not get too excited when opponents jump to an early lead and suggested the U.S. was just sizing things up against teams that typically have more experience playing together than the Americans have had.
“We knew Australia would come out fast and hit us with a nice punch,” he said. “We know that teams want to get us down early, see how we respond. A lot of these guys got continuity for years and years so they know how to play with each other. I feel like a lot of teams are expecting us to fold early.
“We stuck with it,’’ he added, “stuck with our principles, made a couple of switches on defense, and we were able to get some momentum going into the half. Guys came out with that intensity, making shots as well.”
Australia’s aggressive three-point shooting cooled — Patty Mills led their scoring with 15 points and five rebounds — while the U.S. stepped up on defense.
“They’ve got a lot of firepower so we knew that if we gave them an inch, they would be able to take a mile,’’ said Australia’s Matisse Thybulle. “I think we played well, played hard for the majority of the game but they don’t need much to get going.”
Jock Landale said Australia had no answer when momentum shifted.
“They figure out what you’re doing and they just find ways to exploit it,’’ he said. “I think we started turning the ball over in that third quarter and they were just living in transition. And that’s tough to beat.”
The U.S. is now 9-0 against Australia in the Olympics.
Australia can still end up with its first-ever Olympic medal in basketball, playing in the bronze medal game Saturday against Slovenia, who lost in the other semifinal against France. They lost the bronze medal game by a point to Spain at the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016.
The U.S. team, ranked No. 1 in the world, made it to the semifinal after defeating Spain on Tuesday, 95-81, despite a similarly sluggish start.
The Americans are trying to rewrite their story line from curiously questionable team to strong finisher, if not gold medalist.
And Durant said he is confident that will be the result, as long as the Americans continue to regroup on defense.
“I’m looking forward to going out there and executing the game plan on defense,” he said. “Offensively we’re not worried about that, but going out there and executing the game plan defensively as a team, and we’ll see what happens.”
After two exhibition losses before the start of the Games, including to Australia, the United States started its Olympic campaign with their loss to France. The Americans mostly cruised through their next two contests — against far weaker opponents, Iran and the Czech Republic — and had some time to establish some rhythm as a group.
KASHIMA, Japan — It could not, even at the end, even when they were nearly across the line, be easy. Not this year.
The United States women’s soccer team came to Japan in search of gold. It is the prize the team always expects, the one it always believes it deserves.
This time, though, the opponents were better, the connections weren’t there, and neither were the results. Until Thursday, when they needed one last win, one last stand, in the bronze medal game to make something out of what could have been nothing.
The medal arrived in due course, delivered with a 4-3 victory powered by two of the team’s oldest players, Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd, who both scored two goals in what might have been their final game in a major tournament.
“It’s obviously not the type of medal we wanted,” Rapinoe had said. But she made sure they got it anyway.
Even at the end, it did not go easily. Australia proved to be a determined opponent and made the United States fight to the last minute, scoring twice in the final 40 minutes after falling behind by 4-1. The Americans even played the final four minutes with 10 players, out of substitutes and having watched Alex Morgan limp off after a collision.
But the job got done.
“You can’t win them all,” Lloyd had said after a semifinal defeat had ended her team’s hope for another Olympic championship. “This was my eighth tournament, and they’ve all had a different story line. They’ve all started and finished in a different fashion. Some have been pretty, some have been ugly, some we’ve just scraped by. This one we didn’t get by.”
TOKYO — Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas emerged from a crowded pack to win the gold in the men’s 400 meters. Gardiner, who finished in 43.85 seconds, was challenged by Anthony Jose Zambrano of Colombia, who finished second, and Kirani James of Grenada in third. It was James’s third straight Olympic medal in the event: He won the gold in 2012 and the silver in 2016. Grenada has three Olympic medals in the country’s history, and they all belong to James.
Michael Norman, the U.S. champion, finished fifth, one spot behind his American teammate, Michael Cherry.
Men’s 1,500 Meter Semifinals
There has been so much discussion about the fast track and quick times at Olympic Stadium since the start of track and field last week. World records. National records. Personal bests.
And sometimes, those records are falling earlier than expected — in qualifying heats.
Ask Matthew Centrowitz, who had been attempting to defend his Olympic title in the men’s 1,500 meters. He ran his fastest time of the year on Thursday in his semifinal heat — and fell short of advancing to Saturday’s final. His time of 3:33.69 was good enough for ninth, well behind Abel Kipsang of Kenya, who set an Olympic record (3:31.65) and won the heat.
Cole Hocker, the 20-year-old American who won the event at the U.S. trials and only recently completed his sophomore season at the University of Oregon, was more fortunate. He merely had to run a lifetime best of 3:33.87 to finish second in his heat and secure one of five automatic spots in the final.
Centrowitz, 31, said he was disappointed with his tactics.
“We all knew it was going to be a fast race, and I just put too much emphasis on being right off the shoulder of whoever was in the lead,” he said. “When they’re running the Olympic record in the heats, you can’t be out in Lane 2, Lane 3 and wasting energy like that.”
Asked about possibly competing through another Olympic cycle, Centrowitz said: “It’s hard to say. We’ll have to finish the season up and see how it goes. Obviously, at some point, age catches up to us.”
Women’s Pole Vault
Katie Nageotte of the U.S. made sure her first Olympic experience was a memorable one. She cleared 16 feet three-quarters of an inch to win the gold. Anzhelika Sidorova of Russia finished second, and Holly Bradshaw of Britain was third.
Russian Olympic Committee
The Decathlon and the Heptathlon
The multi-events crowned their champions. Damian Warner was the Olympic gold medalist in the decathlon, setting Canadian and Olympic records with 9,018 points. Kevin Mayer of France won the silver, and Ashley Moloney won the bronze. Garrett Scantling of the U.S. was fourth.
And Nafissatou Thiam of Belgium became the first woman to repeat as the Olympic heptathlon champion since Jackie Joyner Kersee won consecutive titles for the U.S. in 1988 and 1992. Thiam was joined on the medal podium by a pair of Dutch athletes: Anouk Vetter in second and Emma Oosterwegel in third.
TOKYO — The United States failed to qualify for the final of the men’s 4×100-meter relay after bungling a baton transfer, yet again, and placing sixth in its heat.
The baton failure slowed down the team, as the United States finished in 38.10 seconds. China, Canada and Italy took the top three spots in the heat to automatically qualify for Friday’s final.
The baton exchange has given the U.S. men trouble in the past. At the 2016 Rio Games, the United States finished third, but the team was disqualified after the first exchange was ruled to have taken place outside the exchange zone.
The men’s 4×100-meter team in 2008 and 2012 and the women’s relay in 2004 and 2008 all failed to make it around the track successfully.
The men got off to a mediocre start on Thursday from Trayvon Bromell and the sloppy baton passing spelled doom, despite the United States’ unmatched depth in sprinting.
“I just didn’t do my job,” Bromell said after the race. He was the fastest man in the world coming into the Games but failed to make the final of the 100 meters as well.
The baton pass that felled the Americans came in the transfer between the second and third legs as Fred Kerley handed the stick to Ronnie Baker, but far too slowly. Both men were finalists in the 100 meters, with Kerley taking the silver in that race.
The result drew immediate criticism from the biggest name in American track and field.
The USA team did everything wrong in the men’s relay. The passing system is wrong, athletes running the wrong legs, and it was clear that there was no leadership. It was a total embarrassment, and completely unacceptable for a USA team to look worse than the AAU kids I saw .
— Carl Lewis (@Carl_Lewis) August 5, 2021
“The U.S.A. team did everything wrong in the men’s relay,” Carl Lewis said on Twitter. “The passing system is wrong, athletes running the wrong legs, and it was clear that there was no leadership. It was a total embarrassment, and completely unacceptable for a U.S.A. team to look worse than the A.A.U. kids I saw.”
Minutes later, the U.S. disappointment continued, as Hansle Parchment of Jamaica upset the world champion Grant Holloway in the 110-meter high hurdles. Holloway had the lead early but could not hang on. Ronald Levy of Jamaica won the bronze, relegating Devon Allen of the United States to fourth.
The sprint relay, however, continues to be the mystery that the U.S. team cannot solve. It has not won a medal in the event since 2004, when the Americans took the silver medal. Not making the final of the race brings the frustration to a new level. Teams from China, Canada, Italy, Germany and Ghana all outran the Americans.
The United States won the event at the 2019 world championships, but that group included Justin Gatlin, who did not make the Olympic team, and Christian Coleman, who missed the Olympics because he is serving a drug suspension.
Nearly half a century ago, Burkina Faso began competing at the Summer Games, never once bringing home a medal.
Now its wait is finally over.
Hugues Fabrice Zango jumped 17.47 meters in the men’s triple jump finals on Thursday, coming in third place and earning the bronze medal. Portugal claimed gold, while China took home silver.
Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, Burkina Faso’s president, applauded Zango on Twitter, saying he had “followed the magnificent performance of our great champion from start to finish.”
“Thank you Hugues for this bronze medal,” Mr. Kaboré wrote. “We are all proud of you.”
Zango, who in addition to his athletics is pursuing a doctorate in electrical engineering in France, was also one of the country’s flag-bearers in the opening ceremony. In an Instagram post leading up to his departure to Japan, Zango wrote that he promised to “represent the country with dignity.”
Zango first stepped on to the Olympic stage at the 2016 Rio Games, but his triple jump there, at 15.99 meters, landed him in 17th place.
At the 2019 World Athletics Championship in Doha, Qatar, Zango won his first international medal, recording a triple jump of 17.66 meters to earn him the bronze. He set his hopes to win a medal for his country on an even bigger stage.
“I would like to win an Olympic medal for Burkina Faso. We’ve never won an Olympic medal. We are not far,” he said in an April 2020 interview on the Olympics website.
Burkina Faso has appeared in 10 Olympics Games so far, including Tokyo. It made its debut at the 1972 Olympic Games, when the country was then known as Upper Volta. Its sole athlete at the time was André Bicaba, who competed in the 100-meter sprint, according to the Tokyo Olympics website. Its next appearance was not until the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, South Korea, when it competed as Burkina Faso.
TOKYO — The Belgian men’s field hockey team, runners-up at the Rio Games in 2016, vowed not to finish short again. And on Thursday, following a tense penalty shootout with top-ranked Australia at Oi Hockey Stadium, Belgium prevailed, 3-2, to win its first Olympic gold in field hockey.
“Standing on the biggest stage on the biggest podium for a small hockey country as Belgium is a crown on all the hard work,” forward Thomas Briels told reporters.
Tied at 1 after regulation, the two top-ranked teams in the world faced off in a shootout. Alexander Hendrickx, Belgium’s standout scorer, scored the goal that gave his team the lead. Vincent Vanasch, Belgium’s goalkeeper, made what would have been a gold-clinching save only to see it erased after video review. But he saved the second attempt, too.
“We have the best goalkeeper in the world and he proved himself again,” Hendrickx said.
Hendrickx was at the 2016 Games, but only as a reserve player outside of the Olympic Village. He dedicated himself to improving and, five years later, he finished the Olympic tournament with 14 goals, twice as many as the next highest scorer.
During the last Olympics, Belgium fell to Argentina, 4-2, in the gold medal match. Over the following years, the Belgian national team worked to improve, even using sophisticated techniques to train its players to withstand the punishing heat and humidity of Tokyo during the Summer Games. It worked, as Belgium went from owning just one Olympic medal (bronze in 1920) to claiming them in back-to-back Olympics.
“We were incredibly happy in Rio in getting the silver medal, and it was our goal to have an Olympic medal, which was crazy for hockey in Belgium that day,” Briels said. “In five years, a lot has happened. We became a really mature team and we played a lot of finals. We became a world champion, a European champion, and this was something we absolutely wanted.”
Showing off a new wave of aerial acrobatics and risky board-flipping tricks, an international field of skateboarders outshined the Americans in the final skateboarding event of the Olympics, continuing the two-week demonstration of the sport’s worldwide reach.
The United States struggled to find the medal stand in a sport that it invented and pushed into the Olympics. Americans skated away with just two of the 12 medals awarded at the Tokyo Games, skateboarding’s Olympic debut.
They were a pair of bronzes — the first by Jagger Eaton in men’s street last week, the other by Cory Juneau on Thursday in men’s park.
The park competition, filled with high-flying spins, technical board flips and long grinds on the lip of the bowl at Ariake Urban Sports Park, looked to be the salvation for a U.S. roster deep in talent.
But only Juneau squeaked into the final. His best run there scored 84.13 points, behind Keegan Palmer of Australia, who won gold by scoring 95.83, and Pedro Barros of Brazil, who earned silver.
The world’s No. 1-ranked park skater, Heimana Reynolds of the United States, and his American teammate Zion Wright each fell short of qualifying. Both had arrived with reasonable hopes of earning medals.
Reynolds finished 13th, Wright 11th. But as Reynolds explained, with a smile on his face and a smiley face painted on the nail of his middle finger, the American export of skateboarding, as a sport and a culture, is global.
“Skateboarding doesn’t discriminate where you’re from, who you are or anything like that,” he said. “A lot of these people barely speak English, and they’re some of my best friends. We all share the same language of skateboarding, and I think that’s the most beautiful thing about it.”
Skaters said that the results may have reflected the pandemic. Skateboarding’s contest circuit shut down for two years, so skaters worked on new tricks privately, then sprung them on the Olympic stage.
Brazil’s Luiz Francisco, for example, earned the top spot in qualifications thanks to his series of risky flip tricks, where the feet leave the board as it rotates. One was a tre flip, where the board both spins 360 degrees and flips.
“When we first got here, the first couple days of practice, I definitely saw some tricks I hadn’t seen before,” Reynolds said. “And it really opened my eyes to, like, wow, look at the level that skateboarding is today.”
Skaters from Japan won gold in the first three skateboarding events: men’s and women’s street and women’s park. That should bolster the sport’s popularity in Japan, where skateboarding’s long history has unfolded mostly in the shadows.
The other theme for skateboarding at these Games had been the youth of many top competitors. The event had no minimum age requirement, so five of the six youngest athletes at the Olympics were skateboarders, all of them women.
At the women’s street contest last week, the medal stand had two 13-year-olds and a 16-year-old. At women’s park on Wednesday, all the medalists were teenagers, including 12-year-old Kokona Hiraki of Japan, who won silver, and 13-year-old Sky Brown of Britain, who won bronze.
The men’s events skewed older. The qualifying rounds included 46-year-old Rune Glifberg of Denmark, who won an X Games medal in 1995, before most Olympic skateboarders were born. Another 46-year-old, Dallas Oberholzer of South Africa, was also in the field, sporting a smile and graying stubble.
Each rode as a sort of ambassador to skateboarding’s past; both finished last in their heats and did not make the final.
TOKYO — Albert Batyrgaziev of Russia won the boxing featherweight gold medal on Thursday, and in the process stopped the first of three Americans trying to win gold in men’s boxing for the first time in 17 years.
Batyrgaziev, using flurries of speed and playing squarely into the rules of amateur boxing that reward many punches in a short amount of time, won a 3-2 split decision over Duke Ragan, a fighter from Cincinnati who, like Batyrgaziev, is in the early part of his professional career.
Batyrgaziev and Ragan have seven professional fights combined — all wins — and after their bout for gold immediately started selling a possible rematch down the line.
“That would be an additional motivation, an additional motive to keep training, in order to meet again as professionals,” said Batyrgaziev, 23, who started in kickboxing before switching to boxing at 18 with the goal of becoming an Olympian.
Ragan had been hoping to join Andre Ward, a fellow American who won gold as a light heavyweight at the 2004 Games in Athens and encouraged Ragan throughout his run in Tokyo. Since then, the biggest Olympic boxing success from the United States has been Claressa Shields, who won Olympic gold in 2012 and 2016 as a middleweight before she turned pro in boxing and mixed martial arts.
“I’m proud of you bro,” Ward said on Twitter after the fight. “You did your family & your city proud. Rest up, regroup, time to win a world title.”
Ragan, who started his professional career during the coronavirus pandemic in a series of bouts organized by the boxing promotion company Top Rank in Las Vegas, said he hoped to take revenge on Batyrgaziev on a bigger stage, “like fighting for a world title or something.”
Russian Olympic Committee
Their bout was one of nearly 300 that have played out during these Games at Kokugikan Arena, a storied, intimate hall in the Ryogoku neighborhood of Tokyo that is known as Japan’s main home for sumo wrestling. The arena, though modified for the Olympics, kept the portraits of 32 grand champion wrestlers, known as yokozuna, in the rafters. And it retained its familiar, deep-red carpet floor and upper-deck seats, although the mats along the mezzanine were missing their signature cushions — zabuton in Japanese — that would normally be used for prime seating all the way up to the sumo ring.
Ragan had qualified for these Games in part because of changes to the way boxing was organized for the Olympics. The International Olympic Committee had suspended the International Boxing Association because of problems with judging, ethical violations and corruption, and placed the sport under the control of a special task force.
Then, the coronavirus pandemic prompted the cancellations of several qualifying events, and the task force decided to use results from earlier tournaments to fill open spots for the hundreds of bouts staged in Tokyo, which worked in Ragan’s favor.
Two other American men are competing for gold: the lightweight Keyshawn Davis, who has a semifinal on Friday, and the super heavyweight Richard Torrez Jr., who fights for gold Sunday in one of the final events of the Olympics. Oshae Jones took bronze on Tuesday after losing a women’s welterweight semifinal.
In Olympic boxing, each of the losing semifinalists wins a bronze medal without fighting another bout.
Ken Belson contributed reporting.
TOKYO — Kenichiro Fumita was crying so hard that he could barely get the words out.
“I wanted to return my gratitude to the concerned people and volunteers who are running the Olympics during this difficult time,” Mr. Fumita, a Greco-Roman wrestler, said between sobs after finishing his final bout at the Games this week.
“I ended up with this shameful result,” he said, bobbing his head abjectly. “I’m truly sorry.”
Mr. Fumita, 25, had just won a silver medal.
In what has become a familiar — and, at times, wrenching — sight during the Tokyo Olympics, many Japanese athletes have wept through post-competition interviews, apologizing for any result short of gold. Even some who had won a medal, like Mr. Fumita, lamented that they had let down their team, their supporters, even their country.
Apologizing for being second best in the world would seem to reflect an absurdly unforgiving metric of success. But for these athletes competing in their home country, the emotionally charged displays of repentance — which often follow pointed questions from the Japanese news media — can represent an intricate mix of regret, gratitude, obligation and humility.
“If you don’t apologize for only getting silver, you might be criticized,” said Takuya Yamazaki, a sports lawyer who represents players’ unions in Japan.
From an early age, Japanese athletes “are not really supposed to think like they are playing sports for themselves,” Mr. Yamazaki said. “Especially in childhood, there are expectations from adults, teachers, parents or other senior people. So it’s kind of a deeply rooted mind-set.”
The expectations placed on the athletes have been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic, which made the Olympics deeply unpopular with the Japanese public before the events began. Many may feel more pressure than usual to deliver medals to justify holding the Games, as anxiety swells over rising coronavirus cases in Japan.
“I feel fed up with myself,” said Kai Harada, a sports climber, vigorously wiping his eyes during an interview after failing to make the finals. Takeru Kitazono, a gymnast who finished sixth on the horizontal bar, fought back tears as he spoke of his supporters. “I wanted to return my gratitude with my performance,” he said. “But I couldn’t.”
April Ross is going to play for her third Olympic medal in beach volleyball.
On Thursday morning, as the sand baked in the sun and a speckling of spectators looked for patches of shade, the American pair of Ross and Alix Klineman defeated Anouk Vergé-Dépré and Joana Heidrich of Switzerland in two sets, 21-12, 21-11, to advance to the gold medal game.
Ross won a silver medal at the 2012 Games in London with her partner Jen Kessy, and a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Games with Kerri Walsh Jennings.
Now with Klineman, an indoor volleyball player who made the transition to beach volleyball in 2017, Ross is looking to add an elusive gold medal to her collection.
They expected their semifinal match to be a difficult one. Vergé-Dépré and Heidrich had advanced to the semifinals with an impressive run, defeating Brazil, 21-19, 18-21, 15-12, on Tuesday.
When asked if going for any Olympic medal was getting to be old news, Ross laughed.
“No!” she said emphatically. “We are going to prepare as hard as we can and recover as hard as we can for tomorrow.”
That rest will have to come quickly. The final will be played in the midday Tokyo sun. But Ross and Klineman do not seem worried. They are getting used to the heat, they said, and are mentally prepared for the sweltering conditions expected during the final.
They will face the Australians Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy, who hope to follow in the footsteps of Natalie Cook and Kerri Pottharst, the last Australian duo to win an Olympic medal in the sport, a gold in 2000.
The gold medal game is set for 11:30 a.m. on Friday in Tokyo, 10:30 p.m. Eastern on Thursday.
TOKYO — Only the purest of the purists revel in 50-kilometer racewalking.
All that arm swinging and hip swaying for more than three hours.
You thought the marathon was long at 26.2 miles in two-plus hours?
The 50-kilometer racewalking world-record holder, Yohann Diniz of France, raced, er, walked the course of about 31 miles in three hours 32 minutes and 33 seconds in 2011. The more common 20-kilometer race walk is a sprint by comparison.
So for the brave few aficionados hooked on the race, the 50-kilometer race on Friday morning local time will be bittersweet.
It will be the final version of the race at the Olympics. Yes, the 50-kilometer event is walking into the sunset and will not return for the Paris Games in 2024.
The Olympic committee has decided the race does not fit with the organization’s stated mission of gender equality. It is the only event on the Olympic program that has no approximate equivalent for women. Rather than add a women’s race, the I.O.C. will introduce an unspecified mixed-team racewalking event.
This has Elliott Denman upset. Denman, a sportswriter who was a racewalker for the U.S. team in the Melbourne Games in 1956, said in an email that he was angered by the removal of “the longest and toughest of all events.”
The race, which was introduced in 1932 at the Los Angeles Games and held every Summer Olympics since then except the Montreal Games in 1976, is apparently too slow and tedious for younger sports fans. On television, the walkers also look like they’re jogging, which doesn’t help the sport.
“Unless the situation takes a drastic U-turn somewhere down the road, and don’t get your hopes up about it — the Sapporo 50K champion will be the 20th and last in an amazing series,” Denman wrote. Racewalkers, he added, “loved every step of their long journeys” and “now, for all that effort, they’re being told to ‘go take a hike.’”
The race, like the men’s and women’s marathons, was moved from Tokyo to Sapporo, on the northern island of Hokkaido, because it’s cooler there. It will begin at 5:30 a.m. local time, just after sunrise, with one final medal ceremony to follow.
TOKYO — As the Ukrainian synchronized swimming duo Marta Fedina and Anastasia Savchuk prepared to stride onto the podium to celebrate their bronze model, the announcer at the Tokyo Aquatics Center could not have made a more awkward slip of the tongue.
Instead of referring to Fedina and Savchuk as hailing from Ukraine, they were announced as having represented the Russian Olympic Committee, the label Russian athletes are competing under in Tokyo as part of the punishments imposed after their country’s recent doping scandals.
Russia and Ukraine remain locked in a yearslong conflict dating to 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea.
Podium announcements at the Games are made first in French, and then in Japanese and English. According to Masa Takaya, a spokesman for the 2020 Olympic organizing committee, the announcer quickly realized that a mistake had been made in French and corrected it before the wrong designation could be made in the other two languages.
The slip-up led to some confusion during the ceremony. A Russian pair had won gold in the competition and were amazed to hear their team’s name called out twice.
“There was a pause, no one had a clue of what was going on, but the situation was straightened out later,” Svetlana Kolesnichenko, one of the Russian gold medalists, told Russia’s state-run news agency TASS.
Takaya said it was “purely an operational mistake” and issued another apology to the athletes and Ukraine’s delegation in Tokyo.
TOKYO — There aren’t many world-class canoers from the United States. There’s really just one.
At 17, Nevin Harrison was the only American to make a final at the last canoe/kayak sprint world championships in 2019. She won the gold medal.
At 19, she was the only American canoe or kayak sprinter to even qualify for the Olympics. On Thursday in the 200 meters, she won a gold medal again.
Russian Olympic Committee
She blasted to victory in 45.932 seconds, beating Laurence Vincent-Lapointe of Canada and Liudmyla Luzan of Ukraine.
“I definitely was shaking a little at the start,” Harrison said after her win. “It was scary, to say the least.”
The 200 meters, almost a dead sprint from start to finish, is the shortest race on the Olympic program. Though Harrison says she does rest a bit in the second 50.
“It’s such a crazy big dream,” she said of the gold medal, “that it doesn’t even seem like it’s achievable.”
Canoe/kayak sprint is also called flat-water to distinguish it from the white-water canoe slalom events held earlier in the Games. Flat-water canoeing for women is making its debut at the Tokyo Olympics; before these Games, women had competed only in kayak.
“It’s been a hard journey because I didn’t have anyone to follow,” Harrison said. “I hope to be that person for the next generation.” She promised to return for the Paris Games in 2024.
Harrison’s medal was the first in canoe or kayak sprint for the United States since Greg Barton won four total medals at the 1984, ’88 and ’92 Games (one of them with Norman Bellingham). No American woman had won a canoe/kayak sprint medal since 1964.
TOKYO — They are among the Games’ earliest risers and some of its hardiest competitors, waking well before dawn for a race start at 6:30 a.m. that requires diving into a hot, polluted bay that one competitor likened to a “warm puddle.”
For nearly two hours, they knife a ragged line through the murky water and occasionally get hit by fish, until the end, when they thrash furiously to a finish that belies the languid pace of the 10-kilometer swim and often with just seconds separating gold and silver.
Marathon swimming is much different from the pool competitions that get more attention at the Games. And it is not just because of the longer distance. It is always conducted in open water, and around the world, that means low temperatures, high temperatures, flotsam and jetsam, sea creatures, currents and waves.
It is an accepted part of the challenge, and on Thursday, Florian Wellbrock, 23, of Germany met it best, winning the men’s race in 1 hour 48 minutes 33.7 seconds.
“The temperature today was the biggest competitor,” he said, after dominating 25 challengers. “I beat it, and I beat everything in this race.”
He defeated Kristof Rasovszky of Hungary, who came in at 1:48:59, and Gregorio Paltrinieri of Italy, who won the bronze with a time of 1:49:01.1.
On Wednesday, in the women’s race, Ana Marcela Cunha, 29, of Brazil won in 1:59:30.8, beating Sharon van Rouwendaal of the Netherlands at 1:59:31.7 in a stroke-for-stroke finale, while Kareena Lee of Australia took bronze at 1:59:32.5.
“It was tough conditions at the end,” van Rouwendaal, among 25 swimmers in the race, said. “It got warmer and warmer when we went faster and faster.”
In Tokyo, the heat and pollution posed challenges beyond the norm.
Despite the early-morning start, the air temperature hovered around 81 degrees at Odaiba Marine Park, and it felt much hotter. The water temperature, 84 degrees, was not far from the cutoff of 88 degrees set by the sport’s governing body for safe swimming, a measure taken especially seriously after the death from heat stroke of Fran Crippen, an American long-distance swimmer, in an open-water race in the United Arab Emirates in 2010.
Swimmers in an event in the bay before the Olympics likened the water to a toilet bowl, but Tokyo officials insisted that a high-tech filtration system would keep the level of dangerous E. coli bacteria low. And they installed a water circulation system that brings cooler water from the bottom to the surface.
Most swimmers on Wednesday acknowledged the challenges but shrugged them off as just part of the sport. They are allowed occasional sips of bottled fluids handed to them on long poles by boaters following them, and several said they had made sure to take advantage of those opportunities.
But churning at race pace for nearly two hours still takes a toll.
Ferry Weertman, a Dutch swimmer, trained in Curaçao. Yet the heat was still a factor as he passed a group of swimmers who “got gassed” midway through the race, chasing the leaders.
“Florian had a big gap in the beginning, and I was just a little behind, and I just couldn’t really catch up,” said Weertman, who finished seventh in a time of 1:51:30.8.
Not everyone was impressed with the heat. Rasovszky, the silver medalist, said he had trained in a lake in his native Hungary where the temperature was more than 90 degrees.
“So this,” he said, “was really cool for me.”
Tokyo 2020 organizers reported 31 new coronavirus cases on Thursday among people credentialed for the Olympics, setting a new high for a second day.
Among the new cases is a synchronized swimmer from Greece, who became the latest member of the team to test positive. The entire team has withdrawn from competition after at least seven athletes and staff members were found to be infected.
A total of at least 358 people connected to the Games have tested positive in Tokyo since July 1, including 32 athletes, according to organizers. Most of the infections have occurred among Japanese nationals, including contractors and others working at Olympic venues.
While a tightly controlled bubble has kept the virus from derailing the Games, infections are spiraling across Japan, which is recording more than 10,000 new cases every day, the highest rate since the start of the pandemic. Despite restrictions on alcohol sales and other measures in Tokyo and much of the country, average daily cases have risen by 219 percent over the past two weeks, according to New York Times data.
On Thursday, the Japanese government expanded emergency measures to several other prefectures as experts warned that the highly contagious Delta variant was placing a growing strain on the medical system. Health officials reported 5,042 new cases in Tokyo and 14,211 nationwide, both daily records.
Earlier, Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister in charge of Japan’s coronavirus response, told a meeting of experts that many parts of the country were seeing infections rise at “an unprecedented and phenomenal speed.”
Ryan Crouser, the 2016 Olympic gold medalist, gave track and field fans a glimpse in June of what to expect at the Tokyo Games.
On his fourth throw of the evening during the U.S. Olympic trials, he shattered the world record with a 23.37-meter throw.
So when he stepped onto the field in Tokyo, Crouser had high hopes.
His first throw set a new Olympic record, beating his previous record set at the Rio Games.
On his next throw, he set another Olympic record.
Then he did it again and again. All told, Crouser set new Olympic records in three attempts. He also fell just short of his own world record, throwing 23.30 meters.
Joe Kovacs of the United States won the silver, and Tom Walsh of New Zealand finished with bronze. Crouser, Kovacs, and Walsh all won the same medals at the 2016 Olympics.
Crouser had one thing to say when he finished. He looked at the camera and held up a sign: “Grandpa, we did it, 2020 Olympic champion!”
In the triple jump, Hugues Fabrice Zango won the bronze, bringing home Burkina Faso’s first Olympic medal ever.
And on the track, Hansle Parchment of Jamaica upset Grant Holloway of the United States in the 110-meter hurdles. Holloway, the reigning world champion in the event, set a world indoor record in the 60-meter hurdles and nearly set a world record at the U.S. Olympic trials in June.
After Gong Lijiao won China’s first gold medal in an Olympic field event on Sunday, a reporter for state news media asked about her “masculine” appearance and her life plans, setting off a heated debate about the restrictive discourse surrounding women.
Gong, a four-time Olympian, placed first in the women’s shot-put competition with a personal best of 20.58 meters (67.5 feet).
An interview that aired Sunday on the state-owned CCTV included a sports correspondent’s contentious observation: “Gong Lijiao gives me the impression of a masculine woman.”
The reporter, Lu You, then asked about Gong’s future plans: “You used to be a masculine woman for the sake of shot-put. But moving forward, can you be yourself?”
Gong, 32, seemed caught off guard. “If I don’t train later on, then maybe I will lose weight, and then get married and have kids,” she said. “The path one must walk in life.”
The segment continued with a videographer and Lu asking the athlete whether she had a boyfriend, what she was looking for in a partner and whether she or a prospective partner would be better at arm-wrestling.
On Weibo, a popular microblogging platform, a discussion page on Gong and the question “Is marriage the only thing we can discuss about women?” had been viewed almost 300 million times on Thursday, generating more than 140,000 posts.
Many internet users criticized the CCTV reporter’s questions, comparing them to those asked by nosy relatives. Others asked why a gold medalist was subjected to a stereotypical line of inquiry.
One trending post stated that men were simply not good enough to marry Gong, adding: “Discourse about women isn’t limited to marriage and physical appearances. There are also dreams and success.”
Gong responded to the post from her official Weibo account. “This completely says what I’m thinking!” she wrote. “Thank you!”