Current time in Tokyo: Aug. 6, 8:00 p.m.
TOKYO — The U.S. women’s basketball team has many advantages during the Olympic tournament, including a coterie of W.N.B.A. stars that seem to have a lot of chemistry.
But one of the most important could be that several of them have played in international leagues in the off-season or do so now for lucrative contracts, making their opponents not as unfamiliar as they might otherwise be.
Brittney Griner said as much after she led the team in a 79-59 semifinal romp of Serbia that gave the U.S. squad its 54th consecutive Olympic win since 1992 and its 11th appearance in the gold medal game, which is Sunday.
“After playing nine years in the W.N.B.A, playing overseas, and knowing the players too, I have played many players of team Serbia overseas,’’ said Griner, who is on the Phoenix Mercury and has played in China and Russia. “So just having that confidence and familiarity, I can play well.”
That was a bit of an understatement. She had 15 points and 12 rebounds. That, combined with Chelsea Gray’s 14 points and Breanna Stewart’s 12 made the U.S. unstoppable, as they have been throughout the tournament.
The United States has stomped past Nigeria, Japan, France and, in a quarterfinal game, Australia, always with comfortable margins.
The U.S. women are favored to win their ninth gold, and it hasn’t looked like teams have an answer for their versatile offense and defense. They lead the tournament in scoring, assists and field goal percentage — and also in star power with the likes of Bird, A’ja Wilson and Diana Taurasi.
Wilson said the U.S. has focused on improving its defense.
“That comes from just playing with each other, trusting the next layer of defense to be there,” she said.
She added, “We’re really starting to clamp down on our defenders and our teams and we’re just meshing together.”
As the team steamrollers along, pressure may be mounting to meet the expectations of a seventh consecutive gold. Or is that galvanizing them?
“This is exactly where we want to be, so now everything is on the line,’’ Stewart said. “We’re going to do what we can to make sure that we come home with a gold.”
Still, she said, the drive to meet the mark can take something away from an Olympic experience already constricted by pandemic protocols and regulations.
“Right now there’s so much pressure that it’s seven straight overall, things like that, that you get lost in what’s actually happening and enjoying being at the Olympics,” Stewart said.
Serbia, which is ranked No. 8 in the world, was not considered a doormat. They had a comeback win over China in the quarterfinals and are the reigning EuroBasket champions; they are noted for a grinding if not flashy offense and a tough defense. Jelena Brooks leads the team in scoring with 13.5 points per game.
Yvonne Anderson, a U.S.-born player with Serbian citizenship, led Serbia against the United States with 15 points and two rebounds.
The U.S. might have already brushed past its stiffest competition in this tournament by beating Australia, which is ranked No. 2 in the world. France is ranked fifth in the world and Japan is 10th.
But the Americans, who are ranked No. 1 — if it needs to be said — pledged to be ready for either of France or Japan.
“The winning team is going to come out extra aggressive, but we have to fight through that,’’ Sylvia Fowles said. “At this point, we’re locked in on the task ahead of us. We’re just trying to win the gold.”
An action-packed Friday evening in Tokyo (Friday morning in the United States) includes broadcast coverage of the culmination of the women’s soccer tournament and the men’s bronze medal game. In a busy track and field schedule, the sprinter Allyson Felix will try to match or surpass Carl Lewis as the most decorated American track and field athlete. All times are Eastern and are subject to network changes.
SOCCER A replay of the women’s bronze medal game between the United States and Australia is on NBCSN at 1:30 a.m. The men’s bronze medal game, between Mexico and Japan, starts at 5 a.m. on USA, Telemundo and Universo. Then at 8 a.m., Canada and Sweden meet in the women’s gold medal game on USA.
WATER POLO Greece and Hungary meet in a men’s semifinal match at 2:30 a.m. on CNBC.
TRACK AND FIELD Coverage of the women’s 20-kilometer race walk starts at 3:30 a.m. on NBCSN. Later, coverage on NBCOlympics.com will include Felix’s bid for a 10th Olympic medal in the women’s 400-meter final (8:35 a.m.), along with finals in the women’s 4×100-meter relay (9:30 a.m.), the women’s 1,500 meters (8:50 a.m.), the men’s 5,000 meters (8 a.m.), the men’s 4×100-meter relay (9:50 a.m.) and the women’s javelin throw (7:50 a.m.). Round 1 of the men’s 4×400-meter relay will also air on NBCOlympics.com, at 7:25 a.m.
DIVING The men’s platform finals continue through 4:30 a.m. on USA.
RHYTHMIC GYMNASTICS The qualifying round airs on USA at 4:30 a.m.
HANDBALL France faces Sweden in a women’s semifinal at 5:15 a.m. on NBCSN.
WRESTLING Starting at 5:15 a.m., the Olympic Channel has medal matches in the 74- and 125-kilogram classes of the men’s freestyle and the 53-kilogram class of the women’s freestyle, plus semifinal matches in three other divisions. A replay starts at 9 a.m., also on the Olympic Channel.
BASKETBALL Japan and France face off in a women’s semifinal at 7 a.m. on NBCSN.
CYCLING Coverage starting at 7 a.m. on USA includes the women’s Madison finals and the men’s and women’s sprints.
VOLLEYBALL Brazil and South Korea meet in a women’s semifinal at 9 a.m. on NBCSN.
FIELD HOCKEY The women’s gold medal game between the Netherlands and Argentina airs at 10 a.m. on USA.
TOKYO — Just four years after making the transition to beach volleyball, Alix Klineman of the United States won the gold medal on Friday with her partner April Ross, who took home her third Olympic medal.
The Americans won, 21-15, 21-16 over Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy of Australia on a blisteringly hot day at Shiokaze Park. The Australians particularly struggled to win points on their serve: An American dig, set and spike always seemed to be waiting for them.
When Ross won her last Olympic medal with Kerri Walsh Jennings in 2016, Klineman didn’t even play beach volleyball.
She was a professional indoor volleyball player, playing internationally for teams in Italy and Brazil. In 2017, Klineman envisioned a future in beach volleyball and dreamed of the Olympics. She began to study the craft.
Ross, a two-time Olympic medalist, was watching. She saw potential with Klineman, 31, citing a list of attributes: her physicality, work ethic, intelligence and intensity, to start.
“Alix did study the game more than anyone else I’ve ever known,” said Ross, 39. “She’d go home and watch a ton of video, and I’d be like, ‘Well, I’ve got to go home and watch video, too.’”
Without fans in the stands in Tokyo, it was easier to catch the pair’s enthusiasm and communication in the stadium. If there was no cheering, they would make up for it by encouraging each other even louder on their way to the gold.
“I just can’t believe it,” Klineman said minutes after they earned their spot in the final. “It’s the most amazing feeling. You know, we dreamed of this, and this is what we worked for every single day. But just because you work for it, and just because you do everything you can, doesn’t mean that it happens.”
They had an extraordinary run at the Tokyo Olympics, winning gold without dropping a set in any of their four matches in sweltering heat. The dominance was the payoff for Klineman’s transition to a new sport and Ross’s bet on a new player.
“When you’re working for something like this, you need someone who is going to work their butt off every day,” Ross said. “And I knew she was coming out to the beach to make the Olympics. And I knew taking such a risk for herself was a motivating factor.”
“It all held up,” she said, looking up to Klineman, who is 6 feet 5 inches tall.
For Ross, the gold medal is the culmination of a career that at times was lost in the long shadow of the greatest U.S. beach volleyball players, Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor, the gold medalists in 2004, 2008 and 2012.
In her first Olympic trip, Ross won silver in 2012 with Jennifer Kessy, losing the final to the legendary duo. When May-Treanor retired, Ross joined forces with Walsh Jennings to win bronze in 2016.
Now she has the full set.
At a Summer Olympics where almost nothing is recognizable, Allyson Felix’s presence feels especially familiar, almost comforting.
It’s the Summer Games, so of course Felix is running for a gold medal on the track.
She made her debut as an 18-year-old representing the United States at the 2004 Athens Games and has barely stepped off the gas since: She took home one medal from Athens, two from Beijing in 2008, three from London in 2012 and three from Rio de Janeiro in 2016. She also has 19 world championship medals.
Felix’s nine Olympic medals (six golds and three silvers) have her tied with the Jamaican sprinter Merlene Ottey as the most decorated female Olympian in track and field.
Should she bring home a 10th Olympic medal on Friday in the 400-meter final — and even an 11th on Saturday in the 4×400-meter relay — she would match or surpass Carl Lewis, who has 10, as the most decorated American athlete in track and field. (Paavo Nurmi of Finland, with 12, has the most Olympic medals in the sport overall.)
For a time, there was no guarantee that Felix, 35, would get to the start line for these Games.
In November 2018, she gave birth to her daughter, Camryn, in an emergency cesarean section at 32 weeks. Felix had severe pre-eclampsia, which put her and her daughter’s lives at risk. Camryn remained in the neonatal intensive care unit for weeks.
“There are a lot of moments where I was doubtful,” Felix said after qualifying for Friday’s 400-meter final, coming in second behind Stephenie Ann McPherson of Jamaica for automatic qualification.
Felix’s fight to get to these Games included a visit to Congress and a break with her sponsor.
Her fight hasn’t wavered. She arrived in Tokyo with the same hunger she has had since she first appeared on the global stage. But now she is also a mother, an activist and an entrepreneur who just started her own shoe brand, Saysh.
Olympic athletes have long been photographed biting their medals, a celebratory if not entirely hygienic gesture.
But typically they’re biting their own medals. A mayor in Japan learned the hard way that chomping on someone else’s doesn’t go over as well.
Mayor Takashi Kawamura of Nagoya apologized after biting the gold medal of Miu Goto, a member of the Japanese national softball team, during a ceremony on Wednesday as he stood in front of a backdrop promoting coronavirus safety precautions. He was immediately pilloried on social media, where some Olympians said they would be furious if it happened to them. Others just thought it was gross.
Toyota expressed its displeasure in a statement, saying Mr. Kawamura “did not pay respect and honor to the athlete, nor had consideration to prevention of infection.” (Goto also plays for the company’s corporate team.)
Mr. Kawamura said he later recognized it was “extremely inappropriate conduct.”
“I apologize from the bottom of my heart for making her and others feel uncomfortable and causing troubles to them,” he said.
Local news reports said Mr. Kawamura had visited Toyota to deliver a letter of apology, but he waited in the car while his aides went inside. The city of Nagoya received about 4,000 complaints from citizens criticizing his act, according to reports.
Naohisa Takato, a judo gold medalist, wrote on Twitter that he handled his medal with care so as not to damage it.
“Ms. Goto is so generous that she did not get angry,” he wrote. “If I were her, I would cry.”
Nao Kodaira, a speedskater who won gold at the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, tweeted that he would have cried and “wouldn’t be able to recover for a while.”
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 2014. 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 was bittersweet.
It was 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.
“We are working with the I.O.C. on a Race Walk Mixed Team event but there is still a considerable way to go to create a new format that will work for the sport of athletics and meet the I.O.C.’s criteria for the Olympic Games,” Loic Malroux, a spokesman for World Athletics, said in a statement.
The 50-kilometer’s demise 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 began at 5:30 a.m. local time on Friday, just after sunrise.
Dawid Tomala of Poland won the gold medal in 3:50:08, nearly 18 minutes short of the Olympic record, which will now stand for eternity.
TOKYO — There is a lot of sand in Qatar but not a lot of beach parties. At least, not the kind of revelry that tends to draw beach volleyball players, in their bikinis and short shorts.
A lack of tradition, though, has not stopped Qatar from assembling a top-flight beach volleyball team. On Saturday, Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan will fight for bronze in the Olympic men’s beach volleyball competition, having defeated Italy, the 2016 silver medalists, along the way.
“Everyone now knows Qatar in beach volleyball,” Mr. Younousse said. “It’s on the map.”
Armed with cash, coaches and state-of-the-art training facilities, Qatar has been trying to assemble an athletic force worthy of the host of the 2022 soccer World Cup, not to mention other high-profile sporting events that the small Gulf state is eager to attract.
In Tokyo, Qatar has fielded 16 competitors — 13 men and three women — most of whom were drafted from other countries. They include athletes originally from Mauritania, Egypt, Sudan and Morocco. To represent Qatar, where Arabic names are common, many have shed their original names for purposes of competition. But they earn salaries and opportunities that would be impossible in their countries of origin.
“We are one of the best countries to support sports, the government supporting us to achieve things,” said Abderrahman Samba, a 400-meter hurdler who placed fifth in the finals in Tokyo. “I don’t think I can tell you now all the support, it will take days to tell.”
Mr. Samba grew up in Saudi Arabia but ran for Mauritania, his parents’ homeland, before turning up as a Qatari competitor in 2016, about a year after moving there.
“They helped me follow my dream,” he said. “They give me everything.”
Tariq Panja contributed reporting.
TOKYO — Two coaches involved in the attempt to force an Olympic athlete home to Belarus against her will have been stripped of their credentials and expelled from the Olympic Village, Games organizers said Friday.
The case of the 200-meter specialist Kristina Timanovskaya, 24, briefly turned the Tokyo Games into the center of a major diplomatic conflict when Timanovskaya sought sanctuary from the police at Narita International Airport. Timanovskaya, who is now in Poland, said she had been “kidnapped” after writing an Instagram post criticizing the Belarusian athletic federation’s preparations for the Olympics.
The International Olympic Committee had come under pressure over the slow progress of its investigation into the matter until, on Friday, the organization announced in a Twitter post that it had asked the coaches, Artur Shimak and Yuri Moisevich, to leave the Olympic Games. “They will be offered an opportunity to be heard,” the post said, noting that the investigation was continuing.
Timanovskaya complained in her video that her coaches had registered her for an event she hadn’t trained for, the 4×400-meter relay, because they had failed to conduct enough antidoping tests on other athletes.
In an interview with The New York Times this week, Timanovskaya named Moisevich, the head coach of the Belarusian national team, and Shimak, the deputy director of the Belarusian Republican Track and Field Training Center, as central players in the attempt to remove her from Tokyo.
She said the two men had come to her room at the Olympic Village to persuade her to recant the complaints she had made in her Instagram post and to go home. The order, they said, came from higher-ranking officials.
“Put aside your pride,” Moisevich can be heard saying on a partial recording Timanovskaya made of the conversation. “Your pride will tell you: ‘Don’t do it. You’ve got to be kidding.’ And it will start pulling you into the devil’s vortex and twisting you.”
He adds, “That’s how suicide cases end up, unfortunately.”
Timanovskaya can be heard crying on the tape. At other times she sounds defiant, refusing to believe that if she were to acquiesce and return home, she would be able to continue her athletic career.
The chairman of the Belarus Olympic committee is the eldest son of Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, the strongman leader who has held power in the country for 27 years. He has long sought to stifle any dissent, through measures including a brutal crackdown that began a year ago after a disputed presidential election. Targets of the crackdown also included a number of athletes, leading to the I.O.C.’s decision in December to bar the Lukashenkos from attending the Tokyo Games.
Another 29 people connected to the Games tested positive for the coronavirus, Tokyo 2020 organizers reported on Friday.
At least 387 people with Olympic credentials 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. Health officials reported 5,042 new cases in Tokyo and 14,211 nationwide on Thursday, both daily records.
In NBCUniversal’s stewardship of the Tokyo Olympics broadcast, the coronavirus pandemic has been the greatest challenge for the company, which paid more than $1 billion to run 7,000 hours of Games coverage across two broadcast networks, six cable channels and a fledgling streaming platform, Peacock.
The ratings have been a disappointment, averaging 16.8 million viewers a night through Tuesday, a steep drop from the 29 million who tuned in through the same day of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016. NBCUniversal has offered to make up for the smaller-than-expected television audience by offering free ads to some companies that bought commercial time during the Games, according to four people with knowledge of the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss negotiations.
The opening ceremony set a downbeat tone. Instead of the usual pageant of athletes smiling and waving to the crowd, there was a procession of participants walking through a mostly empty Tokyo Olympic Stadium, all wearing masks to protect against the spread of Covid-19 as a new variant raged. The live morning broadcast and prime-time replay drew the lowest ratings for an opening ceremony in 33 years, with just under 17 million viewers. The high came Sunday, July 25, when a little more than 20 million people tuned in.
The absence or early exits of popular athletes from some events, including the gymnast Simone Biles, the runner Sha’Carri Richardson, the tennis champion Naomi Osaka and the basketball star LeBron James, further dimmed expectations. And in a constant reminder of the coronavirus, on-air correspondents have been masked as they keep their distance from athletes.
“We turn to the Olympics as an escape, as this fun, uplifting experience, and certainly there have been moments like that,” said Jen Chaney, a television critic for Vulture. “But more than anything, watching this year has shown the wounds that we’re dealing with.”