Tokyo Summer Olympics 2021: Day 1 Winners and Losers
It didn't seem like we'd ever get here, but the 2020 (yes, they're still called that) Tokyo Olympics have finally arrived.
Though only one official day has passed, so much has taken place already. We've got medals, heartbreak, resilience, straight-up dominance, national pride and much more—all the things that make the Olympics truly one of a kind in the sporting world.
Over the next 15 days, we'll be covering it all here at Bleacher Report. Here's a quick recap of what you may have missed overnight on Day 1, highs and lows alike.
Winner: Yang Qian, China, Women's 10m Air Rifle
While the Olympic opening ceremony signals the beginning of the Games, it doesn't really feel like things have gotten started until a medal is awarded.
And thanks to Yang Qian's steady aim in the women's 10-meter air rifle competition, China won the first gold medal of the 339 events that will take place within the next two-plus weeks.
By the time the knockout-style tournament was whittled down to the final three shooters, it looked to be Anastasiia Galashina's gold medal to lose. The woman from the Russian Olympic Committee had a score of 210.5 with Yang in second place at 210.0 and Switzerland's Nina Christen in third place at 209.9. That might not seem like much of a difference, but she was consistently within about a millimeter of the bullseye and merely needed to keep that up for four more shots.
Even heading into the final shot, Galashina was ahead by 0.2 and had just hit a 10.8 on her previous shot—0.1 points shy of the maximum score. One more like that and she was assured a gold medal.
The pressure was too much, though. After averaging 10.53 on her first 23 shots, Galashina missed badly on No. 24 for a score of 8.9. Yang was also clearly feeling the nerves with a 9.8 on her final shot, but it was enough for the win.
Team USA's Mary Tucker placed sixth in the event.
Loser: Top Seeds in Archery Mixed Team Prelims
Instead of March Madness, it was Archery Madness in the first round of a mixed team archery event making its Olympics debut this year.
Seeding for the event was based on the results of the previous day's individual ranking round, in which everyone shot 72 arrows. The highest-scoring man and highest-scoring woman from each country became the mixed team, with their combined score determining the seeding.
Team USA's Brady Ellison had the second-highest score among men (682) while Mackenzie Brown had the fifth-highest score among women (668). Their combined score of 1,350 netted them the No. 2 seed in the 16-team event.
Some lot of good it did them, though.
Facing 15th-seeded Indonesia, the Americans lost the first two sets of the four-set event and caught quite the lucky break just to force a tiebreaker. Indonesia only needed an eight or better on its final shot of the third set to win the match, but Riau Ega Agatha Salsabila hit a seven. And the fourth set came down to a judge's ruling on whether Ellison's first shot was a nine or a ten. (It was ruled a ten.)
In the tiebreaker set—in which each archer gets one arrow instead of two—Ellison started out with a disappointing eight while the other three archers each hit a ten.
Just like that, Team USA was eliminated from the event.
Top-seeded Korea made it into the quarterfinals without any trouble, but No. 3 seed Japan and No. 5 seed China were both eliminated in the preliminary round.
Winner: Artur Dalaloyan's Improbable Qualifier
At the 2018 World Championships in Doha, Artur Dalaloyan of the Russian Olympic Committee won the gold medal for both the all-around and the floor exercise in men's gymnastics. The following year, he took silver in the all-around at the World Championships in Stuttgart.
If he had been at full strength, he would have entered these Games as one of the top candidates for Olympic gold.
But after severing his Achilles tendon in mid-April, his participation in Tokyo was unlikely at best.
After all, Kevin Durant missed the entire 2019-20 NBA season because of torn Achilles suffered during the previous postseason. Klay Thompson suffered a similar fate the following year. The idea of recovering from an Achilles tear well enough to do vaults and flips and dismounts in just three months' time is almost incomprehensible.
It was reported by Reuters on July 18—less than one week ago—that Dalaloyan would not be able to compete in the vault or floor exercise. Per Nancy Armour of USA Today, even 24 hours before qualifying began, Dalaloyan didn't think he could or would compete.
Yet, in the first subdivision of qualifying on Day 1, there was Dalaloyan competing in all six events, recording the fourth-highest all-around score of that subdivision (85.957) to qualify for the finals (which will take place on Day 5).
This is basically the Olympics equivalent of the time Terrell Owens played in the Super Bowl just seven weeks after breaking his leg. Except in Dalaloyan's case, we'll now wait to see if he can physically do it a second time a few days from now.
Loser: Japanese Champions
With storied athletes like Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt retiring from the Olympics after the 2016 Games, it seemed like we were ripe for a changing of the guard in Tokyo. And immediately, that storyline has taken shape.
Perhaps the greatest male gymnast ever, Japan's Kohei Uchimura failed to qualify for the apparatus final on Saturday morning, ending his home-field Olympic run before it even truly began. Uchimura is a seven-time Olympic medalist, with three golds and four silvers, and seemed shocked by the turn of events.
"I couldn't perform what I practiced," he said. "In the last three Olympic Games, I could...but I couldn't do that at these Olympics."
Japanese swimmer Daiya Seto, who held the fastest time in the world in the 400 individual medley heading into the Games, was in a similar spot. Though he led on the final lap of the event, he faded and didn't advance. Australia's Brendon Smith ended up winning the heat and will move on alongside USA's Jay Litherland and Italy's Alberto Razzetti.
As with every Olympic Games, some of the most incredible stories involve young and old competitors. Overnight, athletes of both extremes played matches, and experience seemed to reign supreme.
After waiting since 2008 for her sport to return to Olympic play, U.S. softball legend Cat Osterman started on Saturday and dominated, pitching six innings and allowing just one hit in a 2-0 win over Mexico.
A two-time medal winner (gold in 2004 and and silver in 2008), Osterman did not play competitive softball from 2016 through 2018. But after being rejected by the U.S. coaching pool, she decided to give it another shot.
"I'm here so [my teammates] can win a gold medal because I already have one," the 38-year-old told reporters. "I want to see how they feel and how they react after we are able to possibly do that."
On the other side of the age spectrum sits 12-year-old Syrian tennis table prodigy Hend Zaza. She was defeated 4-0 by Austria's Liu Jia, but the youngster is keeping her head held high.
"Reaching the Olympics was already an achievement," she said, per ESPN's Tom Hamilton. "I wasn't asked to win, I was asked to play well. I think I had a good performance and I learn from the loss."
If Zaza can make the Olympics as a pre-teen while her home country fights a civil war, an opening-round loss should be an easy hurdle to overcome. Let's hope to see her in Paris, three summers from now.
Wednesday was a tough day for the vaunted U.S. women's soccer team, as Sweden snapped its 44-game unbeaten streak by a 3-0 tally. Already behind the eight-ball in the group stage, the USWNT needed a major bounce-back performance against New Zealand.
The Americans took control early thanks to a ninth-minute Rose Lavelle strike and never let up, claiming a 6-1 victory. They held possession for 62 percent of the match and were so aggressive in pressing up the field that New Zealand was forced into two own goals. Lindsey Horan, Christen Press and Alex Morgan tallied the other three goals for the U.S.
Sweden also won 4-2 on Saturday over Australia and is off to a three-point lead in Group G. But with another match on Tuesday, this one against Australia, the world champs are in prime position to advance to the knockout stage and compete for another gold medal.