Summer Olympics 2021: What to Watch for on Day 3 in Tokyo

Michelle Bruton@@michelle_nflFeatured ColumnistJuly 25, 2021

Summer Olympics 2021: What to Watch for on Day 3 in Tokyo

0 of 6

    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    We're already three days into the action at the Tokyo Olympics, and the stakes are only getting higher.

    The events taking place on Day 3 include the first medal event in the new Olympic sport of women's street skateboarding, a momentous 400-meter freestyle race for defending gold medalist Katie Ledecky and a crucial match between softball rivals Japan and the U.S.

    Also on the docket are the men's 100-meter breaststroke final and the women's taekwondo medal event.

    Given the 13-hour time difference between Tokyo and the East Coast of the United States, most competitions will take place overnight or in the early morning hours stateside. We'll cover the events starting Sunday night in the U.S. through Monday morning.

    This is your guide to Day 3 of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

Will Japan Win the 1st Women's Street Skateboarding Olympic Gold Medal?

1 of 6

    Ben Curtis/Associated Press

    It's no surprise Japan has produced some of the world's top skateboarders. The nation won its bid to host these Olympics in 2013, and in 2016 the International Olympic Committee approved skateboarding as a new sport that would be added to the Tokyo program.

    That means Japan had five years (with the postponement of the Games because of the coronavirus pandemic) to develop a roster of talented skateboarders who could contend for gold in the street event. And that preparation to rack up medals at its own Games bore out Saturday night, as Yuto Horigome took the first men's street gold medal.

    Aori Nishimura, with her rails prowess, is the gold-medal favorite in the women's event, and 13-year-old
    Momiji Nishiya is threatening the podium as well (the two finished 1-2 at the Street World Championships in June). But Team Brazil will be nipping at their heels with world No. 1 Pamela Rosa, 13-year-old Rayssa Leal and veteran Leticia Bufoni.

    Team USA's Mariah Duran—with her signature hardflip in the best-trick segment and an impressive repertoire for her runs—could be a contender as well.

    At 11:25 p.m. ET on Sunday, following the prelims, we will get to see the top competitors attempt to skate their way onto the podium. They will perform two 45-second runs and five individually scored tricks, and will be judged on a scale of zero to 10 with their top four scores counting. The top eight skaters from the four prelim heats will participate in the final.

Can Katie Ledecky Defend Her Gold Medal in the 400-Meter Freestyle?

2 of 6

    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    When she qualified for her third Olympics at the U.S. trials in June, five-time gold medalist Katie Ledecky won all four events she entered: the 200-meter, 400-meter, 800-meter and 1,500-meter freestyle races.

    In the Tokyo Games, the 1,500 freestyle is new on the program for women, meaning it is the first time Ledecky will compete in the event in the Olympics—and that she can become the first woman to win it.

    At 7:18 a.m. ET Sunday, Ledecky will swim in her qualifying heat for the 400 freestyle, with the final scheduled for 10:20 Sunday night. You need not worry that she won't advance; not only is she the gold-medal favorite, but she's the favorite in all four of her events.

    If Ledecky wins three golds, she will tie Jenny Thompson (eight) for the most of an American woman in any sport.

Can American Swimmer Michael Andrew Upset in the Men's 100-Meter Breaststroke?

3 of 6

    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Also set for late Sunday night, at 10:12, is the men's 100-meter breaststroke final. American swimmer Michael Andrew isn't the gold-medal favorite—that would be Great Britain's Adam Peaty, who won the event at the 2016 Rio Games—but you can pencil this one down as a potential upset special.

    Andrew won his first heat Saturday with a time of 58.62 seconds; Peaty won his, in 57.56.

    Andrew, whose speciality is the 200-meter individual medley, gleans a sense of calm from the lack of pressure.

    "You look at the 50 and 100 breast, it's like I'm going up against guys that are—I feel like people think they're unbeatable, so it gives me a lot of freedom just to race," Andrew told KSHB. "But in the 200 IM, I'm that guy, and they're chasing me."

    Even if Andrew doesn't beat Peaty, he will in all likelihood land on the podium. That will undoubtedly amplify a storyline that has been surrounding him since he qualified for the Games: He has publicly said he's unvaccinated (around 100 of the 613 Team USA athletes have not received a COVID-19 vaccine).

Shooter Nino Salukvadze Will Become First-Ever Woman to Compete at 9 Olympics

4 of 6

    Shakh Aivazov/Associated Press

    When she competes in the 10-meter air pistol women's qualification at 8 p.m. ET Sunday, even if she does not advance to the final, Georgian Nino Salukvadze will make history.

    This year, Salukvadze becomes the first woman to compete at nine Olympics in any sport, according to NBC Sports. Salukvadze made her Olympic debut at the 1988 Seoul Games, where she won two medals for the Soviet Union. She has competed in all the Summer Games held since, earning another medal in the 2008 Beijing Games.

    Those 2008 Games were notable for another reason. When Salukvadze competed in the 10-meter air pistol competition and won bronze, Russian shooter Natalia Paderina won silver. Georgia and Russia were at war, but the two women embraced on the podium in a gesture of peace.

    Salukvadze also holds another bit of fun Olympics trivia; her son, Tsotne Machavariani, also competed at the 2016 Rio Games. In so doing, they became the first mother-son duo to compete at the same Olympics.

    If she advances to the final, you can watch Salukvadze shoot at 10:15 p.m. ET Sunday.

Paige McPherson Is First American Woman to Compete in Taekwondo at 3 Olympics

5 of 6

    Ng Han Guan/Associated Press

    In the taekwondo women's welterweight event Sunday, we have another opportunity to see a woman make Olympic history.

    Paige McPherson will become the first American woman to compete in taekwondo at three Olympics. She won bronze in the women's 67 kg taekwondo event at the 2012 Games, a run which included an upset over Team Great Britain's Sarah Stevenson in the first round. She then qualified for the 2016 Rio Games but lost her first match against Farida Azizova.

    McPherson is not a podium favorite in the event, but it's still a notable achievement for one of the United States' weaker Olympic sports. Since the sport debuted at the 1988 Seoul Games, the U.S. has won nine total medals but just two gold. South Korea leads the medal table with 19 total medals and 12 gold; China is next with 10 total medals and seven gold.

    Competition will begin at 9 p.m. ET Sunday night with the qualification matches, and the medal events will begin Monday morning at 7:30 a.m. ET.

Can the U.S. Hold Off Japan in Softball?

6 of 6

    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    After softball was removed from the Olympic program for the 2012 and 2016 Summer Games, it has made its triumphant return, along with baseball, to the Tokyo Olympics. Heading into the Games, the U.S. was ranked No. 1 in the world and Japan No. 2.

    And sure enough, Japan and the United States are both 4-0 so far in group play and sit atop the standings entering their head-to-head matchup Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on USA.

    The U.S. is looking for its fourth Olympic softball gold medal. It won the first three Olympic softball events ever from 1996 to 2004. But Japan ended the American women's dominance in 2008, beating Team USA 3-1 in the gold-medal game.

    Because softball is not slated to be included on the program for the 2024 Paris Games, this could be Americans' last chance to see veteran 38-year-old pitcher Cat Osterman, the sole woman on the roster of 15 who was on the team for the 2004 win. Also on this year's squad is fellow left-hander, 35-year-old Monica Abbott.

    Osterman is disappointed at the consequences softball's removal from the Olympic program had for the sport, but in what is likely her last Olympics, she's urging young women not to give it up.

    "The hiatus was a detriment to our sport. I am so thankful it is back this year and that there are countries worldwide that want the sport played," Osterman told me. "I really want younger athletes to see that and know that—look at today—softball is back in the Olympics."

    The gold-medal game is set for Tuesday, July 27 at 7 a.m. ET.