Tokyo Summer Olympics 2021: Day 5 Winners and Losers
In true Olympic fashion, the marquee gold medals were scattered across the planet on Day 5 of the Tokyo Games.
Japan's Daiki Hashimoto won the all-around competition in men's gymnastics. Australian swimmer Ariarne Titmus beat Katie Ledecky for another gold, but the U.S. star recovered to win a later event. Great Britain won the men's 4x200 relay in the pool.
For the United States specifically, it was a roller-coaster kind of day.
Ledecky missed the podium altogether in the 200-meter freestyle but shared the 1,500-meter stage with a teammate. USA Tennis mostly struggled and women's water polo lost its unbeaten streak, but the women's 3x3 basketball team celebrated a gold.
This recap explores the biggest results—good and bad, and mostly looking at Team USA—from Day 5, starting with one of the best redemption stories in these Olympics.
Winner: Annemiek van Vleuten Finally Gets Her Gold Medal
Five years ago in Rio, the Netherlands' Annemiek van Vleuten suffered one of the more horrific crashes you'll ever see in a bike race. All alone in first place with less than 12 kilometers remaining in the women's road race, Van Vleuten's tires locked up around a tight turn and she flipped over the handlebars, fracturing her back in three places.
She was back to competitive racing within a month of the injury—how?—but these Games were the chance at redemption for the now-38-year-old.
Van Vleuten thought she got that redemption in the women's road race earlier this week, celebrating at the end of the 137-kilometer race as though she had won gold. However, Austria's Anna Kiesenhofer had pulled so far ahead of the pack that everyone forgot about her. She won gold by 75 seconds, and Van Vleuten had to settle for silver.
She finally got her gold medal in the Day 5 women's road time trial, though, and she did so almost as dominantly as Kiesenhofer did.
In the 22.1-kilometer race, van Vleuten had a time of 30 minutes, 13.49 seconds, finishing almost a full minute ahead of Switzerland's Marlen Reusser in second place. That's a preposterous margin, but it was a well-deserved one after what she went through to get that gold.
Loser: Katie Ledecky in a Final for the 1st Time
Over the past decade, one thing has been certain: When Katie Ledecky reaches the final of a swimming event, she ends up on the podium shortly thereafter.
Heading into Day 5, Ledecky had swum in seven Olympic finals, 18 World Championships finals and 10 Pan-Pacific Championships finals in her career. In those 35 events, she had accumulated 28 gold medals, six silver medals and one bronze medal.
That's a perfect 35-of-35 (h/t Nick Zaccardi of NBC Sports).
But in the final of the women's 200-meter freestyle, that Joe DiMaggio-like streak came to a stunning end.
In a race that was billed as Round 2 between Ledecky and Australia's Ariarne Titmus, the American star was never even in medal position. Ledecky was in seventh place after the first 50-meter length of the pool and was in fifth after each of the final three lengths.
As she did in the 400-meter freestyle two days prior, Titmus took gold in the 200, coming from behind in the final 25 meters to edge out Hong Kong's Siobhan Haughey. And once again, Titmus' coach went wild.
For Ledecky, the agony of defeat didn't last long. She was back in another final barely an hour later, absolutely annihilating the field in the first-ever women's 1,500-meter freestyle for the sixth Olympic gold of her illustrious career. USA teammate Erica Sullivan took silver, more than four seconds behind Ledecky.
With the 800-meter freestyle still to come (at approximately 9:46 p.m. ET on Friday), there's a good chance Ledecky will secure a seventh gold medal in a few days.
Winner: Australia in the Water
Between rowing and swimming, there were 11 medal events either in or on top of the water during the first half of Day 5, and Australia was able to secure quite a bit of that aquatic hardware.
In rowing, Australia took gold in both the men's four and the women's four, narrowly winning each of those roughly six-minute-long races by less than four-tenths of a second. On the men's side, the victory broke a three-Olympics streak of finishing as first runner-up to Great Britain—which had taken gold in each of the past five Games. On the women's side, it was the first time the event had been held since 1992 and just the second time ever.
Australia also took bronze in both the men's quadruple sculls and the women's quadruple sculls, meaning they went 4-of-4 on the podium in the four-person races.
Keeping with that theme of fours, the Aussies came from behind to earn the bronze medal in the men's 4x200-meter freestyle relay.
Australia was in seventh place after the first 200 meters, but Thomas Neill swam the anchor leg in a time of one minute, 44.74 seconds, tied with USA's Kieran Smith for the third-fastest leg of the race. Great Britain took gold with room to spare, but it was Australia's first time medaling in the event since 2008.
And, as previously mentioned, Titmus took gold in the women's 200-meter freestyle while setting an Olympic record.
All told, that's six medals in the span of about three hours. It was quite the impressive stretch for a nation that finished eighth in the 2016 medal count with 29.
Loser: Father Time Trying to Slow Down 45-Year-Old Jake Gibb
Team USA's Jake Gibb is 45 years old. In most walks of life, he would be considered middle-aged. But in beach volleyball circles, this man is practically ancient.
Per NBC Sports, not only is Gibb the oldest person to compete in beach volleyball in the Olympics, he's the oldest by an entire (normal) Olympic cycle. The previous eldest statesman was Angola's Emanuel Fernandes, who was 41 when he participated in 2008.
The unlikelihood of his success in these Games doesn't stop there. Gibb has had cancer twice. And his normal partner (Taylor Crabb) tested positive for COVID-19 one week ago, forcing Tri Bourne to hop on a plane at the last minute to come play alongside Gibb.
No big deal, apparently.
Sunday, Gibb and Bourne won their pool-play opener against Italy's Enrico Rossi and Adrian Carambula in straight sets 21-18, 21-19. And on Day 5, they proceeded to take care of business against Switzerland's Mirco Gerson and Adrian Heidrich 21-19, 23-21.
On a particularly hot and humid morning, the match more or less devolved into a battle of who could commit the fewest physical and mental errors. Gibb and Bourne benefited from 11 service errors by the Swiss team, as well as a litany of attack attempts by Heidrich that sailed beyond the back line.
While they have not yet mathematically secured a spot in the 16-team knockout portion of the tournament, Gibb and Bourne are essentially into the next stage regardless of what happens in their pool-play finale against Qatar's Cherif Younousse and Ahmed Tijan at 9 a.m. ET on Friday.
Winner: Led by 3x3 Gold, USA Basketball
Don't stop us if you've heard this before: USA basketball won gold.
However, this next part is undoubtedly new.
The Tokyo Olympics added the 3x3 competition, and the U.S. women's team of Kelsey Plum, Allisha Gray, Stefanie Dolson and Jackie Young landed the first-ever gold. Team USA defeated the Russian Olympic Committee 18-15.
Defense propelled the United States in the win. As the ROC committed seven early fouls, the U.S. forced tough shots, created a few turnovers and hardly allowed any second-chance opportunities.
The ROC recovered from a 12-5 deficit and thrice cut the U.S. lead to three, which led to a nerve-testing finish. However, three late points from Dolson secured the gold for Team USA.
In the traditional five-on-five game, the U.S. men bounced back after its opening loss to France.
Damian Lillard scored 21 points to help Team USA cruise past Iran 120-66. Five other players scored 10-plus points, including Devin Booker (16) and Jayson Tatum (14).
Team USA would advance to the quarterfinals with a victory over the Czech Republic on Saturday at 8 a.m. ET.
Loser: Medal Hopes Down to 1 for U.S. Tennis
Since tennis returned to the Olympics at the 1988 Seoul Games, the U.S. has secured a medal in each one. Additionally, only at the 2004 Athens Games has the United States not won gold.
That streak is in jeopardy this year.
The last representative for U.S. tennis in Tokyo is the men's doubles pair of Austin Krajicek and Tennys Sandgren. And next up? Croatia's Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, the top-seeded team in the competition and the recent winners at Wimbledon.
No pressure, guys.
Otherwise on Day 5, 2016 gold medalist Bethanie Mattek-Sands and 2016 silver medalist Rajeev Ram lost in the opening round of mixed doubles. Mattek-Sands and Jennifer Pegula fell in the quarterfinals of the women's doubles competition, too.
Sometime early Thursday morning in the U.S., Krajicek and Sandgren will attempt to pull off the upset against Mektic and Pavic.
Winner: Japan's Reign Continues in Men's All-Around
Host nation Japan has another huge reason to celebrate as Daiki Hashimoto carried on a proud tradition.
In the men's all-around competition, Hashimoto landed the gold medal. He posted a final score of 88.465 to top the podium, while China's Xiao Ruoteng (88.065) and the ROC's Nikita Nagornyy (88.031) finished with the silver and bronze, respectively.
And it was everything a gymnastics fan could've wanted.
Entering the final rotation, the top contenders—all three medalists, along with China's Sun Wei—had a chance to win. Ruoteng held a 0.334 lead on Nagornyy and 0.467 advantage on Hashimoto, who scored a 14.933 on high bar to secure the gold.
Hashimoto won Japan's third straight gold in the competition, following consecutive golds for Kohei Uchimura.
Loser: U.S. Women's Water Polo's Unbeaten Streak Ends
It's a bad Olympics cycle to have a long streak, apparently.
One week after Sweden ended the U.S. women's soccer's 44-game unbeaten run, Hungary did the same in women's water polo. Team USA entered with a 13-year unbeaten streak, having not lost since the gold-medal contest in the 2008 Beijing Games.
Behind two late fourth-quarter goals, Hungary knocked off the United States for a dramatic 10-9 victory.
That the U.S. loss happened to Hungary is no surprise, considering the nation has three straight fourth-place Olympic finishes. However, Team USA won't be happy about giving up fourth-quarter leads of 8-6 and, in the last two minutes, 9-8.
Despite the loss, the U.S. women will be headed to the quarterfinals next week. And the team's defense of consecutive golds is no less alive than it was yesterday—just without the streak.