Summer Olympics 2021: What to Watch for on Day 7 in Tokyo
One week into the action at the Tokyo Olympics, there have been so many storylines to follow and so many surprises in a Games that virtually guaranteed uncertainty.
With training regimens, qualifying events and competitions interrupted by COVID-19 over the last year, predicting winners in these Games has been as difficult a proposition as ever. And viewers in the United States may be surprised to see Team USA struggling in some events it was expected to win, such as in softball, the women's gymnastics team final and the men's basketball game against France.
Not to take anything away from the incredibly talented Olympians at every sport who deserve to be celebrated, but even a cursory glance at the schedule for Day 7 reveals that the highlight of the day is the four swimming finals.
The Americans aren't the favorites in all these specific events—the women's 200-meter breaststroke, men's 200-meter backstroke, women's 100-meter freestyle and men's 200-meter individual medley—but we've seen enough shake-ups in the swimming finals to keep things interesting.
A U.S. women's soccer team knockout-round match against the Netherlands will also prove to be appointment viewing.
Meanwhile, in rowing, the U.S. women will go for a historic achievement in the women's eight final. And the U.S. women's basketball team will look to continue an amazing winning streak.
Due to 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. The following storylines belong to the events starting Thursday night in the U.S. through Friday morning.
This is your guide to Day 7 of the 2021 Olympics.
Start Times and TV Info for Notable Events
Bronze-medal match: 3:30 a.m. ET Friday, CNBC
Gold-medal match: 3:45 a.m. ET Friday, CNBC
Track and Field
Men's 10,000-meter final: 7:30 a.m. ET Friday, Peacock
Mixed doubles gold-medal match: 2:30 p.m. ET Friday, NBCSN
USA women vs. Japan: 12:40 a.m. ET Friday, USA
Men's BMX racing final: 10:40 p.m. ET Thursday, CNBC
Women's BMX racing final: 10:50 p.m. ET Thursday, CNBC
Women's single sculls final: 8:33 p.m. ET Thursday, CNBC
Men's single sculls final: 8:45 p.m. ET Thursday, CNBC
Women's eight final: 9:05 p.m. ET Thursday, CNBC
Men's eight final: 9:25 p.m. ET Thursday, CNBC
Women's quarterfinals, USA vs. Netherlands: 7 a.m. ET Friday, NBCSN
Women's 200-meter breaststroke final: 9:41 p.m. ET, NBC
Men's 200-meter backstroke final: 9:50 p.m. ET, NBC
Women's 100-meter freestyle final: 9:59 p.m. ET, NBC
Men's 200-meter individual medley final: 10:16 p.m. ET, NBC
Men's singles bronze match: Start time TBD, CNBC
Men's singles gold match: Start time TBD, CNBC
Can Michael Andrew Bring Home Another Swimming Gold for the US?
There have been plenty of upsets in swimming already these Olympics, some of which have benefited the United States.
In the men's 400-meter individual medley, for instance, gold-medal favorite Daiya Seto of Japan didn't advance to the final in a shocker, leaving American Chase Kalisz, who had been the silver-medal favorite heading into the Games, free to claim gold. Which he did.
In the 100-meter breaststroke, it was hard to imagine the U.S. wouldn't win gold, as veteran Lilly King and Olympics rookie Lydia Jacoby were expected to finish one-two. But it was Jacoby, 17, who surged past King to claim gold.
But some of swimming's surprises have come when Team USA did not perform as well as expected.
Swimming at the Tokyo Olympics has been wild. King was upset by 17-year-old fellow American Lydia Jacoby. Katie Ledecky lost her first individual Olympic event ever when Australia's Ariarne Titmus of Australia surged ahead in the last 50 meters of the 400-meter freestyle, though Ledecky later earned her sixth career Olympic gold medal and her first of these Games with a statement win in the new (for women) 1,500-meter freestyle event.
Then there's the men's 100-meter breaststroke final on Monday. The United States' Michael Andrew wasn't the gold-medal favorite, but he was expected to get bronze. Instead, he finished just off the podium in fourth place. Andrew's finish showed just how close these races can get; his time of 58.84 was just a half-second behind that of bronze-medal winner Nicolo Martinenghi.
The men's 200-meter individual medley is Andrew's next chance to earn a medal in these Games, and in this case, he's the favorite. At the U.S. Olympic trials in June, he posted the fastest time in the world (1:55.26) in the semifinals of the men's 200-meter individual medley, good enough for fifth-fastest all-time after Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps, Kosuke Hagino and Laszlo Cseh.
Can US Become First Country to Earn 4 Straight Olympic Rowing Gold Medals?
The U.S. and New Zealand advanced to the medal race in women's rowing eight after finishing tops in their respective heats. Now the American women will be looking to make history in the medal race as they set their sights on a fourth straight gold. Since the event debuted in 1976, no nation has won more than three consecutive gold medals.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Meghan Musnicki, who earned gold in the event in the 2016 Rio Games and then retired, is back for more in Tokyo. "I really missed the part of being part of a team," Musnicki told USA Today. The other vet on the team is coxswain Katelin Guregian, but the rest of the women are making their Olympic debuts.
In the women's eight's last international race, the 2019 Rowing World Championships, they finished in third place, behind New Zealand and Australia. Medal projections have the podium shaking out the same way in the Olympics, but the U.S. women are not looking to repeat that podium position this time around.
USA Women's Basketball Looks to Continue 50-Game Olympic Winning Streak
The United States women's basketball national team is dominant in its own right, full stop. But when the Summer Olympics are headlined by NBA All-Stars, the media doesn't always give the women their due.
That's not the case in Tokyo. After the U.S. men suffered a startling loss in their opener against France, the women, led by Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, are proving that they deserve the dominant moniker.
The women's team, like the men's, also struggled a bit in exhibition games. But when it came time to open Group B play, the Americans dispatched Nigeria 81-72. The win was the 50th in a row for the USA women in Olympic play, an eye-popping streak dating back to 1992.
Now the team turns its attention to Japan for the second of three group games. Against Nigeria, both A'ja Wilson and Brittney Griner posted double-doubles, and Taurasi had 10 points in the first half. Taurasi and Bird are both looking to become the first basketball players to win five gold medals.
Host Japan is also 1-0, having upset France 74-70. The schedule-makers didn't do the women any favors by airing the game live at 12:40 a.m. ET on Friday, but it will be replayed on NBCSN at both 4:15 p.m. and 8 p.m. ET.
US Women’s Soccer Team Prepares for World Cup Final Rematch
When it comes to dominant U.S. women's national teams, there's the women's basketball team, as we've established, and the women's hockey team is no slouch, either. But top of mind is surely the U.S. women's national soccer team, whose dominance includes four Women's World Cup titles (1991, 1999, 2015 and 2019), four Olympic gold medals (1996, 2004, 2008 and 2012) and eight CONCACAF Gold Cups.
It was, of course, a shock when the USWNT was eliminated from Olympic play in the quarterfinals of the 2016 Rio Games by Sweden, failing to advance to an Olympic gold-medal game for the first time.
American soccer fans were then surely anxious when the women's team was shut out by Sweden 3-0 in its 2021 Olympic opener.
But Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Co. are not frazzled by a little adversity; the team defeated New Zealand comfortably and, after a draw against Australia to wrap up group play, advanced to the knockout round against the Netherlands.
The last meeting, of course, went swimmingly. The Americans defeated the Dutch 2-0 in the 2019 World Cup final.
This time around, the U.S. has its work cut out for it. In just three matches, Netherlands striker Vivianne Miedema has already set an Olympic record with eight goals, beating Canada's Christine Sinclair's mark of six.
If the U.S. defeats the Netherlands, it will face the winner of the Canada-Brazil match.
Friday's Swimming Finals Could Feature Gold Medalists from 4 Continents
In the four swimming events on the docket for Friday—the women's 200-meter breaststroke, men's 200-meter backstroke, women's 100-meter freestyle and men's 200-meter individual medley—the U.S. is only favored to win gold in one, as we established: Michael Andrew in the 200-meter individual medley.
In a fun storyline, the gold-medal favorites in the other three events are all from different continents.
South Africa's Tatjana Schoenmaker, who finished second to Jacoby in the 100-meter breaststroke to bump King to bronze-medal position, is expected to earn gold in the 200-meter event. She holds the Olympic record (2:19.16), which she set on Wednesday in the prelims. Jacoby is not competing in this event, but King is, having won her heat with a time of 2:22.10. And she'll surely be looking for revenge.
The expected winner in the men's 200-meter backstroke is Evgeny Rylov of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC). (Russia is not competing under its team name as one of its sanctions for its extensive doping program and subsequent cover-up.) Rylov won Heat 4 of the prelims with a time of 1:56.02. The United States' Ryan Murphy won Heat 3 in 1:56.92 and is the expected silver medalist in the event.
But as we've seen with the other swimming events, anything can happen.
In the women's 100-meter freestyle, Australia looks to dominate, with Emma McKeon expected to win gold and fellow Aussie Cate Campbell eyeing silver. More on McKeon and the position she's chasing in the Olympic record books below.
Aussie Swimmer Emma McKeon Chasing 100-Meter Freestyle World Record
We established that Australia's Emma McKeon is the gold-medal favorite in the women's 100-meter freestyle event. Just how much of a favorite is she? Well, in prelims Wednesday in Tokyo, she won her heat with a time of 52.13, which is an Olympic record and oh-so-close to being a world record, which is held by Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom at 51.71.
In the 100-meter freestyle final, there's a chance McKeon will claim that world record for herself.
If you needed any more proof about how dialed-in McKeon is during these Games, it's also the second personal best McKeon has swum this year. Her 52.19 at the 2021 Olympic trials one-upped her previous record of 52.46.
These Games have already been a triumph for McKeon and Australia, as a whole. She was part of the country's bronze-medal 4x200 freestyle relay and the 4x100 relay team that won gold, and she earned bronze in the 100-meter butterfly. But it's a safe bet McKeon will be heading home with an individual gold medal in her arsenal, as well—if not a world record.