Tokyo Summer Olympics 2021: Day 10 Highlights
Though some medals were given out Monday—notably in gymnastics, long jump and the women's 100-meter hurdles—Day 10 of the Tokyo Olympics was largely filled with preludes to bigger events. April Ross and Alix Klineman advanced to the beach volleyball quarterfinals, U.S. women's basketball reached the knockout stage unblemished and numerous track events held semifinals.
However, that didn't make it a less meaningful or entertaining day of sports.
Records were set, upsets shocked the world, history was made and some jaw-dropping feats of perseverance and athleticism underlined why the Olympics continue to be such a special world sporting event.
Here's a snapshot of how it all went down.
'A-Team' Defeats Cuba's 'L-Team' to Reach Women's Beach Volleyball Quarterfinals
Cuba's Leila Martinez and Lidiannis Echaverria—AKA Leila & Lidy—were a surprising qualifier for the round of 16 in women's beach volleyball.
They had each been playing with different partners for the previous three years, and neither of those teams ranked in the top 75 in the world, per FIVB.org. They also lost their first two matches of pool play in straight sets by a combined score of 84-56. That meant they needed to win their last pool match and subsequently win a lucky losers match to just qualify to face one of the top two seeds in the tournament in the knockout round.
After all that, a minor injury derailed their dreams of upsetting USA's A-Team.
April Ross and Alix Klineman won the first set 21-17 thanks to a pair of aces by Klineman and five service faults by Cuba. (Comparatively, Cuba had no aces and USA had three service faults, so that was essentially the difference.)
However, Cuba rallied in the second set, pulling ahead 10-7. On that 17th point of the set, though, Lidy inadvertently went under the net and underneath a leaping Klineman. Cuba was initially awarded the point, but it was overturned when Klineman landed on Lidy's leg, after which the Cuban athlete lay on the sand for a minute while getting looked at by the trainer.
Lidy was able to walk it off and stay in the match, but she didn't look quite right the rest of the way. The A-Team cruised to a 21-15 victory, taking the match in straight sets.
April and Alix will now draw Germany's Laura Ludwig and Margareta Kozuch in the quarterfinals—who may have done the Americans a huge favor by eliminating Brazil's Agatha and Duda in arguably the best match of the tournament.
Greece Wins 1st-Ever Long Jump Medal; Cuba Doubles Its All-Time Medal Count
Heading into Tokyo, Cuba had won just two Olympic medals (in either gender) in long jump history: Ivan Pedroso took gold in the men's long jump in 2000 and Ibrahim Camejo got a bronze in the men's long jump in 2008.
But in Juan Miguel Echevarria and Maykel Masso, Cuba was the only nation with multiple jumpers in the men's final, each of whom was a legitimate threat for gold.
Masso concluded the first round of the finals with the longest jump of 8.21 meters. His country-mate was the only jumper to do better within the first five rounds, as Echevarria went 8.41 meters on his third jump.
Unfortunately, both guys were injured during the finals. Masso could only produce two jumps before suffering an apparent right quadriceps injury. Echevarria injured a hamstring on his fourth jump and was unable to complete his fifth or sixth.
Until the very last jump of the finals, it wasn't a problem. Echevarria was in gold-medal position and Masso was in line for the silver when Greece's Miltiadis Tentoglou began his approach. He had successful jumps of 8.11, 8.10 and 8.15 meters within his first five attempts, but he exploded for 8.41 on his final jump, tying Echevarria for the longest.
At that point, the tiebreaker went to second-longest jump, where Tentoglou bested Echevarria by an 8.15 to 8.09 margin. Despite the hamstring injury, the Cuban long jumper attempted a final jump, knowing he "only" needed an 8.16 to get the gold medal. However, he pulled up halfway through his run before punching the ground at the takeoff point in pain/frustration.
The injuries leave Cuba wondering what might have been, but it still doubled its Olympic long jump medal count from two to four.
And in winning the gold, Tentoglou became the first athlete from Greece to ever medal in the long jump.
Slightly off the podium, Team USA's JuVaughn Harrison—who finished seventh in the men's high jump Sunday—placed fifth with a best jump of 8.15 meters. While he wasn't able to finish top three in either event, what a feat of athleticism to rank top seven in the world in both disciplines.
Jasmine Camacho-Quinn Wins Puerto Rico's 2nd-Ever Olympic Gold Medal
Puerto Rico's Jasmine Camacho-Quinn had the fastest time in the qualifying heats of the women's 100-meter hurdles by a margin of 0.12 seconds. She then set an Olympic record with a time of 12.26 seconds in the semifinals.
Even though Team USA's Keni Harrison is the world-record holder with a time of 12.20 seconds set in 2016, it almost felt inevitable that Camacho-Quinn would win the gold.
And she did, finishing 0.15 seconds clear of the field with a time of 12.37 seconds. It was tight for the first 50 meters, but she pulled ahead comfortably over the latter half of the race.
Harrison took silver, while Jamaica's Megan Tapper earned bronze. And for the Americans and Jamaicans, that's business as usual. They had a combined 43 medals in track & field at the 2016 Games and jumped out to an early lead with four medals each through the first 11 events this year.
For Puerto Rico, though, it was a historic first.
Prior to 2012, Puerto Rico had never won an Olympic medal (summer or winter; men's or women's) in any discipline other than boxing, nor had it ever won a gold medal.
They've turned the tide, though. They got a bronze in men's 400-meter hurdles in 2012 (Javier Culson), a silver in men's 84kg freestyle wrestling in 2012 (Jaime Espinal) and a gold in women's singles tennis in 2016 (Monica Puig). Camacho-Quinn's gold in the 100-meter hurdles makes it two gold medals and 10 overall medals for the island territory.
US Women's Volleyball Wins the Match, Loses Another Star Player
Team USA is the gold-medal favorite in women's indoor volleyball, and the Americans finished off pool play with a thrilling win over Italy on Day 10 to improve to 4-1 heading into the knockout portion of the tournament.
The Italians took the first set 25-21 before the Americans stormed to a 25-16 second-set victory. Primary setter, Jordyn Poulter, suffered a nasty ankle injury (more on that shortly) early in the third set, which Italy eventually won in "overtime" by a 27-25 margin after Team USA failed to convert on several set-point opportunities. Despite playing short-handed after a deflating set loss, though, the Americans rallied to win the final two sets 25-16 and 15-12.
The victory over Italy ensured they topped Pool B and are into the quarterfinals.
More important than their draw, though, is the health of two of the team's biggest stars.
Jordan Thompson suffered an ankle injury on a block attempt early in the second set of the previous match against the Russian Olympic Committee. She missed the rest of that match and watched the showdown with Italy from the stands.
Thompson's availability for the rest of the tournament was already a big question mark. Now the same goes for Poulter, who was injured on a similar play, and to a seemingly greater degree. Thompson was at least able to walk off the court after she got hurt. Poulter needed a wheelchair and watched the final two sets from that chair with a heavily wrapped foot.
Obviously, the Americans can play without that duo. They did just come from behind against Italy, which went 3-1 in its first four matches. But the status of those two ankles might determine what color medal Team USA wins, if any.
Team USA Women's Basketball Rally from Yet Another 1st-Quarter 'Loss'
Outside of perhaps "China will win the most medals at table tennis," the easiest medal prediction one could make before any Summer Olympics in the past two-plus decades has been "USA will win gold in women's basketball."
Not only did the Americans enter Tokyo on a 49-game winning streak in the Olympics, but 48 of those 49 wins were by double digits. (The lone exception was a 66-62 win over Russia in the 2004 semifinals.) In their 30 pool-play games, their scoring margin was slightly greater than 30 points per game. In Rio five years ago, they went 8-0, won each game by at least 19 points and averaged 37.25 more points than their "competition."
USA has been a women's basketball juggernaut.
That hasn't been the case this year, though.
The Americans won each of their three games in pool play, but not with anywhere near their typical level of dominance.
Team USA trailed by a bucket at the end of the first quarter in all three games against Nigeria, Japan and France. By midway through the third quarter against Nigeria, the Americans had pulled ahead by more than 20. (Though they did let Nigeria claw back a bit in the fourth for a final score of 81-72.) Japan was still within striking distance midway through the third, and the game against France on Day 10 was still a nail-biter well into the fourth before USA eked out a 93-82 victory.
Were it not for A'ja Wilson making seemingly every shot she took and Tina Charles stepping out to the perimeter for a trio of huge three-pointers in the second half, Team USA would have lost a game for the first time since 1992.
As is, they've won 52 consecutive games. However, they will enter the knockout portion of the tournament with an average winning margin of just 12.3 points per game this year. They're still the clear favorites, but they do seem more mortal than usual.
USWNT Upset by Canada, Will Play for Bronze
A rocky Olympics for the USWNT ended Monday with a whimper as the vaunted four-time gold medalists dropped their semifinal match to Canada 1-0.
After a stellar showing against the Netherlands in the quarterfinals, goalie Alyssa Naeher suffered a knee injury 30 minutes into today's match and was taken off. Bringing in backup Adrianna Franch didn't seem to matter much as the Americans won the possession battle handily, but Franch fell short when she was needed most.
In the 72nd minute, American defender Tierna Davidson fouled Deanne Rose close to the net, and Canada was awarded a penalty kick. With the match scoreless and the stakes clear, midfielder Jessie Fleming stepped up to the ball and coolly tapped it home.
Though the USWNT will play for a bronze medal against Australia on Thursday, the squad has gone nearly a decade without winning gold, a disaster by their lofty standards. However, with the Women's World Cup two summers away and a chance at redemption waiting in Paris in 2024, they've got plenty of time to regroup and reload.
Favorites Cruise into Loaded Women's 200m, 400m Hurdles Finals
The preliminary rounds of the women's 200-meter sprint and 400-meter hurdles saw the favorites proceed unimpeded and in casual fashion. Fresh off her Olympic record in the 100 meters, Jamaican Elaine Thompson-Herah did the bare minimum to qualify for the 200-meter semifinals, while hurdling favorites Sydney McLaughlin and Dalilah Muhammad won their heats but took it easy down the stretch.
Today's semifinals also didn't see any favorites go all-out, but the energy level was definitely greater, sending anticipation skyrocketing for the finals.
Thompson-Herah epitomized the uptick in quality, storming out to a big lead early in the second semi to record both a personal best and the top time of the day (21.66). But Thompson-Herah's shot at history will not go unchallenged—heavyweights like countrywoman Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce (22.13), Shaunae Miller-Uibo (22.14) of the Bahamas, Marie-Josee Ta Lou (22.11) of the Ivory Coast and American Gabby Thomas (22.01) also ran well today.
McLaughlin (53.03), Muhammad (53.30) and Femke Bol (53.91) of the Netherlands also won their semis definitively, setting up what should be a highly competitive 400-meter hurdle finals.
Prepare yourself for the rest of this week. It could go down in history.
China Dominates on Rings, Vaults Get Competitive, Jade Carey Wins Floor Gold
The gymnastics program is winding down in Tokyo, but the action is no less exciting.
Perhaps the headlining moment was China's Liu Yang and You Hao's gold and silver medals, respectively, in the men's rings competition. They finished just 0.2 points apart. Yang, a 2014 world champion, won China's first gold in artistic gymnastics at the 2020 Games.
In women's floor exercise, Jade Carey dominated for the U.S. and took home gold. Her degree of difficulty was 0.4 points higher than anybody else's in the competition, and though she competed second, nobody who followed could match her 14.366 score. Former world champion Vanessa Ferrari of Italy took silver, while Japan's Mai Murakami and Angelina Melnikova of the Russian Olympic Committee tied and each won bronze.
The day ended with a series of physics-defying vaults on the men's side. South Korea's Shin Jeahwan and Denis Abliazin of the ROC tied on points, but Shin took the top prize because of a higher single score (14.833 vs. Abliazin's 14.800). Artur Davtyan of Armenia got third prize with a 14.733 average and won his country's first gymnastics medal.
Valarie Allman Wins Discus Gold in a Rout, Sifan Hassan Runs Remarkably
We'll finish up with some odds and ends from track and field.
Though heavy downpours delayed the women's discus final, it returned as the rain dried up and was over early in retrospect.
American Valarie Allman's first attempt Monday traveled 68.98 meters. Though seven of the finalists were given six throws apiece, none of those 42 tosses came within two meters of Allman, who secured the United States' first track and field gold of these Games. She's the third American woman to win gold in the event and the first since 2008. German Kristin Pudenz (66.86 meters) took second, while the bronze went to Yaime Perez (65.72) of Cuba.
An even more remarkable story throughout Friday's events took place in women's distance running. First, in a heat of the 1,500 meters, Dutch legend Sifan Hassan stumbled early on the last lap and fell far behind the leaders yet somehow came back to win the race, advancing to the semis. However, Hassan wasn't done for the day as she returned to the track later for the 5,000-meter finals. After lying in wait toward the back of the pack for much of the race (on purpose this time), she uncorked a blazing final kick, claiming gold and winning by nearly two seconds.
Hassan is one-third of the way to an unprecedented trio of golds, as she's competing for victory in the 1,500 and 10,000 meters. If she wins all three of those events, then the title of "Greatest Women's Distance Runner Ever" is hers.