Tokyo Summer Olympics 2021: Day 11 Highlights

Bleacher Report Olympics StaffFeatured ColumnistAugust 3, 2021

Tokyo Summer Olympics 2021: Day 11 Highlights

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Tuesday was a monumental and enjoyable day in world athletics. Competitors shattered world records, added to Olympic history and made triumphant returns. Above all else, we saw some of the best athletes of all time push themselves to the limits. As sports fans, we can't ask for more than that.

    Whether it's the epic 400-meter hurdles final, Elaine Thompson-Herah's historic pair of victories, Simone Biles showing out once more or even something as comparatively low-stakes as a potential Luka Doncic triple-double, all Olympics fans will remember something from Day 11 forever.

    Here's a recap of the legendary last 12 hours.

USA's 'A-Team' Survives and Advances to Women's Beach Volleyball Semifinals

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    Team USA's April Ross and Alix Klineman
    Team USA's April Ross and Alix KlinemanPetros Giannakouris/Associated Press

    In pool play of beach volleyball, the scoring margin was a potentially important factor for tiebreaking purposes. Now that the women are two rounds into the knockout portion of the tournament, though, it no longer matters in the slightest.

    That's good news for Team USA's "A-Team" of April Ross and Alix Klineman, because their 21-19, 21-19 quarterfinal victory over Germany's Laura Ludwig and Margareta Kozuch was neither convincing nor dominant in the slightest.

    Still counts, though!

    The Americans briefly took a 5-2 lead in the first set, but that was the only time in the entire match that they led by more than two points. And Germany went on a 9-3 run right after that to open up a three-point lead of their own.

    April and Alix trailed 18-17 late in the first set, and they were down 15-14 more than two-thirds of the way through the second set. But a couple of missed German attacks in the former and a big ace and a bigger dig by Ross in the latter proved to be the difference in come-from-behind set victories.

    The last remaining hope for a U.S. medal in beach volleyball will face Switzerland's Anouk Verge-Depre and Joana Heidrich in the semifinals at either 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. ET Wednesday evening.

Luka Doncic's Near Triple-Double Carries Slovenia into Semifinals

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    Slovenia's Luka Doncic
    Slovenia's Luka DoncicEric Gay/Associated Press

    There have only been two official triple-doubles in men's Olympic basketball historySoviet Union's Alexander Belov in 1976 and USA's LeBron James in 2012but Slovenia's Luka Doncic sure has been flirting with joining that club.

    The star of the Dallas Mavericks had 12 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists in Slovenia's final game of pool play a few days ago, and he went for 20 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds in their 94-70 quarterfinal victory over Germany on Day 11.

    It was a close game late in the second quarter, but Doncic either scored or assisted on nine of Slovenia's next 11 field goals as they pulled into a comfortable lead.

    And now Doncic has Slovenia in medal position in its first-ever Olympic appearance in basketball.

    Yugoslavia was routinely a medal contender, winning a combined eight Olympic medals between men's and women's hoops. But since Slovenia became an independent nation in 1991, it had not previously qualified in basketball in either gender.

    What a difference a back-to-back top-six finisher in the NBA MVP vote can make.

    Through four games (all wins), Doncic is now averaging 26.3 points, 10.0 rebounds and 8.0 assists in Tokyo. Two more performances like that and a gold medal is a real possibility.

USA's Brittney Reese, New Zealand's Lisa Carrington Medal for 3rd Straight Games

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    Team USA's long jumper Brittney Reese
    Team USA's long jumper Brittney ReeseDavid J. Phillip/Associated Press

    The women's long jump final went back and forth and back again in what appeared to be a two-woman battle between Team USA's Brittney Reese and Nigeria's Ese Brume.

    Brume set an early high-water mark of 6.97 meters with her first jump, which was matched by Reese on her third jump. At that point in time, Reese held the tiebreaker with a second-best distance of 6.81 meters. However, Brume moved back into gold-medal position by going 6.88 meters with her fourth jump. Reese fell just shy (6.87) of matching Brume with her fourth jump, but she moved ahead of her with a fifth jump of 6.95 meters.

    Then, in the sixth and final round, Germany's Malaika Mihambo crashed the party with a jump of 7.00 meters. Neither Reese nor Brume was able to match, taking silver and bronze, respectively, to Mihambo's gold.

    For Reese, it was the third consecutive Summer Games medaling in the long jump. She also took gold in 2012 and silver in 2016.

    And she wasn't the only woman to complete that triple dip on Day 11.

    New Zealand's Lisa Carrington took gold in the women's K-1 200-meter kayaking finals, as she did in both 2012 and 2016. The event has only been held three times in Olympic history, and she has won them all.

    And that's not all. She took gold in this K-1 200m at the World Championships in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019. In other words, she has now dominated this event for an entire decade.

    But wait, there's more. Carrington was back in the kayak a little over an hour later for the women's K-2 500-meter final. She and teammate Caitlin Regal took gold in that event too, bringing her career Olympic total to four gold medals and five total medals.

    Carrington is now tied with Ian Ferguson (four gold, one silver) for the title of most decorated New Zealand Olympian in history, and she'll have a chance to bypass him later this week in the K-1 500-meter and/or the K-4 500-meter races.

World-Record Time in 400m Hurdles Not Good Enough for Team USA's Rai Benjamin

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    Norway's Karsten Warholm
    Norway's Karsten WarholmCharlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Team USA's Rai Benjamin ran the race of his life in the final of the men's 400-meter hurdles.

    Considering we're talking about someone who just a little over one month ago at the U.S. Olympic Trials ran the second-fastest 400-meter hurdles time ever recorded (46.83 seconds), a new personal best is really saying something.

    Not only did Benjamin beat his personal best, but he shattered it with a time of 46.17 seconds.

    When Benjamin and Co. started their race, the world record was 46.70 seconds, set by Norway's Karsten Warholm on July 1 of this year, meaning he bested the world record by 0.53 seconds.

    Unfortunately for Benjamin, Warholm was busy smashing his own world record with a time of 45.94 seconds, leaving Benjamin to settle for silver.

    The Norwegian sprinter got out of the blocks faster than any of his challengers and raced out to a big lead in the first 200 meters. Benjamin almost caught up to Warholm as the two entered the final straightaway, but he fist-pumped his way through a dominant closing stretch on his way to a new world-record time that even he couldn't believe.

    (Warholm could use some tips from Hulk Hogan on how to properly rip off a shirt, though.)

Team USA Eliminates Spain in Men's Basketball Tournament for 5th Straight Time

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    Team USA's Kevin Durant
    Team USA's Kevin DurantKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    We can't really call it a rivalry since Spain has never beaten Team USA in men's basketball at the Olympics, but they've had quite the series of matchups over the past two decades.

    It started in 2004 when the Americans knocked Spain out of the quarterfinals. That was the year Team USA suffered two losses in pool play prior to drawing undefeated Spain in the first knockout game. Stephon Marbury went off for 31 points in a 102-94 victory.

    In both 2008 and 2012, Spain and USA met in the gold-medal game. Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant led the Americans to a 118-107 victory in the former; Kevin Durant and LeBron James were the stars of the 107-100 win in the latter.

    In the 2016 semifinals, the Americans survived a lower scoring affair, 82-76, with Klay Thompson leading the way.

    Meeting in the knockout round for a fifth straight Olympics, it looked like Spain might finally have USA's number. They led by two after the first quarter and pulled ahead by 10 late in the second quarter.

    But that's when the Americans dug in their heels on defense, holding Spain without a made field goal for more than nine minutes. And while Spain couldn't buy a bucket from the field, Team USA finally found its shooting stroke and went on a 36-10 run. Durant scored 18 of those 36 points, catching fire from distance early in the third quarter. He finished with 29.

    Ricky Rubio did everything in his power to keep Spain in it, finishing the game with 38 points on 13-of-20 shooting. It wasn't enough to keep pace with USA's multifaceted attack, though. The Americans won 95-81 and will face Australia in the semifinals at 12:15 a.m. ET on Wednesday night/Thursday morning.

Simone Biles Returns, Wins Beam Bronze

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    After sitting out nearly all the events she qualified for while dealing with "the twisties," Simone Biles came back for one last bow in Tokyo, competing in the balance beam individual final.

    As expected, Biles performed a less complicated routine than usual by her otherworldly standards. That paid off, as the legend made few mistakes, dismounted with a small hop off the beam and flashed a thousand-watt smile. Biles won bronze with a score of 14.000, placing behind Chinese gymnasts Guan Chenchen (14.633) and Tang Xijing (14.233). American teammate and all-around champ Sunisa Lee finished fifth.

    The undisputed best ever in her sport, Biles had nothing to prove by returning to competition. The fact that she did and won an Olympic medal—and looked like she was having fun again—is something to celebrate.

Athing Mu, 19, Wins 800-Meter Gold

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    Francisco Seco/Associated Press

    Throughout Athing Mu's road to the 800-meter finals, she's been making history. In 2021, the 19-year-old has set the indoor collegiate and world U-20 record and the outdoor collegiate record, as well as run a world-leading time. Though the Tokyo Games were her first experience on the Olympic stage, expectations were high for the incoming Texas A&M sophomore.

    She didn't disappoint.

    Mu won her preliminary heat and semifinal comfortably and looked nearly as unbothered in the final, leading the race from wire to wire to claim gold. She recorded the fastest time in American history at 1:55:21, becoming the second American woman to win gold in the event.

    Great Britain's Keely Hodgkinson, also 19 years old, won the silver, while American Raevyn Rogers made an impressive late kick to claim the bronze.

    With her 20s ahead, Mu will dominate middle-distance running for the foreseeable future.

Anita Wlodarczyk Wins Third Straight Hammer Throw Gold

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Anita Wlodarczyk has not lost a hammer throw competition in almost a decade, and she wasn't about to start in Tokyo.

    Though the Pole didn't break her five-year-old world record of 82.98 meters (set two weeks after the Rio Olympics—no rest for the weary), she finished the final with a top throw of 78.48 meters, nearly 1.5 meters longer than silver medalist Wang Zheng (77.03) of China. Wlodarczyk won her third straight Olympic gold and solidified her status as the greatest women's hammer thrower of all time.

    Wlodarczyk's countrywoman Malwina Kopron (75.49) took third prize.

    It's tough to say whether Wlodarczyk will be able to maintain such greatness for another three years until the Paris Olympics. But even at age 35, she remains unchallenged at the heights of her sport. Even a minor decline from her staggering heights could result in a medal. Regardless, Wlodarczyk has nothing left to prove.

Men's Soccer Nearly Goes Scoreless on the Day

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    Silvia Izquierdo/Associated Press

    Mexico and Spain scored six and five goals, respectively, in their quarterfinal victories, so it seemed like we could be in for entertaining, high-scoring semifinal matches.

    In an unpredictable Olympics, though, it makes sense that we got the opposite. Until the final minutes of the second semifinal, all that goal-scoring had evaporated.

    Mexico and Brazil fought tooth and nail in their matchup, recording 50 fouls between them. Richarlison had a shot to win the match for Brazil with a header but hit it off the crossbar. The reigning gold medalists held steady through to penalty kicks, however, where they dusted their fellow Western Hemisphere denizens 4-1.

    The second matchup between Spain and Japan was heading the same way. Both teams were blanked through 90 minutes and most of extra time, but then Marco Asensio curled a ball in from the right wing to gift Spain a trip to the final.

    One storied football nation wants to repeat as Olympic champions, and another storied football nation wants its first gold in nearly 30 years.

Elaine Thompson-Herah Wins Women's 200m, Continues to Makes History

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Though this was a loaded women's 200-meter final, Jamaican Elaine Thompson-Herah was the clear favorite. After she showed her world-class speed in a record-breaking 100-meter victory and ran an efficient 21.66 in the 200 semis, the rest of the field appeared to be racing for second.

    Thompson-Herah delivered on expectations, establishing an early lead and maintaining a safe distance from what became a frantic race for second and third. She joins fellow Jamaican Usain Bolt as the second person to win both the 100 and 200 in consecutive Olympics (Bolt famously did so three times). Additionally, Thompson-Herah ran the 200 in 21.53 seconds, making her the second-fastest woman in history behind Florence Griffith Joyner, whose 21.34 world and Olympic record still stands tall.

    In a repeat of the second semifinal, Namibian Christine Mboma (21.81) made a late comeback to earn the silver, while American Gabby Thomas (21.87) claimed third place and won her first Olympic medal. Jamaican legend and seven-time Olympic medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (21.94), who has stated that Tokyo will be her final Olympic appearance, barely missed the podium in fourth.

    With the 400 meters and relays yet to come, the women's sprinting program is not over yet, but we've seen special talent and competition on display in Tokyo.

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