Current time in Tokyo: July 24, 9:19 p.m.
TOKYO — Nearly everyone in the gymnastics arena — other gymnasts, coaches, arena workers and reporters — stopped what they were doing on Saturday to watch Kohei Uchimura of Japan, considered one of the best male gymnasts ever, perform his horizontal bar routine.
At the start of his fourth Olympics, Uchimura, one of the most revered and beloved athletes in Japan, swung around the high bar and soared over it in his usual daring and dazzling way. But then his hands slipped during a fast — maybe too fast — pirouette requiring intricate handwork, and spectators gasped.
Uchimura fell, landing on the mat with a loud smack that was likely to echo throughout the country. The mistake, during the men’s qualifying event, ended his hopes of winning a gold medal at his home Olympics. And it was emblematic of how the Summer Games have gone for Japan: so much hope, followed by a huge letdown.
Uchimura did not qualify for the final, and he said he was stunned.
“I never failed like this in practice and I can’t figure out why it happened,” he said. “I’ve also been successful at the Olympics throughout my whole career. I’ve never experienced failure like this.”
Uchimura, 32, has been a staple at the top of the sport for more than a decade. At the 2016 Rio Games, he won the all-around to become the first male gymnast to retain his Olympic title in the event in 44 years. From 2009 to 2016, he didn’t lose an all-around at the world championships or the Olympics. Leading up to that dominance, he won the silver medal in the all-around at the 2008 Beijing Games.
But at these Games, he was competing only in horizontal bar as an event specialist, not as part of Japan’s four-man squad that will vie for the team gold medal. He barely made the Olympic team and said he was grateful for the chance.
After his fall, Uchimura fist-bumped a few teammates and walked out of the arena, silently passing a giant set of Olympic rings on the wall before disappearing under the stands.
Later, he said he came back to cheer on his teammates. They were doing so well, he said, that it dawned on him: “Maybe the team doesn’t need me anymore?” But he said he loved gymnastics so much and still had so many things to learn that he wouldn’t dare declare that he was retiring.
Through two of three qualifying rounds on Saturday, Japan was in first place in the team competition, and its gymnasts said they were motivated to perform at their best for Uchimura after his fall because they did not want to disappoint him. China was second and Russia was third, with all three teams separated by about one-tenth of a point.
Japan’s Daiki Hashimoto, 19, sat in first place in the all-around and was first in the horizontal bar. If he ends up winning that event final, he said, he knows exactly what he would do with his gold medal.
“I will put the medal around Uchimura’s neck,” Hashimoto said. “Because he should’ve been the person to win it.”
Olympic Athletes From Russia
TOKYO — Six days after finishing third in the Tour de France, Richard Carapaz of Ecuador flew to Japan, battled the steamy conditions, pushed his body past exhaustion and won gold in the men’s road race on Saturday.
Digging deep for a closing burst, Carapaz, 28, broke away from Brandon McNulty of the United States with nearly six kilometers left and sprinted to the end, recording a 6:05:26 finish, comfortably ahead of the next riders.
Looking over his shoulder and seeing no one nearby, Carapaz kept pushing toward the cheering crowds at the finish line at Fuji International Speedway. With a few meters remaining, he smacked his handlebars and threw his arms into the air.
It was his first Olympic medal and only the second gold in Ecuador’s history. In 1996, Jefferson Pérez won the top prize in men’s 20-kilometer race walk.
Cycling – Road: Men’s Road Race ›
Wout van Aert of Belgium finished 1:07 behind Carapaz for the silver medal. And Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia, who toyed with Carapaz less than a week ago while winning his second consecutive Tour de France, made a mad final dash to secure the bronze.
The competition, which began with nearly 130 riders, was a battle of attrition.
The brutal 234-kilometer course was made worse by intense heat and humidity. It began around Musashinonomori Park, just west of Tokyo, and ran up part of Mt. Fuji, finishing at Fuji International Speedway in Shizuoka Prefecture. In the stretches of the course outside of Tokyo, the riders wove through small towns and past fans lining the road.
In all, the cyclists were subjected to 4,865 meters of climbing, making it one of the toughest races in Olympic history.
For much of the race, the leading pack of riders was bunched up. But little by little, they began falling back through the tough final ascents. The 2016 gold medalist, Greg Van Avermaet of Belgium, dropped off with about 52 kilometers left.
Twenty kilometers later, McNulty, Pogacar and Michael Woods of Canada made their moves toward the front. Soon, McNulty and Carapaz pulled ahead. But over the final six kilometers, Carapaz was simply too powerful; he rode to the finish line alone.
The most remarkable thing about Sweden’s 3-0 victory over the United States on Wednesday was not the score or the stage but the nature of it: The United States was bullied and bossed around the field for the entire 90 minutes, the kind of beating this team usually delivers rather than receives.
And even though it knew what was happening, it couldn’t do anything to stop it. Sweden was technically and tactically and physically better.
Saturday night’s opponent, New Zealand, poses a different kind of challenge. The Football Ferns (great name) have become a fixture at the Olympics and the World Cup over the past decade because they are the strongest team in their confederation, Oceania, by a long ways. They are experienced, tactically adaptable and well coached by a former U.S. coach, Tom Sermanni, and are now better equipped to hold their own against the more high-profile teams they face at major tournaments. That does not, however, make them the equal of the mighty United States.
The U.S., in fact, has beaten New Zealand at the past three Olympics. It is 15-1-1 all time against New Zealand. And while New Zealand’s team and reputation have improved as it has exported players to top leagues and A-list colleges in the United States and Europe, it should — should — have trouble matching up against the American stars. Especially now that those stars are mad and embarrassed.
“They’re going to be very, very structured, very organized, and they change what they’re doing within the game,” U.S. Coach Vlatko Andonovski said Friday. “Sometimes we saw that in the last game, they step up and pressure high, sometimes they defend middle block in a 5-4-1 and sometimes they’ll drop even a lower and play low block. So for us to recognize all those moments and position to be able to solve those challenges will be crucial.”
TOKYO — A terrible last shot cost a Russian shooter the first gold medal of the 2020 Olympics.
In the women’s air rifle competition on Saturday morning, Anastasiia Galashina held a lead of 0.2 of a point over Yang Qian of China with one shot to go.
Air rifle at the highest level is a witheringly precise sport. The bull’s-eye is a mere half a millimeter across.
Women’s 10m Air Rifle Shooting ›
Olympic Athletes From Russia
Galashina fired her last shot and missed the center of the target, scoring just 8.9 points. It was the worst score of the entire eight-woman final. Yang’s last shot, at 9.8, was her lowest score of the competition as well, but it was easily enough to surpass Galashina and win the gold medal.
Galashina’s blunder was all the more remarkable because her previous shot had been worth 10.8, just a tenth of a point short of the maximum score.
“I got too nervous, held on too long,” Galashina said afterward. “My thoughts were not in the right place. I lost concentration.”
“But now I am happy,” she added. “I made a mistake. Nothing major. It will allow me to learn something; it’s a lesson for the future.”
Nina Christen of Switzerland won the bronze, and the American shooter Mary Tucker placed sixth.
TOKYO — For decades, with rare exceptions, men competed with men and women with women at the Olympics.
Increasingly, though, the Games have been adding mixed team events. On the menu for the first time in Tokyo are mixed-gender track, swimming and triathlon relays. There will also be new coed team events in judo and shooting, and mixed doubles in table tennis.
The first mixed event of the Games was held on Saturday, with favored South Korea winning the mixed team archery competition.
The team of An San and 17-year-old Kim Je Deok tore through the field, winning their first three matches, 6-0, 6-2 and 5-1. The Netherlands team of Gabriela Schloesser and Steve Wijler put up the biggest fight, taking a 2-0 lead before South Korea fought back for a 5-3 victory, ending the match with a string of three perfect 10s and a 9.
The result was no surprise; South Korea has won five of eight men’s team events contested at the Olympics and all eight women’s events.
Mexico won the bronze.
The U.S. team of Brady Ellison and Mackenzie Brown fell behind Indonesia, 4-0, in their first-round match, rallied to tie, but lost in a shootout.
Novak Djokovic resumed his quest for a “Golden Slam” and the Olympic gold medal Saturday, easily dispatching Hugo Dellien of Bolivia in straight sets.
But tougher challenges await Djokovic, the world No. 1, and he got an early feel for what might serve as his biggest foe — the sweltering Tokyo summer.
When tennis players talk about how the Olympic tennis competition feels different than any other tournament, they are usually referring to representing their country — playing for national pride and a medal rather than simply prize money or points in the professional standings.
This year, there is that, but this is also shaping up to be one of the hottest and most uncomfortable tennis tournaments they will ever play in their lives. As play got underway Saturday morning temperatures were approaching 90 degrees in the shade. The combination of the sun, the humidity and the hardcourts made it feel far hotter than that on the courts.
Temperatures can be higher in Australia occasionally, but it is usually a dry heat. Cincinnati in August and the U.S. Open in late summer in New York have their oven-like days as well, but those days are shorter, and there are evening and night matches, too.
With the sun high throughout the afternoon there was little shade anywhere on any of the courts. There is a reason tennis tournaments in this part of the world take place in the fall.
There are few players in the world who dislike the heat more than Djokovic, who struggled early in his career in difficult conditions.
Djokovic rarely struggles. He is on the heels of his 20th Grand Slam win at Wimbledon earlier this month — his third major win this year. He is trying to become the first male player to sweep the four Grand Slam singles titles and win the Olympic gold medal in a single year.
It is easy to think he can’t be beat, but the combination of opponents needing only to win two out of three sets to beat him — rather than three out of five in a Grand Slam — and the uniquely brutal conditions under which this tournament is taking place gives opponents some rare hope.
Not Dellien — the player ranked No. 139 in the world had little chance for an upset. Trying to expend as little energy as possible, Djokovic broke Dellien’s serve in the sixth and eighth games, clinching the first set in 35 minutes when he sent a nifty inside out forehand from one sideline to the other. Djokovic cruised from there, taking the second set in just 25 minutes.
Djokovic said he tried to prepare for the heat by practicing in the middle of the day, but walking onto the court in Tokyo was unlike anything he and several players he spoke to had ever experienced, because the stifling conditions are there day after day. He said he was dizzy at times on the sunny side of the court and suggested that organizers consider starting the matches a few hours later, allowing the athletes to play into the evening.
“We had some retirements today, and you don’t want to see that,” he said.
Djokovic’s match was the fourth of the day on center court, and he wrapped up his match as if he were punching out his timecard at 5 o’clock.
Before the first hour of play Saturday morning, the heat was on the verge of claiming its first victim. After losing the first set, 6-0, Sara Errani of Italy struggled to answer the bell in the second set. She sat for several minutes in her chair during the changeover. Trainers measured her blood pressure and covered her in towels stuffed with ice. She put her face in front of a hose that blew cold air.
“It’s very hard,” said Iga Swiatek of Poland.
Swiatek loves to play in the cool air and under the gray skies of northern Europe. She won the French Open the one time it was played in October. For many players, their last competition was at Wimbledon in London, where the weather bears little resemblance to the cauldron of Tokyo. Swiatek said she traveled to Nagasaki to acclimate before coming to Tokyo, which helped, but there is only so much a player can do. Dealing with the heat becomes yet another mind game.
“You walk out, you know it’s not going to be fun,” Medvedev said after his straight sets win over Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan. “You tell yourself you’re going to make it tough for him. You’re going to make him suffer.”
It was so hot that during her loss to Leylah Fernandez of Canada, Ukraine’s Dayana Yastremska rolled her shirt into a midriff and Fabio Fognini of Italy did his post-match interviews shirtless with a towel draped around his neck.
And yet there was one player who was in her element. It turns out Maria Sakkari of Greece, perhaps the fittest player in the game who loves few things more than spending several hours in the weight room, said she would not be bothered if it was even a few clicks hotter.
“I actually really like these conditions,” Sakkari said after her straight sets win over Anett Kontaveit of Estonia. Minutes after the victory, Sakkari looked like she had just walked out of an air-conditioned room. “We grow up playing in the heat in Greece. This is normal for me. Maybe a little more humid, but I felt really good out there.”
Hou Zhihui of China is in a class by herself. As other weight lifters in the women’s 49-kilogram division took turns on Saturday lifting heavier and heavier weights, she waited and waited some more.
Her declared attempt in the snatch event was several kilograms above that of her nearest competitor, Mirabai Chanu of India, who took silver. On her second attempt, Hou, 24, achieved an Olympic record. On her third minutes later, she blew past that record by lifting 94 kilograms.
Hou, 24, set records again in the clean and jerk with each of her three successful lifts, finishing at 116 kilograms. She also collected three more Olympic records for the combined total of her lifts.
Few details are publicly divulged about individual members of China’s women’s weight lifting squad. In the Olympics information guide, Hou’s ambition was listed briefly as “to compete at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.”
But one thing is certain. This Chinese squad, handpicked and nurtured by the state sports system, aims for gold and nothing else.
To harvest maximum gold, China has built a network of hundreds of state sports schools. The students there are scouted by coaches who fan into the countryside to find future world champions. While China’s growing wealth has made some parents less willing to send their children to such sports academies, the state’s hunger for gold remains.
As Beijing fine-tuned its “gold medal strategy,” it systematically targeted sports that are underfunded in the West. That often means women’s sports and disciplines that are less in the public spotlight. The Chinese sports system has also nurtured athletes in sports that offer multiple gold medals because of different divisions.
In women’s weight lifting, each national team can enter a maximum of four weight classes out of seven. If China doesn’t claim gold in each one it will be considered an upset.
“The Chinese weight lifting team is very cohesive, and the support from the entire team is very good,” Hou said, after winning her gold. “The only thing we athletes think about is to focus on training.”
Amy Chang Chien contributed reporting.
TOKYO — Past the baseball fields at Ojima Komatsugawa Park is a quiet edge where one of Japan’s leading Olympians got his start.
It is a place that sits quietly and unnoticed most days. Take a closer look: The stone steps leading toward the Kyunaka River are worn smooth by the grinding power of a thousand skateboards. The smooth, curved-steel hand rails beg to be ridden. A withered wooden quarter pipe is wedged under the bridge, next to a sleeping man. A sign warning that skateboarding is not allowed has been uprooted and tossed in the bushes.
Yuto Horigome grew up nearby, on the third floor of a 12-story apartment with his parents and two younger brothers. His father, Ryota Horigome, a Tokyo taxi driver, used to skateboard, too. When he married, he promised he would stop, because skateboarding in Japan was long seen as an activity for aimless renegades; it was time to get more serious with life.
But he took young Yuto to the park and handed him a skateboard. And on Sunday, Yuto Horigome, an unassuming 22-year-old from the east side of Tokyo, might become Japan’s first gold medalist — if he can beat the far more famous and rich Nyjah Huston of the United States in street skateboarding.
It is an event of imagination on rails, stairs and ramps. And the riverside edge of the park is where Horigome’s imagination flourished. On Friday, the same day that his father came to visit where it began, Yuto posted photographs to Instagram showing the two of them together at this very spot many years ago.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance,” Ryota said, 48 hours before the scheduled final of the Olympic contest. “But I have a heavy weight in my stomach.”
Kim Sang-woo contributed reporting.
TOKYO — After the final point, after all that she had been through, Hend Zaza, the youngest Olympian at the Tokyo Games, shed a tear.
Reaching the Olympics is no small feat, let alone at age 12 and from war-torn Syria, where finding a safe place to train with uninterrupted electricity was a challenge.
But Zaza’s Olympic appearance was short-lived. She lost on Saturday in straight sets (4-11, 9-11, 3-11, 5-11) to Liu Jia of Austria in the opening round of the women’s singles table tennis tournament. Afterward, Liu, 39, walked over to Zaza and offered a hug.
“I had maternal feelings,” said Liu, who has a 10-year-old daughter. “It was less about the sport side of this game and more the human side.”
At 12 years and 204 days, Zaza became the youngest table tennis player ever to compete in the Olympics, according to the Tokyo Games. She was the youngest Olympian in any sport since 1992, when Judit Kiss of Hungary, then 12, competed in swimming, and 11-year-old Carlos Font of Spain participated in rowing.
Although Zaza had hoped for a better showing, the loss capped a whirlwind trip. The night before her match, she was a flag bearer for Syria at the opening ceremony. A late night, plus the lingering six-hour jet lag, meant that she barely slept — not great preparation against Liu, who is making her sixth Olympic appearance.
“I was hoping for a winning match and for better play, but it’s a tough opponent so it’s a good lesson for me, especially with the first Olympics,” Zaza said through an interpreter. “I will work on it to get a better result next time, hopefully.”
Still, with her long hair bouncing as she did around the table, Zaza showed ability that impressed her seasoned opponent.
“I had to remind myself not to underestimate her,” Liu said. She called Zaza “a great talent” with good rhythm and instincts who simply needed more experience.
Zaza began playing table tennis at 5, following in the footsteps of an older brother. A local coach, Adham Aljamaan, spotted her and took her under his wing.
For most of Zaza’s life, Syria has been locked in a civil war. She practiced in a place with old tables, a concrete floor and frequent power outages, according to the International Table Tennis Federation’s publication.
At 11, Zaza qualified for the Tokyo Games by defeating 42-year-old Mariana Sahakian of Lebanon in the Western Asia Olympic qualification tournament in Jordan last year. The Chinese Olympic Committee invited Zaza to train in China, a table tennis powerhouse, once coronavirus pandemic restrictions were lifted, she said.
“For the last five years, I’ve been through many different experiences, especially with the war happening around the country, with the postponement, with the funding for the Olympics,” Zaza said. “It was very tough. But I had to fight for it.”
She added: “And this is my message to everyone who wishes to have the same situation: Fight for your dream, try hard regardless of the difficulties that you’re having, and you will reach your goal.”
NBC and its sibling networks are covering a full slate of Olympic competitions on Saturday morning, in the early hours in the United States. All times are Eastern.
Soccer: Women’s group play continues with the United States playing New Zealand at 7:30 a.m., on NBCSN.
Swimming: Saturday morning, action in the Olympic pool airs at 6 a.m. on USA. Coverage includes heats in the men’s and women’s 400-meter individual medley, and the women’s 100-meter butterfly. NBC’s Saturday evening lineup includes the men’s 400-meter freestyle and the women’s 4×100-meter freestyle relay.
Tennis: The first round of men’s and women’s singles and doubles airs live until 10 a.m. on the Olympic Channel.
Beach volleyball: April Ross and Alix Klineman of the U.S. face Chen Xue and Xinxin Wang of China on Sunday morning in Tokyo. NBC will air the match on Saturday evening.
Tokyo 2020 can’t seem to catch a break.
As if a tenacious pandemic and Japan’s notoriously humid summer heat weren’t enough for the Olympics organizers to worry about, forecasts for an approaching typhoon are adding another layer of risk to the Games, which officially opened on Friday.
Early on Saturday, the U.S. team sent an alert that the rowing schedule was being adjusted because of an “inclement weather forecast.” Races originally scheduled for Monday have been moved to Sunday, and heats in the men’s and women’s eights, originally scheduled for Sunday, were moved to Saturday.
According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, a typhoon hit the Ogasawara Islands, an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, south of Tokyo, late Friday. Forecasts show that the storm, which was upgraded to a typhoon from a tropical cyclone during the opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, is slowly moving north and could affect the Tokyo region on Tuesday.
The rowing events take place at Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo Bay, not far from the city center.
At a news briefing on Saturday, Christophe Dubi, the sports director for the International Olympic Committee, said that having the forecasting abilities of Japan’s meteorologists “is a very big plus.”
“So we’re fortunate to have this technology available,” he said. Because of the advance warning, “we didn’t have to make the call on the day.”
No major schedule changes were planned other than those for rowing, Olympic organizers said on Saturday.
The effects of positive coronavirus tests among Olympic athletes began playing out on Saturday, hours after the opening ceremony, as a women’s beach volleyball team did not play because of an infection.
The Czech players Marketa Slukova and Barbora Hermannova were “unable to play,” according to the official scoring report, giving the win to their Japanese opponents. Slukova is one of at least four members of the Czech Olympic team who have tested positive.
Her result was announced on Thursday, and both she and her playing partner have been ruled out of the Games because of Covid-19 regulations.
Tokyo Olympic organizers announced 17 new positive tests on Saturday among people connected to the Games. At least 127 people with Olympic credentials, including 14 athletes, have tested positive.
The Olympic judo competition found itself mired in a political controversy even before Saturday’s start at the Nippon Budokan.
Having traveled all the way to Tokyo, Fethi Nourine, an Algerian judoka, withdrew from the event after learning that he most likely faced a bout against an Israeli opponent, Tohar Butbul, if the two men progressed to the second round.
Nourine’s withdrawal from the 73-kilogram category added another layer of controversy to an Olympics already facing a backdrop of coronavirus infections and local opposition. It also led to a furious and rapid response from judo’s governing body, which has grown weary of athletes who refuse to fight competitors from Israel.
Nourine and his coach, Amar Benikhlef, have already been temporarily suspended by the International Judo Federation, which is almost certain to impose further sanctions. The Algerian Olympic committee withdrew their Olympic credentials and was preparing to send them home.
Statements made by both men to Algerian news media about their withdrawal being linked to the prospect of facing an Israeli opponent was “in total opposition to the philosophy of the International Judo Federation,” the governing body said on its website. “The I.J.F. has a strict nondiscrimination policy, promoting solidarity as a key principle, reinforced by the values of judo.”
Nourine also withdrew from the judo world championship in 2019 after learning that he was scheduled to take on Butbul. That event also took place at the Nippon Budokan, the Tokyo venue that is host to this year’s Olympic competition.
Judo’s governing body has found itself having to take firm action amid anti-Israel sentiment expressed by some athletes in some of its most important tournaments. Iran, for example, received a four-year suspension in 2019 after refusing to allow its judokas to face Israelis. The Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned the ban earlier this year, saying that while Iran deserved to be punished, the blanket ban went too far.
Saeid Mollaei, now fighting for Mongolia after having fled Iran, said he was ordered to lose a semifinal bout at the 2019 world championships in order to avoid a potential final against the Israeli world champion Sagi Muki.
You have probably heard it before: If California were its own country, it would rank fifth in an Olympic medal count.
When reached by phone in Tokyo, Dr. Bill Mallon of the International Society of Olympic Historians couldn’t say for sure whether that was true. But he did say the state would rank “almost certainly in the top 10.”
In terms of producing Olympians, he added, California’s universities are at the top of the list. As of about 2012, Stanford had sent 289 American athletes to the Games, the most of any school, Mallon said. It is followed by 277 from U.C.L.A., 251 from the University of Southern California and 212 from U.C. Berkeley.
In other words, even before skateboarding and surfing were added to the Games, the Golden State was a robust presence at the Olympics — a testament, Mallon said, to the state’s ideal weather for year-round training, its large population and the existence of a kind of snowball effect for athletes at top universities. (Athletic success begets more success.)
TOKYO — Norie Kosaka knew better than to get her hopes up. A volunteer at the Games, she had been assigned to work at the opening ceremony on Friday night and assumed she would be one of the workers placed outside Olympic Stadium or tucked into some faraway corridor.
Instead, her supervisors informed her that she would be stationed inside the lower bowl of stands, just a few rows from the glittering, hourslong extravaganza. Her heart swelled.
“They told me, ‘You can watch a little bit,’” she said about her bosses. “So I was very happy.”
Kosaka’s job was to monitor one of the seating areas, and she took it seriously. But a few peeks would be OK, she figured. She smiled and pointed to her head.
“I want to put it in my memory,” she said.
Kosaka, 54, a manager at a bank in Tokyo, was one of the few locals who would even have the chance to do so.
Fans have been barred from the Olympics this year because of the pandemic. As a result, the 68,000-seat stadium was almost devoid of spectators on Friday night. An endless span of vacant seats formed a bleak backdrop to the multicolor spectacle unfolding on the infield in front of her.
The crowd that had access was small and exclusive: sponsors and sports officials, dignitaries and journalists, no party representing the populist spirit of fandom the Olympic Games purport to represent.
“I’m lucky,” Kosaka said. “I wish more people could see this.”
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