US girls’s basketball advances to semis

After what’s already being called the “best race in Olympic history,” Team USA kicked off another exciting day at the track on Wednesday at the Tokyo Olympics. 

The women’s 400-meter hurdles also had an elite collection of talent to rival Wednesday’s thrilling men’s final, with the USA’s Sydney McLaughlin taking the gold and breaking her world record in the event with a time of 51.46 seconds. Fellow American and 2016 gold medalist Dalilah Muhammad finished second for the silver.

The U.S. women’s basketball team cruised to a 79-55 win over Australia to reach the semifinals. Team USA has won six consecutive gold medals and is riding a 53-game winning streak at the Olympics.

Team USA baseball and the U.S. women’s volleyball team also reached the semifinals of their respective competitions.

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TUESDAY RECAP: Simone Biles returns with bronze in balance beam, Athing Mu takes gold in women’s 800 meters

KAWAGOE, Japan — U.S. golfer Nelly Korda led the American contingent after the first round of the women’s Olympic golf tournament, going 4-under par and finishing tied for second.

After two bogeys through four holes to put her 1-over, Korda birdied on the par-5 fifth and par-4 sixth.  The effort put her in the red for the first time at 1-under. She separated herself again from the field on the par-5 eighth, placing her in a three-way tie for second at 2-under.

Korda had opportunities to birdie on the next five holes, but she settled for par on each. Then, she hit back-to-back birdies on the par-5 14th and par-4 15th. Through 15 holes, Korda was 4-under and tied for first. She made par on the last three holes.

U.S. golfer Danielle Kang also had a strong first round, finishing 2-under tied for seventh. She double-bogeyed on the ninth hole, but she rebounded with two birdies in the back nine on the par-5 14th and par-4 17th. Swedish golfer Madelene Sagstrom finished in first going 5-under.

As for the rest of the American group, Jessica Korda ended the first round even par tied for 23rd and Lexi Thompson was 1-over and tied for 36th. 

The women’s tournament features several elite golfers, including all three medalists from the 2016 Rio Olympics – gold medalist Inbee Park of South Korea, silver medalist Lydia Ko of New Zealand and bronze medalist Shanshan Feng of China.

Additionally, the winners of this year’s four majors so far are participating in the Olympic tournament. Thailand’s Patty Tavatanakit (ANA Inspiration), the Philippines’ Yuka Saso (U.S. Women’s Open) and Australia’s Minjee Lee (Evian Championship) are each competing on the Olympic course. Nelly won the Women’s PGA Championship.

South Korea is one of the favorites to reach the podium at the Tokyo Olympics, with four of the world’s top six players on its team. Each U.S. golfer ranks within the top 14 in the world.

No U.S. woman has medaled in golf since 1900. From 1904 to 2012, women’s individual golf was not included in the Olympic program.

— Olivia Reiner

U.S. wrestlers Helen Maroulis and David Taylor have advanced to the semifinal round after each won two matches. Maroulis, who won gold at the 2016 Olympics, will wrestle Japan’s Risako Kawai in the 57-kg class later Wednesday.

Taylor will face Deepak Punia of India in the men’s 86-kg class.

Richard Torrez Jr., the U.S. super heavyweight boxer, will be fighting for gold at the Tokyo Games. 

On Wednesday, Torrez defeated Kazakhstan’s Kamshybek Kunkabayev when the referee stopped the bout because of injury at 1:29 of the third round. Torrez opened up a deep cut on the bridge of Kunkabayev’s nose with a powerful left hand. 

Torrez also knocked Kunkabayev to the canvas as Round 2 was ending. The Kazakhstan made the standing eight count. 

Torrez won the first two rounds on the cards of four of the five judges, and appeared to be winning the third round handily before the referee stopped the right. 

In the finals on Sunday, he will face Uzbekistan’s Bakhodir Jalolov, who in the semifinals Great Britain’s Frazer Clarke when the referee stopped the fight in the third round because of injury. Clarke suffered a deep cut over his left eye. 

A resident of Tulare, California, Torrez, 22, is attempting to become the first American to win a Olympic gold medal since Tyrell Biggs did it in 1984. 

Torrez also guaranteed he will become at least the first American boxer to win a medal in the super heavyweight division since Riddick Bowe in 1988. Bowe won a silver. 

— Josh Peter

USA's Richard Torrez Jr. celebrates after winning against Kazakhstan's Kamshybek Kunkabayev after their men's super heavy semifinal boxing match.

Oshae Jones, a U.S. women’s welterweight boxer needing one more victory to fight for the gold, will have to settle for the Olympic bronze. 

On Wednesday, Jones lost to Gu Hong of China in the semifinals by split decision, 4-1, at the Tokyo Games.

Each loser in the semifinals is awarded a bronze medal. 

A resident of Toledo, Jones, 23, she became the first female fighter to represent the United States in the Olympics.

In her opening bout here, Jones beat Mexico’s Brianda Tamara Cruz Sandoval by split decision, 3-2, in the Round of 16. In the quarterfinals, she beat the Dominican Republic’s Maria Altagracia Moronta Hernandez.  

She is coached by her father and brother. 

— Josh Peter

TOKYO — The powerhouse U.S. women’s basketball rolled to its 53rd consecutive Olympic victory Wednesday, eliminating rival Australia 79-55 in a quarterfinal at Saitama Super Arena.

Breanna Stewart had 20 of her 23 points in the first half when the U.S. led 26-12 after the first quarter and 48-27 at halftime.

Brittney Griner added 15 and A’ja Wilson 10 for the U.S., now 4-0 in Tokyo. Leilani Mitchell led the Opals with 14.

Australia beat the U.S. 70-67 in an exhibition July 18 in Las Vegas but playing without star center Liz Cambage (mental health) was no match the Americans when it counted.

The U.S., seeking their seventh consecutive gold medal, advances to a semifinal against Serbia (77-70 winner over China) on Friday. Australia will finish without a medal for the second consecutive Olympics.

— Jeff Metcalfe

Chelsea Gray (8) shoots against Australia during the women's basketball quarterfinal game at Saitama Super Arena.

The U.S. women’s volleyball team has made it to the semifinals for the sixth time in the past eight Olympics after beating the Dominican Republic in straight sets in the quarterfinals.

The Americans advanced to a matchup with the winner of Serbia-Italy in semis, despite playing without injured starters Jordyn Poulter and Jordan Thompson.

Fill-ins Micha Hancock and Annie Drews helped set the tone early for the U.S. and the team wasn’t seriously challenged at any point by the Dominicans. Drews finished with a team-high 18 points.

The U.S. is seeking its first gold medal in the sport after winning bronze five years ago in Rio de Janeiro and silver in 2008 and 2012.

— Associated Press

YOKOHAMA, Japan — Scott Kazmir delivered five scoreless innings, Triston Casas and Tyler Austin hit home runs and the bullpen preserved the lead. That recipe advanced the U.S. baseball team to the semifinals and a 3-1 win over the Dominican Republic on Wednesday.

The Dominican Republic will now head to the bronze-medal game Saturday. To avoid seeing them again in that matchup and play for gold, the U.S. must defeat the loser of Wednesday night’s Japan vs. South Korea game on Thursday.

Casas, facing Dominican Republic starter Denyi Reyes – his teammate with the Class AA Portland Sea Dogs in the Boston Red Sox organization – smacked his third homer of the tournament to center to give the U.S. an early lead. Casas also leads the tournament with eight RBI.

Austin also cleared the tall center-field wall, giving the U.S. a 3-0 lead in the fifth. He plays in this ballpark for the Yokohama DeNA BayStars of Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan and has 19 homers this season.

A bloop double, an error and a walk loaded the faces for the Dominican Republic against Kazmir in the first. The southpaw, who made his MLB debut 17 years ago and is currently in the San Francisco Giants system, induced a pair of grounders to escape.

A run appeared to score in the third when the home-plate umpire called a balk on Kazmir’s pickoff attempt of José Bautista at third. However, the umpires conferred and ruled the move legal, sending Bautista back to third. Kazmir made sure he didn’t cross home plate for real by striking out Juan Francisco and let a roar and first-pump to celebrate. He fanned Bautista to end the fifth – and his outing – on a slider for his fifth punchout of the game.

The bullpen brought it home for the U.S. over the final four innings, but not without traffic on the basepaths. To start the sixth, Casas could not field a big-hopper from leadoff hitter Erick Mejia and Eddy Alvarez made a diving stop on a Rodriguez hard grounder and went to second for the force but threw it away. Francisco smacked a grounder up the middle but shortstop Nick Allen was perfectly positioned to turn the unassisted double play. A popup to second by Johan Mieses ended the inning.

More trouble brewed in the seventh, this time for Scott McGough. It’d been McGough who could not close out Japan on Monday, leading to the U.S. playing in this game. Melky Cabrera laced a single off  the wall. A diving play by Allen, who had no play at first, up the middle with two outs brought Bautista to the plate as the tying run. But McGough caught him looking and a zero remained on the scoreboard.

Anthony Gose, a former position player with the Detroit Tigers, pumped his velocity to the upper-90s for a drama-free eighth inning to set up closer David Robertson, who got the first two outs before making things interesting. Catcher Charlie Valerio finally got the Dominican Republic on the board with a solo shot to right and Jeison Guzman worked a walk.

The threat came too late, though, and the ex-Yankees reliever struck out Yefri Perez to end the game. 

— Chris Bumbaca

Scott Kazmir throws a pitch against Dominican Republic at Yokohama Baseball Stadium.

KAWAGOE, Japan — On the 15th hole of the Olympic course at Kasumigaseki Country Club, U.S. golfer Lexi Thompson’s caddie Jack Fulghum had to relinquish his duties due to the heat on the first day of competition.

In the 93 degrees Fahrenheit weather, which felt more like 105 degrees Fahrenheit out on the course, Thompson said she didn’t notice Fulghum wasn’t feeling well until the 15th hole.

LPGA director of player services Donna Wilkins managed to step in and replace Fulghum for the remainder of Thompson’s outing.

— Olivia Reiner

The kids are at it again.

After 13-year-old Momiji Nishiya headlined the women’s skateboarding street final that had no medal winner older than 17-years-old, the women’s park final was once again dominated by teens, with 19-year-old Sakura Yosozumi of Japan taking gold with a score of 60.09.

At silver was 12-year-old Kokona Hiraki of Japan and 13-year-old Sky Brown of Great Britian took bronze. Hiraki’s silver medal win made her the seventh youngest Olympic medal winner ever, while Brown is the ninth youngest medal winner ever.

So far, four of the 13 youngest medal winners ever have come from the Tokyo Olympics, including Nishiya and 13-year-old Rayssa Leal, who won silver in the street final.

— Jordan Mendoza

Gold medalist, center, Sakura Yosozumi of Japan, silver medalist Kokona Hiraki of Japan, left, and bronze medalist, Sky Brown of Britain celebrate after the women's park skateboarding finals at the 2020 Summer Olympics.

TOKYO – Given the unexpected death of U.S. shot putter Raven Saunders’ mother, the International Olympic Committee has paused its investigation into her demonstration on the medals podium.

Clarissa Saunders died Tuesday, two days after watching her daughter win a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics. The cause of death is unknown.

“The IOC obviously extends its condolences to Raven and her family,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said Wednesday. “Given these circumstances, the process at the moment is fully suspended.”

The medals ceremony was over but Saunders was still on the podium when she made an X symbol with her raised arms to call attention to “oppressed people.” The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, which had already said it would not punish athletes for demonstrating so long as those protests did not express hate, defended Saunders. In a letter to the IOC, the USOPC pointed out that Saunders’ demonstration did not occur during the medals ceremony nor while the Chinese anthem played for gold medalist Gong Lijiao.

“We appreciate the empathy shown toward Raven by the IOC during this difficult time,” USOPC spokeswoman Kate Hartman said in a statement.

— Nancy Armour

TOKYO — Greece will miss the team competition in artistic swimming after five members of the 12-woman team tested positive for COVID-19 and the others were deemed to be close contacts, Tokyo organizers announced Wednesday.

Evangelia Papazoglou and Evangelia Platanioti had already been ruled out of the technical prelims of the duet event, which were Tuesday. They had been 10th in Monday’s preliminaries for the free routine. The team competition begins Friday.

All 12 team members have been moved out of the Olympic Village and are in quarantine, Tokyo 2020 spokesman Takaya Masa said Wednesday.

“We judged the monitoring had to be strengthened, and it was decided to do it outside the village,” Takaya said. “They had made a huge effort and actually came to Japan under difficult circumstances. I imagine the expectations from the Greek people for these athletes were quite high so it’s painful to think of them.”

Tokyo organizers reported 29 new cases of COVID-19 among Olympic personnel on Wednesday, a single-day high since they began tracking on July 1. Four of those were athletes, also a single-day high.

— Nancy Armour

TOKYO — Grant Holloway is exuding confidence at the Tokyo Olympics – and for good reason. The No.1 ranked 110-meter hurdler in the world has run three of the four fastest times in the event this year. His personal best of 12.81 is a hundredth of a second short of Aries Merritt’s 2012 world record 12.80.

The U.S. hurdles champion breezed through the 110-meter hurdles semifinal in a relaxing 13.13 to advance to Thursday’s final.

Holloway is the heavy favorite in the event. He could become the first American male to win a gold medal in track and field at the Tokyo Olympics.

American Devon Allen also qualified for the final round.

— Tyler Dragon

Grant Holloway breezed through his semifinal in the men's 110m hurdles Wednesday at Olympic Stadium

TOKYO — For so long, the track and field community viewed Sydney McLaughlin as a prodigy. Her accomplishments were viewed primarily within the context of her age.

 That changed in June, when she broke a world record at the U.S. Olympic trials.

And it will change again now that she is an Olympic gold medalist.

The 21-year-old McLaughlin won the women’s 400-meter hurdles in dominant fashion Wednesday, beating compatriot Dalilah Muhammad – the reigning world champion and defending Olympic gold medalist – to secure the title. The New Jersey native crossed the finish line in 51.46 seconds, a new world record. 

Muhammad was second in 51.58. Femke Bol of the Netherlands won bronze.

The gold medal comes five years after McLaughlin made her Olympic debut in Rio, at the age of 16. It was a remarkable feat for a rising junior in high school, even though she didn’t make the final. And when it was over, she went back for her senior year at Union Catholic High School, just trying to be a normal kid.

After a stint at the University of Kentucky, McLaughlin turned pro and found herself climbing the ranks, but often finishing second to Muhammad. They have long been not just the two fastest women in the 400-meter field, but also the two fastest in the history of the event.

— Tom Schad

TOKYO – American Connor Fields, the BMX racer who suffered a brain hemorrhage when he crashed in competition Friday at the Tokyo Games, is expected to return to his home in Las Vegas by the end of the week, his father told USA TODAY Sports. 

“He’s doing pretty good but he’ll be tested when we get back,’’ Mike Fields said Wednesday by text message. 

A day after Fields suffered the head injury, doctors said there had been no additional bleeding and no new head injuries were found, according to USA Cycling. Fields, 29, also suffered a broken rib and bruised lung in the crash, according to his father. 

Fields, a three-time Olympian who won the gold at the 2016 Rio Games, crashed during a semifinal heat at Ariake Urban Sports Park. He was in second place when his front wheel appeared to catch the back wheel of the leader, France’s Romain Mahieu.    

Fields tumbled to the ground and two other riders fell over him. He was taken off the course on a stretcher before being loaded into an ambulance and transported to a hospital.  

— Josh Peter

We love seeing stars supporting one another.

Ahead of the primetime airing of the women’s balance beam final, in what could have been the last time Simone Biles appears in the Olympics, singer/songwriter Taylor Swift talked about the legacy Biles has left, especially in the past week opening up about her mental health struggles.

“That’s what makes it so easy to call her a hero,” Swift said.

Swift’s narration caught the attention of Biles, who responded to the tweet with, “I’m crying how special. I love you @taylorswift13.” Swift responded by saying she got emotional seeing how brave Biles was.

“I cried watching YOU. I feel so lucky to have gotten to watch you all these years, but this week was a lesson in emotional intelligence and resilience. We all learned from you. Thank you,” she said.

— Jordan Mendoza 

TOKYO – American distance swimmers Haley Anderson and Ashley Twichell finished sixth and seventh Wednesday in Olympic marathon swimming.

Both were in the lead pack throughout in the 10K open water race at Odaiba Marine Park on a hot morning with temperatures in the upper 80s.

“We knew coming in it was going to be pretty warm,” Anderson said. “Everyone was dealing with the same conditions. It was nice we had some clouds, that definitely helped. We tried to prepare as well as we could for the heat and put ourselves in a good position coming in.”

Brazil’s Ana Cunha won in 1:59.30.8 ahead of 2016 gold medalist Sharon van Rouwendaal of Netherlands and Australia’s Kareena Lee. There was a 7.1-second spread between first and seventh in the fourth Olympics to include marathon swimming.

Anderson was a silver medalist in 2012 and fifth in 2016. Twichell competed in her first Olympics after failing to qualify in the previous three.

“She looked great,” Anderson said. “I was so excited for her to be here. To qualify together was something I wanted for a really long time for her.”

Twichell said, “In the back end of the first lap, I got caught right in the middle of the pack. I knew that’s not where I wanted to be for the race so got myself in the lead. That’s where I’m more comfortable. The last lap there were seven of us and it was tough, but it was great to see Haley right there too. I would have loved to have medaled but proud of the fight I had out there today.”

Twichell said she is retiring after finally achieving her Olympic goal. “It was always my plan to retire after Tokyo. I’ve had a great career and I’m ready to move on.”

— Jeff Metcalfe 

Chloe Dygert is no Simone Biles. Dygert is not the Greatest Of All Time nor NBC’s Face of the Games.

Yet the Dygert bronze should be viewed with the same reverence as the Biles bronze. The two 24-year-olds were similarly gritty, coming through with medals about an hour apart in different sports and different venues Tuesday at the Tokyo Olympics.

Ten months after a scary crash threatened her career, Dygert won the second Olympic medal of her career.

In track cycling’s team pursuit, the Brownsburg, Indiana, rider combined with three other Americans to beat Canada for the bronze medal at Izu Velodrome. Dygert was on the silver-winning team at Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Germany won the gold medal, lowering the world record at the 4,000-meter distance for the third time in Tokyo, down to 4:04.242. Great Britain took the silver.

In a first-round heat, the British broke the world record set by Germany in qualifying and beat the United States with a time of 4:06.748. USA’s time was 4:07.562, a national record. That advanced Great Britain to the gold-medal race and left the Americans riding for bronze.

Riding with Dygert were Jennifer Valente of San Diego, Emma White of Duanesburg, N.Y., and Megan Jastrab of Apple Valley, Calif.

“We’re proud of what we did out there,” said Valente, who was on the silver-winning team at Rio. “We left everything on the track. It’s just that Team GB had a little more gas.”

In the bronze final, the United States clocked 4:08.040 to Canada’s 4:10.552.

It was only USA Cycling’s second medal at Tokyo. The other was in BMX freestyle.

— David Wood, Indy Star

Clarissa Saunders, the mother of shot put silver medalist Raven Saunders, died on Tuesday morning, days after watching her daughter win her first Olympic medal.

Her mother was in Orlando to attend Tokyo 2020 watch parties for the families of Team USA athletes, where she watched Saunders win silver in the shot put on Sunday along with her other daughter, Tanzania. The cause of death is unknown.

The death was confirmed to The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier by her longtime coach and father figure, Herbert Johnson. Saunders later tweeted that she would be taking a break from social media to focus on her mental health and her family. 

— Jordan Mendoza

TOKYO — Without their parents, without their friends, without any spectators, the Korda sisters, Jessica and Nelly, arrived at the Olympic Games to begin play in the women’s golf tournament that begins Wednesday.

They were asked who they do have supporting them here this week.

“Each other,” Jessica said. 

It was the perfect answer. The daughters of 1998 Australian Open men’s tennis champion Petr Korda and 1988 Czech Olympic tennis player Regina Rajchrtova Korda, Jessica, 28, and Nelly, 23, are two of the four U.S. golfers representing the United States in the women’s Olympic competition. Lexi Thompson and Danielle Kang are the others. 

So far, it has been a stellar week for the Americans in golf, with Xander Schauffele winning the gold in the men’s event Sunday. 

— Christine Brennan

TOKYO — Before his first Olympic race, he yawned.

During his second Olympic race, he tilted his head as he came down the stretch, checking to see how fast he needed to run in order to win.

“I didn’t mean it out of cockiness,” Erriyon Knighton said later.

He is just 17 1/2 years old – the youngest American man to compete at the Summer Olympics since Jim Ryun in 1964. But in the first two rounds of 200-meter competition at the Tokyo Olympics, Knighton appeared in complete control, leaving 30-year-old men and longtime pros in his wake.

The former wide receiver at Hillsborough High School in Tampa, Florida, might not enter Wednesday’s 200-meter final as the favorite – that title still probably belongs to fellow American and reigning world champion Noah Lyles – but he will certainly be favored to win a medal.

Not too shabby for a guy in just his third season of competitive track.

— Tom Schad

After her triumphant comeback Tuesday, four-time Olympic champion Simone Biles revealed that her aunt died just two days before competing in the balance beam event.

Biles, 24, withdrew from four individual finals – all-around, vault, floor and uneven bars – last week citing mental health concerns and “the twisties,” a condition when gymnasts lose their sense of awareness in the air.

Biles’ coach, Cecile Cantqueteau-Landi, opened up to reporters Tuesday about what Biles had been going through during the Tokyo Games, including her aunt’s unexpected death. 

Despite mourning her family’s loss, Biles received a score of 14.0 on the beam in her return to competition, earning bronze. It was the seventh Olympic medal for her, matching Shannon Miller’s record for the most medals won by an American gymnast. 

— Analis Bailey

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