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Updates from first day of 2021 Games, medals

The Tokyo Olympics have officially kicked off.

While some competition began earlier this week, and people in the U.S. will be tuning in to the re-air of the opening ceremony (7:30 p.m. E.T.), day two of the event will begin Friday evening into early Saturday morning.

A total of 23 sports will be played, and the medal count will begin, and weightlifting, taekwondo, judo, fencing, shooting, archery, and cycling will be given out medals. Other action happening includes the introduction of 3×3 basketball, U.S. softball attempting to stay perfect as they face off Mexico and the USWNT trying to bounce back from their opening game loss as they play New Zealand.

Follow along for live updates of day one of the Tokyo Olympics.

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Brandon McNulty nearly medals in cycling

American cyclist Brandon McNulty nearly pulled off a stunner in the men’s road race.

After breaking away from the pack, the 23-year-old was in medal contention with 24 kilometers to go in the 234-kilometer race. However, McNulty was caught with 4 kilometers remaining and finished sixth.

Richard Carapaz of Ecuador took gold, followed by Belgium’s Wout van Aert and Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar.

The U.S. had not won a medal in the road race since 1984, when Alexi Grewal and Connie Carpenter took gold in the men’s and women’s races, respectively.

McNulty, from Phoenix, was a member of the winning team at the Tour de France that ended last Saturday, riding along with the individual winner Pogacar.

Cat Osterman gets the USA softball team to 3-0 with a shutout of Mexico

YOKOHAMA — After pitching six shutout innings and allowing one hit with nine strikeouts in Team USA’s opening 2-0 win against Italy, veteran pitcher Cat Osterman was once again stellar in her second start in Tokyo.

Osterman pitched six innings and allowed just one hit in USA’s 2-0 victory against Mexico on Saturday afternoon at Yokohama Baseball Stadium.

When she hit an RBI single to center field, Ali Aguilar got the Americans on the scoreboard, scoring two runs.

The two runs proved to be enough, with Osterman pitching shutout softball.

Osterman and the USA softball team are now 3-0. The club’s next game will be against Australia, televised on NBC Sports at 9 p.m. E.T. on Saturday.

— Tyler Dragon, USA TODAY

Team USA’s fencers have the short-lived opening day

Eli Derschwitz reached the table of 16 in men’s saber, and Kelley Hurley made it to the table of 16 in women’s épée, but that was the extent of the success for the U.S. fencers on Saturday.

The Team USA fencers return to the piste Sunday when world No. 5 Lee Kiefer and No. 14 Nicole Ross compete in women’s foil. Jake Hoyle and Yeiser Ramirez will take part in the men’s épée competition.

U.S. women’s eight advances straight to the final

The U.S. qualified its first boats for finals in the Olympic regatta, with the women’s eighth and the men’s four earning berths on SATURDAY.

The women’s eight finished first in its heat over Romania and Australia with a time of 6:08.69. Katelin Guregian, Kristine O’Brien, Meghan Musnicki, Regina Salmons, Olivia Coffey, Brooke Mooney, Gia Doonan, Charlotte Buck, and Jessica Thoennes trailed in third after the first 500 meters. Still, they pulled ahead in the second quarter and never gave up their lead despite an effort in the final sprint from Romania.

Only the top boat from the heat advanced straight to the final on Friday at 10:05 a.m. local time.

The U.S. boat seeks its fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal in the event. If successful, the women’s eight will hold the most consecutive gold medals in the event’s history at the Olympics. The U.S. is tied for the record with Romania, which won the gold in 1996, 2000, and 2004.

The men’s four took second in its heat against Australia, the Netherlands, Romania, and South Africa with a time of 5:57.27. The crew of Clark Dean, Michael Grady, Anders Weiss, and Andrew Reed finished exactly three seconds behind Australia, the reigning gold medalists from the 2019 World Rowing Championships. The top two boats from the heat will head to the final on Wednesday at 10:10 a.m. local time.

The U.S. boat seeks to improve on a seventh-place finish from the previous crew at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

— Olivia Reiner, USA TODAY

U.S. women rout Japan in water polo

The United States women’s water polo, which won gold at the previous two Olympic Games, defeated Japan 25-4 in the first of four preliminary-round games.

Maggie Steffens and Stefania Haralabidis had five goals apiece to lead the U.S. in scoring. Steffens raised her career Olympic goals total to 42 and is now just six goals away from setting an all-time Olympic women’s water polo goal-scoring record, a mark currently held by Tania Di Mario of Italy.

The U.S. plays against China on Monday.

Jourdan Delacruz unable to medal in weightlifting

TOKYO — On the stage of the Tokyo International Forum, it appeared the U.S. would make the medal stand by Saturday afternoon here in Tokyo.

In women’s 49kg weightlifting, Jourdan Delacruz, 23, nailed her first two snatch attempts before judges ruled no lift on her third attempt at 89kg. She could not convert any of her three attempts at 108kg in the clean and jerk – she came close to finishing her second one but lost the bar behind her – and finished seventh.

“It felt a little bit heavier. The warmup was perfect. Sometimes it just doesn’t pull out on the platform,” Delacruz said. “There’s a lot of pressure, but at the same time, it’s the clean and jerk. It’s the lift that you’ve done a hundred times. You can only just go out and do what you know how to do.”

China’s Zhihui Hou set Olympic records in both snatch (94kg) and clean and jerk (116kg) to claim gold and also set a total Olympic record (210kg).

–Chris Bumbaca, USA TODAY

U.S. fencers advance to the round of 16

Two U.S. men’s and women’s fencers advanced to the round of 16 in Kelley Hurley and Eli Dershwitz.

Hurley advanced in the women’s épée after narrowly beating Erika Kirpu of Estonia 15-14, while Dershwitz knocked out Kaito Streets of Japan in the men’s saber tournament 15-9.

Both will be back in action soon as Hurley will face Aizanat Murtazaeva of the Russia Olympic Committee at 12:35 a.m. E.T. and Dershwitz will face Korea’s Junghwan Kim at 2 a.m. E.T.

U.S. archers Brady Ellison, Mackenzie Brown, upset in the first round of Olympic mixed team debut

TOKYO — Brady Ellison’s first crack at shooting in the Olympic archery stadium ended in an upset loss.

World No. 1-ranked Ellison and Mackenzie Brown fell behind 4-0 against Indonesia, then lost 5-4 in a shootout in the first round at Yumenoshima Park.

A mixed team is a new Olympic event with the first medals awarded Saturday. Ellison, a four-time Olympian and three-time medalist was hoping to win three medals in Tokyo and still have a chance for two in the men’s team and individual.

“I’m still a little shocked,” Ellison said. “I completely expected us to win a medal today. We got in that stadium, and I shot left. Mackenzie started getting it figured out there at the end. I shot left that entire match, trying to aim off for the wind. That finals venue kicked my ass. I just didn’t see it, and that cost us the match.”

The Americans were seeded second out of 16 teams based on results from the ranking rounds Friday. Indonesia’s Risu Ege Salsabilla and Diananda Choirunisa were No. 15, but the difference is significantly reduced in 70-meter elimination matches compared to three-person, 72-arrow qualifying.

Ellison was second in the ranking round and Brown fifth, leading to the No. 2 mixed team seed behind South Korea.

Brown will be back with Casey Kaufhold and Jennifer Mucino-Fernandez in the women’s team Sunday. Ellison, Jack Williams, and Jacob Wukie compete in the men’s team Monday.

–Jeff Metcalfe, USA TODAY

USA advances in table tennis

Juan Liu and Nikhil Kumar of the U.S. both won their opening singles matches in the opening round of table tennis.

Liu, who knocked off Nigeria’s Olufunke Oshonaike with a 4-1 win, will advance to play Spain’s Galia Dvorak at 6:30 a.m. E.T. on Saturday.

Kumar defeated Lkhagvasuren Enkhbat of Mongolia in a 4-1 win and will face off against Alberto Mino of Ecuador at 8 a.m. E.T. on Saturday.

China wins the first gold medal.

On Saturday, Yang Qian of China claimed the first gold medal of the Tokyo Olympics, winning the women’s 10-meter air rifle competition.

Yang narrowly edged the Russian Olympic Committee’s Anastasiia Galashina in the final, taking advantage of the Russian’s poor last shot.

Mary Tucker, the 20-year-old American, finished sixth after entering the event as a favorite to medal. A rising junior with the Kentucky Wildcats, she is ranked No. 2 globally in the event. Still, she could not overcome a series of uncharacteristically poor shots early in the finals.

IOC president Thomas Bach was among those on hand at the Asaka Shooting Range for the first medal event of the Games.

–Tom Schad, USA TODAY

More positive COVID cases in Tokyo

TOKYO – Olympic organizers announced 17 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, including one athlete.

The latest update brings the total to 123 cases since July 1. Of the new cases, three – including the athlete – were non-residents of Japan, while the rest were Games contractors who are residents. Olympic organizers do not identify athletes by name when they test positive.

Organizers reported a three-day total of 74,528 tests from July 20-22, with 22 confirmed positives in that time.

The Age, an Australian news outlet, reported Saturday that a top government COVID-19 advisor said he did not believe organizers were prepared for worst-case scenarios.

Hitoshi Oshitani, a member of the federal government’s COVID-19 advisory panel and the head of virology at the Tohoku University School of Medicine, said the Olympic Village presents a particular risk with participants sharing rooms.

“I don’t think the organizing committee has been doing their best to minimize the risk,” Oshitani told The Age. “They have just been saying the Olympics are safe without showing any strategy to minimize the risk.”

Tokyo 2020 spokesman Masa Takaya said organizers had coordinated with the national and Tokyo metropolitan governments in developing the playbooks, which outline health and safety protocols for all Games stakeholders.

“We are confident that we will keep delivering safe and secure games,” Takaya said.

–Rachel Axon, USA TODAY

COVID impacted events

The first match of the beach volleyball tournament has been canceled due to a Czech player testing positive for COVID-19.

The Czech Republic was scheduled to play Japan, but the Japanese pair of Megumi Murakami and Miki Ishii will be declared the winners by default.

In rowing, Dutch rower Finn Florijn was ruled out of the Olympics after testing positive for COVID-19 hours before he was scheduled to compete.

After not qualifying for the men’s single sculls quarterfinals on Friday, the 21-year-old was scheduled to participate in the second chance race on Saturday. However, the Royal Dutch Rowing Federation said roughly four hours before the event that Florjin tested positive for the virus.

3×3 basketball makes its debut

The women of the Russian Olympic Committee defeated Japan in the inaugural 3×3 basketball game to kick off one of the new events appearing in Tokyo.

Viewers may notice a few differences from a typical basketball game. It’s played outdoors on a half-court that features a 22-foot 2-point line, and the winner is the first team to score 21 points or the team with the most after 10 minutes.

The U.S. men’s team failed to qualify for the event, but the women’s team is in Tokyo. They will play their first game against France at 4:55 a.m. E.T.

Maria Taylor joins NBC.

The worst kept secret in sports media became official Friday as NBC hired broadcaster and host Maria Taylor, the network announced.

Taylor, 34, made her debut during NBC’s opening ceremony replay of the Tokyo Olympics on Friday night.

NBC said Taylor will be a host and contributor for Football Night in America and Super Bowls. While at the Olympics in Tokyo, she will join Mike Tirico as host for Prime Plus and serve as a correspondent.

Taylor’s arrival comes after a story from The New York Times detailed a recording of former ESPN colleague Rachel Nichols questioning Taylor’s position at ESPN because of its spotty record on diversity and hiring practices.

Sam Mikulak is still the backbone of the squad.

Despite finishing fourth at the Olympic Trials, Mikulak will anchor the Americans on all six events during Saturday’s qualifying at the Tokyo Games. National champion Brody Malone is up third on each occasion.

Four gymnasts compete on each event during qualifying, and teams count their three highest scores. While strategies can differ, many couples will put their most robust or most consistent gymnast up last.

Mikulak struggled at both the national championships, where he finished third and trials. But he has been the best the U.S. men have had for much of the last decade, a six-time national champion competing in his third Olympics, and that experience will be invaluable for the young U.S. team.

The Olympics are the first major international competition for Malone, 21, who won his second NCAA title two months before nationals. The other two team members, Yul Moldauer and Shane Wiskus, also are first-time Olympians, though both have competed at the world championships.

Nancy Armour, USA TODAY 

World No. 1-ranked archer Brady Ellison was 12th early on and seventh halfway through the Olympic men’s ranking round Friday at Yumenoshima Park.

But he better adapted to the wind over the final six 70-meter ends, shooting no lower than 57 (out of 60), and finished second in a field of 64 behind South Korea’s Kim Je Deok. Kim shot 688, six points ahead of Ellison of Globe-Miami, Arizona.

Already a three-time Olympic medalist, Ellison, 32, could win three more in Tokyo, starting with a new mixed team event to be decided Saturday. He will shoot for the U.S. with Mackenzie Brown, who finished fifth in the women’s ranking round.

The U.S. is ranked second in mixed, based on the ranking scores, behind Korea. The U.S. women are ranked third and the men fifth for those team events.

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