Olympic winners and losers: Give Simone her flowers; give Novak a pacifier

The United States team of Allyson Felix, Dalilah Muhammad, Athing Mu.
The U.S. gold-medal winning 1,600-meter relay team of (from left) Allyson Felix, Dalilah Muhammad, Athing Mu, and Sydney McLaughlin. (Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

The Tokyo Games produced historic moments and triumphs.

Adam Krikorian, coach of the victorious U.S. women’s water polo team, said every athlete who made it to Tokyo deserved a gold medal simply for persevering through a global pandemic.

He’s correct.

But there were some performances that stood out.

The Games also featured performances that fell well below expectations — not only those projected by the media but by the competitors and officials themselves.


Simone Biles

Showed uncommon courage and strength to acknowledge she wasn’t in the right place mentally to compete in events she was expected to win. Her actions focused a white-hot spotlight on mental health and underscored that winning isn’t the only thing.

U.S. women’s track and field team

Allyson Felix became the most decorated track and field athlete in U.S. history, Sydney McLaughlin and Athing Mu each won two gold medals and Dalilah Muhammad won two medals for a team that also produced gold medalists Valarie Allman in the discus and Kate Nageotte in the pole vault.

Kevin Durant

The NBA star burnished his legacy by winning his third gold medal. JaVale McGee — added to the roster at the last minute — joined mother Pam as a gold medalist, the first mother-son combo to win gold in the Olympics.

U.S. women’s volleyball players

Veteran outside hitter Jordan Larson helped lead the United States to its first gold medal in the indoor game. Coach Karch Kiraly is the only person to win gold medals as an indoor player, beach player and indoor coach. In beach volleyball, April Ross and Alix Klineman dominated en route to gold.

Katie Ledecky

She won two gold medals to give her seven individual golds in her career, the most for any female swimmer. She swam an unprecedented 6,200-meter program at the Games. Caeleb Dressel won five gold medals — three individual.

U.S. women’s basketball team

Dawn Staley, a gold medalist as a player, assistant and coach, guided the team to a seventh consecutive Olympic gold medal. The team extended its winning streak to 55 games with a victory over Japan in the gold-medal game.


Patrick Moster

The German cycling federation’s sports director was sent home after he used a slur while a German rider chased opponents from Algeria and Eritrea during a race. He has been suspended by the International Cycling Union.

Kim Raisner

Germany's modern pentathlon coach was disqualified after she punched a horse and urged a rider to “really hit” the horse when it refused to jump. Modern pentathletes ride horses for show jumping that are drawn at random, and then get 20 minutes to warm up with it before competing.

Novak Djokovic

The tennis star rightfully complained about heat and helped all competitors by getting tennis matches shifted to evenings. But he grew angry and threw his racket when losing both semifinal and bronze matches to players ranked much lower.

U.S. men’s track and field team

Ryan Crouser won a second consecutive gold medal in the shotput, but track athletes won only one gold in the 1,600-meters relay. Two gold medals are the fewest by an American men’s team in Olympic history.

U.S. women’s soccer team

It claimed a bronze medal in soccer but only after seeing its 44-game unbeaten streak end in the opener against Sweden and suffering a semifinal loss to Canada. One player said, “Obviously, we don’t want to lose to Canada.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.