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Tokyo Olympics: Disappointing start for Team USA, which still seeks first medal

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The Tokyo Olympics have officially kicked off.

While some competition began earlier this week and people in the U.S. will be tuning into the re-air of the opening ceremony, a robust slate of the events began Friday evening.

A total of 23 sports will be played, and the medal count will begin as well as weightlifting, taekwondo, judo, fencing, shooting, archery, and cycling will be giving out medals. Other action happening includes the introducing of 3x3 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.

KEEP UP WITH DAY 2: Live analysis of the action on Saturday in Tokyo

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Fans in attendance

The ban on fans for the Summer Olympics does not extend past Tokyo, and that means thousands of cycling fans have turned up at Fuji International Speedway to await the finish of the men’s road race.

The facility built in the 1960s but extensively renovated over the years has a grandstand capacity of 22,000 people. And with 50 percent capacity limitations due to COVID-19, that means up to 11,000 will be able to see the finish.

Spectators shown during the men's road race at Fuji Speedway.
Spectators shown during the men's road race at Fuji Speedway.

Their eagerness to see the Olympics after a year delay was clear by the way fans turned out early Saturday. They showed up nearly seven hours before riders were expected to reach the finishing circuits, and the layout of the speedway meant they would be spending all that time in the sun on a steamy day two hours southwest of Tokyo.

-- Associated Press

3-on-3 success

The U.S. women's 3-on-3 basketball team won its first two games of the tournament, which made its Olympic debut in Tokyo on Saturday.

In their matchup against France, the U.S. came out on top with a 17-10 victory. Center Stefanie Dolson led the team in scoring, notching seven points and shooting 87.5% inside the arc. She also contributed a team-high six total rebounds, five defensive and one offensive. Guard Kelsey Plum chipped in six points.

"It is a different sport, just the physicality," Plum said. "I think in the beginning for me personally, you can watch it on film all you want and then when you get in the game, there was a couple times where I'm like, that was definitely a foul in America, but not here. So you just have to adjust as the game goes on."

Later that night, the U.S. topped Mongolia 21-9. Guard Allisha Gray led with nine points, eight of which came beyond the two-point arc.

"Three-on-three is fun," Gray said. "I would say you get to play more free. You get to be a lot more physical. Cardio-wise, it's a lot more than traditional five-on-five, but overall, I like 3-on-3 because of the free playing and it really helps your iso game really well."

The U.S. continues the pool round on Sunday, July 25 against Romania at 5:30 p.m. local time and against ROC at 9:25 p.m. The top two teams from the pool round go to semifinals, the next four go to quarterfinals and the remaining teams are eliminated.

-- Oliviea Reiner, USA TODAY

Swimmer Emma Weyant cruises

TOKYO — Weyant showed little mercy on the rest of the competition in the women's 400-meter individual medley.

In the third of three heats, Weyant, who is from Sarasota, Florida, cruised to a body-length victory with a time of 4:33.55. Saturday night's swim set her up with top lane position in the final Sunday morning at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

-- Chris Bumbaca, USA TODAY

US women's gymnastics lineup

When you have Simone Biles, there’s little drama to your lineup.

The reigning Olympic champion and greatest gymnast of all time, is going last on every event but uneven bars in qualifying Sunday. Biles is going second-to-last on uneven bars, where Sunisa Lee will anchor the Americans with one of, if not the most, difficult routines being done.

Teams can drop their lowest score in qualifying. While strategies differ for each team, most will put up their strongest and most consistent gymnast last to ensure there’s a big score still to come if someone falters.

And Biles will definitely put up big scores. In addition to being favored to be the first woman in more than 50 years to repeat as all-around champion, she’s expected to win gold on vault, floor exercise and balance beam.

The U.S. women have won the team title at every major international competition dating back to the 2011 world championships, and that streak is unlikely to end in Tokyo. The top eight teams in qualifying advance to Tuesday night’s team finals.

Here’s the U.S. lineup, in the order they will compete:

FLOOR: Grace McCallum; Lee; Jordan Chiles; Biles

VAULT: Lee; McCallum; Chiles; Biles

UNEVEN BARS: McCallum; Chiles; Biles; Lee

BALANCE BEAM: McCallum; Chiles; Lee; Biles

In addition to the four-woman team, MyKayla Skinner and Jade Carey will compete as individuals. Their scores won’t count toward the team total, but they can qualify for event finals.

-- Nancy Armour, USA TODAY

Jill Biden watches US women win in 3-on-3 basketball

First lady Jill Biden cheered on the U.S. women's 3-on-3 basketball team as it took on France on Saturday. Upon her arrival at Aomi Urban Sports Park, Biden greeted French President Emmanuel Macron. The U.S. won the game, 17-10.

First lady Jill Biden greets the US team after they faced France in a 3x3 basketball game.
First lady Jill Biden greets the US team after they faced France in a 3x3 basketball game.

With no fans allowed in the basketball venue, there were plenty of empty seats surrounding Biden, Macron and their security details.

Biden spent Saturday at various Olympic events to support Team USA. Earlier in the day, she hosted a U.S. vs. Mexico softball watch party with foreign service officers and their families at the U.S. embassy.

-- Olivia Reiner, USA TODAY

Brandon McNulty nearly medals in cycling

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

The 23-year-old was in medal contention after breaking away from the pack 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. has 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, who is 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 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.

Ali Aguilar got the Americans on the scoreboard when she hit an RBI single to center field, 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, which will be televised on NBC Sports at 9 p.m. ET on Saturday.

-- Tyler Dragon, USA TODAY

Cat Osterman pitches against Mexico during the United States' 2-0 win.
Cat Osterman pitches against Mexico during the United States' 2-0 win.

Team USA’s fencers have short-lived opening day

Eli Derschwitz reached the table of 16 in men's sabre, 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 Yeisser 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 on Saturday, with the women’s eight and the men’s four earning berths.

The women’s eight finished first in its heat over Romania and Australia with a time of 6:08.69. The crew of 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, but 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, which is 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, who 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

Andrew Reed, Anders Weiss, Michael Grady and Clark Dean (USA) compete on the men's four rowing heats.
Andrew Reed, Anders Weiss, Michael Grady and Clark Dean (USA) compete on the men's four rowing heats.

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. For Steffens, she 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 US 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. Warmup was really good. 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

Jourdan Delacruz reacts during the women's 49kg weightlifting competition, in which she finished seventh.
Jourdan Delacruz reacts during the women's 49kg weightlifting competition, in which she finished seventh.

U.S. fencers advance to 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 sabre 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. ET and Dershwitz will face Korea's Junghwan Kim at 2 a.m. ET.

Eli Dershwitz (USA) reacts as he competes against Kaito Streets (JPN) in the men's sabre individual table of 32.
Eli Dershwitz (USA) reacts as he competes against Kaito Streets (JPN) in the men's sabre individual table of 32.

U.S. archers Brady Ellison, Mackenzie Brown upset in 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.

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 will have a chance for two in 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 team of Risu Ege Salsabilla and Diananda Choirunisa were No. 15, but the difference is greatly 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 women's team Sunday. Ellison, Jack Williams and Jacob Wukie compete in 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. ET 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. ET on Saturday.

China wins first gold medal

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

Yang narrowly edged Russian Olympic Committee’s Anastasiia Galashina in the final, taking advantage of the Russian’s poor final 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 in the world in the event but was unable to 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

Gold medal winner China's Yang Qian (C) poses on the podium with Russia's Anastasiia Galashina (L) and Switzerland's Nina Christen, after winning the women's 10m air rifle final.
Gold medal winner China's Yang Qian (C) poses on the podium with Russia's Anastasiia Galashina (L) and Switzerland's Nina Christen, after winning the women's 10m air rifle final.

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 special 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 a 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 tested 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 has been ruled out of the Olympics after testing positive for COVID-19, hours before 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 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.

3x3 basketball makes its debut

The women of Russian Olympic Committee defeated Japan in the inaugural 3x3 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. ET.

Russia's Yulia Kozik (L) and Japan's Mai Yamamoto fight for the ball during the women's first round 3x3 basketball match.
Russia's Yulia Kozik (L) and Japan's Mai Yamamoto fight for the ball during the women's first round 3x3 basketball match.

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 will also 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.

U.S. men’s gymnastics team sets lineup

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 qualifying at the Tokyo Games on Saturday. National champion Brody Malone is up third on each event.

Four gymnasts compete on each event during qualifying, and teams count their three highest scores. While strategies can differ, many teams will put their strongest, 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 who is 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

USA's Brady Ellison second in archery ranking round

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.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Tokyo Olympics: Disappointing start for Team USA after first day