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The Sports Report Olympics Edition: Time, space and the Tokyo Games

Aerial photo shows the Tokyo Tower.
An aerial photo of Tokyo Tower and the city. Tokyo is 16 hours ahead of Los Angeles.
(Yuki Iwamura / AFP via Getty Images)

Good morning everyone, it’s Dan Woike with the latest edition of the Times’ Olympics newsletter, the place where we last learned that Gary Klein is solely responsible for the Japanese success in judo and skateboarding. (Whatever sport Gary covers, the Japanese win.)

But before we get to my day, let’s get the important stuff out of the way.

Here’s what you need to know most:

Olympic medal count

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U.S. Olympic athlete tracker

Tokyo Olympic medal winners

Monday and Tuesday TV schedules

The Olympic rings are lighted in front of the city of Tokyo.
(Petros Giannakouris / Associated Press)

We interrupt this newsletter for an important bulletin.

This is Kevin Baxter, reporting from the L.A. Times weather center here in Tokyo. And after spending seven years in Miami, where hurricane season is a much bigger deal than baseball season, I’ve learned a little bit about storms.

So I’m not too concerned about the approach of Tropical Storm Nepartak.

A couple of days ago everyone in Tokyo — including me — was complaining about the oppressive heat and humidity. Then came news a typhoon was approaching and people forget the humidity and started freaking out about the storm despite the fact they are common here.

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And let’s face it, these Games have been so snakebit already no would have been shocked if a typhoon hit and washed the whole thing into the sea.

But Nepartak — the word is originally the designation for a famous Kosrae warrior and is derived from a language spoken in Micronesia -- has continually been downgraded and its track and been pushed well north of Tokyo, so the Games figure to escape the brunt of the system.

Winds of up to 78 mph and heavy rains will still hit Japan, and the country’s meteorological agency is still warning of the potential for landslides and flooding. But it won’t wash what remains of the Olympics into the sea.

Rain, however, is forecast for all but two of the Games’ remaining 13 days. And you know what that will do to the humidity.

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We now return to back to our regularly scheduled Woike wisdom.

OK, so back to me because, well, they say “write what you know best.”

Time is everything at the Olympics. I was kind of prepared for that coming here. I made sure to buy a cheap alarm clock for my hotel room so I’d always know what time it would be at home. It hasn’t helped. A mid-Monday conversation with my wife back home included me asking her what her plans were for Sunday.

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“You’re looking at them,” she said before reminding me it was already after dinner time.

So every tweet, every call, every story I post is functionally coming from 16 hours in the future, a concept I fully haven’t wrapped my head around as I’m getting to wrap my first week in Japan.

It’s why I was prepared to sing Jrue Holiday’s praises Sunday night, the newly minted NBA champion nearly carrying the U.S. men’s team to a win even though he undoubtedly still was digesting the airline food from his trip across the ocean less than 24 hours earlier.

My first night in Tokyo, I slept three hours. It took my body like four nights to figure out what I was doing at the end of the day wasn’t napping.

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Well, ultimately it didn’t matter, the entirety of the U.S. men’s team going to sleep in the final four minutes against France — and don’t be surprised if you see more trouble in the future for them.

All right, let’s check in around the Games at what else went on today. Or was it yesterday. Or tomorrow.

I can’t be sure.

Where’s Rachel?

U.S. pitcher Rachel Garcia bats during a practice session in Yokohama, Japan, on Friday.
(Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press)
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Sadly for the U.S. softball team, it’s living in the age of the instant critic.

The unbeaten Americans will play Japan on Tuesday for the gold medal having generated some consternation for not having more fully utilized UCLA’s Rachel Garcia, a member of ESPN’s Greatest College Softball Team.

The official UCLA softball Twitter account unleashed a goat emoji on Saturday as part of a post in which it appeared to implore U.S. coach Ken Eriksen to give Garcia more playing time. She’s been limited to two pinch-hit at-bats through her team’s first five games, failing to reach base.

After having gone 18-3 with a 1.39 earned-run average in her final season with the Bruins, becoming the back-to-back winner of the Collegiate Athlete of the Year Award, Garcia hasn’t thrown a pitch in the Olympics. Eriksen said Monday that Garcia’s lack of playing time has mostly been a function of the dominance of pitchers Cat Osterman and Monica Abbott, who have combined to go 5-0 with a 0.00 earned-run average.

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“Rachel is just as good as anybody else,” Eriksen said Monday after his team rallied for a 2-1 victory over Japan in the final game of round-robin play, “she just hasn’t really had the time to get in there because it hasn’t called for her, but I wouldn’t doubt that you might see four pitchers” in the gold-medal game.

Even with Garcia’s role limited, UCLA players have produced plenty of highlights. Right fielder Bubba Nickles has batted .500 in her two starts, shortstop Delaney Spaulding has made one defensive highlight after another and pitcher Ally Carda continued her dominance of Japan in international play Monday by giving up just one unearned run in 5 1/3 innings during her Olympic debut.

“This young woman, career-wise against Japan, is phenomenal,” Eriksen said when asked why he started Carda instead of Osterman or Abbott. “Ally was scheduled for this game as soon as the Olympic team was made. … If we had to win this game to get to the gold-medal game, Ally Carda was still going to get the ball.”

Unfortunately for Eriksen, some won’t be satisfied until he puts the ball in Garcia’s hand.

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Swimming

Katie Ledecky holds the silver medal she won for finishing second in the women's 400-meter freestyle.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Nathan Fenno on swimming: For more than a decade, Katie Ledecky has dominated the pool like no other woman.

She piled up world records and gold medals, usually with jaw-dropping margins of victory that made her appear to be swimming a different race than the competitors fighting for second place.

But Ledecky’s invincibility vanished Monday against Australian sensation Ariarne Titmus in front of a few hundred athletes, coaches, journalists and officials at the cavernous Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

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Titmus, nicknamed “The Terminator,” blew past Ledecky in the final stretch of the 400-meter freestyle to win gold in the most anticipated swimming final at these Olympic Games.

“It’s the biggest thing you can pull off in your sporting career, so I’m over the moon,” the 20-year-old Titmus said. “I’m trying to contain it as much as I can.”

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Rugby

U.S. rugby player Danny Barrett competes with a bloodied jersey after suffering a cut near his eye.
U.S. rugby player Danny Barrett competes with a bloodied jersey after suffering a cut near his eye against Kenya on Monday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
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Kevin Baxter on rugby: Rugby, Carlin Isles says, has taken him to some dark places.

“We go to dark places a lot, man,” he repeated Monday with a shake of his head.

Track took him to the NCAA Division II national championships. Football took him to the NFL with the Detroit Lions. Rugby has taken him to two Olympics.

And to dark places he never would have visited without it.

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“There’s no sport like it,” Isles said. “You’ve got to dig deep. And it really tests you mentally. Because it’s a little voice telling you that, ‘I’m tired, I’m fatigued.’

“But you’ve got to get up and you’ve got to keep fighting.”

Men’s basketball

Tokyo, Japan, Sunday, July 25, 2021 - Men's Basketball, USA vs. France.
U.S. players, from left, Bam Adebayo, Jrue Holiday, Damian Lillard, Kevin Durant and Zach LaVine stand on the court during a timeout against France on Sunday at the Tokyo Olympics.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Woike on U.S. men’s basketball: Maybe these things just have a life cycle, the U.S. men’s basketball team being not only the most talented team in the Olympic tournament but also the most dominant.

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And, maybe, just maybe, the stage is set for another disappointment to spawn rebirth.

With the U.S. already beaten once, things are trending toward a major disappointment at these Olympics. Because of everything working against them during the pandemic, they’re also primed to bottom out before a reboot.

Since professionals from the U.S. have been allowed into competition, it’s been nearly 30 years of the same formula.

It starts with dominance — the very best players excited to play for the national team. Four years later, the team is a little worse, a little less dominant. And then the Games after that, it’s the same before the erosion catches up with them.

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It’s what happened in 1992, when no one got within 20 points of Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson and the rest of the Dream Team. By 2000, the gold medal was a total grind, the team surviving tight medal-round games with Lithuania and France.

Women’s basketball

Head coach Dawn Staley, center, coaches during practice.
The U.S. women’s basketball team will be going for its 50th consecutive victory at the Olympics on Tuesday when it plays Nigeria.
(John Locher / Associated Press)

Woike on the U.S. women’s basketball team: You can find the history in the details, the design stitched into the collars on their red uniforms, the six stars cascading down each side of the U.S. women’s basketball jerseys.

It’s an homage to the 12 players on the team in 1996 — and the U.S. response to bronze in the previous Games — when women who would become icons in their sport recaptured gold. Lisa Leslie. Rebecca Lobo. Sheryl Swoopes. Dawn Staley.

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Since losing in the quarterfinals of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the U.S. women have dominated. Forty-nine times, they’ve taken the court as Olympians. Forty-nine times, they’ve left as winners.

Tuesday when they try to win their 50th straight, they’ll do so with a pair of players set to one day have their legacies sewn onto the uniforms of future generations. For the fifth time, Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, two of women’s basketball’s most recognizable ambassadors, will try to win gold.

And pulling it off seems like it’ll be harder than ever.

Gymnastics

Artur Dalaloyan, of the Russian Olympic Committee, performs a floor routine.
Artur Dalaloyan, of the Russian Olympic Committee, performs a floor routine during the artistic gymnastics men’s team final Monday.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)
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Helene Elliott on men’s gymnastics: The significant gap in skill between American male gymnasts and the rest of the world was obvious again Monday, when athletes from the Russian Olympic Committee — known at these Olympics as the ROC — asserted their superiority in winning the men’s team title.

The ROC team, comprised of the same four athletes who won the 2019 world team championships, trailed after the first rotation but roared into the lead after that and held off surges by China and Japan. The Russians finished with 262.500 points, to 262.397 for Japan and 261.894 for China. The Americans, who committed few major mistakes but couldn’t match the difficulty of the leaders’ moves, finished fifth with 254.594 points after falling behind Britain in the final rotation.

Japan had compiled the highest score in Saturday’s qualifying competition but the ROC team had the top scores Monday on the still rings and vault. It was the first team medal gold won by Russian men since the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

TV schedule

Four men play badminton.
Phillip and Ryan Chew of the United States play against Japan’s Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda during a group stage badminton match at the Tokyo Olympics on Monday.
(Markus Schreiber / Associated Press)
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Here’s a look at the TV schedule for Monday and Tuesday’s events at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

MONDAY

Multiple sports — 11 p.m. (Sunday)-7:30 a.m., USA

  • Women’s water polo — U.S. vs. China (live)
  • Diving — Men’s synchronized platform final (live)
  • Fencing — Men’s individual foil and women’s individual sabre quarterfinals
  • Canoe slalom — Men’s final (live)
  • Men’s rugby — Qualifying round (live)
  • Swimming — Qualifying heats (live)
  • 3-on-3 basketball (live)
  • Men’s volleyball – Brazil vs. Argentina (live)

Multiple sports — 11 p.m. (Sunday)-2 a.m., CNBC

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  • Men’s basketball — Argentina vs. Slovenia (live)
  • Shooting skeet — Women’s final
  • Shooting skeet — Men’s final (live)
  • Archery — Men’s team final (live)
  • Cycling — Men’s mountain bike

Multiple sports — 11 p.m. (Sunday)-2 a.m., NBCSN

  • Men’s beach volleyball
  • Softball — U.S. vs. Japan

Tennis

Second round men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles (live), 11 p.m. (Sunday)-11 p.m. Olympic Channel

Multiple sports — 2 a.m.-5 p.m., NBCSN

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  • 3×3 basketball (live)
  • Fencing — Men’s individual foil and women’s individual sabre finals (live)
  • Beach volleyball — Qualifying round (live)
  • Rowing — Semifinals and qualifying heats
  • Men’s handball — Egypt vs. Denmark
  • Badminton — Qualifying round
  • Men’s handball — Spain vs. Norway
  • Women’s water polo — Australia vs. Netherlands
  • Men’s volleyball — Poland vs. Italy
  • Men’s basketball — Argentina vs. Slovenia
  • Multiple sports — 5-11 p.m., NBCSN
  • Women’s water polo — U.S. vs. China
  • Men’s volleyball — U.S. vs. Russian Olympic Committee
  • U.S. rugby — Qualifying round
  • Triathlon — Women’s final

Triathlon

Women’s final (live), 2:30 a.m., USA

Gymnastics

Men’s team final, 3 a.m., Peacock

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Multiple sports — 7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., USA

  • Archery — Men’s team final
  • Table tennis — Mixed doubles final
  • Surfing report Day 2
  • Cycling — Men’s mountain bike
  • Weightlifting — Women’s final
  • Shooting — Women’s and men’s skeet finals
  • Boxing — Elimination rounds
  • Taekwondo — Finals
  • Judo — Finals

Multiple sports — 9 a.m.-2 p.m., NBC

  • Canoe slalom — Men’s final
  • Women’s water polo — U.S. vs. China
  • Women’s 3-on-3 basketball — U.S. vs. China
  • Skateboarding — Women’s street final
  • Swimming — Qualifying heats
  • Beach volleyball — Women’s qualifying round

Multiple sports — 5-6:30 p.m., NBC

  • Diving — Men’s synchronized platform final
  • Gymnastics — Men’s team final

Multiple sports — 5-7:10 p.m., CNBC

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  • Beach volleyball — Women’s qualifying round (live)
  • Men’s water polo — U.S. vs. South Africa (live)

Multiple sports — 6:30-8:30 p.m., NBC

  • Swimming finals — Men’s 200-meter freestyle, women’s 100-meter backstroke, men’s 100-meter backstroke, women’s 100-meter breaststroke (live)
  • Triathlon — Women’s final

Multiple sports — 7:10- 9 p.m., CNBC

  • Rugby — Men’s qualifying round (live)
  • Fencing — Women’s team epee quarterfinals (live)
  • Rowing — Semifinals and finals

Multiple sports — 8 p.m.-9:30 a.m., USA

  • Beach volleyball – Men’s qualifying round (live)
  • Archery — Individual elimination rounds

Multiple sports — 8:30-11 p.m., NBC

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  • U.S. men’s rugby — Qualifying round
  • Women’s volleyball — U.S. vs. China

Softball

Bronze medal game — 9 p.m., CNBC (live)

Women’s basketball

U.S. vs. Nigeria, 9:40 p.m., USA (live)

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TUESDAY

Multiple sports — 11 p.m. (Monday)-7 a.m., USA

  • Cycling — Women’s mountain bike (live)
  • Swimming — Qualifying heats (live)
  • 3-on-3 basketball — Quarterfinals (live)

Multiple sports — 11 p.m. (Monday)-1:30 a.m., CNBC

  • Diving — Women’s synchronized platform (live)
  • Canoe slalom — Women’s final (live)
  • 3-on-3 basketball

Multiple sports — 11 p.m. (Monday)-4 a.m., NBCSN

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  • Beach volleyball — Women’s qualifying round (live)
  • Women’s basketball — U.S. vs. Nigeria (replay)
  • Rugby — Men’s quarterfinal (live)
  • 3-on-3 basketball

Tennis

Second-round men’s singles; third-round women’s singles; men’s and women’s quarterfinals, 11 p.m. (Monday)-11 p.m., Olympic Channel

Gymnastics

Women’s team final, 3 a.m. (live)

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Softball

U.S. vs. Japan — Gold medal game, 4 a.m., NBCSN (live)

Multiple sports — 6:30 a.m.-5 p.m., NBCSN

  • Beach volleyball — Women’s qualifying round (live)
  • Women’s handball – France vs. Spain
  • Archery — Individual eliminations
  • Badminton — Qualifying rounds
  • Equestrian — Team dressage final
  • Fencing — Women’s team epee final
  • Softball — U.S. vs. Japan (gold medal game; replay)
  • Table tennis — Elimination rounds
  • Surfing — semifinals
  • Women’s volleyball — U.S. vs. China

Multiple sports — 9 a.m.-2 p.m., NBC

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  • Canoe slalom — Women’s final
  • Beach volleyball — Women’s qualifying round
  • Cycling — Women’s mountain bike
  • 3-on-3 basketball — quarterfinal
  • Swimming — Qualifying heats
  • Diving — Women’s synchronized platform final
  • Swimming — Qualifying heats

Multiple sports — 11 a.m.-3 p.m., USA

  • Rugby — Men’s quarterfinal
  • Weightlifting — Women’s finals
  • Judo — Finals
  • Taekwondo — Finals
  • Boxing — Elimination rounds
  • Women’s basketball — U.S. vs. Nigeria (replay)

Multiple sports — 5-9 p.m., NBC

  • Gymnastics — Women’s team final
  • Swimming — Finals for women’s 200 freestyle, men’s 200 butterfly, women’s 200 individual medley, women’s 1500 freestyle, men’s 4x200 freestyle relay

Multiple sports — 5-11 p.m., USA

  • Beach volleyball — Men’s qualifying round (live)
  • Table tennis — Women’s quarterfinal (live)
  • Men’s volleyball — U.S. vs. Tunisia (live)
  • Rugby — Men’s semifinals
  • Archery — Individual eliminations
  • Canoe slalom — Qualifying (live)

Multiple sports — 5-11 p.m., CNBC

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  • Rowing — Finals and semifinals (live)
  • Cycling — Women’s time trial (live)
  • Beach volleyball — Women’s qualifying round
  • Cycling — Men’s time trial (live)

Multiple sports — 5-11 p.m., NBCSN

  • Women’s basketball — U.S. vs. Nigeria (replay)
  • Softball — Final
  • Women’s soccer — U.S. vs. Australia (replay)
  • Women’s volleyball – U.S. vs. China

Canoe slalom

Qualifying, 9 p.m., NBC (live)

Multiple sports — 9:35-11 p.m., NBC

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  • Cycling — Women’s team trial
  • Women’s water polo — U.S. vs. Hungary (live)

Women’s soccer

  • U.S. vs. Australia, 1 a.m., USA (live)
  • U.S. vs. Australia, 7 a.m., USA (replay)
  • Canada vs. Britain, 8 a.m., USA
  • U.S. vs. Australia, 3 p.m., USA (replay)

Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email us at sports@latimes.com. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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