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The Sports Report Olympics Edition: Finding the right beach volleyball fashion

U.S. beach volleyball player April Ross dives for the ball during a team practice session.
(Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

If you find yourself admiring the dark-blue bikinis of April Ross and Alix Klineman, you can give at least partial credit to the U.S. women’s volleyball stars.

They helped design them.

Good morning everybody, I’m Ben Bolch, curator of this edition of The Times’ Tokyo Olympics newsletter and novice fashion critic, eager to unveil the backstory to the threads worn by one of the most popular teams at these Games.

Before we get to what might be dubbed “Project Runway: Beach Edition,” let’s take a look at some of the big stories Tuesday:

Olympic medal count

U.S. Olympic athlete tracker

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Tokyo Olympic medal winners

Wednesday and Thursday’s TV schedule

Design studio

U.S. beach volleyball player Alix Klineman dives for a ball as teammate April Ross looks on.
U.S. beach volleyball player Alix Klineman, left, dives for a ball as teammate April Ross looks on during a match against China on Sunday.
(Petros Giannakouris / Associated Press)

Getting to pick what you wear while scampering around the sand in sweaty, skimpy outfits is a big deal for women’s beach volleyball players. It prevents the straps on their tops from pulling too much and ensures that the fit on the bottoms is as reasonably snug as possible given the inevitable limitations.

“I mean, we do get wedgies sometimes,” said Klineman, the former Stanford standout from Manhattan Beach, “it’s just what happens.”

Ross, who starred at USC before becoming one of the world’s top players on the professional beach tour, said most of the choices involve color, font size and placement of logos. Ross is sponsored by Mizuno and Klineman by Adidas, leading to additional outfit possibilities.

“Our technical supervisor said we had the most combinations of any team in the tournament,” Ross said.

Uniform snafus recently became newsworthy when a Norwegian women’s beach handball team was fined for wearing shorts instead of bikini bottoms and a Paralympic track athlete was criticized by a sporting official who said her shorts didn’t provide adequate coverage.

Beach volleyball players also face restrictions intended to assure tastefulness but can pick from a bevy of options that include bikinis, a one-piece or tops and briefs.

“Had we asked to be wearing shorts, we would be wearing shorts,” Klineman said, “so I really appreciate that and I feel like 100% it should be across the board, all sports should be able to do that.”

Weathering it

A man walks past Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on Tuesday.
(Yuichi Yamazaki / Getty Images)

Some tropical storm. I’ve had showers with low water pressure that were more intense.

Fears that these Games would be widely disrupted by Tropical Storm Nepartak were mercifully unfounded. The storm drifted north of Tokyo, which experienced moderate rain showers Tuesday but nothing that led to a rash of cancellations.

Rowing and archery events were postponed before the rain started, but beach volleyball and softball proceeded as scheduled. By early afternoon, the sun was searing the artificial turf at Yokohama Baseball Stadium and temperatures crept back into uncomfortably hot territory.

But the clear plastic ponchos that became popular among Games workers and some media earlier in the day might get plenty of additional use. The forecast calls for at least a chance of rain every day for the next 1½ weeks.

Getting loopy

A bus outside the main media center at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
(Matthias Hangst / Getty Images)

I’m looking forward to covering UCLA’s football opener against Hawaii on Aug. 28, but if I don’t make it to the Rose Bowl it’s probably because I’m stuck on a bus here making an endless loop.

The always friendly and occasionally helpful workers at these Games warned me the first day I went to the beach volleyball venue at Shiokaze Park that there were two buses back to the media hub. The first was a direct route and the second was far more circuitous, going from Shiozake Park to Odaiba Marine Park to Aomi Urban Sports Park and back to Shiokaze Park before finally going on to the media hub.

You really don’t want to get on the bus with multiple stops by mistake because it takes about 30 minutes to reach the media hub as opposed to only 10 on the direct route.

Having confirmed the route before boarding earlier in the week, I was lulled into assuming two friendly journalists from Kenya were boarding the bus back to the media center when I nonchalantly climbed the steps behind them. Oops.

If I do it again, I may not be heard from before 2022.

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Gymnastics

Simone Biles walks alone after withdrawing from the women's team final.
Simone Biles walks alone after withdrawing from the women’s team final at the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Helene Elliott on U.S. women’s gymnastics: Simone Biles, who withdrew from the women’s gymnastics team competition Tuesday to focus on mental health issues that dented her confidence in her ability to perform the difficult moves that have defined her brilliant career, will not compete in the women’s all-around event final Thursday.

USA Gymnastics, the sport’s national governing body, announced Biles’ withdrawal from the all-around event in a statement released mid-afternoon Wednesday in Tokyo. Biles won the all-around gold medal at Rio in 2016 and had been favored to become the first woman to win back-to-back Olympic all-around championships since Vera Caslavska in 1968.

“After further medical evaluation, Simone Biles has withdrawn from the final individual all-around competition at the Tokyo Olympic Games, in order to focus on her mental health,” the statement read. “Simone will continue to be evaluated daily to determine whether or not to participate in next week’s individual event finals. Jade Carey, who had the ninth-highest score in qualifications, will participate in her place in the all-around.

“We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her well-being. Her courage shows, yet again, why she is a role model for so many.”

————

Bill Plaschke on Simone Biles: Simone Biles choked.

That’s what some people think.

Simone Biles ruined her legacy.

That’s what some people are saying.

If Tom Brady or LeBron James walked out on their team during the biggest game of the season, they would be mercilessly ripped, so why is Simone Biles getting a pass?

That’s what some people are asking.

When the chalk settled after the greatest female gymnast bravely withdrew from the Tokyo Olympics team competition Tuesday because she admittedly was overcome by the pressure, an ugly truth emerged.

Some saw her courage as cowardly. Some viewed her selflessness as traitorous. Many sports fans, used to celebrating their heroes for “sucking it up” and having “ice water in their veins,” were deeply offended.

Biles seemingly saw the wrath coming, and when the U.S. team struggled to a silver medal after her departure, she offered this heartbreaking quote to NBC’s Hoda Kotb.

“We hope America still loves us,” Biles said.

Swimming

Katie Ledecky celebrates her victory in the women's 1,500-meter freestyle.
Katie Ledecky celebrates her victory in the women’s 1,500-meter freestyle at the Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Nathan Fenno on Katie Ledecky: The week has been filled with tumult at the Summer Olympics. Big names pulled out of competition. The host city reported its highest one-day total of coronavirus cases. A typhoon buffeted the region with rain and wind. Pre-event light shows swirled through arenas devoid of fans because of the pandemic.

Leave it to Katie Ledecky to provide a few minutes of normalcy.

The 24-year-old completed a grueling double by cruising to victory in the 1,500-meter freestyle at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre on Wednesday, about an hour after swimming the 200 freestyle final.

“People maybe feel bad that I’m not winning everything, but I want people to be more concerned about other things in the world,” Ledecky said. “People are truly suffering. I’m just proud to bring home a gold medal.”

No other swimmer at the Games attempted a similar test of speed and endurance. The feat looked routine. She spent most of the race in a familiar position: all alone in the lead with the seven other competitors trailing far behind.

Ledecky finished in 15 minutes 37.34 seconds — the fifth individual Olympic gold of her decorated career — in a race she’s dominated like no other woman.

Soccer

U.S. goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher makes a save against Sweden on July 21.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Kevin Baxter on the USWNT: It’s not Alyssa Naeher‘s fault.

Whatever is bothering the U.S. women’s soccer team, which limps into the knockout round of the Tokyo Olympics on Friday following the worst group-stage performance in an international championship in U.S. history, none of it came be blamed on Naeher, the goalkeeper.

Sure, she gave up three goals in the opening loss to Sweden. But she also made six saves, the most she’s had in a game in more than 31 months.

Her teammates couldn’t manage six shots on goal.

She’s given up one goal in 198 minutes since then, and that one came after defender Abby Dahlkemper slipped and took herself out of the play, leaving Naeher to face two attackers alone.

3-on-3 basketball

Stefanie Dolson, Jacquelyn Young, Kelsey Plum and Allisha Gray celebrate their gold-medal win.
Stefanie Dolson, Jacquelyn Young, Kelsey Plum and Allisha Gray celebrate their gold-medal win over the ROC at the Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday.
(Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

Dan Woike on the U.S. 3-on-3 women’s basketball team: The U.S. women’s basketball team capped one of the Olympics’ boldest experiments, winning gold in its first ever three-on-three event.

Played outdoors in the humidity with a slight breeze, a team of four WNBA players (each team is allowed one substitute) beat members of the Russian Olympic Committee 18-15 to finish first in the inaugural tournament.

Kelsey Plum, Stefanie Dolson, Alisha Gray and Jackie Young lost only once over the five days of play, falling to Japan right before entering the knockout round. They needed to survive a tight semifinal game with France, an 18-16 win thanks to some late free throws, to advance to the finals.

Basketball

U.S. forward Javale McGee is fouled as he drives to the basket against Iran’s Mohammad Hassanzadeh and Pujan Jalalpoor.
U.S. forward Javale McGee (11) is fouled as he drives to the basket against Iran’s Mohammad Hassanzadeh (7) and Pujan Jalalpoor (5) during a U.S. win Wednesday.
(ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Dan Woike on U.S. men’s basketball: An Olympic basketball game for the U.S. men’s team against Iran was almost certainly going to end in a very particular way. Bookmakers had the U.S. in the range of 40-point favorites against the Iranians, the lone team in the Olympic tournament without an active NBA player.

And for the first time these Games, the U.S. men’s team didn’t disappoint.

But along the way, they moved closer to a bigger achievement, taking steps to solve the question facing every U.S. basketball team when it enters international competition. How can this group of players learn to work together?

“In a sense, everyone is kind of a role player now,” U.S. coach Gregg Popovich said. “We don’t need heroes.”

But this roster has been full of them since NBA players started competing in 1996.

Accomplishing that with a team full of lead scorers is the biggest on-court issue facing this (and all) U.S. teams loaded with NBA stars. In their 120-66 win Wednesday afternoon, they looked more in tune with that goal.

TV schedule for Wednesday and Thursday

Australia's Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin compete during the Nacra 17 mixed race.
Australia’s Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin compete during the Nacra 17 mixed race at Enoshima harbour in Fujisawa, Japan on Wednesday.
(Bernat Armangue / Associated Press)

Here’s a rundown of Olympic events airing Wednesday and Thursday on NBCUniversal networks during the Tokyo Games:

WEDNESDAY

Multiple sports — 11 p.m. (Tuesday)-9 a.m., USA

  • Diving — Men’s synchronized springboard final
  • Canoe slalom — Qualifying (live)
  • 3-on-3 basketball — Women’s semifinal (live)
  • Rugby — Men’s bronze medal and final (live)
  • 3-on-3 basketball — Men’s semifinal
  • Swimming — Qualifying heats (live)
  • 3-on-3 basketball — Finals (live)
  • Men’s volleyball — Brazil vs. Russian Olympic Committee (live)
  • Canoe slalom — Men’s qualifying

Multiple sports — 11 p.m. (Tuesday)-1 a.m., NBCSN

  • Women’s volleyball — U.S. vs. China
  • Beach volleyball — Women’s qualifying round

Tennis

  • Men’s third-round singles; women’s singles and doubles quarterfinals; men’s doubles semifinals, first-round mixed doubles, 11 p.m. (Tuesday)-7 p.m., Olympic Channel
  • Men’s singles and mixed doubles quarterfinals; women’s singles and doubles semifinals, 7-11 p.m., Olympic Channel (live)

Cycling

  • Men’s individual time trial — 11 p.m. (Tuesday), CNBC

Men’s soccer

  • Germany vs. Ivory Coast, 1 a.m., NBCSN (live)
  • France vs. Japan, 4:30 a.m., NBCSN (live)
  • Spain vs. Argentina, 6:30 a.m., NBCSN (live)

Men’s gymnastics

  • All-around competition, 3 a.m., Peacock, (live)

Canoe slalom

  • Women’s qualifying, 3:30 a.m., NBCSN

Multiple sports — 9 a.m.-2 p.m., NBC

  • Rowing – Finals
  • Cycling — Individual time trials
  • Beach volleyball — Men’s qualifying round
  • Swimming — Qualifying heats

Multiple sports — 9 a.m.-5 p.m., USA

  • Archery — Individual eliminations
  • Table tennis — Men’s and women’s quarterfinals and semifinal
  • Rowing — Finals
  • Fencing — Men’s team sabre finals
  • Judo — Finals
  • Weightlifting — Men’s final
  • Boxing — Elimination rounds
  • 3-on-3 basketball — Finals
  • Men’s volleyball — U.S. vs. Tunisia
  • Women’s water polo – U.S. vs. Hungary

Men’s basketball

  • Australia vs. Italy, 10:30 a.m., NBCSN

Multiple sports — 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m., NBCSN

  • Men’s handball — France vs. Germany
  • Badminton — Mixed doubles quarterfinals
  • Equestrian — Dressage individual final
  • Women’s water polo — China vs. Japan
  • Rugby — Men’s bronze and gold medal matches

Men’s basketball

  • U.S. vs. Iran, 2 p.m., NBC

Golf

  • Men’s first round, 3:30 p.m., Golf Channel (live)

Multiple sports — 5-9 p.m., NBC

  • Gymnastics — Men’s individual all-around
  • Diving — Men’s synchronized springboard final
  • Swimming — Finals: Men’s 800 freestyle; men’s 200 breaststroke; women’s 200 butterfly, men’s 100 freestyle; women’s 4x200 freestyle relay

Multiple sports — 5-11 p.m., USA

  • Beach volleyball — Qualifying round (live)
  • Rugby — Women’s qualifying round (live)
  • Table tennis — Women’s semifinal (live)
  • Men’s water polo — U.S. vs. Italy (live)

Multiple sports — 5-11 p.m., CNBC

  • Rowing — Finals (live)
  • Cycling — BMX racing quarterfinals (live)
  • Fencing — Women’s team foil quarterfinals
  • Archery — Individual eliminations
  • Fencing — Women’s team foil semifinals (live)

Multiple sports — 5-11 p.m., NBCSN

  • 3-on-3 basketball — Finals
  • Men’s volleyball — U.S. vs. Tunisia
  • Women’s water polo — U.S. vs. Hungary
  • Men’s basketball - U.S. vs. Iran
  • Rugby — Men’s bronze and gold medal matches

Table tennis

  • Women’s semifinal, 9 p.m., NBC

Multiple sports — 9:35-11 p.m., NBC

  • 3-on-3 basketball — Finals
  • Beach volleyball — Men’s qualifying round
  • Cycling — BMX racing quarterfinals

Men’s basketball

  • U.S. vs. Iran, 9:40 p.m., Peacock

THURSDAY

Multiple sports — 11 p.m. (Wednesday)-9:30 a.m., USA

  • Men’s water polo — U.S. vs. Italy (live)
  • Canoe slalom — Women’s final (live)
  • Rugby — Women’s qualifying round (live)
  • Swimming — Qualifying heats (live)
  • Archery — Individual eliminations
  • Women’s volleyball — U.S. vs. Turkey (live)
  • Beach Volleyball — Qualifying round

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

  • Fencing — Women’s team foil semifinals (live)
  • Table tennis — Men’s semifinals (live)
  • Men’s water polo — Croatia vs. Montenegro

Multiple sports — 11 p.m. (Wednesday)-5:10 a.m., NBCSN

  • Rugby — Men’s bronze medal and gold medal matches
  • Soccer — Men’s qualifying round
  • Men’s beach volleyball
  • Badminton — Elimination round
  • Fencing — Women’s team foil bronze medal and Final (live)

Tennis — 11 p.m. (Wednesday)-11 p.m., Olympic Channel

  • Men’s singles and mixed doubles — Quarterfinals
  • Women’s singles and doubles — Semifinals
  • Men’s singles and mixed doubles — Semifinals
  • Men’s doubles — Final

Gymnastics

  • Women’s all-around final — 3 a.m., Peacock (live)

Men’s basketball

Spain vs. Argentina, 5:10 a.m., NBCSN

Multiple sports — 7 a.m.-5 p.m., NBCSN

  • Table tennis — Women’s singles final
  • Women’s handball — Montenegro vs. Norway
  • Badminton — Elimination rounds
  • Archery — Individual eliminations
  • Women’s handball — Sweden vs. France
  • Rowing — Finals
  • Women’s Volleyball — China vs. Russian Olympic Committee
  • Rugby — Women’s qualifying round

Multiple sports — 9 a.m.-2 p.m., NBC

  • Rowing — Finals
  • Men’s water polo — U.S. vs. Italy
  • Cycling — BMX racing quarterfinals
  • Canoe slalom — Women’s final
  • Women’s volleyball – U.S. vs. Turkey
  • Swimming — Qualifying heats

Multiple sports — 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m., USA

  • Table tennis — Men’s semifinals
  • Fencing — Women’s team foil final
  • Shooting — Women’s trap final
  • Judo — finals
  • Boxing — Elimination rounds
  • Canoe slalom — Women’s final

Men’s Basketball

  • Spain vs. Argentina, 3 p.m., USA

Golf

  • Men’s second round — 3:30 p.m.-2 p.m. (live)

Multiple sports — 5-8:30 p.m., NBC

  • Gymnastics — Women’s all-around final
  • Swimming — Finals: Women’s 200 breaststroke; men’s 200 backstroke; women’s 100 freestyle; Men’s 200 individual medley (live)
  • Gymnastics — Women’s all-around final
  • Swimming — Women’s 200 backstroke semifinals
  • Track and Field — Qualifying rounds: Women’s 800; Men’s 400 hurdles; Women’s 100 (live)

Multiple sports — 5-9:30 p.m., USA

  • Track and Field — Qualifying rounds (live)
  • Rugby — Women’s qualifying round
  • Archery — Women’s elimination round
  • Multiple sports — 9:40-11:30 p.m.

Multiple sports — 5-11 p.m., CNBC

  • Men’s volleyball — U.S. vs. Brazil (live)
  • Beach volleyball — Women’s qualifying round (live)
  • Rowing — Finals (live)
  • Women’s rugby — U.S. vs. Australia (live)
  • Cycling — BMX racing finals (live)
  • Badminton — Women’s singles quarterfinal
  • Gymnastics — Women’s trampoline final (live)

Multiple sports — 5-11 p.m., NBCSN

  • Men’s water polo — U.S. vs. Italy
  • Women’s volleyball — U.S. vs. Turkey
  • Beach volleyball — Men’s qualifying round
  • Women’s handball — Montenegro vs. Norway
  • Rugby — Women’s qualifying round

Rugby

  • Women’s qualifying round, 8:30 p.m.

Multiple sports — 9:05-11 p.m., NBC

  • Track and Field — Qualifying rounds
  • Cycling — BMX racing finals

Women’s basketball

  • U.S. vs. Japan, 9:40 p.m. (live)

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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