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The Sports Report Olympics Edition: Dropping some Shohei Ono knowledge

Japan's Shohei Ono reacts after defeating Lasha Shavdatuashvili of Georgia
Japan’s Shohei Ono reacts after defeating Lasha Shavdatuashvili of Georgia for gold at the Tokyo Olympics on July 26.
(Vincent Thian / Associated Press)

The Olympic spirit is alive and well.

Hi, I’m Gary Klein, and I’m curating the Los Angeles Times Olympics newsletter today.

We’re going to examine and celebrate some cool episodes of sportsmanship at Olympic Stadium — and some Shohei Ohtani-inspired Olympic bonding I experienced at 3 a.m. at McDonalds.

But first, here’s what you need to know about what’s happening at the Olympics.

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Olympic medal count

U.S. Olympic athlete tracker

Latest Olympics news and results

Monday and Tuesday TV schedules

U.S. runner Isaiah Jewett, left, and Nijel Amos of Botswana shake hands after falling in the men's 800-meter semifinal.
U.S. runner Isaiah Jewett, left, and Nijel Amos of Botswana shake hands after falling in the men’s 800-meter semifinal at the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Now, back to that Olympic spirit.

On Sunday night, two great examples were on display.

The one I followed closely involved U.S. 800-meter runner Isaiah Jewett. Before he began competition last week, I wrote about his love for anime — Japanese animated cartoons — and superheroes. But watching it come to life was fun on a different level.

After Jewett and Nijel Amos of Botswana fell during their semifinal, Jewett helped Amos to his feet, shook his hand and draped his arm over his shoulder so they could complete the race together.

Officials ultimately ruled that Amos would go on to the final. Jewett’s appeal was denied. Regardless, Jewett’s actions and his comments about embodying the superhero ethos were moving.

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High-jumpers Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy and Mutaz Barshim of Qatar also showed the spirit when the two friends agreed to tie and share the gold medal, setting off emotional celebrations by both.

Now, there’s no denying the Olympics are, on one level, an over-commercialized money grab. But those demonstrations reminded that the spirit lives.

And, despite the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the spirit can be felt beyond the competitive arenas.

My experience researching and then covering judo on the first day of competition laid the groundwork for my own experience making an Olympic connection.

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After a 17-hour day at the stadium, I rode two buses back to our hotel, which sits across the street from a 24-hour, near open-air McDonalds.

Japan's Shohei Ono of Japan competes with Lasha Shavdatuashvili of Georgia.
Japan’s Shohei Ono of Japan competes with Lasha Shavdatuashvili of Georgia during a men’s judo match at the Tokyo Olympics.
(Vincent Thian / Associated Press)

As a vegetarian, my visits to McDonalds are usually restricted to when I’m driving 300 miles or more on a road trip. In that setting, there is nothing quite like a short swing through the drive-thru for an extra-large order of fries, right?

But after eating late night sushi during most of these Olympics, I figured what the heck.

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I walked across the street, ordered and paid with a credit card. When the receipt printed, in Japanese, the employee who took the order pointed at it and said “Los Angeles.”

“Yes, I’m from Los Angeles,” I said.

“Ohtani,” he said, chuckling. “You know Shohei Ohtani?”

I assured him that I knew all about the Japanese slugger and pitcher for the Angels.

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The guy was ecstatic. But he went bonkers when I added, “Ohtani is very good. But I like Shohei Ono.”

He was so shocked, he stopped making a McFlurry.

“Ono?” he exclaimed, “You know Ono?”

Shohei Ono is the most dominant judoka in the world, a two-time Olympic champion in the lightweight (161 pounds) division. After the crash course I gave myself in judo, I’ve become semi-obsessed watching videos of his matches.

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It was a great exchange.

Forget the fries. I’ll savor that moment forever.

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Gymnastics

U.S. gymnast Simone Biles competes on the beam during team qualifying last week.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
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Helene Elliott on Simone Biles: Simone Biles will return to compete in the balance beam event final Tuesday, a week after she withdrew from the women’s team gymnastics competition to protect her physical and mental well-being. USA Gymnastics made the announcement late Monday afternoon.

Biles, 24, won five medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics and was expected to dominate the competition in Tokyo. She had a few mistakes in the qualifying phase and then performed an alarmingly crooked vault in the first rotation of the team event. She scratched from the event after that, saying she did not feel physically and mentally able to continue because she didn’t know where she was in the air. Without her, the U.S. won a silver medal behind the Russian Olympic Committee.

“We are so excited to confirm that you will see two U.S. athletes in the balance beam final — Suni Lee AND Simone Biles!!” USA Gymnastics said in a statement. “Can’t wait to watch you both!”

———

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U.S. gymnast Jade Carey twists during her floor exercise routine at the Tokyo Olympics on Monday.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Ben Bolch on Jade Carey: The energy inside the nearly empty arena intensified with each move. As Jade Carey twisted and backflipped her way across the floor inside Ariake Gymnastics Centre, the small contingent of U.S. athletes and staff sitting in one corner roared.

By the time Carey completed her floor routine Monday evening at the Olympics, she had earned a standing ovation. She thrust an arm triumphantly into the air and waited for what seemed likely to come next.

A gold medal.

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Carey’s score of 14.366 topped Italy’s Vanessa Ferrari (14.2) and Japan’s Mai Murakami and Viktoriia Listunova of the Russian Olympic Committee, who each notched a 14.166. Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade, who won gold in the vault and silver in the all-around competition, could not add to her haul of medals after finishing with a 14.033.

Women’s soccer

U.S. forward Carli Lloyd walks on the field after the team's semifinal loss.
U.S. forward Carli Lloyd walks on the field after the team’s semifinal loss to Canada at the Tokyo Olympics on Monday.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Kevin Baxter on the U.S. women’s soccer team: The U.S. lost their goalkeeper Monday, then they lost their shot at a gold medal, with Jessie Fleming beating backup keeper Adrianna Franch on a penalty kick in the 76th minute to give Canada a 1-0 win in a Tokyo Olympics semifinal.

The game turned in large part on a video replay, with Ukrainian referee Kateryna Monzul overruling her own call that U.S. defender Tierna Davidson had not fouled Canada’s Deanne Rose, who ran up the American’s back at the right edge of the penalty area. But after a long pause, the replay official convinced Monzul to take a look at the video, and the referee awarded the penalty.

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Canadian captain Christine Sinclair, who has a record 187 international goals, walked the ball to the spot. But rather than shooting against Franch, her club teammate with the Portland Thorns, she handed the ball to Fleming, a former UCLA standout, who calmly slotted it inside the right post.

Canada will face the winner of the second semifinal between Sweden and Australia in the gold-medal game Friday while the U.S. will face the loser for bronze. The U.S., which had reached the final of the five first Olympic tournaments, has not played for the gold since 2012.

Track and field

Tara Davis, of the United States, competes in the qualification rounds.
U.S. long jumper Tara Davis competes in qualifying at the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday.
(Matthias Schrader / Associated Press)

Gary Klein on U.S. long jumper Tara Davis: One and done.

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That is how Tara Davis put herself in Tuesday’s Olympic long jump finals.

Davis needed only one jump in Sunday’s qualifying round to meet the standard for the finals and position herself for a shot at a gold medal.

She spent the rest of the session enjoying herself.

Davis consulted with her father, Ty, who doubles as her coach and was seated in the second row at Olympic Stadium. She mugged for an omnipresent television camera, blowing kisses. She joked with other competitors, watched shot put and 400-meter competitions and borrowed a pen from an official to record the metric marks on the runway so that she could later convert them to feet and inches.

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Finally, she sought and was given permission to leave.

“I didn’t want to be out there too long,” she said. “It’s pretty hot.”

When Davis, 22, returns to the stadium Tuesday, she will have a heavier workload. American teammate Brittney Reese, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist, Malaika Mihambo of Germany and Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk of Ukraine are among the contenders.

But Davis’ formidable talent could carry her to a medal, possibly gold.

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Basketball

U.S. forward A'Ja Wilson passes in front of France's Alexia Chartereau.
U.S. forward A’Ja Wilson, left, passes in front of France’s Alexia Chartereau during a U.S. win on Monday.
(Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press)

Dan Woike on U.S. women’s basketball: A’ja Wilson and Tina Charles pushed the U.S. women’s basketball team into the next stage of the Olympic tournament undefeated.

The Americans fought off a feisty French team 93-82 behind 22 points from Wilson and 15 from Charles, 11 coming in the second half. Breanna Stewart also scored 17 in the win. It’s the third consecutive win in the tournament for the U.S. It will now wait to see who it draws in the quarterfinals, which begin Wednesday.

The U.S. team is trying to win gold for the seventh straight time.

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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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