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Tokyo 2020 Olympics briefing: exits for Biles and Osaka dominate the day

·14-min read

Today in a nutshell: Two of the most high-profile women at these Olympic Games made headlines with two very different exits, Japan won the softball title, and Team GB scored a historic one-two in the pool.

Tomorrow’s key moments: We’ll see the finals of the rugby sevens and the 3x3 basketball, and there’s a day of brilliant cycling ahead with both the men’s and women’s individual time-trials.

The day’s big event was set to be the women’s team artistic gymnastics. It was won by the Russian Olympic Committee team, with a silver for the US and an extremely creditable bronze for Great Britain. But that isn’t going to be the main headline after Simone Biles was forced to withdraw due to concerns over her mental health, after struggling on her opening vault. Tumaini Carayol was there at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre for us to watch events unfold. He writes:

In the opening rotation, Biles had attempted her trusty Amanar vault, one she has almost never missed. However, as she launched herself into the air her form deteriorated and she only managed one and a half twists before a messy landing. The judge gave her an extremely low score of 13.700.

“It does suck when you do feel the weight of the world and you feel like there are no outlets for the amount of training that we do,” she said. “We were totally prepared, but it just sucks when you’re fighting with your own head.”

Meanwhile, there’s to be no gold medal for the woman who lit the Olympic flame on Friday. Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic halted Naomi Osaka’s challenge in the women’s tennis singles, with a 6-1, 6-4 straight-sets victory. Eighteen unforced errors left Osaka a frustrated figure as she left the court.

On a brighter note, Tom Dean and Duncan Scott took gold and silver in the men’s 200m freestyle for Team GB in the Tokyo Aquatics Centre early on Tuesday, perhaps answering teammate Adam Peaty’s call for a British gold rush. Other British medals today included a bronze in the +67kg taekwondo for Bianca Walkden, who was visibly frustrated after losing her semi-final to eventual silver medallist Lee Da-bin of South Korea in the very last second. Serbia’s Malicia Mandic took gold, their first of the Games.

Tom Dean with silver medallist Duncan Scott.
Tom Dean with silver medallist Duncan Scott. Photograph: Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Alaska’s first Olympic swimmer also became its first Olympic champion as 17-year-old Lydia Jacoby secured a US gold in the 100m breaststroke. Tatjana Schoenmaker came in second behind her, picking up South Africa’s first medal.

And is it just me beginning to wonder whether the Australia swimming team have some kind of bet with each other about going viral after each victory? Following coach Dean Boxall’s over-exuberant celebrations yesterday, today it was Kaylee McKeown’s turn. She broke the Olympic record on the way to gold in the women’s 100m backstroke final, then dropped the f-bomb on live TV for good measure.

It wasn’t to be for Charlotte Dujardin and her GB colleagues in the team dressage event. Germany retained gold, the US bagged silver and the British had to be satisfied with bronze. The individual competition is tomorrow with Dujardin aiming to win it for the third consecutive Olympics.

Jessica von Bredow-Werndl of Germany on her horse TSF Dalera on their way together to the gold medal.
Jessica von Bredow-Werndl of Germany on her horse TSF Dalera on their way together to the gold medal. Photograph: Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters

Tokyo’s weather had a hand in events today. The mountain bike course was so sodden that at points it was easier to dismount and walk your bike uphill rather than try and slog through the mud. That didn’t deter the Swiss team though, who took a quite unbelievable gold, silver and bronze with Jolanda Neff, Sina Frei and Linda Indergand finishing 1-2-3 in that order.

The start of the women’s triathlon was delayed due to a downpour, and whereas on Monday organisers were trying to hose down the field to keep the competitors cool, the women instead found themselves splashing through the course on their bikes. Flora Duffy came first, making the tiny Caribbean island of Bermuda the smallest country ever to win Olympic gold at the Summer Games. Georgia Taylor-Brown of Team GB claimed silver, with Katie Zaferes winning bronze for the US.

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Picture of the day

🇯🇵🇯🇵🇯🇵 The hosts and beyond

Softball hadn’t been in the Games since the 2008 edition, but Japan bought it back for Tokyo, and technically were still the defending champions. It’s a huge sport in Japan, and it was a huge gold medal match to face the USA today. Japan triumphed 2-0.

The IOC had warned athletes to stop hugging on the podium due to Covid protocols. Presumably, since they’ve all been training in one big bubble, it was fine for the softball team to start bouncing coach Reika Utsugi around.

Japan players and their coach Reika Utsugi celebrate their win.
Japan’s softball players and their coach Reika Utsugi celebrate their win. Photograph: Jorge Silva/Reuters

Germany usually finish quite high up the medal table, and before winning the team dressage they claimed their first gold with Ricarda Funk in the women’s kayak final. Spain’s Maialen Chourraut took silver. Australia’s Jessica Fox was actually fastest on the day, but picked up four penalty seconds, leaving her with the bronze.

There was no stopping China’s Chen Yuxi and Zhang Jiaqi, who won gold in the women’s 10m synchronised platform. There was a silver for the USA and a bronze for Mexico.

Chen Yuxi and Zhang Jiaqi in the air during their gold medal-winning dives.
Chen Yuxi and Zhang Jiaqi in the air during their gold medal-winning dives. Photograph: Canadian Press/REX/Shutterstock

Indonesia’s Greysia Polii gave one of the quotes of the day after securing a victory in the mixed doubles with badminton partner Apriyani Rahayu:

It’s in little things, but it’s what affects a lot in our game. We do everything together – whether we go to the toilet together, or sleep, or go to the dining hall when we eat the same thing. We have to remind each other to get into the same rhythm, the same mind, same spirit. We’re like a married couple.

The most bizarre moment of the day? Perhaps this – a Mike Tyson moment as Moroccan boxer Youness Baalla tried to bite David Nyika’s ear. After the fight, Nyika said:

He didn’t get a full mouthful. Luckily he had his mouthguard in and I was a bit sweaty. I don’t remember what I said to him but I gave him a little bit of a cheek. C’mon man, this is the Olympics.

Youness Baalla of Morocco (left) against David Nyika of New Zealand.
Youness Baalla of Morocco (left) against David Nyika of New Zealand. Photograph: Steve Mcarthur/AAP

🇬🇧🇬🇧🇬🇧 Team GB update

Sometimes we are guilty of British men’s tennis coverage being “Andy Murray and some other ones”. I’m very pleased to rectify that slightly today, by pointing out that Liam Broady is into round three with the biggest win of his career. Oh, and Murray and Joe Salisbury are into the doubles’ quarter-finals.

Justin McCurry was at the Kokugikan Arena to watch Caroline Dubois win through her first boxing bout on a historic stage where female athletes rarely tread. She didn’t need to try any biting.

By the way, the Simone Biles news shouldn’t overshadow an incredible performance by Team GB’s gymnasts. They are the first team that isn’t the US, Soviet/post-Soviet/Russia/Not Russia or China to get a medal since East Germany in 1988 and it is Britain’s first women’s team gymnastics medal since 1928, the year that women’s gymnastics was introduced to the Games. And two of the team have only just finished their GCSEs.

Great Britain’s team gymnastics bronze medallists Jennifer Gadirova, Jessica Gadirova, Alice Kinsella and Amelie Morgan.
Great Britain’s team gymnastics bronze medallists Jennifer Gadirova, Jessica Gadirova, Alice Kinsella and Amelie Morgan. Photograph: Sergei Bobylev/TASS

Our Donald McRae reflects today that, having interviewed him on more than one occasion over his long career, Tom Daley’s tears on the Tokyo podium represent a long, long march to glory. If you didn’t love Daley already then the news that he posted on Instagram to say that overnight he’d knitted a little tea-cosy style holder for his medal to stop it getting scratched will surely tip you over the edge.

Team GB were somewhat underwhelming in the football against Canada in a game I could only keep half-an-eye on because of drama unfolding elsewhere. They needed an 85th-minute goal from Caroline Weir to salvage a 1-1 draw. They now face Australia in a quarter-final on Friday. Suzanne Wrack has been following their progress in Tokyo a bit more closely, and interviews centre-back Leah Williamson, who summed up her experience so far, saying: “I had to keep my eyes closed for the national anthem because I felt like I was going to cry,”

🇦🇺🇦🇺🇦🇺 Australia update

If you wanted to know a bit more about suddenly internationally-known Dean Boxall, then Kieran Pender, who has been at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre, has this profile of the ‘rock star’ swim coach.

After winning the first ever medal awarded in the history of surfing, Australia’s Owen Wright said he felt like he was “walking on a cloud”. Wright picked up bronze, Japan’s Kanoa Igarashi silver, and Italo Ferreira of Brazil took gold. In this piece, Keiran Pender – who we are definitely getting our money’s worth out of today – reminds us that five and a half years ago, Wright couldn’t even walk.

Owen Wright of Australia celebrates after winning bronze.
Owen Wright of Australia celebrates after winning bronze. Photograph: Nic Bothma/EPA

If you fancy something for your ears, the latest episode from our Full Story podcast features deputy sports editor Emma Kemp delivering Guardian Australia’s guide to an Olympics like no other.

🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸 Team USA update

The USWNT limped into the quarter-finals of the football after a lacklustre 0-0 draw with Australia that nevertheless saw both teams progress. They will have to pick up their game when they face the Netherlands in the quarter-finals on Friday.

There will be one of the more contentious match-ups during the Games tomorrow, as the US and Iran clash in the men’s basketball. That’s at 1.40pm Tokyo time.

Tom Dart in Tokyo looks for us today at how Katie Ledecky excels as both an endurance and speed swimmer. She is favourite to win the 1,500m freestyle tomorrow. He writes:

Regardless of exactly how many medals she’ll get to hang round her neck in these Olympics, she is poised to demonstrate once again not only her speed but her stamina and extraordinary range. The 1500m is a new Olympic event for women this year and Ledecky is the world record holder, with a time of 15:20.48 set in 2018.

Did you know?

Much has been made of the fact that today was Great Britain’s first one-two in the Olympic swimming pool since the 1908 London Olympics, when Henry Taylor and Thomas Battersby came first and second in 1500m freestyle. Bronze in that race went to Frank Beaurepaire of the combined Australasia team. In 1908 and 1912 Australia and New Zealand competed as a combined team – they even had their own special Olympic flag.

Key events for Wednesday 28 July

Related: Tokyo 2020 Olympics: complete event schedule

The 3x3 basketball tournament reaches the final stage, as does the rugby sevens. You can also medal on Wednesday in artistic gymnastics, cycling, diving, equestrian, fencing, judo, rowing, rugby, surfing, swimming, and weightlifting. I say you, but I assume you personally are just sitting at home watching.

All events are listed here in local Tokyo time. Add an hour for Sydney, subtract eight hours for Inverness, 13 hours for New York and 17 hours for San Francisco. Can you do this in your head yet?

🌟If you only watch one thing: 5.30pm Equestrian – today is the dressage individual final. As mentioned above, Charlotte Dujardin is in search of a third consecutive gold. Plus it has horses. 🐴🥇

  • 9.18am-10.50am Rowing – the schedule has been a bit all over the place because of the weather, but at the time of writing, we are expecting a series of six finals tomorrow, including the double sculls, the fours and the quadruple sculls in both men’s and women’s varieties 🥇

  • 10.30am-1.15pm Swimming – I feel like I say this every day but it is another big day of finals in the pool. For the women there is the 200m freestyle, the 200m individual medley and the 1,500m freestyle. The men will compete for the 200m butterfly and the 4x200m freestyle relay 🥇

  • 11am-6pm Rugby sevens – the men’s competition is on its final day. After four matches to decide the minor placings, Great Britain face New Zealand in the first semi-final at 11am, with Fiji v Argentina at 11.30am. The bronze medal match is at 5.30pm and the 34th and final match of the tournament for the gold medal is at 6pm 🥇

  • 11.30am and 2pm Cycling – there’s a big day ahead at the Fuji International Speedway circuit which hosts Japan’s F1 races. The women go in their individual time-trial in the morning, the men in the afternoon 🥇

  • 3pm Diving – on Wednesday the offering at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre is the men’s 3m springboard synchro – Britain’s Jack Laugher will be aiming to defend his 2016 crown alongside new partner Daniel Goodfellow 🥇

  • 7.15pm Artistic gymnastics – Wednesday see’s the men’s individual competition final 🥇

  • 9.55pm-10.25pm 3x3 Basketball –the men’s final follows the women’s final as we bid farewell to this frenetic addition to the Games 🥇

You can find our full interactive events schedule here. It is honestly a bit of a technical marvel, as during the day everything literally updates as things are in play, like having a live scoreboard for the whole Olympics all in one place.

As it stands

Here’s how the emoji table stood at 11.15pm Tokyo time – with Japan, thanks to that late softball victory, holding off the challenge of the US for now. Kosovo have been pushed out of the top 10 as both Canada and Germany rise in the rankings.

1 🇯🇵 Japan 🥇 10 🥈 3 🥉 5 total: 18
2 🇺🇸 USA 🥇 9 🥈 8 🥉 8 total: 25
2 🇨🇳 China 🥇 9 🥈 5 🥉 7 total: 21
4 ◽️ Not Russia 🥇 7 🥈 7 🥉 4 total: 18
5 🇬🇧 Great Britain 🥇 4 🥈 5 🥉 4 total: 13
6 🇰🇷 South Korea 🥇 3 🥈 2 🥉 5 total: 10
7 🇦🇺 Australia 🥇 3 🥈 1 🥉 5 total: 9
8 🇨🇦 Canada 🥇 2 🥈 3 🥉 3 total: 8
9 🇫🇷 France🥇 2 🥈 2 🥉 3 total: 7
10 🇩🇪 Germany 🥇 2 🥈 0 🥉 3 total: 5

Get in touch

I asked you yesterday how you were fitting your life around the Olympics. Sheila Allum in Malaysia said it was just fine for her, she wakes up to these emails, and then she is living just a couple of hours ahead of Japanese time. Humphrey Catchpole from Dunedin, New Zealand, wrote to point out that “one of the few joys of getting older (as well as free parking)” is having enough spare time to pretty much watch what he like. You don’t want to boast about having too much spare time, Humphrey. You might find me tapping you up to help write the newsletter.

Now, I do have a confession. Yesterday I asserted that the 1964 Tokyo Olympics were the first to be broadcast live on TV, but Peter Beck Christiansen was in touch to say he remembered watching the 1960 Olympics live at home in Denmark. Indeed, those Rome Olympics were broadcast live in Europe. I should have specified that Tokyo was the first to be broadcast live via satellite across continents. I have given myself 10 laps of an Olympic-sized swimming pool as punishment, and I’m definitely more Eric the Eel than Adam Peaty.

Anyway, I’m off out to do a pub quiz tonight, and I’m hoping all the questions are going to be about the Olympics because I’m not sure my brain has had the space to take in anything else that has happened this week. You can get in touch with me anytime at I’ll see you here tomorrow – in the meantime, look after yourselves.

The last word

Naomi Osaka of Team Japan between games during her match against Marketa Vondrousova.
Naomi Osaka of Team Japan between games during her match against Marketa Vondrousova. Photograph: David Ramos/Getty Images

I’m disappointed in every loss, but I feel like this one sucks more than the others … I think it’s maybe because I haven’t played in an Olympics before and for the first one to be here was a bit much – Naomi Osaka

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