After Simone Biles withdrew from the individual all-around to focus on her mental health, she left the event wide open. Sunisa Lee, 18 years old and the first Hmong member of Team USA, rose to the occasion and brought home her first Olympic gold medal.
Lee went back and forth with Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade throughout the competition, but Lee pulled ahead after the balance beam and never looked back. She is the the fifth consecutive American gymnast to win Olympic gold in the individual all-around. Andrade, who took silver, is the first Brazilian gymnast to win an Olympic medal.
Lee will compete next week in the uneven bars event final, but the question now is whether or not Biles will compete in any of the four individual event finals she qualified for.
In the pool, Bobby Finke got the USA off to a strong start when he came from far behind to win an unexpected gold in the men’s 800-meter freestyle. Caeleb Dressel set an Olympic record to win gold in the men’s 100 free final. Also, Regan Smith and Hali Flickinger claimed silver and bronze the women’s 200-meter butterfly. And the women’s 4×200 freestyle relay team, anchored by Katie Ledecky, won silver.
Elsewhere, the men’s individual golf competition gets underway with opening round play. Men’s singles tennis moves into the quarterfinal round, while the women have their semifinals.
WEDNESDAY RECAP: Katie Ledecky, USA women’s 3×3 basketball win gold
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Sunisa Lee wins all-around gold medal
TOKYO – America will have the Olympic all-around gold again.
Sunisa Lee won the competition at the Tokyo Games on Thursday, becoming the fifth consecutive American to win in the event.
Lee used a graceful, floating bar routine to lead her to a medal, but had clean routines on floor and vault to beat out Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade by .135 to earn the top spot on the podium. Russia’s Angelina Melnikova claimed bronze.
Lee follows Simone Biles (2016), Gabby Douglas (2012), Nastia Liukin (2008) and Carly Patterson (2004) in extending the Americans’ streak of Olympic golds.
Lee qualified for the final in third, but she and the other gymnasts had a rare opening after Simone Biles pulled out of the all-around competition. Biles, who has not lost an all-around competition since 2013, did not finish the team final on Tuesday, citing mental health issues.
American Jade Carey took Biles’ spot after qualifying ninth, and she finished eighth in the all-around final.
Balance beam put Lee in first, ends Carey’s medal hopes
Sunisa Lee was with a tenth of a point out of first going into the third rotation, but moved into first despite a couple wobbles on balance beam.
Lee saved herself from falling off a triple wolf turn — a skill that requires her to spin three times crouched on one leg with the other extended — and took out a double wolf turn that normally follows it. She wobbled later in her routine, but her beam score moved her into first by just more than a tenth of a point.
Rebeca Andrade was controlled in hear beam routine, but scored below Lee and dropped from first to second.
Russian teammates Angelina Melnikova and Vladislava Urazova nailed their routines after they both fell off the apparatus in team final. Urazova moved into third going into the final apparatus, while Melnikova was fourth.
Going into floor, the top four gymnasts are separated by .5 points.
Jade Carey, who learned on Wednesday she would take Simone Biles’ spot in the all-around final, saw her outside chances of a medal evaporate on beam. Sitting in sixth entering that rotation, she fell off and scored an 11.533. Though floor is one of her best events, she would need mistakes by several of the leaders ahead of her to even be in contention for bronze.
— Nancy Armour
Lee moves to second after superb uneven bars routine
TOKYO – The uneven bars helped provide some separation at the top of the leaderboard.
Sunisa Lee attempted the harder of her two routines, gracefully floating above the bars before sticking her dismount. Her score of 15.300 tied her with Rebeca Andrade for the highest apparatus score of the night.
Andrade led Lee by .066 halfway through the competition. The Brazilian gymnast benefited from the pandemic delay after tearing her ACL in June 2019. She only learned she would compete here last month after she was the top all-arounder at the Pan Am championships, securing another Olympic spot for Brazil.
Russians Angelina Melnikova and Vladislava Urazova were third and fourth, respectively. Jade Carey fell to sixth place.
Carey second, Lee fourth after first all-around final rotation
Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade leads the women’s all-around final after the first of four rotations, thanks to a gorgeous vault.
The top contenders started on vault, where scores tend to be highest. Andrade scored a 15.3 for her Cheng — a roundoff onto the takeoff board, half-twist onto the vault followed by a somersault with 1½ twists. Her only flaw was a step on the line on the landing mat, a 0.1 deduction.
Andrade was 0.1 points ahead of American Jade Carey, who did the same vault but took a hop back on her landing.
Russia’s Angelina Melnikova, the bronze medalist at the 2019 world championships, was third and American Sunisa Lee was fourth. Vladislava Urazova of Russia was fifth.
The withdrawal of Simone Biles means the women know they have a legitimate shot at the Olympic gold. Biles has not lost an all-around competition since 2013, and had been heavily favored to become the first woman in 53 years to repeat as the Olympic champion before she withdrew from the team and all-around competitions because of mental health issues.
Simone Biles cheering from stands at all-around final
Simone Biles is at the all-around final, after all.
Just as she did for the men’s final a night earlier, Biles joined her U.S. teammates Thursday night to cheer on Sunisa Lee and Jade Carey. Wearing a grey U.S. team hoodie, she and the rest of the U.S. women arrived about 15 minutes before competition began. They took seats in the front row behind uneven bars, Biles sitting between Jordan Chiles and MyKayla Skinner.
Biles had been heavily favored to become the first woman in 53 years to repeat as the Olympic all-around champion, having not lost an all-around competition since 2013. But she withdrew from Tuesday night’s team final after one event, citing mental health concerns. She withdrew from the all-around on Wednesday and was replaced by Carey, who finished ninth in qualifying but missed out initially because of the rule limiting countries to two gymnasts in each final.
Biles had qualified first and Lee third.
Biles has not yet said if she’ll compete in the event finals, which begin Sunday. She has qualified for all four of them, the first woman since 1992 to do so.
— Nancy Armour
U.S. sprinters open up about medication for mental health
Simone Biles opened an enormous dialogue around elite athletes’ mental health when she decided to withdraw from the team and individual all-around gymnastics competitions, and U.S. track and field stars Noah Lyles and Tianna Bartoletta joined in on the conversation.
Lyles told British news outlet The Sunday Times he has previously taken anti-depressants, but he decided to wean himself off of the medication in preparation for the Olympics.
“If I wasn’t running I would stay on the anti-depressants, but I need to feel that spark,” Lyles said.
Bartoletta, a three-time Olympic gold medalist and world record holder in the 4×100-meter relay, shared on Twitter that she had a similar experience with anti-depressants before the 2016 Olympics.
“Was on [medication] indoor 2016, didn’t make the indoor world team in the 60,” she wrote. “Couldn’t react to the gun, couldn’t get up for the competition, gambled with my depression and suicidal thoughts with the hopes that winning again would keep those two at bay.”
Weaning off of anti-depressants can be a complicated process that is supposed to be overseen by a psychiatrist or other medical professional.
— Emily Adams
Women’s gymnastics all-around title up for grabs
TOKYO – For years, gymnasts around the world have known they are competing for silver in the all-around.
Now, they get a chance at gold.
With Simone Biles withdrawing from the Olympic all-around competition, someone else will win the title as the world’s top gymnast. Save for 2017, when Biles wasn’t competing, no other gymnast has won an Olympic or worlds all-around since 2013.
Americans Suni Lee and Jade Carey are expected to be in the mix. Lee finished third in qualifying behind Biles, who qualified first, and Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade.
Carey, meanwhile, gets her shot because of Biles’ decision not to compete after she pulled out of the team final because of mental health concerns. She had qualified ninth but only two gymnasts per country advance to the final.
Several other gymnasts are expected to contend for the title, including Andrade, Russia’s Angelina Melnikova and Japan’s Mai Murakami. Melnikova won bronze in the all-around at world championships in 2019, while Murakami took silver in 2018.
For the first time in a long time, without Biles in the competition, the gold is there for the taking.
— Rachel Axon
Weather knocks out power at golfer’s hotel
Xander Schauffele’s hotel is about 20 minutes from the Kasumigaseki Country Club, where the men’s Olympic golf tournament is being held.
So he certainly felt the thunderstorms that rolled through Wednesday night before the tournament started the next morning (similar weather delayed play in the middle of the day) – and then some.
After shooting a 3-under 68 to currently sit tied for 13th, Schauffele said his accommodations lost power for what he estimates was a period of five hours.
“(Air conditioning) went out last night, which was a nice feeling,” he said.
“The emergency light came on,” the fifth-ranked golfer in the world added. “I actually had to unscrew the lightbulb, or else I would have slept with the lights on. My caddie (Austin Kaiser) slept with the lights on in his hotel room.”
The weather in Japan has been hot and humid since the beginning of the Games. Here, northwest of the Tokyo metropolis and further from the ocean, the weather appears more extreme. Just ask Schauffele.
— Chris Bumbaca
Team USA captures another shooting medal
It’s been a strong Olympics for USA Shooting.
After sweeping gold in the skeet shooting competitions, the Americans added to their medal haul with Kayle Browning taking the silver medal in the women’s trap shooting competition.
Browning hit 42 of 50 targets in the final, but Slovakia’s Zuzana Rehak Stefecekova hit 43, an Olympic record ithe final.
Weather suspends play in men’s golf
Thunderstorms in the area forced the suspension of play during the opening round of the men’s golf tournament. The action stopped at 1:55 p.m. local time. Play was set to resume around 4 p.m. local time.
Sepp Straka of Austria maintained his lead of 8-under at the stoppage. Eleven of the 20 groups had not yet finished their round, although all had moved to the back-nine.
— Chris Bumbaca
Women’s soccer standout Dunn has sizable fowl-lowing back home
TOKYO – Some athletes get photos and videos from back home of their spouses or children.
USWNT defender Crystal Dunn gets them of her chickens.
When much of the United States shut down last year because of COVID-19, Dunn and husband Pierre Soubrier got five chickens: Rocky, Toulouse, Quinn, Juke and Chelsea. They live in a coop in Dunn and Soubrier’s backyard, and make occasional appearances on Dunn’s social media feed.
Asked how the chickens are faring in the extreme heat the Pacific Northwest is experiencing, Dunn said they’re “doing fine.”
“I get my proof-of-life videos every morning,” Dunn said.
Dunn and Soubrier also have three cats.
“I feel bad for my husband. He has to take care of eight living things,” Dunn said.
— Nancy Armour
Ledecky anchors US women’s free relay team to silver
TOKYO – China upset the favored Australians to win the women’s 4×200 freestyle relay, while a strong final leg by Katie Ledecky allowed the United States to overtake Australia for the silver medal.
China broke the world record in 7:40.33, with the Americans .40 of a second behind.
It was Ledecky’s third medal of these Games, coming a day after her historic 1,500 victory. She has won one gold and two silvers in Tokyo, with the 800 freestyle coming on Saturday.
U.S. swimmers closed the morning with five medals.
— Christine Brennan
World champion pole vaulter Sam Kendricks tests positive for COVID-19
TOKYO — American pole vaulter and reigning world champion Sam Kendricks will miss the Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for COVID-19, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee confirmed in a statement Thursday.
“In alignment with local rules and protocols, he has been transferred to a hotel to be placed in isolation and is being supported by the USATF and USOPC staff,” the organization wrote on social media. “Sam is an incredible and accomplished member of Team USA and his presence will be missed. Out of respect for his privacy, we cannot provide more information at this time.”
Kendricks, 28, won bronze in the pole vault at the 2016 Olympics in Rio and was expected to contend for another medal in Tokyo.
— Tom Schad
US women, men post wins in beach volleyball
Two American beach volleyball teams both scored victories Thursday. The women’s duo of Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil secured a spot in the playoffs with a 21-8, 21-6 win over Gaudencia Makokha and Brackcides Khadambi of Kenya. Meanwhile, Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena survived a three-set battle with Argentina’s Nicolas Capogrosso and Julian Amado Azaad — 21-19, 18-21, 15-6 — to finish men’s pool play with a 2-1 record, putting themselves in position to make knockout round.
Straka sets the pace in Olympic golf with 63
SAYAMA, Japan – Former University of Georgia golfer Sepp Straka, playing in the first group out during the men’s golf competition at the Tokyo Olympics, carded an 8-under-par 63 Thursday to pace the rest of the 60-person field at Kasumigaseki Country Club.
Representing Austria, Straka played bogey-free golf and hit 16 of 18 greens to jump to the top of the leaderboard, which featured 53 golfers at or under par 71.
Straka, the son of an Austrian father and American mother who moved to Valdosta, Georgia, in high school, has his twin brother Sam on the bag as his caddy at the Olympics.
— Chris Bumbaca
Two dozen more COVID-19 cases marks new high
TOKYO – The Olympics set a single-day high for coronavirus cases with organizers announcing 24 new positives on Thursday.
Three athletes were among the new cases, and 15 Olympic contractors tested positive. The remaining positives were other Games-concerned personnel. Four of the new cases were people inside the Olympic Village.
Since July 1, 193 people – including 20 athletes – have tested positive, according to organizers’ testing figures.
— Rachel Axon
Dressel adds second gold with thrilling 100 free victory
TOKYO – Caeleb Dressel won his first individual Olympic gold, winning the men’s 100-meter freestyle on Thursday.
Dressel won in 47.02 seconds, a new Olympic record, beating Aussie Kyle Chalmers by .06 of a second.
Dressel has already won gold as part of the 4×100 free relay on Monday here at the Tokyo Aquatics Center.
Dressel, 24, has become one of the most dominant swimmers in the world since he made his Olympic debut as a college student five years ago. He is favored to win the 50 free and 100 fly here after swimming the fastest times in the world this year during the Olympic Trials in June.
In addition to his remaining individual events, he is expected to be part of the USA’s mixed medley and 4×100 medley relays.
— Rachel Axon
USA’s Smith, Flickinger claim silver, bronze in women’s 200 fly
TOKYO — Another two medals for Team USA.
And this pair ended a 21-year drought.
Regan Smith won silver and Hali Flickinger took bronze Thursday in the 200-meter butterfly, becoming the first American women to medal in the event since 2000, when Misty Hyman broke the Olympic record en route to gold.
China’s Yufei Zhang won Thursday’s race in a time of 2:03.86, a new Olympic record.
The silver and bronze in the 200 fly mark the second medals each for Smith and Flickinger in Tokyo. Smith, 19, has now won two medals in three days after taking bronze in the 100-meter backstroke Tuesday. Flickinger, 27, won bronze in the 400-meter individual medley Sunday.
The pair of butterfly medals gave the U.S. three on the day, with Caeleb Dressel adding a fourth and the women’s 4×200 relay still to race. Team USA has now won 35 medals total, including 20 in swimming events.
— Tom Schad
Biles thanks supporters in emotional Twitter post
TOKYO – Simone Biles feels the love.
The four-time Olympic gold medalist took to Twitter on Thursday to express her gratitude for the support she’s received since withdrawing from the team and all-around competitions.
“(T)he outpouring love & support I’ve received has made me realize I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before,” Biles said, adding a silver heart emoji to the post.
Biles has been widely praised by fellow Olympians, other athletes and mental health experts for her decision to withdraw from Tuesday night’s team competition after one event, saying she wasn’t in a good headspace and was concerned for her physical safety.
Mental health issues have affected Biles’ performance before, including in the leadup to the 2016 Olympics. But the expectations on her for Tokyo, where she was projected to win a record five gold medals, and the accompanying spotlight have exacerbated her unease.
— Nancy Armour
No US medal in women’s double, single sculls
TOKYO – Two more U.S. boats came up short without medals in their respective races at the Olympic regatta.
The women’s lightweight double of Michelle Sechser and Molly Reckford finished fifth in their A final. The U.S has hasn’t medaled in the event since the 2000 Olympics.
In their semifinal on Wednesday, Sechser and Reckford eclipsed the previous world-best time set by Great Britain (6:41.99) in the preceding semifinal. The Italians finished first in the semifinal to set the new record of 6:41.36 and the U.S. finished .18 of a second behind them.
Meanwhile, U.S. women’s single sculler Kara Kohler finished fourth in her semifinal, failing to qualify for the A final. The defending bronze medalist at the 2019 World Rowing Championships will compete in the B final on Friday and is out of medal contention. Another upset occurred in the other women’s single semifinal – reigning world champion Sanita Puspure of Ireland finished fifth and will also race in the B final.
Only two U.S. boats remain in the hunt for a medal at the Tokyo Olympics – the men’s eight and the women’s eight. They will compete Friday on the final day of medal races.
— Olivia Reiner
Late surge sends USA’s Finke to upset gold in men’s 800 free
TOKYO — Team USA continued to add to its medal total in the pool Thursday, as 21-year-old underdog Bobby Finke took gold in the men’s 800-meter freestyle.
Finke, a rising senior at the University of Florida, was in the middle of the pack for most of the race before using a furious final surge to pull ahead. He finished with a time of 7:41.87.
Gregorio Paltrinieri of Italy took silver, and Ukraine’s Mykhailo Romanchuk finished third for bronze.
A Florida native, Finke comes from a diehard swimming family. His mother, Jeanne, swam collegiately at Ball State. His dad, Joe, is a swim coach. And his two older sisters, Autumn and Ariel, both swam at Division I schools.
The U.S. has now won 17 medals in the pool in four-plus days. Entering Thursday, swimmers had accounted for more than half of Team USA’s overall medal count.
— Tom Schad
Former gold medalist Moceanu offers support, caution for Biles
Former Olympic gymnast Dominique Moceanu shared support for Simone Biles on Wednesday after Biles withdrew from multiple competitions at the Tokyo Games to focus on her health.
Moceanu shared a video on social media of her when she was 14 and fell during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, hitting her head on a balance beam. The moment came after she had already suffered a stress fracture in her tibia.
“I was 14 y/o w/ a tibial stress fracture, left alone w/ no cervical spine exam after this fall,” Moceanu shared on multiple social media platforms. “I competed in the Olympic floor final minutes later.”
“In our sport, we essentially dive into a pool w/ no water. When you lose your ability to find the ground — which appears to be part of @Simone_Biles decision — the consequences can be catastrophic,” Moceanu added.
“She made the right decision for the team & herself.”
— Marina Pitofsky
US gymnast Sam Mikulak can empathize with Biles
TOKYO — Expecting Simone Biles to produce medals on command, or not seeing her for anything beyond her athletic achievements, is dehumanizing, teammate Sam Mikulak said. It’s no wonder Biles reached a point where her mental health was precarious enough that she felt she had no choice but to withdraw from the team and all-around competitions.
“You go on Twitter and everyone’s like, ‘Oh, I’m really expecting this. I want this from this person.’ And, ‘Oh, Simone is going to be the medal factory of the world,’” Mikulak said Wednesday night after the men’s all-around, where he finished 12th.
Biles came to Tokyo as the biggest star of the Games, projected to win a record five gold medals. But she pulled out of Tuesday night’s team competition after the first event and has since withdrawn from Thursday’s all-around.
A six-time U.S. champion and three-time Olympian, Mikulak understands what Biles is experiencing. Just before he left for Tokyo, in fact, he was feeling some of the old anxiety, but was able to recognize it and address it.
“Everyone really needs to start focusing on their mental health a lot more, really ask the hard questions for your personal self, because those are the questions that are going to eat you up when you get out in these big pressure situations and you feel these expectations from the whole world,” Mikulak said. “Being able to tackle it early on is going to be the solution in the future.”
— Nancy Armour and Rachel Axon
Olympic golf an ‘unbelievable’ experience for PGA Tour’s Thomas
TOKYO – Even before Justin Thomas teed it up for his first shot Thursday at Kasumigaseki Country Club, he’s already made his mind up about playing golf in the Olympics.
“This is the coolest thing I’ve ever been a part of,” the 28-year-old Louisville native said on the eve of golf’s second run since rejoining the Olympics in 2016. “Going to the village and checking out the USA building. It’s so hard to explain. It’s unbelievable.”
Thomas is No. 4 in the world with a win at the Players Championship in May that helped to put him on the hard-to-make U.S. Olympic team. Other Americans in the 60-man field are world No. 3 Collin Morikawa, No. 5 Xander Schauffele and No. 12 Patrick Reed (replacing No. 6 Bryson DeChambeau, out due to a positive COVID test).
— Jeff Metcalfe
WNBA star takes unlikely path to gold
TOKYO — Not one to take long vacations, Las Vegas Aces guard Jackie Young figured a three- or four-day trip to Florida during the WNBA’s Olympics layoff was an appropriate respite.
She didn’t stay long.
The WNBA’s 2019 No. 1 overall pick got a call from the USA Basketball selection committee letting her know that a member of the U.S. 3-on-3 team had tested positive for COVID-19 and they wanted her to join the squad.
Young, who played college ball at Notre Dame, flew from vacation to Las Vegas to begin the testing protocol. She met her new teammates in Tokyo. And on Wednesday, they defeated the Russian Olympic Committee in the championship game.
“It’s crazy to think about,” Young said. “Ten days ago, I was on vacation. My life changed like that. Now I’m a gold-medalist. It’s crazy how things work out.”
— Chris Bumbaca
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Olympics 2021 live updates: Sunisa Lee wins all-around gold medal