Current time in Tokyo: July 30, 7:49 a.m.
Here’s what you need to know:
TOKYO — It never quite feels like the Olympics until track and field starts. The meet begins Friday morning in Tokyo with preliminary heats in the women’s 100 meters, and continues all day until a lone final, the men’s 10,000, in the evening.
After a loss, a win and a draw, the U.S. women’s soccer team faces a do-or-die quarterfinal against an impressive Netherlands team that outscored its opponents by 21-8 in the preliminary round. Expect goals in this one, too. It’s at 8 p.m. Tokyo time, 7 a.m. Eastern.
The marquee events of any rowing regatta are the eights, and the men’s and women’s races will be contested on Friday morning (Thursday evening in the United States). On the women’s side, the U.S. team will be going for a fourth straight Olympic gold, but they may be underdogs to New Zealand.
Four more swimming finals begin at 10:41 a.m. in Tokyo, 9:41 p.m. Eastern on Thursday. Michael Andrew of the United States is a strong contender for gold in the 200-meter individual medley.
And it’s time to bounce. The women’s trampoline competition gets underway.
TOKYO — For years, Sunisa Lee, a teenager from Minnesota who became the Olympic all-around gymnastics champion on Thursday night, wasn’t training just for herself.
Lee, a Hmong American, went to the gym every day for all the first-generation Americans who wanted to achieve success when their parents had come to the United States with nothing. And she trained through grueling practices and painful injuries for her father, John, who sustained a spinal cord injury in 2019 and now uses a wheelchair.
Lee, 18, came into the Olympics wanting to win a gold medal for her father, who is her biggest fan, and for all the Hmong Americans who she feels are unseen in the United States. But she had publicly stated that her goal was to win silver in the all-around because her teammate Simone Biles, the four-time Olympic medalist, had been considered a lock to win that title.
But after a lifetime of chasing Biles in the all-around because Biles hasn’t lost that marquee event since 2013, Lee took advantage of her shot to do so in Tokyo. Biles, considered the best gymnast of all time, withdrew from the team event and the all-around because of mental stress, leaving Lee in position to win it all.
“I didn’t even think I’d ever get here,” Lee said. “It doesn’t even feel like I’m in real life.”
On Thursday, Lee hit routine after routine, often as if she were at practice, not at the most important competition of her life. She even nailed the floor exercise in her last rotation of the night, with new choreography and elements that had been changed by her coach, Jess Graba, that morning.
The change worked. Lee had her best floor exercise score of these Olympics.
Rebeca Andrade of Brazil won silver and Angelina Melnikova of Russia won the bronze.
Simone Biles wasn’t entered, but someone still had to win the women’s gymnastics all-around. And it was Sunisa Lee.
The U.S. picked up two freestyle golds in swimming: Caeleb Dressel won the 100 meters and Bobby Finke won the 800. China surprised the field in the women’s 4×200 relay.
The U.S. women’s rugby sevens team began play with two wins: 28-14 over China and 17-7 over Japan to clinch advancement.
Sam Kendricks, the American pole vault world champion, is out of the Games after testing positive for Covid.
Here are some highlights of U.S. broadcast coverage on Thursday evening and overnight. All times are Eastern.
GYMNASTICS Sunisa Lee, an 18-year-old Hmong American who is known primarily as an uneven bars specialist, chases gold in the women’s all-around final, airing at 8 p.m. on NBC Primetime.
BEACH VOLLEYBALL April Ross and Alix Klineman, an American power duo in beach volleyball, take on the Netherlands at 8 p.m. on CNBC.
ROWING The men’s and women’s eights will compete for gold at 9 p.m. on CNBC.
RUGBY Ilona Maher, who has been creating TikTok videos that take followers inside the Olympic Village, and the U.S. sevens team will play Australia at 9:30 p.m. on CNBC.
SWIMMING Caeleb Dressel kicks off the night at 9:30 p.m. on NBC Primetime in a semifinal of the 100-meter butterfly, in which he holds both the world and Olympic records. But there are also medals on the line, with Lilly King and Annie Lazor from Team U.S.A. competing in the 200-meter breaststroke final at 9:40 p.m. on NBC, followed by finals in the men’s 200-meter backstroke, the women’s 100-meter freestyle and the men’s 200-meter individual medley.
BMX RACING CNBC will cover the men’s and women’s finals at Ariake Urban Sports Park starting at 10:40 p.m.
TENNIS Coverage of the semifinals in men’s singles and mixed doubles, and the gold medal match for men’s doubles begins at 11 p.m. on the Olympic Channel.
BASKETBALL Sue Bird, Tina Charles and Diana Taurasi take on Japan at 12:40 a.m. on USA Network.
What a small and simple word.
What transformative power it possesses.
Simone Biles used it to ultimate effect at the Tokyo Olympics this week.
“Today it’s like, you know what, no,” she said, explaining to reporters her decision to withdraw from the team gymnastics competition to protect her mental and physical health.
It was a “no” that shook the Olympics and put the sports world on notice. It also showed that athlete empowerment, a hallmark for this era in sports, continues to develop and grow. Athletes are more than ready to stand up now, not only for social justice but also for themselves.
Biles is the greatest, most decorated gymnast of all time. She won four gold medals in Rio five years ago and was expected to take home at least three more in Tokyo. But by saying “no,” bowing out this week, and standing up for her well-being in a sports world that commodifies athletes and prizes winning at all costs, she surpasses all of those achievements in importance.
Biles has thrown a wrench in the system. What that “no” says is really this: Enough is enough.
This was an act of individual resistance, putting up a firm wall between herself and the glaring burden of competition.