Saturday's Olympics: Swimming ends with splashy new records, US gold
Tokyo — American Caeleb Dressel finished off his gold rush at the Tokyo Olympics with two more dazzling races, and Australia's Emma McKeon won seven medals, more than any other female swimmer in a single games.
Now, when the greatest swimmers are mentioned, there are two new names on the list.
Taking his place alongside Michael Phelps, Mark Spitz and Matt Biondi, Dressel captured his fourth and fifth gold medals of the pandemic-delayed games on the final day of swimming at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.
With victories Sunday in the 50-meter freestyle and 4x100 medley relay, the 24-year-old Floridian joined a truly elite club of swimmers who won at least five gold medals at one games.
Phelps did it three times, of course, highlighted by his record eight golds at the 2008 Beijing Games. There's also Spitz (seven golds in 1972), East German Kristin Otto (six golds in 1988) and Biondi (five golds, also in '88).
Dressel starred at the pool with McKeon, who also won two more golds Sunday to push her overall total to seven — four gold and three bronze. She is the first female swimmer to win seven medals at a single games. The only men to do it are Phelps, Spitz and Biondi.
“It still feels very surreal,” the 27-year-old from Brisbane said. “It’s going to take a little bit to sink in. I’m very proud of myself.”
Mirroring Dressel’s final day, McKeon won the 50 free and took the butterfly leg on the Aussies’ winning 4x100 medley relay team on the women’s side.
In the men's medley — a race the men have never lost at the Olympics —the Americans were trailing two other teams when Dressel dived in for the fly. Just like that, he blew by Britain and Italy with a blistering leg of 49.03 seconds, more than a second faster that anyone else.
Zach Apple made the lead stand up on the freestyle to give the Americans a world record of 3 minutes, 26.78 seconds -- eclipsing the mark of 3:27.28 they set at the 2009 Rome world championships in rubberized suits.
Ryan Murphy and Michael Andrew joined Dressel and Apple on the winning team, ensuring the Americans remained unbeaten in the medley relay — the final swimming event at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.
In the first event of the morning, Dressel won the 50 free for his third individual title of the games.
Dressel cruised to a relatively easy win in the frenetic dash from one end of the pool to the other, touching first in the 50 free with an Olympic record of 21.07.
When he saw his time and, more important, the “1” beside his name, he splashed the water and flexed his bulging arms.
He also won gold in the 100 free, set a world record in the 100 butterfly and took part in the winning 4x100 free relay.
A few minutes after Dressel climbed from the pool, McKeon completed her own freestyle sweep. She touched in 23.81 to add the 50 title to her victory in the 100.
In the medley relay, McKeon entered truly rarified territory. She is only the second woman in any sport to win seven medals at an Olympics, joining Soviet gymnast Maria Gorokhovskaya, who claimed two golds and five silvers at the 1952 Helsinki Games.
McKeon took the butterfly leg before Cate Campbell anchored the Aussies to a victory over the two-time defending champion Americans.
“I don’t know how she does it. I’m exhausted,” said Kyle Chalmers, one of the McKeon’s teammates. “To win one gold medal or an Olympic medal, it’s very, very special. We’re lucky to have her on the team.”
In keeping with the theme of the day, Bobby Finke pulled off his own sweep in the two longest freestyle races.
With another strong finishing kick, Finke became the first American man in 37 years to win the 1,500 freestyle. He added to his victory in the 800 free, a new men’s event at these games.
Track & Field
Streaking down the track, with only six steps to go until she reached the finish line, Elaine Thompson-Herah stuck out her left arm and started pointing at the clock.
She knew she had the win.
It was only a matter of what else would come with it.
With a time of 10.61 seconds, the latest in the long string of Jamaican speed stars defended her Olympic title in the 100 meters Saturday. She broke a 33-year-old Olympic record held by none other than Florence Griffith Joyner. And, as a more-than-fitting bonus, she revisited a debate first triggered by the fastest Jamaican of all — Usain Bolt.
Yes, the gold medal and Flo Jo's venerable record were great. But the question could not be avoided: Just as people wondered what Bolt might have given up when he hotdogged his way to the finish line in his first Olympic victory in 2008, how much faster might Thompson-Herah have gone had she run hard for 100 meters, not just 90 or 95?
“I think I could have gone faster if I wasn’t pointing and celebrating, really,” she said. “But to show you that there’s more in store. Hopefully, one day I can unleash that time.”
As it was, she finished the night as the second-fastest woman in history. Flo Jo's world record of 10.49 is only mark left to beat.
Just over three weeks ago, Hideki Matsuyama was in isolation for COVID-19 and desperate to record a negative test to have any chance of competing in his home Olympics.
Even when he cleared that hurdle, it was a matter of building endurance for stifling heat and shedding rust from not having played a full tournament since the U.S. Open six weeks ago.
And on Sunday, he steps onto the tee in the final group, one shot behind Xander Schauffele, a gold medal within his reach for a country with high hopes for its Masters champion.
“I definitely could not have believed it,” Matsuyama said after a full Saturday that began with him capping off a 7-under 64 in the rain-delayed second round and then posting a 67.
“To be honest, the endurance part of my game has been struggling a little bit,” he said. “Thankfully, it's held up the last few days. Hopefully, it's going to hold up tomorrow, as well.”
Adding to the test was a medal round at Kasumigaseki Country Club that was wide open.
Schauffele, the 27-year-old American whose mother was raised in Japan, didn't have a lot go his way Saturday until he finished on a strong note, firing a 9-iron to within 3 feet for a birdie and a 68 to keep his one-shot lead.
So wild was the third round that five players had a share of the lead at one point and there was a three-way tie among Schauffele, Matsuyama and Carlos Ortiz of Mexico going down the 18th when the American made birdie.
That left Schauffele 18 holes away from an Olympic gold medal, and the podium still felt like it was miles away.
He was at 14-under 199.
Schauffele has been trying to treat this as any other tournament, and it felt like one Saturday.
“Tomorrow may feel a little different,” he said. “There’s a little bit more on the line than what we normally play for, and you’re obviously trying to represent your country to the best of your ability. So that’s why I’ll be on the range tonight.”
Joining them in the final group is Paul Casey, who shot a 66 in his bid to keep the Olympic gold medal in golf with Britain. He was two shots behind along with Ortiz, who made bogey from the bunker on the 18th hole.
Rory McIlroy, indifferent about the Olympics until he arrived in Tokyo and already looking forward to Paris in 2024, made an early move until he was slowed by a poor pitch that kept him from birdie on the par-5 14th and a three-putt bogey on the 16th hole. He bounced back with a birdie and finished with a 67.
McIlroy was three shots behind, along with Sebastian Munoz of Colombia (66), Mito Pereira of Chile (68) and Sepp Straka of Austria (68).
All were very much in the mix for gold. Others were still hopeful of any medal, a list that suddenly includes Sungjae Im. The 23-year-old South Korean needs an Olympic medal to earn an exemption from mandatory military service, though this isn't his last chance.
Im was 12 shots out of the lead and was the third player this week to match the Olympic record with a 63. He was still seven behind, though another big round could keep him in bronze range.
Matt Kuchar came out of nowhere with a 63 on the final day in Rio to take the bronze.
Belinda Bencic of Switzerland won the women’s tennis gold medal in singles and she could add another in doubles.
The 12th-ranked Bencic beat Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 for the first major title of her career.
Bencic will also contest the women’s doubles gold-medal match on Sunday.
Bencic and Swiss partner Viktorija Golubic face the top-seeded Czech team of Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova.
Novak Djokovic is leaving the Olympics without a medal in singles.
The top-ranked Serb lost 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-3 to Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain in the bronze-medal match of the tennis tournament. It was his third defeat in two days.
The loss comes less than 24 hours after Djokovic was beaten by Alexander Zverev of Germany in the semifinals to end his bid for a Golden Slam.
Djokovic also lost in the mixed doubles semifinals on Friday with partner Nina Stojanovic.
Djokovic was due back on the court later for another bronze-medal match in mixed doubles. He and Stojanovic will face the Australian pair of Ash Barty and John Peers.
Fares Elbakh of Qatar has won the gold medal in the men’s 96-kilogram weightlifting category with a dominant performance, earning the country's first Olympic title.
Elbakh lifted 177 kilograms in the snatch and 225 in the clean and jerk for a total of 402kg. He attempted a world record 232kg clean and jerk but couldn’t make the lift.
Lyu Xiaojun has won gold in the men’s 81-kilogram weightlifting category after Italian rival Antonino Pizzolato missed with a shot at the clean and jerk world record.
Lyu lifted 170kg in the snatch and 204 in the clean and jerk for a total 374. That was 7kg more than Zacarias Bonnat of the Dominican Republic in second and 9kg ahead of Pizzolato, who won bronze.
China had another dominating day at the diving pool, taking the top two spots in the semifinals of the women’s 3-meter springboard.
In a repeat of the preliminaries, defending Olympic champion Shi Tingmao posted the highest score over five dives and teammate Wang Han ranked second. The pair already teamed up to win the 3-meter synchronized event.
Shi led the way with 371.45 points. Wang (346.85) and Canadian Jennifer Abel (341.40) were the only ones even close to the leader, stamping China as a huge favorite to earn its fourth diving gold in five events at these games.
Americans Krysta Palmer and Hailey Hernandez also finished in the top 12 to advance to Sunday’s final, where the scores will be wiped clean and the final standings settled with another five more dives.
New Zealand has beaten France 26-12 to win the women’s rugby sevens title at the Tokyo Olympics.
It was a gold medal five years in the making for a New Zealand lineup that lost the 2016 final to Australia when rugby sevens made its Olympic debut in Rio de Janeiro.
Top-ranked New Zealand entered the tournament as the world sevens series and World Cup sevens champions but had some close calls on the way to the final.
The Black Ferns were pushed to golden-point extra time by Fiji in the semifinals before winning 22-17.
The French, unbeaten in five games to reach the final, had to settle for silver.
Fiji beat Britain 21-12 to win bronze, with Alowesi Nakoci scoring two tries and making two try-saving tackles. It was the first Olympic medals ever for Fijian women.