Basketball woes, skateboard triumphs and Black Lives Matter sum up Tokyo 2020’s first weekend
The U.S. saw a major upset on the basketball court, but is still towards the top of the medal count. Mexico, Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia also took home the first medals for Latin America.
Following an opening ceremony unlike any other Olympics in history — complete with no more than 1,000 fans and coming off more like a TV production than a live show — athletes across 34 different sports hit the ground running, and some of the first medals were awarded over this past weekend.
As it stands, the top five countries in medal count are China, the U.S., Japan, the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), and Italy. After taking home two golds this morning (U.S. time) in men’s 73kg Judo and Table Tennis Mixed Doubles, Japan jumped into the gold medal lead with eight. The U.S. follows with seven golds and China is in third with six.
Over the past three Olympic games, USA basketball has been a surefire gold for the country, however, the team in Tokyo may not be the superpower of its predecessors. In its first Olympic game at Tokyo 2020, Team USA lost to France, 83-76. It was USA basketball’s first Olympic loss since the 2004 Olympic Games, where the team took home the Bronze medal.
Even before the opener, it’s been a struggle to start international play for the Americans. They also dropped both Olympic warm-up games in equally shocking losses to Nigeria and Australia.
It has not only brought the ire of the country on head coach Gregg Popovich, but also the star-studded lineup. While not including some of the country’s best players like Lebron James and Stephen Curry, the team was thought to still be in good hands running with Damian Lillard, Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Jayson Tatum.
“There’s nothing to be surprised about,” Popovich said in a post-game interview.
He also spoke out against the idea that Team USA should go out and dominate the international competition.
“I think that’s a little bit of hubris, if you think Americans are supposed to roll out and win. I mean, we have to work for it like everyone else,” said Popovich.
Team USA basketball’s next pool play game is against Iran in the early morning hours of Wednesday, July 28 (U.S. time).
Elsewhere in the basketball realm, South American basketball giants Argentina also fell in its opening matchup with Slovenia, which was led by 48 points from superstar Luka Doncic. Its next pool play matchup is against European superteam Spain.
However, not all is lost for Team USA as a whole. Gold medals were picked up over the weekend in the men’s swim team in the 4x100 freestyle relay, in men’s and women’s skeet shooting, women’s individual fencing, women’s taekwondo, and men’s 10m air rifle.
The first gold medal of the games for Team USA went to men’s swimmer Chase Kalisz in the 400m individual medley.
Katie Ledecky, the world record holder and defending gold medalist in the women’s 400m freestyle, is taking a silver home from Tokyo for the same competition, and Jagger Eaton took home Team USA’s first-ever skateboarding medal in a bronze for men’s street skating.
Team USA women’s gymnastics also put on a show (as expected) in its opening competition, and softball got sweet revenge against Japan 2-1. Japan beat Team USA softball in the gold medal match at the 2008 Beijing games.
In Latin America, Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico and Colombia have taken home medals thus far in the Olympics.
Brazil has the most with three medals, taking two silvers in women’s and men’s street skateboarding, and a bronze in men’s judo. The country’s men’s and women’s soccer teams also look poised for further success after wins and draws in their first few games, and women’s volleyball has also looked dominant.
Ecuador’s only medal is a gold in men’s road cycling from Richard Carapaz. Colombia’s only medal is a silver from Luis Javier Mosquera in men’s weightlifting. Mexico’s only medal is a bronze in mixed team archery.
Beyond the medals, Costa Rican gymnast Luciana Alvarado concluded her floor routine during Sunday’s women’s gymnastics qualifiers with a knee on the mat and fist in the air.
The move and overall routine from Alvarado were done in homage to the Black Lives Matter movement of the past year and a half, following the murder of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Alvarado told the podcast GymCastic during training that the move is something both she and her cousin incorporate into their routines.
“I feel like if you do something that brings everyone together, you know, and you see that here, like 'Yes, you're one of mine, you understand things,' the importance of everyone treated with respect and dignity and everyone having the same rights because we're all the same and we're all beautiful and amazing,” she said.