The 2020 Tokyo Olympics are well underway. As of Wednesday morning, the United States leads the world with 31 total medals, including 11 golds, 11 silver, and nine bronze. Japan, though, has the most gold medals with 13. Below is a list of Black athletes who have been attempting to lead their respective countries to victory.
Simone Biles (USA Gymnastics)
In a move that shocked fans, American gymnastics icon Simone Biles on Tuesday withdrew from the team competition after just a single vault attempt. The 35-time medalist said after the stumble in the vault that she chose to fall back rather than risk the team’s overall performance. Biles will not compete in the Olympic all-around on Wednesday either, and USA Gymnastics said in a statement that Jade Carey will be her replacement. Scheduled to do an “Amanar,” vault that comprises roundoff back handspring on the table followed by 2 1/2 twists, Biles only did 1 1/2 twists and a big leap forward after landing. After the maneuver, Biles talked to U.S team doctor Marcia Faustin, and ultimately decided to withdraw. Even still, the United States remained at the top of the standings, earning a silver medal -- Russia won gold -- but missing a chance at history. Team USA had an opportunity to win their third consecutive all-around gold medal after winning the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics, which would have meant America's team could have been the first squad to win three straight gold medals in the event since the Soviet Union from 1952 to 1960.
Biles in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on Saturday advanced in all four individual events. In the qualifying round, Biles scored a 14.133 on her floor routine. The Columbus, Ohio native gained a D Score of 6.700, an E Score of 7.733, as well as a Penalty of -0.3 -- which was only behind Italy's Vanessa Ferrari. Still, Biles mustered up the top score in vault with 14.9666 and 15.400 for a 15.183. Following a situation in which she just barely placed both hands down on the vault, nearly stumbling on the mat, Biles made a “meme-worthy” facial expression. And, in an event that is considered her weakest, Biles still culminated with the U.S. second-best score with a 14.566. It didn't matter that she exited with the 10th best score overall, as only two competitors from each country can advance, and the Russian Olympic Committee had four of the top six spots; Biles ended up the eighth and the final qualifier.
Biles, on Saturday, was the leader in the all-around. The United States as a team tallied second with a score of 170.562. Sunday was a different story, as Biles and the team made too many mistakes, which was uncharacteristic for a team that dominated the sport for more than a decade. Biles seemed to be in a slump, committing two separate errors that cost her three-tenths in deductions. In the end, Team USA placed second behind Russia, and it wasn't even close, marking the first time since the 2010 World Championships the U.S. failed to finish first for either qualifying or team finals.
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Kevin Durant (USA Basketball)
The United States Men's basketball team wasn't off to the greatest start after losing in the preliminary group stage round but bounced back after blowing out Iran 120-66 Wednesday. A win Saturday versus the Czech Republic would grant the team a berth into the medal round next week, but the huge margin of victory will give another chance to still advance, even in suffering another defeat to the Czechs. Kevin Durant contributed 10 points, including 4-of-8 shooting and 2-of-4 from downtown, five assists, and five rebounds in 20 minutes. Team USA on Sunday took an 83-76 loss to France in the preliminary group stage round, which is the first loss to an Olympic foe since 2004 when the United States men's basketball team lost to Puerto Rico and Lithuania in group play. This is also the first time Team USA has suffered defeat to France in Olympic play. Coming off a second-round defeat to the eventual NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks, Durant scored just 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting, dished out two assists, and brought down two rebounds. Known for his ability to shoot anywhere on the court, the Washington D.C. native was 1-of-6 from downtown.
While Durant was in foul trouble for most of the game, the 11-time All-Star and two-time NBA champion is a career 27-point scorer and to some, is the most talented player in the NBA, so his current production is well below average, though Team USA basketball as a product is generally more focused on team play as opposed to the half-court offenses executed in the NBA playoffs. Even with poor play by Durant and Team USA versus France, it doesn't halt the opportunity of winning a fourth consecutive gold medal, as the teams that end in first and second place in each group move on to the quarterfinals, as well as the two best third-place teams.
Ashleigh Johnson (USA Women’s Water Polo)
Defending Olympic champions from both London and Rio, the United States women's water polo team lost 10-9 to Hungary on Wednesday, which is a first in a long time, as it hadn't lost a match ahead of a gold medal in 2012 in London and 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. American goalie Ashleigh Johnson gave up two goals with 2:28 left after having the lead 9-8. The U.S. won 12-7 over China on Monday.
Goalkeeper and the MVP of the 2019 World Championships, Johnson, allowed the first four shots she defended, and the shots were routine for her. The Miami, Florida native did not have a save in the first 10 minutes; however, she was exceptional in the second half thanks to a seven-save display. The United States pulverized Japan by a score of 25-4 on Saturday in the first of four preliminary-round games, setting three Olympic records, including for the largest win and most goals scored in a match in women's water polo in Olympics history. And Johnson was one of the main reasons the team won by a landslide. Johnson, who is the first African American woman to make a U.S. Olympic Women's Water Polo Team, was perfect in the second quarter versus Japan thanks to her saving every Japan shot on the net.
In total, she put up 15 total saves on 19 attempts. Johnson's excellence -- the Olympian is one of the best goalkeepers in the world -- led to just one goal scored by Japan in the second half. The United States continued to run up the score and win in dominating fashion.
Wilfredo Leon (Poland Men’s Volleyball)
Poland has gotten great production out of one of the best volleyball players in the world in Wilfredo Leon in the Men's Preliminary Round Pool A, winning 3-1 over Venezuela on Wednesday. The outside hitter's team also lost 3-2 to the Islamic Rep. of Iran on Saturday and won 3-0 over Italy on Monday. Leon led his team in the latter contests, notching 23 points versus the Iran and 18 points going up against Italy. Regarded as his sport’s Cristiano Ronaldo because of his vertical jump and spiking efficiency, the Cuba native led both games with the fastest serve -- 131 mph versus Islamic and 128 mph versus Italy.
Simone Manuel (USA Women's Swimming)
Simone Manuel helped the United win a bronze medal on Sunday in the women's 4x100-meter freestyle relay. Team USA finished with a time of 3:32.81 when Manuel was outpaced to the wall by Canada’s Penny Oleksiak. Manuel, the surprise substitute as the anchor, made her first appearance at the Tokyo Games, as she didn't swim in the semifinals, and won't compete once more until this weekend, specifically in the 50-meter freestyle. Manuel, who was the first Black woman to win an individual Olympic swimming event in the 2016 Rio Olympic Rio Games, was questioned as to whether she would swim in this year's Olympics after failing to qualify in the individual event. The American record-holder (100m), though, was diagnosed with overtraining syndrome earlier in the year. Manuel rebounded when she won the 50-meter freestyle on the last night of trials, finishing with a time of 24.29 seconds -- which is just 34 hundredths off her American record.
Michelle Moultrie and Kelsey Stewart (USA Softball)
Team USA softball fell short 2-0 to Japan in the gold medal game on Tuesday, which marks 13 years since the Japanese women's softball national team beat the United States in the 2008 gold medal game. The United States was a stellar 5-0 in group play ahead of the gold medal game. And thanks to Kelsey Stewart’s seventh-inning, walk-off home run, Team USA handed Japan's only loss after a 2-1 win on Monday. While Team USA achieved silver this year, with Japan attaining gold, it joins the United States as the only two countries to capture Olympic gold. But Team USA earned its fifth total medal -- the most of any country; the USA has racked up three gold medals (1996, 2000, 2004).
Although Team USA had just three hits in the gold medal game -- the United States registered just nine runs on 27 hits in the Olympics round-robin play -- the defense showed up. Outfielder Michelle Moultrie executed a sensational two-out catch at the wall, which kept the game scoreless in the second. And teammate and third baseman Stewart in the third inning threw out a lead runner in one motion off of a bunt from Japan. Still, Moultrie managed a lead-off single in the gold medal game. In the 2-0 win over Italy in the opening round of Match 2 last week, Moultrie had a hit and Stewart recorded a putout. In the 1-0 victory over Canada in the Opening Round Match 4 last week, Moultrie recorded a putout, while Stewart had two. For the 2-0 win over Mexico in the Opening Round Match 8 play over the weekend, Stewart racked up a hit and a putout. The 2-1 win over Australia in the Opening Round Match 10 resulted in no hits from both players over the weekend. And the 2-1 win over Japan in the Opening Round Match 13 culminated with Stewart putting up a run and hit.
Naomi Osaka: (Japan Women’s Tennis)
The face of the host country’s game, the No. 2 player in the world and the clear-cut favorite to win the tournament lost in straight sets — 6-1, 6-4 — to No. 42 Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic on Tuesday, knocking Naomi Osaka out of the Olympics in a third-round stunner. It looked crystal clear that Vondrousova would win following a shot that landed on the back line in what would give a 4-3 lead in the second set to the opponent from the Czech Republic. Vondrousova finished off the world’s highest-paid female athlete in 68 minutes.
For all the accolades, it was hardly a surprise that Osaka won in the Tokyo Olympics in dominating fashion on the hard courts, a surface she has won all four of her Grand Slam titles. Despite taking a mental health break for two months -- Osaka asked out after French Open organizers insisted she speak at press conferences -- Osaka finally came back and became the first tennis player to light the cauldron before overpowering No. 52 player in the world in China's Zheng Saisai 6-1 and 6-4, and 49th-ranked Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland, 6-3 and 6-2.
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