Most of the boxers on the US Olympic men’s team literally never had a fighting chance to get to the Games once the Americas qualifying tournament in Buenos Aires was canceled because of COVID-19 concerns.
The Tokyo tickets were awarded instead according to world rankings compiled from events from 2019 and earlier, which left six of the eight Americans out in the cold. Only welterweight Delante Johnson and super heavyweight Richard Torrez Jr. earned berths. Three others — featherweight Duke Ragan, lightweight Keyshawn Davis, and middleweight Troy Isley — would have made it on rankings, but since they weren’t on the qualifying roster based on last year’s selections they weren’t eligible.
Except for featherweight Andrea Medina the other four American women all had the goods — flyweight Virginia Fuchs, Lynn lightweight Rashida Ellis, welterweight Oshae Jones, and middleweight Naomi Graham. All of them figure to be medal contenders.
The US women’s soccer team will have an Olympic tuneup trio at next month’s Summer Series in Texas, taking on Portugal and Jamaica in Houston and Nigeria in Austin.
It’ll be its last group of friendly matches before the team is selected and none should pose a problem. The Americans are a combined 17-0-0 against those rivals with a 77-2 goal aggregate. They’ll also play two sendoffs before heading for Tokyo.
Strength in numbers
The US wrestlers missed their final chance to send a full 18-member team to the Olympics as Jordan Oliver (65 kilograms) in freestyle and Jesse Porter (77 kg) and Adam Coon (130 kg) in Greco-Roman failed to reach the championship round of the qualifier in Sofia.
Since the top two in each class earned Tokyo spots, 15 of them didn’t bother showing up for their final. The Americans qualified in 15 events — five men’s freestyle and four Greco, and all six women’s. Only Russia, with 17, has more entrants.
Scullers shut out
With the single, double, lightweight double, and quad all failing to qualify for Tokyo at the recent last-chance rowing regatta in Switzerland, there’ll be no US men’s scullers at the Games for the first time since 1912.
Not that it’s a surprise — only the lightweight double made it to Rio last time. With the men’s pair of Tom Peszek and Boston’s Mike DiSanto falling short as well, there’ll be no Americans in that event for the first time.
The women, by contrast, will have a complete seven-boat flotilla. Michelle Sechser and Molly Reckford made sure of that by winning the lightweight double. The trials for the women’s pair will be restaged early next month in New Jersey. Tracy Eisser and Kristine O’Brien won the original event in February of last year but needed to place in the top two in a World Cup race this year to confirm it. They opted out, so they’ll need a reprise.
The women’s quad, meanwhile, is holding a 10-candidate camp in Princeton, N.J. The group includes two members of the last global boat in Emily Huelskamp and Sophia Vitas, as well as Massachusetts residents Cicely Madden (Weston) and Maggie Fellows (Warwick).
Spots on the line
The US men and women finally get their chance this coming week to earn spots in the inaugural Olympic 3x3 basketball competition by finishing in the top three of their qualifying tournaments in Austria.
The men, who won the World Cup two years ago, are grouped with Lithuania, South Korea, Kazakhstan, and Belgium in the 20-team field, while the women will face France, Germany, Uruguay, and Indonesia.
The men’s team includes Robbie Hummel, formerly of the Timberwolves, Canyon Barry (son of Hall of Famer Rick), former Princeton cocaptain Kareem Maddox, and Dominique Jones. The women all are WNBAers — Stefanie Dolson (Chicago), Allisha Gray (Dallas), Kelsey Plum (Las Vegas), and Katie Lou Samuelson (Seattle).
Purrier closing in
Boston resident Elle Purrier, a former University of New Hampshire star who grew up on a Vermont dairy farm, is looking good for a spot on the Olympic track and field team in the women’s 1,500. Purrier, who broke the US indoor mile record last year and the 2-mile mark at this year’s New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, ran 3:58.34 at the recent Mt. SAC Relays in California, the world’s fastest time this year … Bob Hayes claimed an Olympic gold medal in the 100 and went on to win a Super Bowl ring with the Cowboys. Seahawks receiver DK Metcalf found out recently that going from the gridiron to the track is another matter. Metcalf, running his first race since high school, finished dead last (10.37) in his 100 heat and 15th of 17 at the Mt. SAC meet. “These are world-class athletes,” he discovered. “They do this for a living and it’s very different from football speed, from what I just realized.” … Taylor Knibb, who claimed an automatic Olympic berth by winning the World Triathlon Championship Series event in Yokohama, will be at 23 the youngest-ever member of the US women’s team, joining Summer Rappaport. Morgan Pearson earned a men’s berth with his podium placement, only the third American to do it. The federation will pick the rest of the six-person squad based on world rankings as of mid-June. Matt McElroy and Eli Hemming are the best-placed men, while top-ranked Katie Zaferes and Taylor Spivey are the top women’s contenders. Gwen Jorgensen, who won the historic gold medal in Rio, has moved on to track and field, where she’ll be a strong contender to make the US team in the 5,000.
John Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Material from Olympic committees, sports federations, interviews, and wire services was used in this report.
John Powers can be reached at email@example.com.