When the International Olympic Committee and the Japanese organizers postponed last year’s Games they made the call four months in advance. Now, with the opening ceremonies just seven weeks off and more than 11,000 athletes making their final preparations, it may be too late to pull the plug.
Barring Armageddon, in the words of IOC senior member Dick Pound, the Olympics will start on schedule on July 23. That’s been the consistent message from the five-ringed headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, with president Thomas Bach assuring the nervous Japanese citizenry and media that they have nothing to fear from the world’s athletes, three-quarters of whom are expected to have been vaccinated when they arrive and who’ll live in a restricted bubble throughout their time in Tokyo.
Yet the usual waiver that Olympians sign now will include COVID-19 and extreme heat as among the risks they’ll assume by participating. Those risks would have been significantly smaller had the Japanese government inoculated the populace earlier (less than 3 percent are fully vaccinated) and had the organizers rescheduled the Games for October when the weather is much cooler, which is when Tokyo staged them in 1964.
Since this is the only chance that a majority of the athletes ever will have to compete at Olympus they’ll likely sign whatever they’re required to. But all of them should receive gold medals just for what they’ve been through. No group of Olympians has endured more to pursue their dreams.
Stanford’s Brody Malone, the reigning NCAA champion, dethroned six-time men’s titlist Sam Mikulak to win the US Gymnastics crown Saturday night in Fort Worth and put himself in strong position to make the Olympic team later this month. Mikulak, bidding for a third trip to the Games, placed third behind Yul Moldauer.
Meanwhile Simone Biles is heavily favored to claim her seventh women’s title on Sunday, taking a two-point lead over Sunisa Lee into the final. Chellsie Memmel, hoping to make the team at 32 after a nine-year retirement, is in 24th place. The former world all-around champion, who earned an Olympic team silver in 2008, has two children.
Six Massachusetts natives were added to the Olympic rowing team on Friday when the camp boats were selected. Conor Harrity (Weston) and Alex Richards (Watertown) were picked for the men’s eight and Gia Doonan (Rochester) and Regina Salmons (Methuen) were chosen for the women’s eight. Andrew Reed (Wayland) was tapped for the men’s four, while Cicely Madden (Weston) was named to the women’s quad. Harvard undergrad Clark Dean also will be in the men’s four, joining alums Liam Corrigan, Olivia Coffey, Harrity, Richards, and Reed on the sweep squad.
Megan Kalmoe (her fourth Olympic team) and Tracy Eisser, the duo who qualified the women’s pair for the Games at the 2019 world regatta, won Saturday’s final at the New Jersey trials, defeating Molly Bruggeman and Vicki Opitz by more than six seconds in the four-entry field.
Meanwhile, there were encouraging results at the World Cup stop in Lucerne, where sculler Kara Kohler finished second ahead of Irish world champion Sanita Puspure and the double of Gevvie Stone-Kristina Wagner collected bronze.
The US baseball team, which missed an earlier chance to earn its Tokyo ticket, collected it Saturday night by beating Venezuela 4-2 to finish unbeaten in the Americas qualifying tournament in Florida. The Americans, who won the bronze medal in 2008 when the sport last was on the Olympic program, will join Japan, South Korea, Mexico and Israel in the six-team field.
The Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Australia and the Netherlands will play off for the final spot later this month in Mexico. Cuba, the three-time champion which had medaled at every Games since the sport was added in 1992, failed to advance after losing to Venezuela and Canada.
Mixed results on court
Distressing stumble by the US men, who lost to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals of the Olympic qualifying tournament for the inaugural 3 x 3 basketball event in Tokyo. More painful still was that the Yanks beat the three teams that made it — Latvia, Poland, and the Dutch — when they won the World Cup title two years ago in Amsterdam, and had suited up Robbie Hummel and Kareem Maddox from that squad.
By contrast the American women, who had four WNBAers in Stefanie Dolson, Allisha Gray, Kelsey Plum, and Katie Lou Samuelson, breezed through unbeaten and will be joined by France and Japan at the Games.
Mike Krzyzewski, who’ll be retiring as Duke’s men’s coach after next season, was the man who put USA Basketball back on the gold standard after the 2004 stumble in Athens. He directed the Americans to three straight Olympic titles in 2008 (the “Redeem Team”), 2012, and 2016 without losing a game, while adding global crowns in 2010 and 2014. Coach K also was an assistant on the squads that won gold at the 1984 and 1992 Games … The US women’s soccer team will face Mexico in East Hartford on July 1 and 5 in its final two Olympic sendoff matches. The Americans, who’ll meet Portugal, Jamaica, and Nigeria in Texas later this month at the Summer Series, are 37-1-1 all time against their southern neighbors and dominated them, 4-0, in last year’s Olympic qualifying tournament.
John Powers can be reached at email@example.com. Material from Olympic committees, sports federations, interviews and wire services was used in this report.