AMERICAN GOLD BONANZA
Sue Bird capped off her unblemished 17-year Olympics run with a record fifth gold medal. All she and longtime U.S. teammate Diana Taurasi have done on the international stage is win and now stand alone with five gold medals – the first basketball players ever to accomplish that feat – after a 90-75 win over Japan Sunday at the Tokyo Games. The U.S. has now won the past seven Olympic gold medals matching the country’s men’s program for the most ever in a row. The men did it from 1936-68. With Bird orchestrating the flow of games and Taurasi’s scoring, they have been a constant force for the U.S., providing stability for the women’s program since the 2004 Athens Games. They have won all 38 of the games at the Olympics they’ve competed in. The Americans kept up their domination in men’s basketball and women’s water polo with gold medal victories in both on Saturday and the U.S. women’s 4x400-relay team also won gold. And the American men finally delivered a sprint gold medal in the 4x400-relay, the final track race of the Tokyo Games. Kevin Durant scored 29 points and joined Carmelo Anthony as the only three-time men’s gold medalists in Olympic history as the U.S. held off France 87-82 to win the gold medal for the 16th time in 19 tries. Nelly Korda gave the U.S. a sweep of gold medals in golf, holding on for a one-shot victory.
TEAMS ARE GOLDEN
A Japanese team of all-stars fulfilled a determined national mission to win the Olympic baseball gold medal for the first time, beating the United States 2-0 behind Munetaka Murakami’s third-inning home run on Saturday. Masato Morishita and four relievers combined on a six-hitter, and the Japanese men matched the accomplishment of the women’s softball team, which upended the Americans for their second straight gold medal. Malcom scored in the 108th minute and Brazil won its second consecutive gold medal in men’s soccer with a 2-1 victory over Spain. Brazil also won gold on home soil five years ago. Ashleigh Johnson made 11 saves, Madeline Musselman scored three times and the United States women routed Spain 14-5 in the water polo final. The U.S. won its third-consecutive gold medal.
A WET BRONZE
The hot and muggy weather in Tokyo that wreaked havoc on athletes throughout the Games could not slow down or cool off Canada on the final full day of competition. But the inadvertent dip into Tokyo’s Sea Forest Waterway by the two canoe sprinters who put Canada’s medal tally over the top? Well, that’s one way to beat the heat. Katie Vincent and Laurence Vincent-Lapointe won a bronze in the women’s canoe double 500 metres on Saturday. After the pair crossed the finish line in third place, Vincent, sitting in the back of the canoe, gave Vincent-Lapointe a congratulatory pat on the shoulder. Vincent-Lapointe appeared to reach back to embrace her partner but lost her balance, tipping the boat and sending them both tumbling into the water. Vincent-Lapointe also took silver in the C-1 200.
TRACKING DOWN A MEDAL
Canada came achingly close to adding a second medal on Saturday. The women’s 4x400 relay team of Alicia Brown, Maddy Price, Kyra Constantine and Sage Watson finished fourth in 3:21.84, crossing the finish line just 0.6 seconds behind third-place Jamaica. Jamaican anchor runner Candice McLeod needed to go all out to catch Watson down the stretch. The United States won gold, giving Allyson Felix her 11th Olympic medal, and Poland took silver. Earlier, appearing in her second Olympics – but her first in 17 years – Malindi Elmore withstood the intense heat and humidity to finish ninth in the women’s marathon. The 41-year-old from Kelowna, B.C., demonstrated that iron will on Saturday, picking off eight runners over the second half of the race to finish in 2 hours 30 minutes 59 seconds. All three Canadians in Sunday’s men’s marathon gutted it out and crossed the finish line. That in itself was no mean feat – 30 men in the field of 106 didn’t make it as they struggled with the heat and humidity in Sapporo. Ben Preisner, Canada’s top finisher in the race, drew inspiration from Canada’s women marathoners, who raced Saturday, to keep him going. “They were super inspiring,” said Preisner, who finished 46th in 2:19.27.
AND THE MARATHON ENDS
Only the marathoners and the race walkers had the privilege of competing before fans, but they did so in Sapporo, about 800 kilometres north of Tokyo. Peres Jepchirchir led a 1-2 Kenyan finish in the women’s marathon on Saturday. She withstood the heat and humidity to win in 2 hours 27 minutes 20 seconds. Her teammate Brigid Kosgei was second. But the last word on the Games belongs to Eliud Kipchoge, a soft-spoken Kenyan who continues to redefine the boundaries of human performance as the greatest marathoner ever. On Sunday, he raced straight to his second-straight gold medal in the men’s marathon and his fourth Olympic medal overall, a legacy that stretches back to the 2004 Olympics in Athens, where he was a 5,000-metre runner. This being 2021, Kipchoge shared his post-race thoughts on Twitter, describing how the Olympics are a special dream for athletes. Sports are like life, he said. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. ”But today,” he wrote, “was a day where I won.”
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