Highlight of the day
Gymnastics – Women’s team all-around
This is the team event across the beam, the floor, the uneven bars and the vaults. Gymnastics is always a spectacle independent of results, which is good because this will be a walkover.
Led by Simone Biles, after their qualifying stage the US are have come in from overwhelming favourites to utterly unbackable. The gap between the USA and second placed China was almost 10 points while the gap from China back to 8th placed Netherlands is a mere 3.5 points.
The USA are so strong here that their top 3 gymnasts qualified in the top 3 of the women’s all around. As each country can only have two representatives, that means that the reigning all around gold medalist Gabby Douglas missed out on defending her crown. That last sentence is insane.
Simone Biles, incidentally, could win five golds and is apparently being called the most talented gymnast in history, the best athlete in America, and having “brought gymnastics up a level” and may not compete at another Olympics after this. It’s a sport prone to hyperbole, but still, make sure you catch it.
Favourite: United States
Favourites for silver: China, Russia, Great Britain
Probably should watch
Canoe slalom – Men’s canoe single
Slalom in a canoe down a specially designed course of rapids and rough water. Moves at a decent clip and is oddly captivating. The field for this event is wide open with a Central European flavour.
Favourites: Jiri Prskavec, Peter Kauzer, Sebastien Combot
Judo – Women’s 63kg, Men’s 81kg
Judo is all good, and seems very prone to upsets as any mistake is so punishingly exploited with one of the Ippon methods of instant or rapid victory. We are listing the favourites but in our sampling of the sport so far, we’ve seen medal prospects or strong champions unceremoniously dumped early on with successful throws, scissor-locks and simple pins.
Favourites: Takanori Nagase, Avtandili Tchrikishvili, Antoine Valois-Fortier (men’s 81kg) and Tina Trstenjak, Clarisse Agbegnenou, Miku Tashiro (women’s 63kg)
Swimming – Women’s 200m freestyle
Worth a watch as the sweetspot where several dominant swimmers from other disciplines meet. Katie Ledecky (distance specialist) and Sara Sjostrom (freestyle and butterfly sprinter) both feature, with Ledecky a strong but not overwhelming favourite in her shortest non-relay swim. Emma McKeeon is a dark horse from the Australian contingent and Katinka Hosszu, the dominant medleyist, also features.
Favourites: Katie Ledecky, Sara Sjostrom, Katinka Hosszu.
Diving – Women’s synchronized 10m platform
The usual fascination of diving applies, with added synchronisation. Being a team diving medal, China will win barring the spectacularly unforseen.
Favourites for silver: Canada, North Korea
Watch it if it’s already on
Equestrian – Team and Individual Eventing jumping
OK. Here’s how Olympic horsies work:
This week is Eventing, which takes place over several days. The same horse and rider compete in all of dressage, cross-country and showjumping. Scoring is cumulative and penalty-based, meaning the lowest points win. These horses are much more mature than racehorses, often in their teens, due to the all-round demands.
For the team event, the best 3 scores are taken, which gets tricky if people are disqualified. Too many disqualifications knocks a team out of contention.
- Showjumping is where they do a course in an enclosed arena with mini-golf looking kitsch around the jumps.
- Cross-country takes place in an open hilly course with more elaborate jumps (eg angled, multiple components) and testing terrain.
- Dressage is stupid.
Next week there are specific Dressage and specific Showjumping medal competitions, which will each be a higher standard (ie, more difficult jumps) due to specialisation rather than needing an all-round horse. Cross-country doesn’t get a specialised medal event for some reason. This is crazy, because cross-country is QUITE CLEARLY the best event.
Eventing is a team and individual event simultaneously, with two medals awarded. Today is showjumping, the finale of the Eventing. Australia are narrowly leading New Zealand heading into the decider. Australian Christopher Burton is ranked 1st in the individual Eventing heading into the third leg.
Favourites (based on current scores): Australia, New Zealand. Christopher Burton, Michael Jung, Astier Nicolas, Mark Todd.
Swimming – Men’s 200m butterfly, Women’s 200m individual medley, Men’s 4x200m freestyle relay
Katina Hosszu will do in the 200m IM basically what she already did in the 400m IM and you’ve already seen that. The Americans are strong favourites in the men’s 200m relay with Australia an outside chance as second favourite. The 200m men’s butterfly is pretty open between Laszlo Cseh and Michael Phelps with Chad Le Clos lurking. HPM will be chanting LET’S GO LASZLO, because it’s fun to say out loud.
Favourites: Laszlo Cseh, Michael Phelps (men’s fly), Katina Hosszu (IM), USA (200m relay)
Weightlifting – Women’s 63kg, Men’s 69kg
As in most weight classes, the favourites tend to be from authoritarian countries with dodgy doping controls so whoever wins today might not finish up with the medal. That’s some next level intrigue.
Favourites from those not currently banned: Deng Wei, Tzu-Chi Lin, Sim Choe Hyo (women) and Shi Zhiyong, Kim Myong-Hyok, Daniyar Ismayilov (men)
Shooting – Women’s 25m pistol
This is the only event that men arbitrarily don’t do, presumably the guns are just too feminine.
Favourites: Jingjing Zhang, Antoaneta Boneva
Fencing – Men’s individual épée
The larger pokey weapon with which you can score by poking anywhere on the opponent. This apparently lends it a patient/boring defensive element relative to the other disciplines. Daniel Jerent is a modest favourite with several others also strong chances.
Favourites: Daniel Jerent, Gauthier Grumier, Marco Ficera, Andras Redli