John Niyo of The Detroit News identifies five events to watch at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
► Men’s basketball
Outlook: Will this U.S. Dream Team suffer another Olympic nightmare? That’s the international intrigue heading into the men’s basketball tournament in Tokyo, where the Americans — winners of three straight Olympic golds after an embarrassing 2004 showing — are without some of their MVP mainstays (LeBron James, Steph Curry, James Harden) and also hampered by injury- and COVID-related absences from NBA stars initially on the roster. Spain is the reigning world champ, Argentina is loaded with experience, and watch out for Luka Doncic and Slovenia. Still, despite recent exhibition losses, a U.S. team with just two returning Olympians (Kevin Durant and Michigan State product Draymond Green) will be the team to beat.
Outlook: Baseball is back, but not for long. The sport was removed from the Olympic program following the 2008 Beijing Games, and it won’t be part of the 2024 Paris Games. And while it’s expected to be reinstated for 2028 in Los Angeles, the refusal of Major League Baseball to create a scheduling break for the Olympics keeps the game’s best players away. Team USA features a mix of former MLB players and prospects., including ex-Tiger Anthony Gose. But the pro leagues in Japan and South Korea are pausing, making the host nation — with a roster that includes former New York Yankees star Masahiro Tanaka — the gold-medal favorite in a six-team field.
Outlook: In another effort to attract a younger audience, the International Olympic Committee added surfing to the Tokyo program. And with a strong U.S. team, led by the likes of reigning world champ Carissa Moore, the shortboard competition will be one of NBC’s spotlighted events. It’s hardly the ideal spot to show off the sport, as Tsurigasaki Beach, the Olympic venue about 40 miles from Tokyo, typically is home to some lackluster waves this time of year. But organizers are hopeful that a passing typhoon will produce the kind of surf that top riders crave during the weeklong competition window.
► Track and field — men’s 100-meter dash
Outlook: Jamaica’s Usain Bolt, who held the title of world’s fastest man for more than a decade, finally hung up his spikes four years ago after winning a third consecutive Olympic 100-meter title in Rio. So that leaves the stage open for someone else to claim the crown. Trayvon Bromell, who has a run a world-best 9.77 seconds this year, leads a trio of American contenders looking for a sweep in Tokyo, but South Africa’s Akani Simbine and Canada’s Andre De Grasse are among the other top contenders.
► Women’s soccer
Outlook: They’re getting older, but they’re still kicking. The U.S. women’s soccer team in Tokyo is virtually the same roster than won the last World Cup in 2019. And while the average age is now over 30, a team led by Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath arrived as the gold-medal favorite. Then they got blanked, 3-0, by Sweden in their Olympic opener Tuesday, snapping a 44-match unbeaten streak and reminding everyone this is no formality. Sweden also knocked the U.S. out of the Rio Olympics with a stunning quarterfinal result in a shootout.
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