A creeping case is on the rise in Tokyo, where Team USA’s stranglehold at the Summer Olympics is under threat.
Some achievers such as the American women’s gymnastics team – winners of the previous four major international events – have fallen to the ground. The American women decided for a silver medal on Tuesday amid the chaos of superstar Simone Biles who stepped off the Olympic stage due to the mental tension to meet the gold standard aimed at her.
The American softball team, which once crushed rivals, also lost on Tuesday and played Japan 2-0 in the gold medal, while the women’s soccer team barely advanced to the knockout rounds after an overwhelming pointless match against Australia.
Then there was the men’s basketball team’s 83-76 defeat against France this past weekend – the Americans’ first Olympic setback in men’s hoops since 2004.
The upcoming competition won the most medals by 25 on Tuesday night, but was one behind Japan in gold medals – 10 to 9. So far, the gold standard could not be reached in events that usually dominate it.
The shaky first week raises the question: is this the death of American sportsmanship as we know it?
“People are getting older and dynasties are falling apart,” Olympic historian Bill Malon from Tokyo said on Tuesday. “The Roman Empire Disappeared.”
In other words, nothing lasts forever. Not even if we’re talking about one of the greatest athletes of our lifetime like Biles.
She tumbled surprisingly from her seat after the weight of expectation in the pre-Olympic build-up became too much to handle.
After winning four gold medals at the Rio Games in 2016, Biles told reporters on Tuesday that her love of gymnastics had been taken away from her.
“This Olympics I wanted it to be for myself,” Biles said. “I still do it for other people, and it hurts my heart that what I love has been taken away from me to please other people.”
Lost in the hope is that Biles, 24, is one of hundreds of victims of Larry Nassar, the doctor of the gymnastics team in Michigan and the U.S. who is serving a prison sentence for molesting women and girls.
While training for the Tokyo Games, Biles criticized sports officials, including the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee, for not doing enough to prevent future episodes of sexual abuse.
The reigning world champion soccer team, like Biles, came to Tokyo with great expectations. But the United States opened the tournament with a 3-0 defeat by Sweden and was honestly played out by Australia on Tuesday.
“The one thing that surprised me a little bit was that they were a little passive in their printing, and I’m used to seeing them very, very aggressively,” Australian coach Tony Gustavsson said on a news conference said.
That will have to change when the USA plays the Netherlands in a quarter-final with the 2019 finalists of the World Cup on Friday morning. The United States won that game 2-0.
It goes for its fifth gold medal and tries to become the first country to win the World Cup and Olympics in a row.
But the United States did not win a medal at the 2016 Olympics for the first time, when nemesis Sweden eliminated the Americans in the quarterfinals in Brazil.
Bob Condron, a former USOPC manager who attended 16 Olympics, is optimistic about the coming days.
“There will always be disappointments,” he said Tuesday. ‘But at the end of the rodeo, the US is the best. The Olympics are our bright moment. ”
The Tokyo Games end on August 8, so the final chapter has yet to be written. But anyone who pays attention can see the direction the normally dominant Team USA is going after a few days of mind-boggling performances.
Not that this is the first time that results have led to concern. When a university team led by David Robinson “only” won a bronze medal at the 1988 Seoul Games, American basketball officials had had enough of the pretext.
They hosted the original Dream Team of NBA stars four years later in Barcelona.
The latest version of NBA stars has lost its sense of invincibility, as France showed over the weekend. U.S. coach Gregg Popovich highlighted the point by reminding reporters that the NBA is now a global game.
“It’s a bit hubris when you think America just needs to roll the ball and win,” he said.
The changing outlook may be bad for American Olympians, but it’s good for the Olympics. What turns out to be a lot is competition is worth watching sports.
As much as we marveled at Stanford swimmer Katie Ledecky winning the half-length races, she sucked the drama out of the pool by her dominance at the 2012 and 2016 Games.
Imagine the tension that day to watch an older Ledecky give up everything she had against the Ariarne Titmus in Australia in the 400m freestyle.
Ledecky (24) finished with her fastest time in five years – 3 minutes 57.36 seconds – but she lost.
Ledecky could not have shown more joy over the silver medal swim because she gets it. It’s about delivering the best performance, wherever it may fall.
Triumph against the odds offers the immersive experience of returning the Olympic audiences. If it weren’t for the heartbreaking moments, the 17-day sports show would have been as outdated as the old bread for a long time.
Without the Miracle on Ice and Boys on the Boat, the Games might never have become the billion-dollar engine it was in 2021.
“There is nothing wrong with that,” said Harvey Schiller, former executive director of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. “Nobody on the other hand said they would lose.”