Cal at Tokyo Olympics: McLaughlin (Swim) and Sutton (Row) earn medals

Three Cal Bears, including medal favorites Ryan Murphy and Abbey Weitzeil, advances to Thursday night finals

With Thursday (in Japan) action completed, here are all that had happened on another busy day for our Tokyo “Calympians”.

Olympic Medals (1 Gold, 2 Silvers, 4 Bronzes)

In case you missed it, the first 5 Cal medals were described here.

6) BRONZE - Men’s Pair, Joachim Sutton, Denmark

Although Denmark had more Olympic history with earning lightweight rowing medals than in heavyweight (like the ones in the main collegiate competitions), Cal alum Joachim Sutton and his Danish partner Frederic Vystavel (Princeton alum) made the podium in Men’s Pair. The two Danes are success stories of rowing athletes to come to the US to study and row collegiately.

The Danish pair started strong as the main challenger for the favorites Sinkovic brothers from Croatia before holding on to fend off a late Canadian charge to get on the podium. Sutton’s Cal teammate (both were on the last Cal National Championship winning Varsity 8 boat in 2016) Martin Markovic and Serbian partner finished 5th in this final.

This was Cal’s 3rd Rowing medal from Tokyo, with the chance for more tonight.

7) SILVER - Women’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay, Katie McLaughlin, USA

A strong perlim swim by Cal alum Katie McLaughlin got her a spot in the 800m Free Relay final as the third leg. McLaughlin was in line for a medal just for her prelim swim, but it was great to see her in the final. McLaughlin teamed up with US veteran Allison Schmitt, fellow first Olympian Paige Madden, as well as Katie Ledecky in the final.

While the Australian quartet were the favorites coming in, China surprised everyone by taking the win. All three relays that got on the podium broke the previous World Record. After a strong leg from McLaughlin, Katie Ledecky nearly made up the deficit to China. Of course, a new American record of 7:40.73 was set. Coincidentally, the previous American record was set at the 2019 World Championship by McLaughlin and Ledecky along with Simone Manuel and Melanie Margalis.

Check out the post-race interview below.

Katie McLauglin said “It was like a dream, this is like a dream walking out on a finals relay for the U.S. I'm biased that the 800 free is the best one. I can't even explain.”

Although her collegiate career started slow due to a freak neck injury her freshman year, Katie McLaughlin showed great perseverance in eventually returning to the top form that made her one of the top recruits (and of a special class that included fellow Olympic medalists in Abbey Weitzeil and Kathleen Baker). While nothing is certain especially in the ultra-competitive USA swimming scene, one would expect this to be just the first of several Olympic Games for McLaughlin.

Cal Finalists

Thursday Night Finals

Men’s 200m Backstroke Final (6:50 PM PT) - Calympians: Ryan Murphy (USA), Bryce Mefford (USA)

Backstroke U will again have two finalists in the Men’s 200m Back Final. In Rio, Murphy won the Gold while fellow US Calympian teammate Jacob Pebley placed 4th. The dream (but certainly plausible) scenario would be for Murphy and Mefford to both get on the podium tonight.

On Wednesday night, Murphy and Mefford finished 2nd and 4th in the second semifinals to advance to the final as the 3rd and 6th seed, respectively.

Evgeny Rylov who edged Murphy for the 100m Back Gold will be the top seed, but it should be a coin flip as to who will touch the wall first tonight.

Women’s 100m Freestyle Final (6:59 PM PT) - Calympian: Abbey Weitzeil (USA)

Also earning herself a shot at an individual medal on Thursday night was Abbey Weitzeil. Weitzeil, with three Olympic medals already between Rio and Tokyo, is still seeking her first individual medal. She finished 3rd in her semifinal and earned the 7th seed in the final. The 100m Free does have a stacked field but one where any of the finalists, including Weitzeil, may realistically win.

(Copied/Pasted from my post yesterday)

Men’s Eight (6:25 PM PT) - Calympians: Maarten Hurkmans (Netherlands), Julian Venonsky (USA), Angus Dawson (Australia)

Half of the final will include a boat with a Cal Bear. The Netherlands (Maarten Hurkmans), USA (coxswain Julian Venonsky), and Australia (Angus Dawson) are all in the final race of the main rowing event. The Holland 8 won its heat to advance directly to the final. Both USA and Australia had to place in the top-4 of the repechage to earn their lane in the A-Final.

Women’s Eight (6:05 PM PT) - Calympian: Sydney Payne (Canada)

The Canadian boat with Cal alum Sydney Payne placed 2nd in the heat and had to use the 2nd place in the repechage to earn their lane for the finals.

Friday Night Finals

Mixed 4x100m Medley Relay (7:43 PM PT on Friday) - Calympians: Tom Shields (prelim butterfly leg), Abbey Weitzeil (prelim freestyle leg), Ryan Murphy (final backstroke leg??)

A new event for the Tokyo Games is the Mixed 4x100m Medley Relay where lineups must include two men and two women. Two Cal Bears have already put themselves in position for another Olympic Medal by partaking in the prelim swim. USA went with Stanford-commit Regan Smith (backstroke), Andrew Wilson (breaststroke), Cal alum Tom Shields (butterfly), Cal alum Abbey Weitzeil (freestyle) to earn the 2nd seed behind Great Britain.

Of course, Team USA, with both Cal head coaches on the coaching staff, will have plenty of options for the final lineup on Friday, but a realistic scenario could be Cal alum Ryan Murphy (back), Michael Andrews (breast), Stanford-commit Torri Huske (fly), and Cal alum Abbey Weitzeil (free) as the anchor.

Other Cal results from the last 24 hours

More swimming - Tom Shields also made the Men’s 100m Fly semifinal tonight (6:30 PM PT).

Golf - Collin Morikawa (USA) had an okay first round, sits at -2, T20, 6 shots off the lead

Given Morikawa’s ability to adapt, Cal fans perhaps should not be too concerned by Morikawa’s not super sharp first round, especially since he is just a few shots behind the leader despite some troubles. The Two-Time Major champion will hopefully bounce back with a strong second round tonight. He showed that great adaptability in winning The Open a couple of weeks ago despite the lack of familiarity with links courses. Kasumigaseki Country Club, the host course of this Olympic Games, is considered a parkland course, similar to the majority of PGA courses now.

"It's crazy to think that I have this opportunity, but it's something that I'm never going to take for granted. No one's going to be able to take it away from me and to be representing Team USA, it's one of the biggest honors really."

Morikawa is scheduled to start his round 2 at 4:25 PM PT tonight. The three medalists will be decided by the top finishers at the end of all four rounds.

Rowing - both Kara Kohler (USA) and Gennaro di Mauro (Italy) just missed out on Single Sculls A-Finals with 4th places in semifinals

Cal alum and 2012 Bronze medalist Kara Kohler was just edged in her Women’s Single Sculls semifinal for the 3rd and final A-Final berth. With slightly more time deficit, incoming Cal Men’s Rowing freshman Gennaro di Mauro also placed 4th in his semifinal for Men’s Single Sculls. Unlike swimming where the top 8 times from the two semifinal advances, rowing (like track) requires the athlete to finish in the top spots of their semifinals to advance (since there is much more likelihood of a change in the environment that affect the times of different races).

While both Calympians will get to race in the B-Finals, they are out of medal contention.

Men’s Water Polo - Calympians: Luca Cupido, Johnny Hooper (USA)

Team USA (2-1-0) is still in a great position to make the knockout stage (even in the scenario where they don’t beat Hungary nor Greece in the remaining group matches), but they missed a great chance to improve their seeding when they blew 4-0 then 7-4 leads to Italy to lose 12-11 in their 3rd group play. You can check out the highlights of that exciting match below.

Tennis - Ben McLachlan (Japan) was knocked out in both doubles quarterfinals

Cal alum Ben McLachlan paired with Kei Nishikori and won two matches before losing to the Croatian top seed in men’s double quarterfinals on Wednesday. McLachlan and partner Shibahara won one match before losing to the Russian pair and 4th seed Pavlyuchenkova/Rublev in the mixed double quarterfinals on Thursday via a 3rd set tiebreaker 7-5, 6-7(0), 10-8.

The lone Calympian representing host Japan fell just short of making the semifinals which would have guaranteed a spot in a medal match.