Cal at Tokyo Olympics - 5 Medals (1 G, 1 S, 3 B) and counting so far
Calympians should continue to add to the medal count this week via swimming and rowing
The bulk of the action for the 481 active Calympians will be in this first official week with swimming and rowing. Since we are roughly at the halfway point for both of these sports, let’s take a look at all the Calympian medals earned thus far.
In chronological order of when these medals were awarded,
1) BRONZE - Women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay, Abbey Weitzeil, USA
With the best split for Team USA, Abbey Weitzeil (52.68) and her American teammates just got edged by the Canadians by mere 0.03 second. The Australian set a new record in cruising to the Gold.
Weitzeil’s best split (as well as top 100m Free heat time) should make her the obvious choice for the freestyle of the upcoming Women’s 4x100m Medley Relay.
After two relay medals (Gold in 4x100 Medley, Silver in 4x100 Free) from Rio 2016, this is the third medal for Weitzeil and her first Bronze.
2) BRONZE - Men’s 100m Backstroke, Ryan Murphy, USA
Despite his best effort, Ryan Murphy (52.19) will not repeat as two-time individual Gold medalists in Tokyo. Murph had the top time in the semifinals but touched the wall third behind two Russians in the final. Rylov (51.98) did enter the Olympic with the top time in the world this year; he was the only swimmer able to get below 52 seconds although Murphy’s World Record of 51.85 from Rio remained safe.
This was Murphy’s 4th Olympic medal after three Golds in Rio. Murphy should continue to add to his trophy case by the end of this week with 2-3 more medals.
3) SILVER - Softball, Valerie Arioto, USA
Although Team USA beat Japan in group play, Japan won 2-0 in the Gold Medal game to repeat (albeit after 17 years) as Olympic Gold medalists. With Softball not back in the Olympics until possibly the 2028 Los Angeles Games, this may be one-and-down for Cal legend Valerie Arioto, who got a precious Silver medal.
Arioto, like all of her American teammates, were kept in check offensively in this tournament. Despite all of these, Arioto was instrumental in scoring or driving in a couple of the key runs scored by the Americans in Tokyo. Still, her 3 for 17 batting performance as the clean-up batter with just three singles was far from what she had done on the lesser International Stage in the past decade when Softball was out of the Olympic limelight.
4) GOLD - Women’s Four Rowing, Rosemary Popa, Australia
Cruising to the Gold and just missing out on the World Record, the Australian Women’s Four with Cal alum Rosemary Popa held off Netherlands for the win. Popa, will now join both of her parents as Olympic rowing medalists, although her Gold is obviously better than the Bronzes earned by both of her parents.
5) BRONZE - Men’s Quadruple Sculls, Jack Cleary, Australia
Continuing a strong day for Australian rowing, Cal alum Jack Cleary picked up a Bronze in Men’s Quadruple Sculls. While the Dutch won the Gold rather easily despite a bit of an early mistake, Australia and Great Britain battled hard for the 2nd spot. Cleary and his mates were able to hold off Poland to get on the podium.
Unlike many of the numerous rowing Calympians at this meet, Cleary was not a mainstay on Cal’s Varsity Eight boat in his collegiate career. Instead, Cleary showed steady progress that continued up until this year where the extra year of training allowed him to be a first-time Olympian. It is awesome that he was able to seize the opportunity.
With two Rowing medals, Calympians have already exceeded the total from Rio 2016. They should be able to earn even more hardware from rowing this week.
Finals/Knockout Stage Bound
Rowing Finals (Wednesday night US)
Men’s Pair (5:18 PM PT) - Joachim Sutton (Denmark), Martin Mackovic (Serbia) are two of six boats racing for the three spots on the podium. The Croatian brothers are considered the heavy favorites, but both Cal alumni could also find their way to the podium. Both boats with a Cal Bears took 2nd in their respective semifinals. After his partner tested positive for COVID after arriving at Japan, Martin Mackovic and the Serbian boat looked back to form after the training interruption. The Serbian pair should be considered the favorites for the Silver.
Swimming Finals (Wednesday night US)
Women’s 4x200m Free Relay (8:31 PM PT) - 1st-time Calympian Katie McLaughlin swam in the prelim of this relay, putting her in line for a medal even if she does not get to race in the finals tonight. Despite the setback in Men’s 4x200m Free Relay on Tuesday night, USA had won a medal in every swimming relay up until that point. Expect a new streak to start with this relay, even if the Americans do not take the Gold.
Rowing/Swimming Semifinals (Wednesday night US)
Men’s 200m Back (7:04 PM PT) - Both US Calympians Ryan Murphy and Bryce Mefford are capable and expected to make the top 8 in tonight’s semifinals to qualify for the finals. Murphy again really held back in his heat swim to only get the 9th best semi seed time, he should again significantly improve his time in the semifinal tonight.
Men’s 200m IM (8:08 PM PT) - After earning a final berth in Men’s 100m Back and finishing 6th overall, Spanish Calympian and rising senior Hugo Gonzalez will attempt to make another swimming final. Gonzalez had the 11th best time in the heat.
Women’s 100m Free (6:53 PM PT) - Abbey Weitzeil’s quest for her first individual Olympic medal will continues with the 100m Free semifinal. She should be able to earn a lane in the final. Weitzeil had the 4th best heat time from yesterday (earlier tonight in US time).
Women’s Single Sculls (6:30 PM PT) - 2012 Bronze medalist Calympian Kara Kohler will look to book her spot in the rowing A-Final. Unlike swimming where the top 8 times from the two semifinals make the final, rowing advances the top 3 finishers for each semifinal race to the six boat final. Kohler looked very strong in easily winning her heat before earning her semifinal berth with a 2nd place finish. Kohler should be able to advance to the single sculls final.
Men’s Single Sculls (7:00 PM PT) - Incoming freshman Gennaro di Mauro will race for one of the six lanes in the finals. di Mauro was 2nd in his heat and then earned the 3rd and final spot in his quarterfinal race. It is hard to predict how the 19-year old will fare in the semifinals.
Rowing Finals (Thursday night)
Men’s Eight (6:25 PM PT) - Half of the final will include a boat with a Cal Bear. The Netherlands (Maartin 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) - The Canadian boat with Cal alum Sydney Payne placed 2nd in the heat and had to use a 2nd place in the repechage to earn their lane for the finals.
Knockout Stage Team Sports
Women’s Soccer Quarterfinals: USA vs. The Netherlands (4:00 AM PT on Friday)
By going 1-1-1 in Group Play, the USWNT with Cal alum Alex Morgan has not looked particularly great playing in front of empty stadiums in Japan. Nonetheless, the Americans have earned a spot, via their scoreless draw against Australia, in the knockout stage where they drew Group F winner The Netherlands (2-0-1).
Morgan has only scored in the decisive US win over New Zealand where fellow Cal alum Betsy Hassett also tallied a goal for The Football Ferns.
Alex Morgan and her USWNT will certainly need to raise their level of play on Friday morning against the Dutch side to avoid another Olympic QF exit like what had happened in Rio.
In good shape for the knockout stage
Men’s Water Polo
USA (2-0-0) - With Cal alum Luca Cupido and Johnny Hooper playing major roles, the Americans have won both of their matches thus far in group play. Certainly, their next three opponents (Italy, Hungary, Greece) are expected to be much stronger than Japan and South Africa, but the Americans still put themselves in a great place to advance as the top-4 of 6 countries in the group will make the knockout stage.
Women’s Water Polo
With four of the five coutries in group play advancing to the knockout stage, all four countries with Cal Bears on the squad are in great shape to advance.
In Group A:
Spain (2-1-0) - Cal alum Roser Tarrago has been a great secondary scoring source for Team Spain thus far. Tarrago scored a hat trick in Spain’s record breaking 29-4 rout of South Africa. She added another hat trick in Spain’s 14-10 win over Canada. She also tallied a goal in Spain’s 14-13 loss to the Netherlands.
Canada (1-2-0) - With three Cal Bears on the squad between Cal senior Emma Wright, Cal alum Kindred Paul, and Cal alum Kelly Mckee, Team Canada’s two losses to Australia and then Spain came when the three Bears, particularly Emma Wright, were held scoreless. All three recorded at least a goal, with Paul getting two, in their 21-1 win over South Africa.
Netherlands (1-1-0) - Cal senior Kitty Lynn Joustra scored a goal in each of the Dutch team’s two matches so far, 12-15 loss to Australia and 14-13 win over Spain.
In Group B:
Hungary (1-0-1) - Two-time Calympian Anna Illes and her Hungarian teammates made a huge statement in their 10-9 win over favorites USA. Hungarian also tied the Russian Olympic Committee in a 10-10 match. Illes recorded a goal in each of the two matches played thus far.
I had initially wanted to include all of the Calympian actions that had happened here, but the desire for more complete recaps was just holding me back from publishing anything at all. Instead here are some of the closest calls.
USA Rugby had a crushing quarterfinals loss to Great Britain
Showing plenty of heart, the Americans nonetheless could not close out the Brits despite a 21 point lead at one point. Great Britain won 26-21 to send the Americans to the 5th place match. The Brits eventually lost to the Argentines in the Bronze medal match.
As expected, Cal alum Danny Barrett played fearlessly for his country in his second Olympic Games. Barrett scored the first try of the match against GB. He was also the cover photo for LA Times’ article on this overlooked USA Rugby 7s squad.
Although they did not get a medal, these Golden Bears got to the finals of their events.
Hugo Gonzalez (Spain) - Men’s 200m Back, 6th place
Alicia Wilson (Great Britain) - Women’s 200m IM, 8th place
Rowan McKellar (Great Britain) - Women’s Four, 4th place
USA Men’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay, 4th place - Andrew Seliskar swam in the prelim
Both Gonzalez and Wilson are expected to be back at Cal for their senior season in 2021-22. Making the Olympic finals should give them the confidence to excel next year.
McKellar and her crew just narrowly lost out on a medal to a surprising Irish crew in the last quarter of the Women’s Four final. She nearly joined fellow Cal alum Rosemary Popa on the podium.
Lastly, you might have watched the USA’s swimming relay streak snapped in the Men’s 4x200m Free Relay final on Tuesday night. Although Cal alum Andrew Seliskar was not in the final lineup, he was in line for a medal for swimming the prelims. Unfortunately, the Americans went for the win and ran out of gas in the last 50m of the 3rd leg in chasing the favorites Great Britain that they ended up 4th and off the podium.
Yes, that number has grown by one since my last official update. USA Table Tennis player Nikhil Kumar will be an incoming Cal freshman (H/T to Avi).