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Rio Olympics schedule highlights, daily events to watch

Here’s a daily look at potentially intriguing events on the Rio Olympic schedule (all times Eastern), keeping in mind athletes and teams must go through qualifying to reach finals:

WEDNESDAY, AUG. 3 — DAY -2

Soccer (Noon-2 p.m.): Sweden women vs. South Africa. The first event of the first Olympics in South America, two days before the Opening Ceremony.

Soccer (3-5 p.m.): Brazil women vs. China. The first Rio Olympic event involving Brazilian athletes. Five-time World Player of the Year Marta leads the host nation in search of its first Olympic soccer title. Like Sweden-South Africa, this match will take place in Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic Stadium.

Soccer (6-8 p.m.): U.S. women vs. New Zealand. The Americans eye their fifth title in six Olympic tournaments and will open against a nation they beat 2-0 in the London Olympic quarterfinals. The match is in Belo Horizonte.

THURSDAY, AUG. 4 — DAY -1

Soccer (3-5 p.m.): Brazil men vs. South Africa. If Brazil’s women can’t end the host nation’s Olympic soccer dry spell, maybe Neymar can lead the men to their first gold. Their first match comes in Brasilia against a nation making its second-ever Olympic men’s soccer appearance.

FRIDAY, AUG. 5 — DAY 0

Opening CeremonyThe Olympics will open at the famed Maracanã, which will also host soccer semifinals and finals late in the Games.

The Opening Ceremony will be highlighted by the Parade of Nations and cauldron lighting, the final torchbearer always a closely guarded secret. (Of note, the final torchbearer has actually been multiple people at the last three Olympics, so it will be interesting to see if Rio ends that streak.)

MORE: Pelé on Rio Olympics, lighting the cauldron

SATURDAY, AUG. 6 — DAY 1

Gymnastics (1:30-4 p.m.): U.S. men’s qualification. By the end of the day, the top eight nations of 12 overall qualify for the team final, and the top 24 gymnasts competing on all six events make the all-around final (maximum two per country). The U.S. has qualified into the team final at the last four Olympics and put two men in the all-around final at the last three, and don’t expect any different this time. What’s left to decide? Keep an eye on apparatus final qualifying. The top eight per event make each of the six apparatus finals (maximum two per country).

Swimming (9-11 p.m.): The women’s 4x100m freestyle relay (10:24 p.m.) could be another U.S.-Australia duel. The Aussies broke the world record at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and dominated at the 2015 World Championships. The U.S. quartet will likely include Abbey Weitzeil and Simone Manuel, who went one-two in the 100m free at the Olympic Trials. Katie Ledecky, better at the longer freestyle races, has an outside shot at being on the team, but likely only if she is used in the morning prelims and has a fast split time.

Katie Ledecky could win three individual gold medals in Rio. (AP)

SUNDAY, AUG. 7 — DAY 2

Gymnastics (4:30-6 p.m.): U.S. women’s qualification. Same as the men, the top eight of 12 nations and the top 24 all-around gymnasts and top eight per apparatus qualify for medal finals (maximum two per country) by the end of the day. The U.S. always qualifies into the team and all-around finals. Watch this: If three U.S. women compete on all four events in qualifying, then one won’t qualify for the all-around final (like in 2012, when Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman beat Jordyn Wieber).

Swimming (9-11 p.m.)Dana Vollmer, returning from childbirth, defends her Olympic title in the 100m butterfly (9:03 p.m.), but Swedish world champion Sarah Sjostrom could be the favorite.

Ledecky should swim her first of possibly three individual finals of the Games in the 400m freestyle (10:01 p.m.). She has won every major 400m free title in this Olympic cycle, including breaking the world record.

The men’s 4x100m freestyle relay (10:54 p.m.) has traditionally been a marquee event. Several teams could factor into the medals, including reigning Olympic and world champion France, Australia, the U.S. and host nation Brazil. The U.S., which failed to make the 2015 World Championships final, should be led by Olympic 100m free champion Nathan AdrianMichael Phelps has been part of this relay at the last three Olympics. Phelps didn’t swim the 100m free at Trials but could still be placed on the relay team.

MORE: Phelps’ concussion, more highlights from Bob Bowman’s book

MONDAY, AUG. 8 — DAY 3

Gymnastics (3-6 p.m.): Men’s team final. China, winner of the last two Olympics, had its world championships winning streak of six snapped by rival Japan last year. The U.S. looks to return to the podium after finishing fifth at the 2012 Olympics and the 2015 World Championships.

Fencing (8 a.m.-5:15 p.m.): Women’s sabre. American Mariel Zagunis took gold in 2004 and 2008 but tearfully dropped to fourth in 2012, after carrying the U.S. flag into the Opening Ceremony. Ibtihaj Muhammad is set to become the first American to wear a hijab in Olympic competition. Zagunis is ranked No. 3 in the world. Muhammad is ranked No. 8. The final is at 4:45 p.m.

Rugby (6-6:30 p.m.): Women’s final. The first rugby medals since 1924 will be awarded, though this is the first time rugby sevens has been part of the Olympics.

Swimming (9-11 p.m.): Of the four finals, the best hope for U.S. medals comes in the men’s 100m backstroke (9:38 p.m.) with David Plummer and Ryan Murphy, who rank Nos. 1 and 2 in the world this year. The U.S. has won this event at each of the last five Olympics. Australian Emily Seebohm is the favorite in the women’s 100m back (9:30 p.m.) with 2012 Olympic champion Missy Franklin missing the Olympic team in the event.

TUESDAY, AUG. 9 — DAY 4

Gymnastics (3-5:10 p.m.): Women’s team final. The U.S. has never won back-to-back Olympic team golds, but it will be favored if the dominating performances at the 2014 and 2015 World Championships are any indication. China, Great Britain and Russia are also podium contenders. Romania, which earned medals at every Olympics from 1976 through 2012, failed to qualify a full team for Rio.

Swimming (9-11 p.m.): The U.S. swimming Big Four of Phelps, Ledecky, Franklin and Ryan Lochte could all be in finals. Ledecky and Franklin took gold and bronze at the 2015 Worlds in the 200m freestyle (9:19 p.m.). Phelps could swim the 200m butterfly final (9:28 p.m.) at a fifth straight Olympics. Lochte figures to be in the 4x200m free relay final (10:38 p.m.) for a fourth straight Games after finishing fourth in the 200m free at Trials.

MORE: Lochte: Ledecky beats me in practice

Some say Kohei Uchimura is already the greatest gymnast of all time. (Getty)

WEDNESDAY, AUG. 10 — DAY 5

Gymnastics (3-5:45 p.m.): Men’s all-around final. Japan’s Kohei Uchimura could become the first man in 44 years to repeat. Top rivals include Brit Max Whitlock, Cuban Manrique Larduet and Ukraine’s Oleg Verniaiev. The 2012 Olympic bronze medalist, Danell Leyva, may not compete in the all-around after only making the Rio team as a replacement for the injured John Orozco.

Swimming (9-11 p.m.): In the men’s 100m freestyle final (10:30 p.m.), Nathan Adrian could try for a repeat title, after winning by .01 in London. His biggest threat may be aspiring Australian physicist Cameron McEvoy. Franklin and Ledecky could anchor the U.S. in the women’s 4x200m free relay (10:55 p.m.).

THURSDAY, AUG. 11 — DAY 6

Judo (2:30-4:40 p.m.): Women’s 78kg medal rounds. In 2012, Kayla Harrison became the first U.S. Olympic judo champion. She’s since missed a year due to knee surgery, took bronze at the 2014 Worlds and was upset in the round of 16 at the 2015 Worlds, but she is ranked No. 1 in the world.

Gymnastics (3-5:10 p.m.): Women’s all-around final. The U.S. could put two women on the podium, and three-time reigning world champion Simone Biles is a heavy favorite. The top two U.S. women in all-around qualifying on Day 2 will earn places in the final. Biles will likely be joined by either Aly Raisman, who missed a bronze medal in 2012 by a tiebreaker, or Laurie Hernandez, the first U.S. Olympic gymnast born in the 2000s. London Olympic champion Gabby Douglas appears unlikely to compete in the all-around after finishing seventh at the Olympic Trials.

Rugby (6-6:30 p.m.): Men’s final. Watch out for Fiji, which has never earned an Olympic medal in any sport but has won two straight World Series season titles. The U.S. could factor into the medals.

Swimming (9-11 p.m.): Lochte and Phelps should go head-to-head for the final time in their careers in the 200m individual medley final (10:01 p.m.). Phelps took gold in this event at the last three Olympics, while Lochte earned silver in 2004, bronze in 2008 and silver in 2012. Phelps edged Lochte by .31 at the Olympic Trials, but it’s Japan’s Kosuke Hagino who has the fastest time in the world this year.

MORE: Home videos of young Biles doing gymnastics

FRIDAY, AUG. 12 — DAY 7

Track and Field (10:10 a.m.): Women’s 10,000m final. The first track and field medal event includes Americans Emily Infeld and Molly Huddle, who went three-four at the 2015 World Championships.

Shooting (2-3 p.m.): Women’s skeetKim Rhode, already the first American to earn individual medals in five straight Olympics, could become the first Olympian from any nation to earn medals on five different continents.

Swimming (9-11 p.m.): Franklin, Phelps and Ledecky could swim their last individual races of these Olympics back-to-back-to-back in the women’s 200m backstroke final (9:03 p.m.), men’s 100m butterfly final (9:12 p.m.) and women’s 800m freestyle final (9:20 p.m.). All defending Olympic champions, they are arguably each’s signature event. Ledecky is a huge favorite, Phelps is arguably a favorite over Laszlo Cseh and Chad le Clos and Franklin is an underdog, ranked No. 9 in the world this year.

SATURDAY, AUG. 13 — DAY 8

Rowing (9:40-9:50 a.m.): Women’s eight final. The U.S. has won 10 straight Olympic or world titles dating to 2006.

Tennis (11 a.m.-7 p.m.): Women’s singles medal matches. Serena Williams could become the first repeat Olympic tennis singles champion. She and sister Venus Williams are the only women in the field who have previously earned Olympic singles medals.

Cycling (3:53-4:21 p.m.): Women’s team pursuit final. The U.S., led by two-time 2012 Olympic silver medalist Sarah Hammer, took gold at 2015 Worlds, the first team gold for U.S. men or women in a track cycling event at a world championships or Olympics.

Track and Field (7-10:15 p.m.): Training partners Mo Farah and Galen Rupp will look for another one-two in the men’s 10,000m final (8:25 p.m.). The world’s fastest woman will be crowned in the 100m final (9:35 p.m.). Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce took gold in 2008 and 2012. No woman has won the same individual Olympic track and field event three straight times, but she could be beaten by countrywoman Elaine Thompson, the U.S.’ English Gardner or Tori Bowie or the Netherlands’ Dafne Schippers. Great Britain’s Jessica Ennis-Hill can repeat as Olympic heptathlon champion after coming back from childbirth.

Swimming (9-10:40 p.m.): The competition concludes with the shortest and longest events (women’s 50m free, men’s 1500m free) and both medley relays, which should mark Phelps’ final race (10:04 p.m.). The U.S. men have never lost the Olympic medley relay, excluding the boycotted 1980 Moscow Games.

MORE: Serena would save Olympic medals first if house caught fire

Usain Bolt has said the Rio Games will be his final Olympics. (AP)

SUNDAY, AUG. 14 — DAY 9

Golf (6 a.m.-3 p.m.): Men’s final round. The first Olympic golf medals since 1904 will be awarded at the conclusion of the 72-hole stroke-play tournament. British Open champion Henrik Stenson of Sweden and American Bubba Watson are the highest-ranked golfers in the field.

Tennis (11 a.m.-7 p.m.): Men’s singles, women’s doubles, mixed doubles finals. Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray won the last two gold medals, and Roger Federer pulled out of the Olympics due to injury. That means Novak Djokovic is the biggest star seeking his first singles gold. Serena and Venus Williams won doubles gold in 2000, 2008 and 2012.

Gymnastics (1-4 p.m.): Apparatus finals. The U.S. could have medal threats in men’s floor exercise (1 p.m., Jacob Dalton), women’s vault (1:44 p.m., Biles) and uneven bars (3:14 p.m., Madison Kocian).

Track and Field (7:20-9:30 p.m.): The last two Olympic champions could face off in the men’s 400m final (9 p.m.) — Grenada’s Kirani James and American LaShawn Merritt — but the favorite could be world champion Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa.

The world’s fastest man will be crowned in the 100m final (9:25 p.m.). Usain Bolt could try to become the first Olympic men’s runner to win the same individual event three straight times. Americans Justin Gatlin and Trayvon Bromell are among the top challengers.

MONDAY, AUG. 15 — DAY 10

Gymnastics (1-3:25 p.m.): The host nation has the defending Olympic still rings champion, Arthur Zanetti, who became Brazil’s first Olympic gymnastics medalist in London (1 p.m.). Biles won the last two world titles on balance beam (2:42 p.m.).

Track and Field (7:30-9:50 p.m.): Kenyan David Rudisha broke the world record en route to London Olympic gold in one of the trademark events of those Games. He could repeat in the 800m final (9:25 p.m.). Allyson Felix could try to follow her 2012 Olympic 200m title with gold in the 400m against a field that could include scrutinized South African Caster Semenya (9:45 p.m.).

MORE: Allyson Felix and Beyoncé

TUESDAY, AUG. 16 — DAY 11

Track and Field (8:50-10:15 a.m.): American Christian Taylor, who missed breaking a 20-year-old world record by the length of a cigarette at the 2015 World Championships, looks to repeat as Olympic champion in the triple jump.

Gymnastics (1-3:15 p.m.): The artistic gymnastics competition concludes with three apparatus finals. The U.S. has the reigning Olympic and world champs in women’s floor exercise in Raisman and Biles (1:45 p.m.). High bar is traditionally the most exciting men’s apparatus final (2:30 p.m.). Uchimura is the reigning world champion. Flying Dutchman Epke Zonderland is the defending Olympic champion.

Weightlifting (6-7:40 p.m.): Men’s super heavyweight final. The world’s strongest man will be determined. Russian Aleksey Lovchev, the 2015 World champion, is excluded from the Games due to a doping ban.

Track and Field (7:30-9:50 p.m.): Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba is the favorite in the women’s 1500m (9:30 p.m.), after she broke a 22-year-old world record last year. The U.S. has earned at least one medal in the 110m hurdles (9:45 p.m.) at every Olympics (excluding the boycotted 1980 Moscow Games). The top U.S. hope appears to be University of Oregon wide receiver Devon Allen, who won at Trials and ranks second in the world this year.

WEDNESDAY, AUG. 17 — DAY 12

Track and Field (7:30-10 p.m.): The U.S. could send reigning Olympic champion Brittney Reese and reigning world champion Tianna Bartoletta into the women’s long jump final (8:15 p.m.). The women’s 200m (9:30 p.m.) figures to produce a new Olympic champion — one of the Netherlands’ Schippers, Jamaica’s Thompson or the U.S.’ Bowie. The U.S. could sweep the 100m hurdles (9:55 p.m.), despite having a group of three first-time Olympians.

Beach Volleyball (11-11:50 p.m.): Women’s gold-medal match. The Copacabana Beach venue will be rocking if a Brazil pair reaches the final. American Kerri Walsh Jennings is favored to reach this final with an eye on her fourth straight gold, this time with new partner April Ross replacing the retired Misty May-Treanor.

MORE: Walsh Jennings’ advice from Karch Kiraly

Ashton Eaton re-broke his world record at the 2015 World Championships. (Getty)

THURSDAY, AUG. 18 — DAY 13

Wrestling (4:05-5:45 p.m.): Women’s wrestling finals. Reigning world champions Helen Maroulis (63kg, 4:50 p.m.) and Adeline Gray (75kg, 5:35 p.m.) could become the first female U.S. Olympic wrestling gold medalists.

Track and Field (7:30-9:30 p.m.): American Joe Kovacs, coached by his mom growing up, is the reigning world champion in the shot put (7:30 p.m.).

The two-day, 10-event decathlon finishes with the 1500m (8:45 p.m.), where Ashton Eaton could become the first repeat champ since 1984.

That will be followed by the women’s 400m hurdles final (9:15 p.m.), which might include high schooler Sydney McLaughlin, the youngest U.S. Olympic track and field competitor since 1972.

Bolt could close the night with his last individual Olympic event, the 200m final (9:30 p.m.).

Beach Volleyball (11-11:50 p.m.): Men’s gold-medal match. Like the women, the medal favorites begin with Brazilian and American pairs. Alison and Bruno of Brazil are the 2015 World champions. Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena of the U.S. have the most international tournament titles in the world this year.

FRIDAY, AUG. 19 — DAY 14

Water Polo (2:30-3:50 p.m.): Women’s final. The U.S. finally took gold in 2012 after silver in 2000, bronze in 2004 and silver in 2008. The Americans are overwhelming favorites, since they hold every major title (Olympics, world championships, World Cup, World League).

Soccer (4:30-7 p.m.): Women’s final. The U.S. earned gold at four of five Olympic tournaments since the introduction of women’s soccer in Atlanta 1996. However, if the U.S. and Brazil both top their groups and their quarterfinals, as expected, they will face off in the semifinals Aug. 16 and not the final.

Wrestling (5:30-5:45 p.m.): Men’s 74kg freestyle final. American Jordan Burroughs won gold at London 2012 and at the world championships in 2013 and 2015. Only two U.S. wrestlers have won gold medals in consecutive Olympics.

Track and Field (7:30-9:45 p.m.): The women’s pole vault final (7:30 p.m.) was shaken by the exclusion of Russian Yelena Isinbayeva, the 2004 and 2008 Olympic champion and world-record holder. That leaves 2012 Olympic champion Jenn Suhr and newly minted American record holder Sandi Morris as potential favorites. And then there’s Brazil’s top track and field athlete, 2011 World champion Fabiana Murer. The women’s and men’s 4x100m relay finals (9:15 p.m., 9:35 p.m.) close the session, with Bolt likely racing for the final time in his Olympic career in the latter.

VIDEO: Burroughs’ son scores takedown

Can Neymar deliver Brazil its first Olympic men’s soccer title? (Getty)

SATURDAY, AUG. 20 — DAY 15

Golf (6 a.m.-3 p.m.): Women’s final round. The only other time women’s golf was part of the Olympics, the U.S. swept the medals in 1900. That’s quite unlikely in Rio, given South Korea’s dominance on the professional tours.

Triathlon (10 a.m.-12 p.m.): Women’s race. American Gwen Jorgensen is the favorite after winning the last two world titles, though she has been beaten in two of her last four starts. Triathlon has been part of the Olympic program since 2000, and the U.S. has collected one medal, a bronze in 2004.

Basketball (2:30-4:50 p.m.): Women’s final. There’s no reason to believe the U.S., on a 41-game Olympic winning streak going into Rio, won’t take a sixth straight gold. It will likely be a matchup with Australia, France or Spain.

Diving (3:30-4:55 p.m.): Men’s platform final. The sport’s marquee event is the last of eight in the Olympic diving program. In 2012, American David Boudia won the first U.S. diving gold since 2000. As was the case four years ago, China and Brit Tom Daley are his primary competition.

Soccer (4:30-7 p.m.): Men’s final. Will Brazil, led by Neymar, make it to the gold-medal game at the Maracanã with a shot at winning its first Olympic men’s soccer title?

Track and Field (7:30-9:40 p.m.): The women’s high jump (7:30 p.m.) picture has shaken considerably in the last year. U.S. teen Vashti Cunningham broke through to win the world indoor title in March. The reigning Olympic and world champions are from Russia, which is banned from Olympic track and field.

South African Caster Semenya, she of the gender-testing controversy of 2009 and 2010, looks like the favorite in the 800m (8:15 p.m.) after taking silver in 2012. The final night of track and field concludes with the women’s and men’s 4x400m relays (9 p.m., 9:35 p.m.).

Volleyball (9:15-11:15 p.m.): Women’s final. Brazil defeated the U.S. in the last two Olympic finals. But the Americans, now with Karch Kiraly coaching, swept Brazil in the 2014 World Championship semifinals en route to gold.

SUNDAY, AUG. 21 — DAY 16

Track and Field (8:30-11:15 a.m.): The men’s marathon takes to the Rio streets. Kenya is traditionally strong, but Ugandan Stephen Kiprotich pulled off the upset at London 2012. Meb Keflezighi, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist, qualified for the U.S. team in February at age 41.

Volleyball (12:15-2:15 p.m.): Men’s final. This is one of the most coveted gold medals for the host nation. Brazil took gold in 2004 and silver in 2008 (behind the U.S.) and 2012.

Boxing (1-1:15 p.m.): Women’s middleweight final. Claressa Shields has not lost since she became the first U.S. Olympic women’s boxing champion at London 2012.

Basketball (2:45-5:05 p.m.): Men’s final. The U.S., despite lacking some NBA superstars, should reach the final and be heavily favored for its sixth gold medal in seven Games in the Dream Team era. Spain took silver in 2008 and 2012 but lost in the 2014 World Cup quarterfinals to France. The Spaniards will be without Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka.

Closing Ceremony: The Olympic cauldron will be extinguished at the Maracanã and anticipation will grow for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games and 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Rio Olympics