Tokyo Games reset: the Olympic postponement to 2021, what comes next

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The Tokyo Olympics were supposed to open on Friday. The coronavirus pandemic changed all that, causing the first postponement of a modern Olympics (in this case, by one year). A Q&A on what changed in 2020 and what to look for in 2021 …

What led to the Olympic postponement?
As the coronavirus outbreak intensified in February, the IOC created a task force with Tokyo Olympic organizers, the Japanese government and the World Health Organization (WHO). On March 22, the IOC announced it would take up to four weeks to assess the pandemic’s impact on the Olympics, including a possible postponement. After an emergency IOC Executive Board meeting, the IOC, Japanese government and Tokyo Olympic organizers agreed on a postponement to 2021 on March 24. IOC President Thomas Bach cited information from the WHO about the virus’ global spread and an increase in travel restrictions.

Then, on March 30, the new Olympic and Paralympic dates were announced: July 23-Aug. 8, 2021 for the Olympics and Aug. 24-Sept. 5 for the Paralympics, each a 364-day postponement.

What are the plans for 2021?
Organizers are preparing different scenarios for the Games, including more than 200 possible ways of simplifying them, while noting it’s impossible to know what the world will look like a year from now. “We have to consider already now whether there will be measures necessary for access to Japan, for instance,” Bach told NBC Olympic primetime host Mike Tirico in May. “Do we maybe need quarantine for athletes from different countries or for all the athletes from all the countries? How can this be managed? Do we need special measures for access to the venues? How many people can access the venues? This is part of this mammoth task.”

On April 28, the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee president said the Games will be canceled if they can’t be held in 2021.

“[Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo] made it very clear from the beginning that summer 2021 is the last option,” Bach told the BBC in May. “Quite frankly, I have some understanding for this because you cannot forever employ 3,000 or 5,000 people in an organizing committee. You cannot every year change the entire sports schedule worldwide of all the major federations. You cannot have the athletes being in uncertainty. You cannot have so much overlapping for the future Olympic Games.”

MORE: Tokyo Olympics schedule | Team USA roster

How are athletes impacted?
Nearly all Olympic sports competition shut down by late March. Some have returned in socially distanced forms without fans, including the PGA Tour, the AVP (beach volleyball’s domestic tour) and track and field. U.S. Olympic Trials in gymnastics, swimming and track and field were postponed to June 2021.

Given the U.S. Olympic team will be more than 500 athletes (out of more than 10,000 Olympians worldwide), there will be those who would have made an Olympic team in 2020 who do not make it in 2021. About 74 percent of all Summer Olympians competed in just one Games, so even just a one-year delay is very significant.

Can older athletes hang on? Think Kerri Walsh Jennings in beach volleyball, Ryan Lochte in swimming and Allyson Felix in track and field. We already know it will create opportunities for athletes who had no designs on a 2020 Olympics, such as gymnasts who were too young to qualify by one year. Now, a group of U.S. women who turn 16 in 2021 can dream of Tokyo rather than waiting for Paris 2024. At least one U.S. female gymnast who turned 16 or younger in the Olympic year made each of the last 10 Olympic teams.

What happens next?
Tokyo Olympic organizers will spend the rest of 2020 developing core countermeasures for the coronavirus before implementing them in 2021. Specifics haven’t been announced.

A few key other storylines: The IOC is asking for athlete feedback on a longtime Olympic Charter rule restricting athlete demonstrations and protests on the field of play. The NBA’s to-be-announced 2020-21 season schedule — specifically how late the season and playoffs run — could dictate whether its stars participate in the Olympics. Christian Coleman, the world’s fastest man since Usain Bolt‘s retirement, is provisionally suspended for missing drug tests and could receive a ban through the Tokyo Games.

OlympicTalk will continue to provide the latest coverage of Olympic preparations and the resumption of Olympic sports competitions, including broadcast schedules for events on NBC Sports and Olympic Channel.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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MORE: An Olympic dynasty encounters the coronavirus

Eliud Kipchoge breaks marathon world record in Berlin

Eliud Kipchoge Berlin Marathon
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Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge broke his own world record in winning the Berlin Marathon, clocking 2:01:09 to lower the previous record time of 2:01:39 he set in the German capital in 2018.

Kipchoge, 37 and a two-time Olympic champion, earned his 15th win in 17 career marathons to bolster his claim as the greatest runner in history over 26.2 miles.

His pacing was not ideal. Kipchoge slowed in the final miles, running 61:18 for the second half after going out in an unprecedented 59:51 for the first 13.1 miles. He still won by 4:49 over Kenyan Mark Korir.

“I was planning to go through it [the halfway mark] 60:50, 60:40,” Kipchoge said. “My legs were running actually very fast. I thought, let me just try to run two hours flat, but all in all, I am happy with the performance.

“We went too fast [in the first half]. It takes energy from the muscles. … There’s still more in my legs [to possibly lower the record again].”

MORE: Berlin Marathon Results

Ethiopian Tigist Assefa won the women’s race in 2:15:37, the third-fastest time in history for somebody who ran one prior marathon in 2:34:01. Only Brigid Kosgei (2:14:14 in Chicago in 2019) and Paula Radcliffe (2:15:25 in London in 2003) have gone faster.

American record holder Keira D’Amato, who entered as the top seed, was sixth in 2:21:48. D’Amato, who went nearly a decade between competitive races after college, owns the American record of 2:19:12 and now also the 10th-best time in U.S. history.

“Today wasn’t my best day ever, but it was the best I could do today,” she said in a text message, according to Race Results Weekly, adding that she briefly stopped and walked late in the race.

The last eight instances the men’s marathon world record has been broken, it has come on the pancake-flat roads of Berlin. It began in 2003, when Kenyan Paul Tergat became the first man to break 2:05.

The world record was 2:02:57 — set by Kenyan Dennis Kimetto in 2014 — until Kipchoge broke it for the first time four years ago.

The following year, Kipchoge became the first person to cover 26.2 miles in under two hours, clocking 1:59:40 in a non-record-eligible showcase rather than a race.

Kipchoge’s focus going forward is trying to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles in Paris in 2024. He also wants to win all six annual World Marathon Majors. He’s checked off four of them, only missing Boston (run in April) and New York City (run every November).

Kipchoge grew up on a farm in Kapsabet in Kenya’s Rift Valley, often hauling by bike several gallons of the family’s milk to sell at the local market. Raised by a nursery school teacher, he ran more than three miles to and from school. He saved for five months to get his first pair of running shoes.

At 18, he upset legends Hicham El Guerrouj and Kenenisa Bekele to win the 2003 World 5000m title on the track. He won Olympic 5000m medals (bronze in 2004 and silver in 2008), then moved to the marathon after failing to make the 2012 Olympic team on the track.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
11:30 p.m. Mali vs. Serbia Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA vs. South Korea Group A
2 a.m. France vs. Japan Group B
3:30 a.m. China vs. Puerto Rico Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Canada Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico vs. South Korea Group A
11:30 p.m. Belgium vs. China Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina Group A
2 a.m. Canada vs. Mali Group B
3:30 a.m. France vs. Serbia Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Japan Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. Quarterfinal
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
4 a.m. Quarterfinal
6:30 a.m. Quarterfinal
Fri., Sept. 30 3 .m. Semifinal
5:30 a.m. Semifinal
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final