Olympics Latest: Pope Francis offers Olympic blessing

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The Latest on the Tokyo Olympics, which are taking place under heavy restrictions after a year’s delay because of the coronavirus pandemic:


Pope Francis has offered his blessing for the Tokyo Olympic Games from Vatican City.

Francis told the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the traditional papal blessing that “in this period of pandemic, these Games are a sign of hope, a sign of universal brotherhood and of a healthy competitive spirit.”

He offered his blessing “to the organizers, the athletes and all those who are collaborating for this great celebration of sport.”



— Powerhouse U.S. swim team shines with 6 medals

— U.S. women's gymnastics team off to a rocky start

Japanese skateboarder wins gold and surfers ride modest waves as new sports debut

— Iranian refugee fails in gold medal taekwondo bid, could still win bronze



Uta Abe has won Japan’s second judo gold medal at its home Olympics, beating France’s Amandine Buchard by ippon in the women’s 52-kilogram final at the Budokan.

Abe’s gold-medal victory follows Naohisa Takato’s on Saturday. She also hopes to be joined by her older brother, Hifumi, who fights for gold in the men’s 66-kilogram division later Sunday night.

The 21-year-old Uta Abe is one of the biggest stars in Japan’s homegrown martial art, and this Olympic victory will only increase her stature in the sport. She has won two world championships, including the 2019 title at the Budokan.

Uta qualified for the Tokyo Games over a year ago, while Hifumi had to get through a punishing winner-take-all qualifier against Japanese teammate Joshiro Maruyama last December.

Italy’s Odette Giuffrida and Britain’s Chelsie Giles won the bronze medals at women’s 52 kg.


Costa Rican gymnast Luciana Alvarado ended her floor routine in Olympic qualifying on one knee, her head back and her right fist thrust straight into the air.

The 18-year-old said the closing of her routine was choreographed in homage to the Black Lives Matter movement that spread around the world after George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis last summer. Alvarado said Friday after she performed the same move at training that she hoped to highlight the importance of equal rights on a global stage, and champion treating all with respect and dignity.

“Because we’re all the same,” she said, “and we’re all beautiful and amazing.”

The International Olympic Committee has implemented rules to try to limit protest actions by athletes. But Alvarado’s gesture, incorporated into her artistic routine, is unlikely to trigger repercussions.

Sunday’s routine will be her only turn on the Olympic stage: Alvarado scored a 12.166 on the floor and will not qualify to move forward to finals.


Johnny Hooper has returned to his mother’s homeland for his Olympic debut and had one of the biggest U.S. goals in a 15-13 victory over Japan.

The win came on the first day of the men’s water polo tournament at the Tokyo Games.

Hooper scored from deep with the U.S. clinging to a one-goal lead in the final minute to help close out the win.

Hooper’s mother was born in Kumakura and his grandmother lives in Japan. But they weren’t able to watch the game in person because of the coronavirus pandemic.


Defending gold medalist China has lost its opening match of the women’s volleyball tournament for the second straight Olympics.

Turkey jumped out quickly and won the match in Pool B 25-21, 25-14, 25-14.

The Turkish women are appearing in the Olympics for the second time ever, having failed to make it out of pool play in their other appearance in London in 2012. They sprinted out to celebrate as a team after completing the upset.

The Chinese are once again led by 2016 MVP Zhu Ting and coach Lang Ping. They are following a similar pattern to five years ago when they lost their opening match to the Netherlands and two others in pool play before finding a groove in the knockout round.



Li Fabin of China has added Olympic gold to his world title in the men’s 61-kilogram weightlifting category.

Li lifted a total 313 kilograms and was assured of victory when Eko Yuli Irawan of Indonesia failed twice on what would have been a world record 177kg clean and jerk. Li missed his own record shot at 178kg.

He earlier added a quirky touch by standing on one leg during his 166kg clean and jerk in a rarely-seen style known as the flamingo stance.

Irawan won the silver with a total 302kg. Igor Son of Kazakhstan lifted a total 294kg for bronze.



Cyclist Anna Kiesenhofer of Austria pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the history of the Olympic road race, making an early breakaway stick as the powerhouse Dutch team gave chase to win the gold at the Tokyo Games on Sunday.

The heavily favored Dutch team, featuring the past two Olympic champions, nearly brought back Kiesenhofer on the final circuits at Fuji International Speedway. But the time difference proved too much and they were left racing for silver and bronze.

Annemiek van Vleuten bounced back from an early crash to escape a reduced pack in the closing kilometers to salvage a silver for the Netherlands. Elisa Longo Borghini of Italy won a sprint for the bronze medal.


The U.S. women’s gymnastics team’s bid for a third straight Olympic title is off to a rocky start.

The four-woman group led by Olympic champion Simone Biles finished second to Russia during qualifying.

That’s the first time the Americans have failed to lead at the end of any major event in more than a decade.

Biles topped the all-round with a total of 57.731 points but lacked her usual precision. The 24-year-old made significant mistakes on three events. Russia’s team score of 171.629 was more than a full point ahead of the U.S., though both teams will start from scratch in the finals.



A contingent led by An San has captured South Korea’s ninth straight women’s archery team gold medal at the Tokyo Games.

The country hasn’t lost since the women’s team event was added to the Olympic program at the 1988 Seoul Games.

An is fresh off a win in the Olympic debut of the mixed team competition. She combined with Kang Chae Young and Jang Minhee to beat the Russian Olympic Committee by a final score of 6-0 in tricky wind conditions at Yumenoshima Park Archery Field.

Jang secured the win with a “9” on her final arrow. The Russian Olympic Committee was represented by Svetlana Gomboeva, Elena Osipova and Ksenia Perova. Gomboeva suffered a scare in the ranking round Friday, when she collapsed due to the extreme heat.

The bronze medal went to Germany after a 5-1 win over Belarus.


Iranian refugee Kimia Alizadeh has fallen short in her bid for a historic taekwondo gold medal, losing in the semifinals after three consecutive stirring victories in the women’s 57-kilogram division.

Alizadeh lost 10-3 to Russian Tatiana Minina, endangering Alizadeh’s bid to win the Refugee Olympic Team’s first-ever medal. Alizadeh still could win bronze in the evening session at the Makuhari Messe convention center.

Alizadeh also won bronze as a teenager in Rio de Janeiro, claiming the first Olympic medal for an Iranian woman. She defected from Iran to Germany early last year, citing institutional sexism and disappointment at being used as a propaganda tool.

Alizadeh seemed to be on a charmed run in Tokyo: She beat fellow Iranian Nahid Kiyani Chandeh in her opening bout before shocking Britain’s two-time Olympic champion, Jade Jones. Alizadeh knocked off China’s Zhou Lijun to reach her first Olympic semifinal, but she fought tentatively and struggled to score on Minina, a three-time European champion.


Spanish golfer Jon Rahm has tested positive for COVID-19 for the second time in two months and been knocked out of the Olympics only a few hours after American golfer Bryson DeChambeau met the same fate.

The back-to-back coronavirus shockers came on the second full day of action in Tokyo and put a damper on the golf tournament. The sport is scheduled to begin Thursday and will be without the last two U.S. Open champions.

DeChambeau won in 2020 at Winged Foot. Rahm took the title last month at Torrey Pines in a comeback of sorts. He was only two weeks removed from building a six-shot lead after the third round of the Memorial only to be told he had tested positive for COVID-19 and had to withdraw.


A volunteer has collapsed during the medal ceremony at Asaka Shooting Range at the Tokyo Olympics.

The woman went down shortly after the Star Spangled Banner played for 10-meter air rifle gold medalist William Shaner. He and the other medalists were posing for pictures.

The Olympic music kept playing as staff and medical personnel raced to the woman’s side. One volunteer waved papers to cool her off and she was placed on a stretcher after a few minutes.

Paramedics arrived at the venue’s medical center with a stretcher, but left after a few minutes as workers inside turned the woman on her side and talked to her.

Intense heat and humidity have taken a toll already during the Tokyo Olympics, particularly at outside venues. The Asaka Shooting Range is air conditioned, but still muggy inside.


With tropical weather forecast to approach Tokyo within days, Olympics organizers say they’re talking with individual sports about changing event programs.

Tokyo Olympics sports director Mikako Kotani says they’re “closely discussing” issues around the severe weather forecast.

Rowing already cleared its schedule for Monday and Tuesday, moving some events forward to the weekend and others back to Wednesday.

Kotani says in translated comments if other sports governing bodies “propose to us that we should change the schedule in advance then we will consider that option.”

Kotani says organizers are getting minute-by-minute updates from their weather information center.

Athletes in some sports are currently dealing with high temperatures and humidity.


Tokyo Olympic organizers say there have been early transport problems getting athletes to their venues on time.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams acknowledged: “There are always teething problems and this is a very serious (one).”

Officials from the IOC and Tokyo’s local organizing committee were asked Sunday about athletes taking a taxi to their training site because of a late bus.

Tokyo spokesman Masa Takaya they are “aware that transport is experiencing some issues including delays” and that buses should always be on standby to meet demand.

Takaya says: “We are trying to do everything we can.”



William Shaner has won gold men’s 10-meter air rifle, adding to the United States’ second-day haul at the Tokyo Olympics.

The Americans were shut out on the first day, but won six medals in swimming on Day 2.

The 20-year-old Shaner qualified third and was steady in the finals at his first Olympics, finishing with an Olympic-record 251.6 points. Sheng Lihao, a Chinese 16-year-old with little international experience, took silver and countryman Yang Haoran earned bronze.

Shaner was one of the top youth shooters in the country and has already had a decorated career at the University of Kentucky, finishing second at the NCAA individual championships and team gold in consecutive seasons. He also was a first-team All-American as a freshman.



China has captured the first diving gold medal of the Tokyo Olympics.

Shi Tingmao and Wang Han romped to victory in the women’s 3-meter synchronized springboard event with 326.40 points, starting what is expected to be another dominating performance by Chinese divers at these games. They have won 37 of 48 gold medals at the last seven Olympics.

Jennifer Abel and Melissa Citrini-Beaulieu of Canada took the silver at 300.78. The bronze went to Germany’s Lena Hentschel and Tina Punzel with 284.97.

The Chinese women have not lost an Olympic diving event since 2004. This is their fifth straight victory in the synchronized springboard, their only loss coming when the event debuted at the 2000 Sydney Games.

Shi won her second straight gold in the synchro. She teamed with Wu Minxia to capture gold in Rio de Janeiro five years ago.

The United States duo of Alison Gibson and Krysta Palmer finished last in the eight-team field.


The IOC is urging Olympic medalists to curb their hugs and keep masks on while on the podium.

Medalists in some swimming events Sunday morning were hugging, sharing the podium top step for photographs and taking their masks off for a time.

Those are potential breaches of rules protecting the Olympics from COVID-19 infections.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams says “we feel for the athletes (but) there are things that unfortunately we have had to make stricter.”

Adams adds “we would urge and ask everyone to obey the rules.”

Tokyo organizers have reported 127 games-related COVID-19 cases, including 14 athletes, in Japan this month.


Olympic rowing faces more delays and schedule changes as weather forecasts predict high winds and strong gusts at the Sea Forest Waterway.

Officials say the expected weather could create unrowable conditions and have rescheduled several events to Wednesday or later. A similar forecast for Monday had forced the Games to move that day’s events to Sunday.

Delayed events include the finals for the men’s and women’s four. They will now race on Wednesday. The semifinals for men’s and women’s single sculls have been moved from Wednesday to Thursday.


Naomi Osaka made quick work of her first match in nearly two months.

The Japanese superstar who lit the Olympic cauldron eased past 52nd-ranked Zheng Saisai of China 6-1, 6-4 in the first round of the tennis tournament at the Tokyo Games.

It was Osaka’s first match since she withdrew from the French Open and sat out Wimbledon to take a mental health break while revealing she has dealt with depression.

Osaka’s match was originally scheduled to open the tournament on Saturday but then was moved to Sunday before her starring role in Friday’s opening ceremony.



Japan’s Yuto Horigome has won the first-ever skateboarding competition at the Olympic Games, taking gold in men’s street in the city where he learned to skate as a kid and where his sport is often frowned upon.

The first ever skateboarding silver went to Brazilian Kelvin Hoefler, who used to sleep with his board when he fell in love with skating as a kid.

American skater Jagger Eaton took bronze, the Arizonan adapting best among the Americans to the heat at the Ariake Urban Sports Park in Tokyo.

One of skateboarding’s biggest stars, Nyjah Huston from the U.S., fell repeatedly trying to land tricks and placed 7th in the eight-man final.


— More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/olympic-games and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports