U.S. men's basketball team continues to struggle, dropping its Olympic opener

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
United States coach Gregg Popovich, left, and forward Kevin Durant (7) look on from the side line during their loss to France in a men's basketball preliminary round game at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, July 25, 2021, in Saitama, Japan. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

For the first time since 2004, the U.S. men’s basketball team has lost in the Olympics. And the Americans’ quest for a fourth consecutive gold medal is already in serious trouble.

France – the team that knocked the Americans out of contention in the Basketball World Cup two years ago – dealt the U.S. a major blow once again. Evan Fournier’s 3-pointer with just under a minute left put France ahead to stay in what became a 83-76 win over the Americans on Sunday in the opening game for both teams at the Tokyo Olympics.

The U.S. had won 25 consecutive Olympic games, last losing at the Athens Games 17 years ago and settling for a bronze medal there.

Fournier had 28 points for France, while Rudy Gobert scored 14 and Nando de Colo had 13. Jrue Holiday had 18 points for the U.S., Bam Adebayo had 12, Damian Lillard 11 and Kevin Durant had 10 for the Americans – who are just 2-3 in their games this summer, the first four of them exhibitions in Las Vegas that weren’t supposed to mean much.

The Olympics, they were supposed to be different.

They weren’t. Going back to the World Cup in China two years ago, the Americans are 3-5 in their last eight games with NBA players in the lineup.

The loss doesn’t knock the U.S. out of medal contention, but it essentially eliminates the margin for error. The Americans play Iran on Wednesday and then the Czech Republic on Saturday in its final two Group A games; win both of those, and the U.S. will be in the quarterfinals. Lose another one, and the Americans might not even finish in the top eight of this 12-team tournament.

OTHER OLYMPIC NOTES

DeChambeau, Rahm out after positive COVID tests: Known for their towering drives, Bryson DeChambeau and Jon Rahm won't make it to the tee box at the Olympics.

The past two U.S. Open champions became the best-known athletes to drop out of the Tokyo Games on Sunday after testing positive for COVID-19.

DeChambeau's positive came before he left the United States for Tokyo. The musclebound American famous for his game-changing swing speed will replaced by Patrick Reed.

Rahm was flagged for COVID-19 for the second time in two months — he had a six-shot lead at the Memorial in early June when he was forced to withdraw because of a positive test. The Spaniard said he had gotten his final vaccine shot fewer than 14 days before that positive.

Both players recently became first-time major champions. DeChambeau won the U.S. Open in 2020 at Winged Foot last fall, and Rahm took this year's title at Torrey Pines in June, two weeks after the positive test at Muirfield Village.

Reed was scheduled to undergo testing Sunday and Monday to clear himself to compete in Tokyo. The the first round of the men’s tournament at the Kasumigaseki Country Club is set for Thursday. He will join Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele on the four-man U.S team.

Spain said it would not seek to replace Rahm, leaving Adri Arnaus as its only player in the men’s tournament, which starts Thursday at Kasumigaseki Country Club outside of Tokyo.

U.S. swimmers excel: The powerhouse Americans collected six medals — including a gold for Chase Kalisz in the 400-meter individual medley — in the first session of finals. During Phelps’ record-setting career that spanned five Games, the U.S. never won that many medals in the first batch of events.

“A pretty good start for the U.S.,” said Kieran Smith, who in his first major international meet snagged a bronze in the men’s 400 freestyle. “We executed today. I’m really proud of us.”

Kalisz got things going with the country’s first medal in any sport, with teammate Jay Litherland making it a 1-2 finish for the U.S. by rallying on the freestyle leg to claim silver. Emma Weyant and Hali Flickinger took silver and bronze in the 400 IM, and the women’s 4x100 freestyle relay team finished third.

In the 400 free, 18-year-old Ahmed Hafnaoui of Tunisia beat a field of faster and older swimmers. He finished in 3 minutes, 43.26 seconds, punctuating his victory with loud yelling that echoed in the mostly empty 15,000-seat arena.

U.S. gymnasts struggle: Simone Biles and the U.S. women's gymnastics team trailed the Russians after qualifying in the team event, the first time in a decade they've failed to finish atop the standings during any portion of a major international event.

Biles led the field in a bid for her fifth gold medal, but the U.S. team has work to do to repeat as Olympic champions. The ROC had a score of 171.629 through the first three subdivisions at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre, ahead of the second-place Americans' 170.562.

Biles was the best in the gym but shaky by her standards. She stepped all the way off the mat following a tumbling pass on her floor exercise, then basically did the same on vault. She responded with a solid set on uneven bars, but a spectacular beam routine ended with her taking three major steps backward following her dismount.

Jordan Chiles had a major mistake on bars and a fall on beam. Sunisa Lee overcame a so-so performance on floor to surge into second behind Biles with an electric bar routine.

The team final is scheduled for Tuesday night.

Osaka rolls: Naomi Osaka got back on the court — and back in front of reporters' microphones — for the first time since withdrawing from the French Open in May to take a mental health break.

The Japanese superstar who lit the Olympic cauldron defeated 52nd-ranked Zheng Saisai of China 6-1, 6-4 in her opening match.

Osaka revealed in May that she has dealt with depression and stopped talking with reporters, saying the experience gave her “huge waves of anxiety.”

She said she was “happy” that journalists were asking her questions, then added: “I feel a little bit out of my body right now.”

“More than anything else I'm just focused on playing tennis," she added.

Fighting family: Japanese siblings Hifumi and Uta Abe each won gold medals in judo, giving the host country three golds in its beloved homegrown martial art.

Hifumi triumphed in the men’s 66-kilogram category shortly after Uta won the women’s 52-kilogram division at the Budokan.

Hifumi won all four of hits bouts Sunday, including over Georgia's Vazha Margvelashvili by ippon in the final. Uta beat Amandine Buchard of France to win her own first Olympic gold.

American takes gold in taekwondo: Anastasija Zolotic won the United States’ first gold medal in women’s taekwondo by beating Russian athlete Tatiana Minina 25-17 to claim the featherweight division title.

The 18-year-old Zolotic lets out a primal scream as she pulls on her helmet before each round. The Largo, Florida, native has been telling friends and family since early childhood that she would be an Olympic champion and she needed only one trip to the Games to make it happen.

Zolotic was only the fourth American to reach an Olympic taekwondo final and only the second woman. Steven Lopez won the U.S. team’s only two previous Olympic golds in taekwondo.

Kiefer wins gold for USA in fencing: Lee Kiefer has earned the third gold medal for the United States at the Tokyo Olympics by beating defending champion Inna Deriglazova of Russia 15-13 in the women’s foil final.

Kiefer is a four-time NCAA champion at Notre Dame. She ripped off her mask after the final point and shouted “Oh my God!” She placed fifth at the 2012 London Games and was 10th at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

It’s the third Olympic gold for the U.S. fencing team. Mariel Zagunis won in saber at the 2004 and 2008 Games.

Kiefer is also a medical student at the University of Kentucky.

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

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.

Brady ousted: U.S. tennis player Jennifer Brady, who grew up in central Pennsylvania, was ousted from the women's singles tennis competition.

Camila Giorgi of Italy beat Brady, who was this year’s Australian Open finalist, 6-3, 6-2. Brady's father graduated from Delone Catholic High School and was a standout football player for the Squires. Several of Brady's cousins were also star athletes at Delone.