Losses in track, wins on field: Another rocky day for USA

Aug 4, 2021, 7:02 PM | Updated: Aug 5, 2021, 4:17 pm

TOKYO (AP) — A five-minute burst of action near the backstretch of the Olympic track served up the perfect snapshot of what is going right, and all that is going wrong, for the U.S. track and field team in Tokyo.

At one moment in the pole vault pit Thursday night, Katie Nageotte cleared 4.90 meters (16 feet, 1 inch) and went running up to the stands to celebrate a gold medal that had looked like a lost cause only an hour earlier.

At the next, just as the 400-meter sprinters approached the halfway point, American champion Michael Norman was steaming so far ahead of the competition, it became clear he could not sustain the pace.

He didn’t. Norman finished fifth. The U.S. men’s sprinters, once the dominant power across the global track game, left the stadium without having won a single gold medal over the first seven days of the nine-day meet.

But Nageotte’s gold, won in a tense back-and-forth with Russian athlete Anzhelika Sidorova, was the third victory in the field for the U.S., two of which have been won by women.

With only two days left at Olympic Stadium, what started as anomaly can now be considered a trend:

The U.S. women are doing well.

The U.S. men are not.

The U.S. overall is doing well in field events.

It is struggling overall on the track.

Other instances that played out Thursday for the Americans:

— Grant Holloway, the defending world champion who came .01 seconds short of the world record earlier this summer in the 110-meter hurdles, came .05 short of Jamaica’s Hansle Parchment, who won in 13.09. It was Jamaica’s third Olympic gold medal of the post-Usain Bolt era.

— Will Claye, considered as good a bet as any to win with the defending champion, Christian Taylor, on the sideline, finished fourth in triple jump. The winner: Pedro Pichardo of Portugal.

Other winners on a day where eight gold medals were awarded included Nafissatou Thiam of Belgium (heptathlon) and Damian Warner of Canada (decathlon).

Also, Massimo Stano won the 20-kilometer race walk, moved to Sapporo to try to beat the Tokyo heat, to give Italy its third gold medal in track.

The U.S. closed Thursday with five — and 20 medals overall, which is 13 more than anyone else — and there have been some exceptions to the trends.

Athing Mu and Sydney McLaughlin lived up to their hype to capture the country’s only two golds from the track. And Ryan Crouser gutted out an emotion-drenched victory to defend his Olympic shot put title.

Very few would’ve figured Crouser’s win Thursday would be the first in any event for the men, who make up about half of the deepest team in the world.

Norman’s fifth-place finish capped a dreary day of running for the red, white and blue.

He is something of a celebrity in Japan because his mother was born here and set a national middle-school record in the 100 meters. He was supposed to be part of a showdown with Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas, but Gardiner won this easily, in a time of 43.85 seconds, to add to his title from the world championships two years ago in Qatar.

Much earlier in the day came a rite of passage for the U.S. at the Olympics: A debacle in the men’s 4×100 relay.

This time, it was Fred Kerley and Ronnie Baker who got tangled up in an exchange, costing them precious time and leaving the U.S. not with a “DQ,” but with an unsightly “6” by its name. Sixth place means they won’t get to run for the first relay gold since Bolt left the scene.

One good chance — maybe the best one left — for the men’s sprinters might be in the 4×400 relay. The U.S. has won that event at seven of the last nine Olympics.

Michael Cherry is expected to be part of that team. The 26-year-old Cherry, who finished a spot ahead of Norman in the 400, tried to put a positive spin on things. It is, he insisted, a young team heading into the unknown. According to USA Track and Field, 81 of the 133 members of the team are at their first Games.

“We’ve got college kids, we’ve got guys who just got out of college,” Cherry said. “So we’re a pretty young team. We’re going to dominate soon. Just everybody’s got to grow up and adjust.”

Nageotte is 30, but fairly new to the major international stage. She’s now on a list with Jenn Suhr and Stacy Dragila as American Olympic champions in pole vault.

It was so close to not happening.

Nageotte, who battled COVID-19 earlier in the year only to return and go viral when she cleared a personal best (4.95) to win the Olympic trials, said she felt tightness in her leg during warmups.

She opened her evening with two straight misses at the first height, 4.5 meters.

“I know my family got up very early to watch and I would have felt very bad if I’d made them get up at 6 in the morning to watch me no-height,” she said. “So that was definitely going through my head.”

Facing elimination, she cleared the height on the third try and jumped for joy.

Much later, after she cleared 4.9 and Sidorova missed, Nageotte ran into the stands for hugs, and shared congratulations with her competitors on the track. Then, she taped up the pole, had the bar set at 5.01 and geared up for a chance at a new U.S. record.

She took off down the runway but pulled up short. She could not focus, given what she’d just been through.

“The emotion of winning,” she explained.

At this Olympic track meet, the U.S. is looking in lots of different places to find it.


More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier compete in the pairs short program at the U.S. figure skating cha...
Associated Press

World champs Knierim, Frazier dazzle in Day 1 at nationals

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — They held their on-ice embrace a little longer this time, kneeling in an end pose moments after a near-flawless short program. Overwhelming favorite and reigning world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier scored a personal-best 81.96 on Thursday for a commanding lead in the first day of the U.S. Figure […]
17 hours ago
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James smiles during the second half of an NBA basketball game aga...
Associated Press

LeBron, Giannis chosen as captains for NBA All-Star Game

LeBron James is closing in on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s NBA career scoring record. And now, he has caught Abdul-Jabbar on another page of the All-Star record book. James was announced Thursday as an NBA All-Star for the 19th time, the Los Angeles Lakers’ star tying Abdul-Jabbar for the most selections in league history. James — the […]
17 hours ago
Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy pushes a cameraman away while walking off the field after a...
Associated Press

Quinn returning to lead defense as Cowboys shuffle coaches

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — A shuffling of the coaching staff for the Dallas Cowboys won’t include defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who is returning after another year of receiving interest from teams seeking head coaches. Coach Mike McCarthy said the club’s decision not to renew the contracts of six members of his staff, including one with […]
17 hours ago
The Meyer Shank Racing team, from left, Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, Michael Shank, Colin Bra...
Associated Press

Meyer Shank Racing aims for 2nd consecutive Rolex 24 victory

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Michael Shank bookended last year’s sports car season by winning the most prestigious endurance race in North America and then the IMSA championship. In between, he expanded his IndyCar program and followed a scrupulous plan to build Meyer Shank Racing into an elite motorsports organization. Now he’s set to lead […]
17 hours ago
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan speaks at a news conference before an NFL football pra...
Associated Press

Final 4 NFL teams all feature offensive-minded head coaches

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Chris Foerster had spent nearly two decades as an assistant in the NFL when he first crossed paths with Kyle Shanahan long before he became one of the NFL’s most-accomplished play-callers. Shanahan was in his third year as an offensive coordinator in the NFL when Foerster joined head coach Mike […]
2 days ago
FILE - Car owner Bryan Herta in the pit area during practice for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at ...
Associated Press

Herta wants to run Wickens in next year’s Indianapolis 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Bryan Herta wants to enter Robert Wickens in the Indianapolis 500 as early as 2024 — a year longer than preferred as work continues on the hand controls needed for the paralyzed driver. Wickens suffered a spinal cord injury in a crash at Pocono Raceway in his 2018 IndyCar rookie […]
2 days ago
Losses in track, wins on field: Another rocky day for USA