They would have talked about this night in Japan for generations. Imagine: the country’s first men’s basketball game at an Olympics in 45 years, in an arena just north of Tokyo that would have been filled with thousands of flag-waving fans, against the reigning World Cup champions.
The pandemic took away Japan’s chance at having the desired scene.
Spain took away Japan’s chance of having the desired outcome.
Ricky Rubio scored 20 points, and a 19-0 run in the second quarter turned out to be the difference as Spain went on to top Japan 88-77 Monday night in the opening game of the Tokyo Olympics for both teams.
Victor Claver made all six of his shots and scored 13 points for Spain, the four-time Olympic medalists – three silver, one bronze.
Former Gonzaga standout Rui Hachimura scored 20 points and Yuta Watanabe added 19 for Japan, which spent some of its pregame meeting time talking to each other about how the country would be watching from places other than the arena.
“We actually played here like two years ago, an exhibition game or something,” Hachimura said. “A lot of people came, we were looking forward to it, but it is what it is. Can’t do anything about it, and everybody is watching on TV.”
Australia’s Ariarne Titmus lived up to the billing of her nickname the “Terminator” when she chased down Katie Ledecky in the women’s 400-meter freestyle to win one of the most anticipated races of the Summer Games.
Titmus trailed by nearly a full body-length at the halfway mark of the eight-lap race before erasing the gap and finishing in 3 minutes, 56.69 seconds. It was the second-fastest time in history, surpassed only by Ledecky’s world record of 3:56.46 from the 2016 Rio Games.
• Caeleb Dressel started his quest for six gold medals by leading the U.S. to victory in the men’s 4x100 free relay.
Kelsey Stewart homered leading off the seventh inning to lead the U.S. to a 2-1 victory against Japan to win the group stage and give it the right to bat last in the gold medal game Tuesday in a rematch.
Nikita Nagornyy nailed his floor routine with the entire gym watching, and the Russian men completed their long climb back to the top of the gymnastics world by edging Japan and China in the team final.
It’s the first Olympic title for the Russians since the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Nagornyy needed a score of 14.564 to deliver gold, and the reigning world champion came through with a 14.600.
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