'I should have quit way before Tokyo': Simone Biles on the Olympics, Larry Nassar and 'the twisties'
US gymnastics champion Simone Biles says she should have “quit way before” the Tokyo Games.
And so it begins, the world’s great quadrennial sports carnival, a fortnight of leaping, running, throwing, lifting, swimming, climbing, paddling and prancing about, making cool, swirly patterns with ribbons.
And if you, locked-down couch potato, are looking to spend a long fortnight watching Aussies go for gold in sports normally consigned to the dustbin of public apathy – hello, 10m air pistol! – and others which rank highly among a people who hug the coast of the world’s biggest island, here’s the best of what’s on when.
Day 1 – Friday 23 July
By the time we check out Tokyo’s take on an Olympic Opening Ceremony – which, like Tokyo itself, promises to be funky, wacky, hip, cool, technologically-advanced and extremely polite – a host of sports will have contested early rounds.
Our softballers kick off the Games on Wednesday 21 July (at 10am) when they play Japan of all countries. Later that night the Matildas play New Zealand (of all countries) in women’s football (9:30pm).
Thursday 22 July the Olyroos play Argentina (8:30pm) in men’s football. And then, throughout ‘day one proper’, if you will, there is archery, equestrian, rowing and shooting before the welcome party kicks off at 9pm.
Day 2 – Saturday 24 July
Early doors and Australia take on Japan in men’s hockey (10:30am) and Canada in softball (11am) before the men’s cycling road race (12:00pm) with Australia’s Richie Porte, 36, a medal show when the peloton roars into Fuji International Speedway.
There’s a heap of heats in the swimming, the first sight of 3 x 3 basketball and gold medals decided in archery, fencing and judo. At 6:30pm Australia plays Sweden in women’s football.
Day 3 – Sunday 25 July
At 11am switch between Australia versus USA in softball and Australia vs Spain in women’s hockey. At 11:30am, 20-year-old Brendon Smith could find himself in the final of the 400m medley with Japanese hero Daiya Seto.
Straight after, it’s one of the blue riband events of the pool, the men’s 400m freestyle final (11:52am). The three best 400m freestyle times of 2021 are owned Australians Elijah Winnington (3:42.65), Jack Alan McLoughlin (3:43.27) and Mack Horton (3:43.92). So you’d say we’re a show.
At 2pm it’s the women’s road race, with Grace Brown a medal chance. The afternoon will see gold decided in synchronised diving (4pm) and archery (5:40pm) before Australia takes on Nigeria in men’s basketball (6:20pm).
See out your evening with women’s individual foil (9:45pm) and men’s individual épée (10:15pm), if that is, um, your thing.
Day 4 – Monday 26 July
Titmus vs Ledecky
Crack into your cornflakes with men’s triathlon gold (7:30am) prior to the final of the women’s 100m butterfly (11:30am), which should feature Emma McKeown, whose best time of 2021 is just .33 of a second outside the mark set by 18-year-old American Torri Huske. At 12:20pm it’s the women’s 400m freestyle final with Ariarne Titmus likely to take on US superstar Katie Ledecky.
Aussies on show include men’s rugby sevens versus Argentina (11:30am), Hockeyroos versus China (1:15pm) and the women’s waterpolo team playing Netherlands (8:40pm).
Stay up for the super-human feats of strength and agility in men’s artistic team all around gymnastics (8pm) before rounding out your Monday night with the fast-twitching hand-eye heroics of mixed doubles table tennis (10pm).
Day 5 – Tuesday 27 July
Sam Kerr vs USA
Women’s triathlon gold kicks off at 7:30am before the women’s mountain bike cross country (4pm). Four gold medals will be decided in the pool, the highlight for Australians likely to be 58 seconds of facing-upwards, heading backwards, splash-and-dash pool action, when 19-year-old Aussie world-record holder Kaylee McKeown leaps into the final of the women’s 100m backstroke (11:51am).
For men’s rugby sevens fans a highlight will be Australia vs New Zealand (11:30am), while the softball gold medal match begins at 9pm.
Yet the prime-time match-of-the-day is Australia versus USA in women’s football (6pm). Sam Kerr is our best bet for a goal or three while the Americans, multiple World Cup and Olympic champions, have several including the brilliant Megan Rapinoe.
Day 6 – Wednesday 28 July
Backwards splash n dash
Men’s and women’s quadruple sculls will go for gold (from 10:18am), as will men and women in 3×3 basketball (from 10:55pm). Men and women will contest the individual time trial of road cycling.
Fiji and New Zealand (or, just maybe, Australia) are expected to contest the men’s rugby sevens final (7pm). And in the pool there’ll be gold medals awarded in women’s 200m freestyle, men’s 200m butterfly, women’s 200m individual medley, women’s 1500m freestyle and men’s 4 x 200m freestyle.
Day 7 – Thursday 29 July
Fire in the pool
Big day of pool action with gold medals decided in women’s 200m butterfly, women’s 4 x 200m freestyle relay, men’s 100m freestyle, men’s 800m freestyle and men’s 200m backstroke.
Our women’s rugby sevens team kicks off their campaign against China (6:30pm) while there’s gold medals on offer in fencing, shooting, rowing and women’s all-round artistic gymnastics.
Day 8 – Friday 30 July
Kenya do it
Men and women contest finals in BMX racing, with Saya Sakakibara and Lauren Reynolds the Aussie chances in the women’s race (12:50pm), while Anthony Dean is our hope in the men’s (12:40pm). Throughout the day they’ll go for gold in rowing, swimming, judo and men’s kayak.
And to round out your Friday night, set aside an hour to see which Kenyan or Ethiopian wins the men’s 10,000m (9:30pm).
Day 9 – Saturday 31 July
Swimming over, running stars
In the pool there’s gold in men’s 100m butterfly (11:30am), women’s 800m freestyle, and mixed 4 x 100m medley (12:43pm). The women’s 200m backstroke (11:37am) will see the world record holder for the 100m, Kaylee McKeown of Australia, take on the world record holder for the 200m, Regan Smith of the USA.
Elsewhere, Australia takes on Germany in men’s basketball (6:20pm), while our Hockeyroos play Argentina (12:45pm).
If the rugby gods are kind, Australia (which is due some love) will contest and gold in the women’s rugby sevens final (7pm). Other notable golden offerings include the best men’s archer (5:45pm), the best men’s windsurfer (4:33pm) and best men’s trampoline gymnast. Athletics kicks off with the men’s discus final (9:15pm) and the women’s 100m final (10:50pm).
Day 10 – Sunday 1 August
World’s fastest-man action
The Olympic champion of men’s golf will be decided today, as will the men’s and women’s champion of one-person dinghy sailing. The women’s shot put final is at 11:35am. The men’s high-jump final, featuring our own Commonwealth champion Brandon Starc starts at 8:10pm. And for fans of women’s triple jump, it all comes down to this at 9:20pm.
All of which, however, of course, is entrée for perhaps the Olympics’ greatest, certainly most famous, race – the men’s 100m sprint.
There will be a host of Americans, of course, with the “world’s fastest ever African”, Akani Simbine of South Africa, in the mix as well. And for Australia? Rohan Browning has run 9.95 with the wind. He’ll need more than wind to beat these guys. But just making the final would be, cue your best Darrell Eastlake, huuuuuge. It starts at 10:50pm. And will be over at 10:50pm, also.
Day 11 – Monday 2 August
Gold rings and things
Gymnastics gold for men’s rings (6pm), men’s vault (7:54pm) and women’s floor exercise (7pm). The men’s long-jump final is at 11:20am, the women’s 100m hurdles final is at 12:50pm, while the evening highlights in track and field are women’s discuss (9pm), men’s 3000m steeplechase (10:15pm) and women’s 5000m (10:40pm).
Australia will go for gold in the equestrian (from 6pm), play Puerto Rico in women’s basketball (10pm) and take on Kazakhstan in men’s water polo at 8:50pm. Greco-Roman wrestlers will be doing their thing all day also.
Day 12 – Tuesday 3 August
Running, jumping, something
Final of the women’s long jump (11:50am) and men’s 400m hurdles (1:20pm) are the highlights of the first session of athletics before men’s pole vault (8:20pm), women’s hammer throw (9:35pm), women’s 800m (10:25pm) and women’s 200m (10:50pm) round out the evening.
Gold will be decided across several weight divisions in boxing and disciplines in canoeing. There are semi-finals in men’s hockey (at 11:30am and 8pm), quarter finals in men’s volleyball (all day) and gold in the men’s one-person dinghy (heavyweight) Finn medal race, whatever that is, sailing away at 3:33pm.
Day 13 – Wednesday 4 August
It’s all happening
At 7:30am women will swim in open water for 10km. The duet free routine for artistic (nee ‘synchronised’) swimming final begins at 8:30pm, while gold will be decided at the track for women’s 400m hurdles (12:30pm), women’s 3000m steeplechase (9pm), men’s hammer throw (9:15pm), men’s 800m (10:05pm) and men’s 200m (10:55pm).
All day there’s boxing, canoeing, cycling, skateboarding, quarter finals of women’s basketball and round one of women’s golf, among other things in a huge day of Olympic sports action.
Day 14 – Thursday 5 August
All the night moves
At 7:30am men will swim for 10km in open water and at 5:30pm there’s 20km of walking for men. There are semi-finals in basketball, baseball and beach volleyball. There’s gold in men’s park skateboarding (12:30pm), men’s sport climbing (10:10pm) and men’s hockey (8pm).
There’s a whole heap of boxing, wrestling, karate and kayaking. Highlights at the track are finals in women’s pole vault and men’s 400m.
Day 15 – Friday 6 August
That javelin girl
At 6:30am men will walk 50km. At 5:30pm women will walk 20km. And then human beings will run very fast into the night, with gold in men’s 5000m (9pm), women’s 400m (9:35pm), women’s 1500m (9:50pm), women’s 4 x 100m relay (10:30pm) and men’s 4 x 100m relay (10:50pm).
But the set-your-watch one for Australians will be the women’s javelin final (8:50pm) in which our own Kelsey-Lee ‘That Javelin Girl’ Barber is world champion.
Day 16 – Saturday 7 August
Saturday night specials
Might we see a dream match-up, Australia versus the USA, in the men’s basketball final (11am)? Will Australians all rejoice when Stewart McSweyn contests the 1500m final (8:40pm)? Here’s hoping.
We begin with the women’s marathon (8am) where favourites include Brigid Kosgei (Kenya), Lonah Chemtai Salpeter (Israel) and Ruth Chepngetich (Kenya). Yet you want a fairytale for Japan? Their own Mao Ichiyama and Mizuki Matsuda have run the third- and fourth-fastest marathons in 2021.
It’ll be round four of women’s golf and there’ll be gold medals for cycling, beach volleyball and canoe. In athletics the women’s high-jump final (7:35pm) will take place while the gun goes for the women’s 10,000m (8:10pm) and men’s javelin (8:40pm).
Burning around the track will be women’s 4 x 400m relay (9:30pm) and men’s 4 x 400m relay (9:50pm).
Day 17 – Sunday 8 August
Done and done
And so it comes to this, and the men’s marathon (08:00) where the wonderful world-record holder (official and unofficial) Eliud Kipchoge will race into destiny.
At midday there’s the rhythmic women’s group all-around gymnastics final and the women’s cycling sprint final. The women’s basketball gold medal match (12:30), the men’s Keirin finals of cycling (12:51), while golds will be handed out to volleyballers, water polo players, boxers and handballers.
Potatoes can peel themselves off the couch at the conclusion of the Closing Ceremony, approximately midnight (AEST).