The United States had yet to win a medal at the Toyko Olympics when Charlotte native Erika Brown dove into the pool for the leadoff leg of the 4×100 meter relay Saturday night.
By the time she and her teammates were finished with their swim, the Hough High school graduate had finally gotten their country on the board and started a tidal wave that catapulted the U.S. toward the top of the medals table.
Brown swam her 100 meters in 56.04 seconds to get the Americans off to a strong start. Abbey Weitzeil, Natalie Hinds and Simone Manuel then followed on the way to a third-place finish that earned the bronze medal behind favored Australia and Canada.
Their time of 3:32.81 was just three-tenths of a second behind the Canadians for silver.
While Brown had reason to celebrate, North Carolina’s other representative in the Olympic swimming competition had her night end in disappointment.
Cary’s Claire Curzan, a rising senior at Cardinal Gibbons High, placed fifth in her semifinal heat of the women’s 100 butterfly and 10th overall, missing out on a spot in the final and a shot at a medal. Only the top eight swimmers moved on. Curzan, with a time of 57.42, missed out on the top eight by 23 hundreths of a second.
The good news for Curzan is that she only just turned 17 and will could very well get another Olympic shot three years from now in Paris.
…………………………………………….Gold Silver Bronze Total
China 6 1 4 11
USA 4 2 4 10
ROC 1 4 2 7
Japan 5 1 0 6
S. Korea 2 0 3 5
Evy Leibfarth, a teenager from Bryson City headed for Davidson, placed safely inside the top 24 to advance to the semifinals of the women’s kayak slalom competition. The recently crowned junior world champion placed 14th in the preliminary heats. She has also qualified to compete in the canoe slalom race, the first time the whitewater event is being held at the Olympics.
NC State graduate Lucas Kozeniesky finished sixth in the 10-meter air rifle event, a performance that represents a major improvement from his 21st-place showing at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. Kozeniesky posted a score of 165.o points. Fellow American William Shaner won the gold medal with an Olympic record score of 251.6.
Fellow Wolfpacker Sophie Hansson was a member of Sweden’s team that qualified for the final in the women’s 4×100 freestyle relay. Hansson, who won a national championship for State this spring, swam the anchor leg on the way to a sixth-place finish.
Three other Wolfpack swimmers were in the pool on Saturday, all in the preliminary heats of the men’s 4×100 relay. Kacper Stokowski swam the second leg for Poland in heat one, Andreas Vazaios was the leadoff man for Greece while incoming freshman Noe Ponti swam the third leg for Switzerland. None of their teams advanced to the semifinals.
Former Duke star Jayson Tatum scored nine points for Team USA, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Americans from an 83-76 loss to France in the opening game of men’s basketball pool play.
Team USA Highlights
Chase Kalisz won the first American medal of the Tokyo Games, taking gold in the men’s 400-meter individual medley. Jay Litherland made it a 1-2 finish for the powerhouse U.S. team, rallying on the freestyle leg to take the silver. Brendon Smith of Australia claimed the bronze.
Kalisz, a protege and former training partner of Olympic great Michael Phelps, touched first in 4 minutes, 9.42 seconds.
Americans have earned five of the possible nine medals in the first three swimming finals, with Emma Weyant taking silver and Hali Flickinger the bronze in the 400 individual medley, and Kieran Smith taking bronze in the men’s 400 freestyle.
Defending Olympic champion Simone Biles is atop the individual standings and teammate Sunisa Lee is in third, but the heavily favored U.S. women’s gymnastics team is just second to Russia after a disappointing effort in qualifying. It’s the first time since the 2010 world championships that the Americans ended a session anywhere other than first. The good news is that the scores are erased and the competition starts over again once the finals begin.
Eighteen-year-old Anastasija Zolotic won the United States’ first gold medal in women’s taekwondo by beating Russian athlete Tatiana Minina 25-17 on Sunday to claim the featherweight division title.
Lee Kiefer won the third gold medal for the United States at the Tokyo Olympics and the third fencing gold in the country’s history by beating defending champion Inna Deriglazova of Russia 15-13 in the women’s foil final.
In the 10-meter air rifle, 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.
Jagger Eaton took home the bronze medal in the first Olympic skateboarding competition. The Arizonan battled gold medal winner Yuto Horigome of Japan throughout the event, but crashed out on his final two attempts to fall to third.