Tokyo Olympics Day 11: Cruising into the 400 meter semifinals

Hope Mills native and Livingstone College grad Quanera Hayes is one of three Americans still in medal contention in the women's 400 meters

Hope Mills' Quanera Hayes, center, battle's Great Britain's Jodie Williams and Lisanne De Witte of Netherlands to the finish in a women's 400-meter heat on Tuesday (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Quanera Hayes wasn’t thinking about the gold medal when she came onto the track for her first race of the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday.

That will come later in the games.

For now, her only focus was making sure she’d have a second race in the women’s 400 meter event. It’s a goal she accomplished by finishing second in her preliminary heat.

Not only did Hayes finish among the top three to automatically qualify for Wednesday’s semifinals, but by costing home just behind Great Britain’s Jodie Williams in a time of 51.07 — well off her best — she was also able to conserve energy for the more challenging rounds to come.

“Honestly, my main thing was just trying to get out and stay out of my head, and make sure I advance and get a place in the next round,” Hayes said in a postrace interview with HBCU Gameday.

Hayes was one of three American runners to advance to the semifinals. Six-time Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix and Wadeline Jonathas also moved on by winning their preliminary heats.

Medal count

________________________________Gold    Silver    Bronze    Total

USA                                                24          28           21            73

China                                             32           21           16            69

ROC                                               13            21           18            52

Great Britain                                13            17           13            43

Japan                                             19             6            11            36

Carolina Connections

Andrew Capobianco competes in men’s diving 3-meter springboard final in Tokyo on Tuesday (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Andrew Capobianco’s bid to add an individual medal to the silver he won in the synchronized diving competition last week ended with a 10th-place finish in the 3-meter springboard competition. The Holly Springs High graduate, who competes for Indiana University, started strong and finished strong in the six-dive event. But he missed on his third and fourth attempts, a reverse 3 ½ somersault and back 3 ½ somersault, to fall out of contention.

“This afternoon didn’t go as well as I had hoped it would,” Capobianco told the Associated Press. “But, I’m really proud of how I’ve handled myself over the past few weeks. It’s been a little bit of a struggle with me mentally and physically.”

UNC’s Anton Down-Jenkins, diving for New Zealand, finished two spots ahead of Capobianco in eighth.

Staff Sgt. John Stefanowicz also had a disappointing result in his opening match of the 87-kilogram Greco-Roman wrestling competition. The Camp Lejeune Marine fell behind Ivan Huklek of Croatia 5-0 after the first of two periods. Although he bounced back to outscore his opponent 3-0 in the second period, it wasn’t enough to win the match and advance to the quarterfinals.

Jessica Springsteen, riding Don Juan van de Donkhoeve, competes during the equestrian jumping individual qualifying at Equestrian Park in Tokyo (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Duke graduate Jessica Springsteen failed to qualify for finals of the equestrian individual jumping event. She and her horse Don Juan Van De Donkhoeve were in contention until incurring four penalty points for knocking over a rail on the 11th obstacle. Springsteen will get another shot at a medal in the team jumping event on Friday.

Duke’s Jayson Tatum scored 13 points to help the U.S. men’s basketball team to a 95-81 victory against Spain to advance into a semifinal matchup against Australia. High Point native Bam Adebayo added three points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals in the victory.

Team USA Highlights

Simone Biles returned to competition and won a bronze medal on the balance beam in what was likely her final Olympic appearance.  Biles, with a score of 14.000, earned her seventh career Olympic medal — tying her with Shannon Miller for the most by an American in gymnastics — by drilling a slightly watered-down version of her usual routine in front of a crowd that included IOC President Thomas Bach. Chinese gymnasts Guan Chenchen and Tang Xijing swept the gold and silver in balance beam.

Tamyra Marianna Stock Mensah celebrates defeating Nigeria’s Blessing Oborududu and winning the women’s 68kg Freestyle wrestling final match Tuesday (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Tamyra Mensah-Stock defeated Blessing Oborududu of Nigeria 4-1 in the women’s 68-kilogram freestyle wrestling final to claim the second Olympic gold medal ever for an American female wrestler. Mensah-Stock defeated 2016 Olympic gold medalist Sara Dosho 10-0 in the first round and beat Feng Zhao of China 10-0 by technical superiority in the quarterfinals. She defeated former world champion Alla Cherkasova of Ukraine 10-4 in the semifinals.

Athing Mu won the 800-meter gold medal for the United States in her first Olympics after leading almost from start to finish. Mu was never seriously challenged down the home straight as she strode away to win in 1 minute, 55.21 seconds. Raevyn Rogers came from nowhere to clinch the bronze on the finish line and give the Americans a double celebration.

In one of the most anticipated races on the program, the 400 meter hurdles more than lived up to the hype. Rai Benjamin of the United States finished in 46.17, a mark that was faster than the world record Norway’s Karsten Warholm set last month. Unfortunately for Benjamin, who settled for silver, Warholm was a little bit faster, lowering his record by .76 with a time of 45.94.

Next up

Charlotte’s Anna Cockrell goes for a medal in the women’s 400 meter dash that also includes fellow Americans Sydney McLaughlin and Dallah Muhammad while three athletes with North Carolina ties will make their Olympic debuts on Wednesday. Cary resident and Duke graduate Ashley Twitchell competes in the 10-kilometer open water swim, Matthews’s Caine Wilkes is in the field for the 109-plus kilometer weightlifting event and Duke’s Leona Maguire will tee it up in the opening round of the women’s golf tournament.

The Associated Press contributed to this story