Tokyo Olympics: Live Coverage Everything you need to know about the Summer Games
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Live Updates: The Tokyo Olympics

What you need to know about this year's Summer Games

Zhang Yufei of China swims toward an Olympic record and gold medal in the women's 200-meter butterfly final at the Tokyo Olympics. Charlie Riedel/AP hide caption

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Charlie Riedel/AP

Zhang Yufei of China swims toward an Olympic record and gold medal in the women's 200-meter butterfly final at the Tokyo Olympics.

Charlie Riedel/AP

Let's face it: Nobody likes spoilers.

Whether it's with sports, reality TV, Jeopardy or that series you've been watching since season one, something so simple as a tweet or a Facebook post from a family member can ruin it for you in less than 30 seconds.

We've been trying our best to avoid spoilers about (spoiler alert:) the Olympics. But, despite the numerous attempts to duck and dodge, there are many ways to learn the results — even before you see them on TV.

With Tokyo being 13 hours ahead of the U.S. East Coast, it's a bit difficult to catch the games live unless you're staying up and pulling an all-nighter.

"It's so hard. It's almost impossible to avoid spoilers — especially with the Olympics," says Tang Tang, a media professor at Kent State University. "There's social media and all types of media platforms reporting on it, including international media, so it's almost impossible to stay away."

So, how can you avoid spoilers during the Olympic Games? Simple. Here are a few tips and tricks.

Limit your timeline on Twitter

... or at least, try to. While this may be easy for some, it may be a challenge for others.

Twitter is a huge source for spoilers, and not just for sporting events. However, the social media platform has some cool features on how you can avoid the risk of spoilers.

Using the platform's muting feature allows you to mute or hide certain phrases or hashtags from your timeline. Try using the following phrases as a head start to avoid the risk:

  • Gold
  • Olympics
  • Tokyo
  • Tokyo Olympics

To access the feature, it's simple: Go to more > Settings and Privacy > Privacy and Safety tab > then click Mute and Block.

Limit those Facebook accounts, too

Yes, you also have to finesse your settings on here, as well.

Good news: In terms of Facebook, you can target those specific accounts that may be the source of spoiling the games for you.

To limit on Facebook, click on the three dots on a post and you'll come across the option to snooze that account for 30 days. (Side note: You can also use this feature for any official pages you follow or even for someone you're friends with that you know is always posting about the Olympics.)

Modifying your push notifications

OK, so with this trick it may be a tad bit difficult.

Depending on the news organization, some apps have specific categories in which you can get certain alerts to your phone.

The best trick would be to open up the specific app that's driving you crazy with spoilers and check to see if there's a sports or breaking news tab that you can easily turn off temporarily until the games are over.

But be sure to turn them back on later so you won't miss any important breaking or sports news.

JuVaughn Harrison competes in the men's long jump final at the Olympic trials in June. He'll compete in both the long jump and high jump in the Olympics. Andy Lyons/Getty Images hide caption

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Andy Lyons/Getty Images

JuVaughn Harrison competes in the men's long jump final at the Olympic trials in June. He'll compete in both the long jump and high jump in the Olympics.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

For some of us, the Olympics don't really get started until the runners take the starting line and the javelins go flying. Every four years — or in this case, five — we rejoice when the hours of swimming coverage give way to wall-to-wall athletics, as the Olympics and other countries call track and field.

Here are a few storylines to watch for, as the tracksters lace up their spikes and events kick off in Japan.

JuVaughn Harrison is a double-threat jumper

JuVaughn Harrison won both the high jump and the long jump at the U.S. Olympic trials last month. That means the 22-year-old will compete in both events in Tokyo, making him the first man to represent the U.S. in both events at the Olympics since Jim Thorpe in 1912.

"Doubling in high and long jump is rare," said Marquis Dendy, who placed second to Harrison in the long jump trials. "It's amazing. He's a great talent. It's all kinds of crazy."

U.S. sprinters aim to take Bolt's mantle

For the first time since Athens 2004, there will be no Usain Bolt scorching the Olympic track.

That means a bevy of sprinters will be vying to be the new fastest man in the world – and many of them are on Team USA.

The U.S. has the potential to take the number one and two spots in the men's 100 meters, as Trayvon Bromell and Ronnie Baker have each notched blazingly fast times this year.

In the 200 meters, watch for Noah Lyles. After narrowly missing a spot on the 2016 team, Lyles won the event at the Olympic trials last month — in the fastest time this year.

And after a year in which he says he stopped having fun on the track, that success brought the thrill back. "My first feeling is, 'Shoot, that was hard, but gosh, that was fun," Lyles said afterward.

Trying to catch him will be U.S. teammates Kenny Bednarek and Erriyon Knighton – all three in their first Olympic Games. Knighton is the U.S. squad's youngest track and field athlete: He's just 17, and still in high school in Tampa, Fla.

Michael Norman and Michael Cherry celebrate after finishing first and second in the 400-meter final at the U.S. Olympic trials last month. Both will compete in the 400-meter event in Tokyo. Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images hide caption

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Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

Michael Norman and Michael Cherry celebrate after finishing first and second in the 400-meter final at the U.S. Olympic trials last month. Both will compete in the 400-meter event in Tokyo.

Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

Michael Norman is a medal favorite in the 400 meters. He missed out on making the team in Rio, but he's only gotten faster. And he's got a connection to the host country: His mother, Nabue Saito, was born in Japan. Norman has been working on learning Japanese in the runup to the Games.

The Games welcome a new event: the 4x400 mixed relay

Making its Olympic debut is a "mixed" 4x400 meter event in which each relay team consists of two women and two men.

A big part of the strategy in any relay is in the order of each team's runners. It's especially true in this event, given that the male 400-meter runners at the Olympics are about 6 seconds faster than the female runners at the same distance — and it's up to each team to decide which lineup of team members will be most competitive.

So, for instance, a team could decide to have its men run the first two legs, and the women running the final two legs, or have the men go first and last, with the women running the middle two legs.

The U.S. won the event — and set the world record — at the 2019 World Championships, with the team of Wilbert London, Allyson Felix, Courtney Okolo and Michael Cherry, running in that order.

It's not yet decided who will be on the U.S. team for relays at the Olympics — there is a pool from which members will be selected. All of the 2019 World Championship winners are at the Olympics, except Okolo.

Aliphine Tuliamuk poses after winning the women's U.S. Olympic marathon team trials in February 2020 in Atlanta. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images hide caption

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Aliphine Tuliamuk poses after winning the women's U.S. Olympic marathon team trials in February 2020 in Atlanta.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

This marathoner became a mother — after qualifying for the Olympics

And if you're looking for just how much can change in a year, look no further than Aliphine Tuliamuk. She took the top spot at the U.S. Olympic marathon trials back in February 2020.

Then the pandemic changed everything, and the 2020 Olympics was pushed until the following summer. Tuliamuk and her partner decided to use the time a bit differently: to start a family.

Tuliamuk gave birth to a daughter in January – leaving her less than seven months to prepare for the Olympics.

Allyson Felix is back on the track

Allyson Felix is perhaps the best-known of the U.S. runners competing in Tokyo. An Olympian since the 2004 Athens Games, Felix has already captured six Olympic golds and three silvers.

If she medals in Tokyo, she would match – or even surpass – Carl Lewis' record 10 medals for a U.S. track and field athlete.

She'll be on the track for the 400 meters — and she may also be selected for one or more relays.

Allyson Felix sprints in a 400 meter qualifying heat during the 2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials at last month in Eugene, Ore. Patrick Smith/Getty Images hide caption

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Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Allyson Felix sprints in a 400 meter qualifying heat during the 2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials at last month in Eugene, Ore.

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

She's now 35, and gave birth to her daughter Camryn in 2018, a difficult experience that led her to criticize the maternity policies of Nike, her then-sponsor. Nike soon changed its maternity policy for its sponsored athletes.

Felix and her current sponsor, Athleta, recently announced a $200,000 fund to help cover childcare costs for female athletes with children.

Coronavirus testing is the first hurdle

Before any athlete can prove they're the fastest, highest or strongest, they must pass a different kind of test: One that shows they don't have the coronavirus.

The virus is already shaping the field of competitors in Tokyo.

American pole vaulter Sam Kendricks, who won the last two world championships, was just knocked from the competition by a positive coronavirus test.

So instead of hurling himself into the air over an impossibly high bar in the coming days, he's isolating in a Tokyo hotel room. His father and coach said on Instagram that Kendricks "isn't sick."

And Kendricks' positive test has an impact on other athletes, too.

Three Australian athletes had brief contact with Kendricks, which meant the country's entire team was put into isolation for a couple hours while they were tested for the virus. The three athletes who interacted with Kendricks remain in isolation, per official protocols, though they all tested negative.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce pursues 100-meter gold

The fastest U.S. female sprinter won't be in the starting blocks in Tokyo.

Sha'Carri Richardson won the 100-meter dash at the U.S. Olympic trials, but was suspended after testing positive for THC, the intoxicant found in marijuana. She said she had used the drug due to "emotional panic" after learning of her biological mother's death a few days before the trials.

But Richardson wasn't the sprinter with the fastest time this year — that would be Jamaica's Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

In June, Fraser-Pryce notched a time in the 100 meters faster than any woman in history except American track star Florence Griffith Joyner. She was surprised by her own speed: "I never expected I would run 10.6 and think it's a good thing because there was no pressure," she said.

To win in Tokyo, Fraser-Pryce will need to fend off stiff competition from Britain's Dina Asher-Smith and her fellow Jamaicans Shericka Jackson and Elaine Thompson Herah, the defending 100 meter Olympic champion.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will extend a state of emergency to four more prefectures due to rising coronavirus infections. Here, Suga addresses a news conference on July 8. Nicolas Datiche/Pool via AP hide caption

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Nicolas Datiche/Pool via AP

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will extend a state of emergency to four more prefectures due to rising coronavirus infections. Here, Suga addresses a news conference on July 8.

Nicolas Datiche/Pool via AP

Even as new coronavirus cases surge in Tokyo to rates not seen since the pandemic began, Japan's prime minister says the Olympics are not causing the spike.

Officials on Thursday confirmed 3,865 new cases in Japan's capital, the highest daily tally reported, just as the Tokyo Olympics near their halfway point.

It's the third day in a row the city has set a record for new cases, which started spiking shortly after people associated with the Olympics began arriving in Japan. Before Olympic personnel began entering Tokyo, the capital's daily cases were fewer than 700.

But on the same day Japan's total daily cases topped 10,000 for the first time, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said there's no link between the Games and rising coronavirus infections.

"Since we have imposed virus-curbing measures, such as cutting the flow of people (in public) and stricter border controls to prevent the spread of the virus by foreign visitors, I think there is none," he said.

Suga again urged people to watch the Olympics from home rather than in groups in public to reduce the risk of infection. The Games are not allowing in-person spectators.

Suga's statement comes as Japan extends its coronavirus state of emergency to four more prefectures beyond the capital: Chiba, Kanagawa, Saitama and Osaka. Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama, which neighbor Tokyo, had requested stricter measures be imposed as infections rapidly rise in their regions.

Within the Olympic bubble, the Games have also reported one of their highest daily increases in cases since July 1. Twenty-four people with connections to the Games have tested positive for the coronavirus since Wednesday, including three athletes. So far, 193 people connected to the Olympics, including 20 athletes, have tested positive.

Toho University professor Kazuhiro Tateda, a member of the Japanese government's coronavirus panel, told NHK World-Japan that the state of emergency in Tokyo is not working. The state of emergency has been in place since July 12.

"It's so far had little or no impact," he said. "The rapid surge in cases can be attributed to an increased movement of people due to a four-day holiday weekend, the Olympics and Paralympics, and summer vacations. We must keep in mind that the number will increase. It is time to introduce tighter restrictions."

Josie Fischels is an intern on NPR's News Desk.

Simone Biles, seen on Tuesday waiting to perform on the vault at the Tokyo Olympics. Gregory Bull/AP hide caption

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Gregory Bull/AP

Simone Biles, seen on Tuesday waiting to perform on the vault at the Tokyo Olympics.

Gregory Bull/AP

Simone Biles' sponsors, including Athleta and Visa, are lauding her decision to put her mental health first and withdraw from the gymnastics team competition during the Olympics.

It's the latest example of sponsors praising athletes who are increasingly open about mental health issues. Tennis star Naomi Osaka found widespread support when she withdrew from the French Open earlier this year.

Biles could still compete in other gymnastic events during the Olympics. She also has a solid history of gymnastic accomplishments, including four gold medals and a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics. She has earned five more all-around titles in world championships since 2013. That earns the 24-year-old a lasting athletic legacy that sponsors can capitalize on.

"We are past the time when athletes like Simone are valued simply for their athletic prowess," said Jim Andrews, founder of A-Mark Partnership Strategies. "She has earned a place in gymnastics history, and has proven herself to be an amazing spokesperson and influencer who has much to offer brands even without competing and eventually in retirement."

Biles split with longtime sponsor Nike in April to sign with Athleta, the athletic clothing arm of Gap. Biles' deal with Athleta also includes sponsorship of the Gold Over America victory tour later this year, which will star her as well as other USA Gymnastics team members.

At the time, Biles said she signed with Athleta over Nike because she wanted to be aligned with a brand more reflective of her values.

"I feel like they work very closely with women and girls and letting them have a voice and kind of breaking those beauty standards," Biles said in May.

Biles launched her first ad campaign with Athleta in June, including a video that showcases the people that have supported her through her rise to superstardom.

Athleta put out a statement in support of Biles after her withdrawal in Tokyo.

"We stand by Simone and support her well-being both in and out of competition," Athleta said. "Being the best also means knowing how to take care of yourself. We are inspired by her leadership today and are behind her every step of the way."

Visa put out a similar statement, calling her decision "incredibly brave." Nabisco said Biles is an "inspiration to us all." Core Power, a protein shake maker, said Biles is "showing us all that her courage and strength extend well beyond the mat."

Dropping support of Biles would hurt a brand more than it would help, said David Carter, sports business professor at the University of Southern California, and founder of marketing consultancy Sports Business Group.

"Given the fluidity and high-profile nature of the situation, as well as the sensitivities associated with her reasoning behind withdrawing, sponsors must be very careful not to be perceived as cutting and running," he said. "Doing so would not only draw the ire of many consumers who staunchly support Biles, but also future athletes contemplating marketing relationships with any brands deemed tone deaf to the circumstances involved."

Gold medalists Ancuta Bodnar and Simona Radis of Romania celebrate on the podium following the women's double sculls final at the Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday. Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images

Gold medalists Ancuta Bodnar and Simona Radis of Romania celebrate on the podium following the women's double sculls final at the Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday.

Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images

Pandemic protocols have kept Olympic venues primarily fan-free, required extra precautions and testing for athletes and staff and prevented many loved ones from cheering their teams on in person.

But one COVID-19 concession may actually make for a beautiful new Olympic tradition.


Athletes on the podium are helping each other don their medals

South Korean fencers receive gold medals for men's team sabre fencing at the Makuhari Messe Hall in Chiba City, Japan, on Wednesday. Mohd Rasfan/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Mohd Rasfan/AFP via Getty Images

South Korean fencers receive gold medals for men's team sabre fencing at the Makuhari Messe Hall in Chiba City, Japan, on Wednesday.

Mohd Rasfan/AFP via Getty Images

In years past, dignitaries would place medals around each winner's neck on the podium.

This year, officials are presenting athletes with their medals on a tray, from which they can then theoretically put them on themselves. But with the flowers and the masks, it can be a lot to juggle.

Japan's softball team watches player Yukiko Ueno (fourth from right) place a gold medal on catcher Haruka Agatsuma (third from right) on Tuesday. Japanese Olympic Committee President Yasuhiro Yamashita (lower left) holds the tray during the medal ceremony at the Yokohama Baseball Stadium in Yokohama, Japan. Kazuhiro Fujihara/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Kazuhiro Fujihara/AFP via Getty Images

Japan's softball team watches player Yukiko Ueno (fourth from right) place a gold medal on catcher Haruka Agatsuma (third from right) on Tuesday. Japanese Olympic Committee President Yasuhiro Yamashita (lower left) holds the tray during the medal ceremony at the Yokohama Baseball Stadium in Yokohama, Japan.

Kazuhiro Fujihara/AFP via Getty Images

So some Olympians are giving each other a hand, in what might just be the most pure example of teamwork at this year's Games.

China's Yang Qian (left) and Yang Haoran put gold medals on each other during the 10 meter air rifle mixed team medal ceremony at the Asaka Shooting Range in Tokyo on Tuesday. Tauseef Mustafa/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Tauseef Mustafa/AFP via Getty Images

China's Yang Qian (left) and Yang Haoran put gold medals on each other during the 10 meter air rifle mixed team medal ceremony at the Asaka Shooting Range in Tokyo on Tuesday.

Tauseef Mustafa/AFP via Getty Images

This story originally appeared on the Morning Edition live blog.

San Marino's Alessandra Perilli competes in the women's trap qualification during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Asaka Shooting Range in the Nerima district of Tokyo on July 29, 2021. TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP via Getty Images

San Marino's Alessandra Perilli competes in the women's trap qualification during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Asaka Shooting Range in the Nerima district of Tokyo on July 29, 2021.

TAUSEEF MUSTAFA/AFP via Getty Images

For a microstate, it was no small feat.

San Marino, a landlocked country entirely hemmed in by Italy, just became the least populous nation ever to nab a medal at the Olympics, according to the organizing committee for the Tokyo games.

On Thursday Alessandra Perilli won the bronze medal in the women's trap shooting final, a first for the country of roughly 34,000 residents.

Perilli previously finished fourth in women's trap shooting during the 2012 Olympics in London, which was at the time the best Olympic finish ever by a competitor from San Marino.

Slovakia's Zuzana Rehak Stefecekova took gold in the women's trap shooting final while Kayle Browning, of the United States, won silver.

Trap shooting is a kind of clay pigeon shooting where athletes use a shotgun to fire at targets launched from a single location.

San Marino, also known as the Most Serene Republic of San Marino, is the third-smallest independent state in Europe after Vatican City and Monaco, according to Reuters.

One of the world's oldest republics, San Marino is located near Italy's eastern coastline about 150 miles from Florence.

Simone Biles Got The 'Twisties' At The Tokyo Olympics. Here's What That Means

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U.S. gymnast Simone Biles watches the artistic gymnastics women's team final during the Tokyo Olympics at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre on Sunday. Loic Venance/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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U.S. gymnast Simone Biles watches the artistic gymnastics women's team final during the Tokyo Olympics at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre on Sunday.

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TOKYO — At Thursday's Summer Olympics, the women's all-around gymnastics winner was ... not Simone Biles.

The title and gold medal went to Sunisa Lee of the U.S.

Biles' absence hung over one of the most anticipated events at the Games, an event she won at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016. Biles withdrew after first dropping out of the women's team finals, while it was underway, earlier this week, citing mental health challenges.

She hasn't detailed much about what those challenges are.

But she has acknowledged suffering from a phenomenon known as "the twisties."

Lost in air

In her one, and perhaps only finals performance of these Olympic Games, Biles launched herself into a vault that, once airborne, would require 2 1/2 twists of her body. As she recounted afterward, it didn't work.

"I was trying a 2 1/2," Biles said, "and I ended up doing a 1 1/2. Just got a little bit lost in the air."

An ocean away, in California, former competitive gymnast Catherine Burns watched and winced.

"I know that feeling so deeply in my body," Burns said, "of being, like, I'm lost, I came out [of the move] too early, where am I? And all of that is happening in the course of split seconds, that recognition of something's not right and I need to be able to complete the trick without injuring myself."

Burns competed through high school in gymnastics and diving. She was nowhere near the elite world Biles inhabits. But anyone who has honed their airborne skills in sport can experience the frightening sensation of suddenly being lost in air.

It's called the twisties.

Simone Biles competes in the vault during the women's team final on Sunday at the Tokyo Games. She withdrew after this run and hasn't competed since. Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images hide caption

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Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Simone Biles competes in the vault during the women's team final on Sunday at the Tokyo Games. She withdrew after this run and hasn't competed since.

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

"You can get it on twisting moves," Burns said, "but you can also get it on any kind of rotational move. [And] you can get lost in the air on a really simple trick that you've done a thousand times before."

Burns said gymnasts, especially elite ones, do so much work to be able to gain muscle memory and awareness of knowing where their body is in the air.

"Having that spatial recognition, being able to see yourself doing the trick, it becomes a point where it's like built into your body," Burns said, "and you do it sort of without thinking about it cognitively. And then sometimes you get these twisties [and] it's sort of like a mental block that some people refer to as if you're starting to cognitively think about [it] again."

Burns likened it to other things we do over and over, with their execution locked into our muscle memory. Similar to walking down a flight of stairs.

"If you think too hard about picking your feet up at the right rate going down the stairs," she said, "and you start to get overwhelmed and you're going to trip over yourself. That's sort of the feeling of, like, thinking too hard or being too aware of something that you shouldn't really have to think about anymore."

Weight of the world

After Biles withdrew from the team final on Sunday, she acknowledged to reporters "having a little bit of the twisties." And she's had them before. She told Olympics.com that at the beginning of 2019, she forgot how to twist and flip.

A teammate from the 2016 Olympics, Laurie Hernandez, called the twisties painful.

"Hated it, so much," Hernandez said, adding, "it actively makes you feel like you're not the caliber of athlete that you are."

Stress can be a trigger. Biles has talked about having the "weight of the world on her shoulders" when she came into these Games as the preeminent star — someone so dominant that everyone else would be competing for second.

In the aftermath of Biles' ordeal in Tokyo, Catherine Burns posted a long Twitter thread describing the twisties. It got the predictable trolls calling Biles a quitter and soft.

"I think there's a lack of understanding of what this sport requires of people," Burns said. "I think in general these obscure sports [that] people love to watch every four years, they don't really think about the level of training that goes into it. So this idea of quitting or choking to me is just like setting the expectation of, you're a product, you perform for us, you are entertainment for me. And if you don't go out and entertain me, then what's your value?"

Making a statement

Burns heads an educational nonprofit in Oakland that teaches girls to, in her words, exercise the power of their voice. She said Biles' withdrawing from the world's biggest sporting event is an example of that power. And it's especially significant, she said, after Biles and so many other gymnasts were sexually victimized by the infamous former team doctor Larry Nassar.

Simone Biles cheers during the women's team final on Sunday. Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images hide caption

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Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Simone Biles cheers during the women's team final on Sunday.

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

"I really see her as making a statement to other young girls," Burns said, "especially other young gymnasts who have experienced sometimes these levels of abuse from their coaches and USA Gymnastics, where they can say, 'no, this doesn't feel right to me. I know what I need. I know how to advocate for myself. And I want to stand up and represent myself in a way that would make me proud.' "

Many agree. Biles tweeted Thursday that "the outpouring [of] love and support I've received has made me realize I'm more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before."

Will that realization be enough to counteract the twisties and free her up to compete at these Games? Many hope so. But it appears the world will be OK, if it doesn't.

Patrick Moster was fired from his job as sports director of the BDR, the German Cycling Federation after yelling slurs during a race Wednesday. Here, Moster stands next to the track next to cyclist Azzedine Lagab from Algeria — one of the riders a German cyclist was attempting to catch. Sebastian Gollnow/dpa/picture alliance via Getty Images hide caption

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Sebastian Gollnow/dpa/picture alliance via Getty Images

Patrick Moster was fired from his job as sports director of the BDR, the German Cycling Federation after yelling slurs during a race Wednesday. Here, Moster stands next to the track next to cyclist Azzedine Lagab from Algeria — one of the riders a German cyclist was attempting to catch.

Sebastian Gollnow/dpa/picture alliance via Getty Images

Germany's Olympic federation is firing Patrick Moster as the sports director of its cycling program, after he was recorded using a racial slur during the men's time trial Wednesday. Moster is being sent home early from the Tokyo Olympics, German officials said.

TV cameras picked up Moster yelling a racial slur while cheering on German cyclist Nikias Arndt. At the time, Arndt was trying to catch rival riders from Algeria and Eritrea. Looking on, Moster shouted, "Get the camel drivers" several times, according to Deutsche Welle.

Moster apologized shortly after the incident, which was broadcast live on German television. Arndt immediately distanced himself from the remarks, saying he was "appalled" and that the slur did not reflect his — or the Olympics' — values.

Alfons Hörmann, president of the German Olympic Sports Confederation, or DOSB, said Thursday that while he believes Moster's apology is sincere, his words violated Olympic values of fair play, respect and tolerance. Those ideas, he added, are "not negotiable."

In his apology, Moster said, "In the heat of the moment and with the overall burden that we have here at the moment, my choice of words was not appropriate," according to a translation reported by Deutsche Welle. He added, "I am extremely sorry and can only offer my sincere apologies."

Algeria's Azzedine Lagab, one of the riders Arndt was chasing, said Thursday that he has "had more aggressive racist comments before." He added, " It's such a shame it happens in the Olympics."

As Moster's remarks made headlines, Lagab won praise for his initial response after the race.

"Well, There is no camel race in #olympics," he said, "that's why I came to cycling." He added, "At least I was there in #Tokyo2020."

Sunisa Lee Claims Olympic Gold And Shows U.S. Gymnastics Has More Than 1 Superstar

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U.S. gymnast Sunisa Lee finishes on the uneven bars during the gymnastics women's all-around final at the Summer Olympics on Thursday. Ashley Landis/AP hide caption

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Ashley Landis/AP

U.S. gymnast Sunisa Lee finishes on the uneven bars during the gymnastics women's all-around final at the Summer Olympics on Thursday.

Ashley Landis/AP

TOKYO — Sunisa Lee has won Olympic gold in the marquee individual competition of women's gymnastics after U.S. star and heavy favorite Simone Biles pulled out to take care of her mental health.

"I was nervous, but I did my best, and I'm super proud of myself," Lee told reporters after the competition. "It's crazy. I didn't ever think I'd be here."

Lee's win is the fifth Olympic gold in a row for the United States in the individual all-around. Team USA's dominance in the sport was called into question after the Russians took gold in the team event two days ago.

Brazil's Rebeca Andrade took silver, winning the first ever medal for her country in women's artistic gymnastics. Angelina Melnikova, a veteran of the team from Russia, took bronze.

After her win, Lee smiled and hugged her teammate Jade Carey, who placed eighth.

After Biles withdrew, Lee, an 18-year-old from Minnesota, became the highest-qualifying U.S. gymnast for the all-around final. Each country is allowed to send a maximum of two gymnasts to the event.

Lee said that as she went into the final, she tried not to think about suddenly having a real shot at gold. "This whole season I've been second to her. So I just did what I do best, didn't focus on it, though, because I knew I'd get in my head."

Team USA called on Carey, who had the next-highest score in the qualifiers, to step in as the second U.S. gymnast. Carey, a 21-year-old from Arizona, took an unusual path to the Olympics – she qualified in individual international competitions and wasn't part of the four-member group that competed in the team event.

U.S. gymnasts Sunisa Lee and Jade Carey fist-bump during gymnastics qualifiers on Sunday at the Tokyo Olympics. Jamie Squire/Getty Images hide caption

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Jamie Squire/Getty Images

U.S. gymnasts Sunisa Lee and Jade Carey fist-bump during gymnastics qualifiers on Sunday at the Tokyo Olympics.

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Carey came to Tokyo as an event specialist in the vault and floor exercise.

Twenty-four gymnasts took part in the all-around final, and each will compete in the four events: uneven bars, balance beam, floor exercise and vault.

Brazil's Rebeca Andrade dominated the vault, followed by Jade Carey

Carey scored a 15.200 in a vault with a very high degree of difficulty — a tenth of a point behind Andrade.

Lee smiled after landing her vault and scored a very solid 14.600. Melnikova scored slightly higher than Lee with a 14.633. Their vaults had the same degree of difficult but Melnikova's execution score was better.

U.S. gold medalist Sunisa Lee performs on the floor during the gymnastics women's all-around final. Gregory Bull/AP hide caption

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Gregory Bull/AP

U.S. gold medalist Sunisa Lee performs on the floor during the gymnastics women's all-around final.

Gregory Bull/AP

Sunisa Lee proved again that she's amazing on the uneven bars

Lee has become famous for her exceptional uneven bars routines. She proved her skills in the event once again Thursday, beating all other medal contenders with a routine with the highest degree of difficulty. She scored a 15.300.

"I just told myself to just do what I normally do, because when I was kind of getting in my head, I was messing up my bar routine a little bit," she said later. "This week has not been easy on bars but I pulled myself together and I just stayed focused."

Derwael, Lee's chief rival on the uneven bars, scored just below her with a 15.266.

Carey fell during warmups for the uneven bars, and her competition score, 13.500, was the lowest of the top group.

Russia's Vladislava Urazova pulled off the top balance beam score

Vladislava Urazova from the Russian team had the top score on the balance beam, at 14.200, but Lee delivered a strong enough routine to take the overall lead with a 13.833.

Carey fell off the 4-inch-wide balance beam during her routine and ended up with a score of 11.533, dashing her hopes of getting on the podium.

Lee's floor routine cements her win

Lee's 13.700 floor routine was enough to seal her place in the history books. It wasn't the highest-scoring one of the night — that was from Japan's Mai Murakami — but it was what Lee needed to win gold.

The floor is not considered Lee's strongest event. She had not been slated to do it during the team final two nights ago but stepped in when Biles pulled out.

After the U.S. gymnasts won silver in the team event, Lee tweeted, "we do not owe anyone a gold medal, we are WINNERS in our hearts."

On Thursday, she proved that yet again, gold medal in hand.

NPR's Mandalit del Barco contributed to this report.

Sunisa Lee of the United States performs on the balance beam Tuesday during the artistic gymnastics women's final at the Tokyo Olympics. Ashley Landis/AP hide caption

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Ashley Landis/AP

Minnesota native Sunisa Lee, also known as Suni, is an 18-year-old high school graduate, but she is no stranger to facing immense pressure. And while she's risen to the tops of world gymnastics, she's still grounded in her home Hmong community.

Lee won gold in Thursday's individual all-around competition, sending her supporters back home into a frenzy of joy. In an already history-making Olympics, Lee is the first Hmong American to make the U.S. Olympic team.

A crowd of Lee's family and fans watched in nervous silence as she awaited her final score on the floor exercise that secured her win.

Lee tweeted a video from that scene afterward, writing, "[T]he people i do it all for I LOVE YOU ALL."

Lee stepped up after Simone Biles pulled out

Lee's road to the podium hasn't been easy. And as a teammate of Simone Biles, widely considered the greatest gymnast in history, Lee didn't seem likely to win gold in the all-around — until Biles withdrew from the individual all-around final.

"CONGRATS PRINCESS," Biles said via Instagram as she praised Lee's win. "So so so beyond proud of you!!!!"

With Biles cheering them on, Lee and her teammates have stepped up at the Tokyo Olympics. After Biles' surprise move to exit the team final, Lee took Biles' place to compete in the floor exercise.

"I went out on that floor, and I just chucked every single thing,'' Lee told the Star Tribune. "When I had to go out there and do it, I just needed to do what I do.''

Her effort helped the team clinch a silver medal.

"It just shows you how amazing and well-trained she is, and how brave and smart she is,'' Biles said of her teammate.

It was a testament to Lee's talent and also the hard work she has done since taking up gymnastics at 6 — a "late" age for an elite athlete to start in a sport dominated by youth.

Lee took an unlikely path to elite status

Lee on the balance beam during the artistic gymnastics women's final Tuesday. Ashley Landis/AP hide caption

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Ashley Landis/AP

Lee on the balance beam during the artistic gymnastics women's final Tuesday.

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Lee grew up in a large family in St. Paul, Minn. As a young girl, the budding athlete practiced on a wooden balance beam her father built for her.

Gymnastics is a notoriously expensive sport, especially as athletes become older and competitions get more high-profile.

Patsy Thayieng, a former gymnast, told Time magazine that for the most part, the Hmong community Lee is a part of is not wealthy.

"You have to understand, this is a highly inaccessible sport, especially for communities like ours because it's so expensive and time-consuming," she said.

Lee's parents put her in gymnastics classes when she was 6, but even before then, her natural ability was already revealing itself.

"I used to flip around a lot and I was super-active," Lee, then 14, told Minnesota Public Radio in 2017. Her parents, John Lee and Yeev Thoj, set up a tryout at Midwest Gymnastics Center in Little Canada, Minn., where the coaches quickly recognized Lee's potential. Over a decade later, she still trains there.

At just her second meet, a 7-year-old Lee won the state all-around title. From there, she raced through the levels USA Gymnastics uses to rate athletes. She qualified for the top ranking, elite status, as she turned 11, according to Minnesota Public Radio.

Lee pushed through loss and injury

The last 17 months have been a whirlwind for Lee and her family.

Her gym shut down due to the coronavirus. She lost two relatives to COVID-19. She also endured a broken foot.

And in 2019, her father fell from a tree he was trimming and was seriously injured.

The accident happened a day before she was set to compete for the U.S. championships. Lee pushed through and competed just after her father had surgery, according to the Star Tribune.

During that competition, Lee made the all-around finals alongside Biles and finished eighth. She won gold in the team competition, silver in the floor exercise and bronze on the uneven bars.

The gymnast performs on the uneven bars during the artistic gymnastics women's final Tuesday. Morry Gash/AP hide caption

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Morry Gash/AP

The gymnast performs on the uneven bars during the artistic gymnastics women's final Tuesday.

Morry Gash/AP

Support from the Hmong community in Minnesota

At home in Minnesota, Lee's Hmong community, the largest in the U.S., was cheering her on Thursday, just as they have for years.

There are some 260,000 Hmong Americans living in the United States, according to the 2010 U.S. census.

There are only 18 clans of Hmong, an ethnic group from Laos, Vietnam and parts of China that sided with the U.S. during the Vietnam War.

In the early 1960s, the CIA recruited Hmong to help keep the communist North Vietnamese out of neighboring Laos. In return, the U.S. promised to take care of them and their families. When Laos fell to the communists and U.S. troops pulled out in 1975, thousands of Hmong fled as refugees to neighboring Thailand and then resettled in the United States.

Lee's parents were children when they and their families fled Laos and made the dangerous journey to refugee camps in Thailand. Their families eventually settled in Minnesota and found a home among thousands of other Hmong who had come to the U.S. via a similar path.

The small community is proud of Lee's success as a gymnast.

"The Hmong here are very proud to be American,'' Sia Lo, a St. Paul attorney and a member of Lee's extended family, told the Star Tribune. "We hope all of America is proud of Suni. What she's achieved showcases what is possible here in the United States.''

Lee is known for a complicated uneven bar routine

When Lee competes for more medals in individual events going into next week, her strong routine on the uneven bars will likely be tough to beat.

Her routine on the bars is considered one of the hardest in the world due to the inclusion of a tricky skill called the Nabieva, named after Russian gymnast Tatiana Olegovna Nabieva.

Earlier this week, Lee received a score of 15.4 on the uneven bars during the U.S. team's final — the highest score any athlete has received on bars at the Olympics yet.

Lee on the uneven bars

Team USA via YouTube

Team USA's Caeleb Dressel wears a USA-branded face covering while waiting to receive his gold medal after the final of the men's 4x100 meter freestyle relay swimming event during the Tokyo Olympics at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre on Monday. Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Team USA's Caeleb Dressel wears a USA-branded face covering while waiting to receive his gold medal after the final of the men's 4x100 meter freestyle relay swimming event during the Tokyo Olympics at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre on Monday.

Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images

TOKYO — When a U.S. athlete makes it onto the podium in an Olympic event, two things really catch the eye of people watching at home: the shiny medal around their neck and the unusual-looking mask on their face.

The white mask emblazoned with "USA" in red letters is strikingly voluminous, jutting about an inch in front of the face. It also has a distinctive pleat pattern.

It's a bold look that has been compared to the masked Batman villain Bane – even by the Japanese organizers of the Tokyo Games.

So what's the deal? Are they extra-protective or mostly a fashion statement?

The latter, it turns out.

U.S. softball players wear their masks after collecting their silver medals. Kazuhiro Fujihara/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Kazuhiro Fujihara/AFP via Getty Images

U.S. softball players wear their masks after collecting their silver medals.

Kazuhiro Fujihara/AFP via Getty Images

"I think they're designed to be comfortable and meet the aesthetic of the uniform," said Jon Mason, a spokesperson for the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee.

The mask is produced by Nike, and the company said the pleats are meant to evoke the folds of Japanese origami.

"The unique origami-inspired pleated design allows for optimal air flow and air volume within the lightweight, mesh mask," Nike said in a statement to NPR.

It doesn't seem to have any enhanced safety features. Nike stressed that the mask, which will soon be sold to the broader public, is not medical grade and should not be used as personal protective equipment like an N95. It's supposed to be used to work out in, according to the company.

Mason said Team USA initially wondered whether reporters would be able to hear the athletes talking through the large masks, but he said "they actually work very well for that."

The athletes seem happy with them, he said.

"They all say that they're definitely unique, but they all like them. They think they're cool. There's been no negative feedback that I've heard, just a lot of questions about them."

A passerby looks on while wearing a protective face covering inside an empty Olympic Stadium, host to the Athletics competition, at the Tokyo Olympic Games on Thursday. Patrick Smith/Getty Images hide caption

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A passerby looks on while wearing a protective face covering inside an empty Olympic Stadium, host to the Athletics competition, at the Tokyo Olympic Games on Thursday.

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Organizers at the Tokyo Summer Olympics have reported one of the highest daily increases of coronavirus cases since they started keeping records on July 1.

Since Wednesday, 24 people linked to the Games have tested positive — including three athletes. That brings the total of Olympic-related officials to catch the virus to 193 people, including 20 athletes.

The increase comes the same day government officials in Tokyo reported the highest-ever number of daily cases (3,865) in the capital since the pandemic began last year.

Health experts in Japan warn that the surge is straining local hospitals. But organizers of the Tokyo Olympics are downplaying the danger. "We've been trying to minimize the impact to the local medical system. And in that respect, we've been absolutely right on track to deliver the safe and secure games for both perspectives," said Takaya Masa, a spokesman for Tokyo 2020.

Speaking during a news conference at the Olympic media press center, Masa did say that two non-Japanese people who tested positive during the Games are now in the hospital, but their cases are not serious.

The Summer Olympics are being held without spectators in Tokyo as the city remains under a state of emergency because of the coronavirus.

U.S. star Simone Biles has pulled out of the individual all-around final at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Gregory Bull/AP hide caption

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Gregory Bull/AP

U.S. star Simone Biles has pulled out of the individual all-around final at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Gregory Bull/AP

U.S. gymnastics superstar Simone Biles says the wave of support she's received after pulling out of the two marquee events of Olympic women's gymnastics has changed the way she sees herself.

"the outpouring love & support I've received has made me realize I'm more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before," Biles said in a tweet.

The greatest gymnast of all time suddenly withdrew from the team final on Sunday, after a difficult vault. In comments later, she explained that she made the decision because she wanted to preserve her mental health.

On Wednesday, on the eve of the individual all-around final, USA Gymnastics said Biles would not compete.

Team USA has supported Biles' decision. "Your strength and courage to focus on your wellbeing is something we can all learn from," it said in a tweet. "Thank you for being the leader you are."

Current and former Olympians are also opening up about the pressures that face the world's top athletes.

"Simone Biles. Man, what an athlete and competitor. We put athletes on a high stage, but people forget the day-to-day grind, the demands and that all the hype takes a toll on a person," U.S. softball player Monica Abbott said. "Mental health is a big topic right now, it's probably one that hasn't discussed in the past when it needed to be."

Dominique Moceanu, a retired U.S. gymnast and gold medalist in 1996, said Biles' decision "demonstrates that we have a say in our own health—'a say' I NEVER felt I had as an Olympian."

Sam Kendricks competes in the Men's Pole Vault Final at last month's U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials in Eugene, Ore. Andy Lyons/Getty Images hide caption

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Sam Kendricks competes in the Men's Pole Vault Final at last month's U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials in Eugene, Ore.

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TOKYO — American pole vaulter Sam Kendricks is out of the Tokyo Summer Olympics after testing positive for the coronavirus. Kendricks, a world champion, was considered a medal contender.

According to a statement from U.S. Olympic officials, Sam Kendricks is ineligible to compete in the Tokyo Games following his positive test. He's been transferred to a hotel and put in isolation. Kendricks' dad, who's also his coach, said on social media his son feels fine and has no symptoms.

Kendricks won the last two World Championships in pole vault and a bronze medal at the Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics in 2016.

Journalists will miss his presence at the Games as Kendricks, who's also in the U.S. Army Reserve, is a gregarious athlete with a quick wit. According to the latest COVID numbers from the Olympics, at least three more athletes have tested positive, bringing the total number to 20 since July 1st.

U.S. swimmer Caeleb Dressel celebrates after he wins the men's 100 meter freestyle final at the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday. Adam Davy /PA Images via Getty Images hide caption

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U.S. swimmer Caeleb Dressel celebrates after he wins the men's 100 meter freestyle final at the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday.

Adam Davy /PA Images via Getty Images

TOKYO — In a thrilling finish, U.S. swimmer Caeleb Dressel narrowly beat out Australia's Kyle Chalmers to claim his first-ever individual Olympic gold medal.

The 24-year-old sprinter set an Olympic record in the blazing fast two-lap race, with a time of 47.02 seconds. At the end, he smiled and raised both hands in the air, taking in the applause of his teammates at the Tokyo Aquatics Center.

Dressel has already won a gold medal in the 4x100 meter relay at these Olympics, and put up an even faster time in the 100 meter today. At the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, Dressel was part of the gold medal-winning relay team in the same event.

He holds the world record in the 100 meter butterfly — a record he's hoping to beat in Tokyo. That race's final is on Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET.

It was a strong day in the pool for the U.S.

Fellow Floridian Bobby Finke took gold in the 800 meter freestyle, the U.S. women including Katie Ledecky took silver in the 4x200 meter freestyle team relay, and Regan Smith and Hali Flickinger took silver and bronze in the 200 meter butterfly.

A Texas Native Competes For Japan At The Tokyo Olympics

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Ira Brown of Team Japan looks on during the Men's Pool Round match between Latvia and Japan on Sunday at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. "It's an honor to be Japanese," he said. Christian Petersen/Getty Images hide caption

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Ira Brown of Team Japan looks on during the Men's Pool Round match between Latvia and Japan on Sunday at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. "It's an honor to be Japanese," he said.

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TOKYO — They call him downtown Ira Brown.

His three pointers got him the nickname. For years he's played professional basketball in Japan. But he never dreamed he'd get to the Olympic stage.

"Not in a million years," he said, shaking his head and laughing.

Let alone playing for his adopted country, in a sport that debuted at the Olympics for the first time in Tokyo. Three-on-three basketball is a ten-minute game. Three players on each team compete to 21 or to whichever team has the most points at the ten minute mark. It's a lot like the pick up games you'd play in your driveway.

Brown grew up in Corsicana, Texas. Population just under 24,000. He got his athletic prowess from his parents.

"My dad was a football player and my mom was really, really, really good at softball. I mean, my mom could have done anything," he said.

But they struggled with addiction. His grandmother took care of him, his siblings and many of his cousins.

A tough childhood with dreams of being a millionaire

"So it was about 15 to 17 people living in a three bedroom home," he said. "We would have to pretty much all to try to sleep in one bed. And eventually I made a little small closet in my room that had like a little lock and key that I would lock my stuff in."

Ira Brown of Team Japan drives to the basket in the 3x3 Basketball competition on Tuesday at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Christian Petersen/Getty Images hide caption

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Christian Petersen/Getty Images

She worked hard to give them all they needed.

"She was an absolute warrior with what she had. But I mean, she was just a one-woman wrecking crew," he said.

To make a little money, he and his sister used a stick to knock pecans out of trees, then sold them to local grocery stores. He was about ten. They'd collect cans and sometimes stuff candy into their jacket pockets at local convenience stores then hawk the treats at school to other kids.

"It was just a struggle to live because often times we just didn't have water, sometimes we didn't have electricity," he said.

So a thirst for stability and safety bubbled inside him. As a child he didn't have aspirations of basketball stardom. He dreamt of the wealth he didn't have.

"I always told myself I want to be the first millionaire in my family," he said. "That was always my driving motivation."

A way out thanks to sports

And sports became his path. At first it was baseball. His first love. It was a sport that brought him to his adoptive parents, both baseball coaches.

At 18 he got drafted into the minor leagues. When he didn't get to the majors he went on to play Basketball at Gonzaga University in Spokane Washington. He was inspired to go to college by his older brother, the first person in his family to graduate from university.

Basketball, showed him the world: Mexico, Argentina, the Philippines and finally Japan. It was here he says, he felt like he'd found the safety he'd been searching for.

"I didn't want to go anywhere else in the world," he said. "Japan was pretty much home for me. So I've stayed over here since."

He married, naturalized and later divorced. He currently plays for the Osaka Evessa, a basketball team playing in the B league, the top tier professional basketball league in Japan.

Redefining what Japanese means

"It's an honor to be Japanese," he said.

And this year the Japanese Olympic Team, including Brown, is redefining what it means to be Japanese. Sparking conversations about race and identity. Among the Japanese Olympians is tennis star Naomi Osaka. She's a mixed-race Japanese icon and the face of the Tokyo Games who lit the cauldron during the opening ceremony. Her image graces posters across the capital with the word "new" in English and "generation" or "world" in Japanese.

On the five-on-five basketball team is Washington Wizard player Rui Hachimura from Tomaya, Japan. There's mixed-race sprinter Abdul Hakim Sani Brown and on the three-on-three women's basketball team Stephanie Mawuli, born to Ghanaian parents who emigrated to Japan.

"I feel like we're breaking barriers especially with how they treat mixed kids before, especially when I first got over here," Brown said. "Then Naomi Osaka and Rui started having a lot of success and all of a sudden the narrative started changing."

On Wednesday, Latvia took the Gold in men's 3-on-3 basketball. Japan's team, assembled just three days before the Games, didn't make it past the quarterfinals.

"To be honest with you, I just enjoyed the experience, winning or losing," he said. "Knowing that I gave it my all and I came up short. I'm OK with that."

Ira Brown of Team Japan slam dunks during the Men's Pool Round match between Japan and Netherlands on Sunday during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Aomi Urban Sports Park. Christian Petersen/Getty Images hide caption

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Ira Brown of Team Japan slam dunks during the Men's Pool Round match between Japan and Netherlands on Sunday during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Aomi Urban Sports Park.

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Bobby Finke of the United States celebrates winning the men's 800-meters freestyle final at the Summer Olympics on Thursday in Tokyo. Matthias Schrader/AP hide caption

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Bobby Finke of the United States celebrates winning the men's 800-meters freestyle final at the Summer Olympics on Thursday in Tokyo.

Matthias Schrader/AP

TOKYO — U.S. swimmer Bobby Finke had his work cut out for him heading into the last lap of the men's 800 meter freestyle final.

He was in fifth place for most of the 16 lap race.

Then, he surged from behind in the final 50 meter stretch.

"I noticed 10 meters out I was catching up a little bit of ground and that was the only motivation I needed to try and pass and get my hand to the wall first," he said after the race.

The 21-year-old from the University of Florida made up almost a second and a half – which might as well be a lifetime – to blast past the other swimmers and win the race in a thrilling finish.

He beat Italy's Gregorio Paltrinieri by less than a quarter of a second, smiling and pumping his fist as the victory sunk in.

Finke came into the Olympics as a longshot for a medal in the event, which was making its Olympic debut.

He told reporters that before Tokyo, his best time in the 800 meters was about five seconds slower than the time he pulled out to qualify for the final.

And today, "I dropped another second. I had no idea I was going to do that."

Olympic Runner Caster Semenya Wants To Compete, Not Defend Her Womanhood

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Two-time Olympic gold medalist Caster Semenya competes in the women's 5000-meter final in Pretoria, South Africa, on April 15. Her attempt to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in an event exempt from new testosterone rules fell short. Phill Magakoe/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Two-time Olympic gold medalist Caster Semenya competes in the women's 5000-meter final in Pretoria, South Africa, on April 15. Her attempt to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in an event exempt from new testosterone rules fell short.

Phill Magakoe/AFP via Getty Images

As track and field competition gets underway at the Tokyo Olympics, you won't see one of the sport's brightest stars: two-time Olympic gold medalist Caster Semenya of South Africa, the world's fastest woman in the 800 meters.

That's because of new rules from track's governing body, World Athletics. Under the rules, Semenya and other female athletes who refuse to lower their naturally high testosterone levels are barred from competing in races from 400 meters to 1 mile.

Female eligibility rules have been fought over in court for years and have raised heated debate about fairness and inclusion.

The debate hinges on this question: Should women athletes with what's called a difference of sexual development (DSD) — who have XY chromosomes and elevated testosterone levels — be allowed to compete in the female category?

Or does their genetic makeup give intersex athletes an unfair advantage in a world of sport that's divided along binary lines of sex?

Advocates argue that Semenya was just born this way

In defense of Semenya, one of her sponsors, the beauty brand Lux, recently launched a "Stand With Caster" video campaign.

It opens with a cascade of voices doubting Semenya's fundamental identity.

"I have to say, it's hard to believe Caster's a woman," says a man.

"Identifying as a woman doesn't make you one," adds a woman.

The chorus goes on: "There's nothing feminine about her." "That's not a woman. She is a he!"

But Caster was simply born this way, the narrator says, with "special gifts." The video ends with this message: "Lux believes that women should not be judged for how they look — that no woman should ever be stripped of being a woman."

Lux YouTube

Defenders of the testosterone regulations argue that the rules have nothing to do with how athletes look and do not strip away any athlete's womanhood.

Instead, they contend, the rules are simply tailored to create a level playing field and ensure fair competition for women in sport.

"We know that there is a difference between male bodies and female bodies," says Duke University law professor Doriane Coleman, a former elite runner who was an expert witness in the Semenya case, testifying in support of the regulations before the international Court of Arbitration for Sport.

"We know that without sex-segregated sport and eligibility standards that are based in sex-linked traits, we would never have the chance to be elite athletes," Coleman says.

Semenya has been in a long legal battle to "run free"

Under World Athletics' regulations, to compete in the restricted events, the affected DSD, or intersex, athletes are now required to lower their testosterone levels with birth control pills, hormone shots or surgery.

Semenya has refused.

"No freakin' way!" she told an interviewer on South African television. "Why? For who? For who? No!"

Semenya, 30, was raised female, identifies as female and is legally female. She was just 18 when she blew away the field to win her first world championship in the 800 meters in Berlin. Her blistering speed and physique raised suspicions, and afterward, she was required to take a sex verification test. The battle over her eligibility, along with that of other athletes', has been waged ever since.

Ultimately, Semenya took her case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which ruled against her in 2019, judging that the testosterone regulations were "necessary, reasonable and proportionate" to "[preserve] the integrity of female athletics."

Her subsequent appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal also failed. This year, she launched a new appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, which has not yet ruled on the case.

In a tweet announcing her latest appeal, Semenya wrote, "All we ask is to be able to run free as the strong and fearless women we are!!"

Semenya has long claimed that the rules are specifically designed to keep her out.

Speaking at a women's empowerment conference in Johannesburg in 2019, she said, "When you're the best in the world, people get obsessed, you know, with what you do."

Former Olympic racer Bruce Kidd agrees with Semenya on that: "I don't think it's unfair to call this the Caster rule," he says.

Kidd is a retired professor at the University of Toronto and a longtime advocate for gender equity in sport. In his view, the Tokyo Games will be seen as an "asterisk Olympics" since some of track's best female middle-distance athletes are not competing.

"Some women have been excluded simply because of a very narrow definition of their gender," Kidd says. "And I think because the Olympic movement prides itself on its support of human rights, we have to call their exclusion a stain on the Tokyo Olympics."

Why, Kidd asks, is this exclusion acceptable?

"Sport has always been about embracing difference and including, you know, the celebration of diversity," he says. "Most outstanding athletes are outliers. Most outstanding athletes have longer reach or more fast-twitch fiber or they're taller. And we admire them for that. We admire them for what they're able to accomplish. But it's only in the case of women's sports where this drive for biological sameness is carried to this extent."

Who decides what is "woman" enough?

So, what criteria should determine who can race as a woman? And who draws that line?

Those are questions on the mind of Tlaleng Mofokeng, a doctor in Johannesburg who focuses on sexual and reproductive health.

She also serves as the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to health.

Semenya smiles before competing in the women's 200 meter during the Athletics Gauteng North Championships in Pretoria on March 13, 2020. Phill Magakoe/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Semenya smiles before competing in the women's 200 meter during the Athletics Gauteng North Championships in Pretoria on March 13, 2020.

Phill Magakoe/AFP via Getty Images

"There is a definite history of people seeing certain women as not woman enough," she says. "This idea, right, that some women are more woman than others. ... It's a visceral problem, the issues of femininity: Who owns femininity, and who gets to decide what that looks like?"

Consider that the women who have publicly run afoul of the gender verification rules are all from the Global South.

In the Tokyo Games, along with Semenya, the other runners who have said they're affected by the rules are all African: from Kenya, Burundi, Niger and Namibia.

That includes all three women who won medals in the 800-meter race at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics: Semenya, Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and Margaret Wambui of Kenya.

"These binaries that we have in sport don't match up to the world," says Amira Rose Davis, assistant professor of history and African American studies at Pennsylvania State University and co-host of the feminist podcast Burn It All Down.

"Sports must maintain this really, really violent binary at all costs, no matter who it hurts," she says. "And right now, that burden, that pain, that harm is most keenly felt by women of the Global South. ... It's just been heart wrenching to follow."

For Mofokeng, the female eligibility rules amount to the policing of Black women's bodies: a remnant of what she sees as patriarchal, colonial power.

"It's racism!" she says. "And we must ask those people who are doing this why they are doing it ... and why is it so sustained and so cruel?"

Defenders of the rules say they level the playing field

But Duke law professor Coleman, who is biracial, calls that charge of racism "really disturbing."

"Black women know," she says, "just like all other people, that without sex-segregated sport, whether you're a Black woman or a white woman, you don't have a chance."

The rules, she says, preserve competitive space and podium opportunity for women, since sport is divided by sex for very good reason: Testosterone provides advantages in strength, power and endurance.

"When there's a podium sweep by [intersex] athletes," as there was in Rio, she says, "you're not keeping your commitment to providing sex equality in competitive sport. And you've got a failure of the regulations."

World Athletics declined NPR's interview request for this report but sent a lengthy statement saying in part: "Our female eligibility regulations do not target any single athlete or race. ... There is copious evidence that black women are thriving and being celebrated in our sport, that it is in fact the most accessible sport for black women."

This year, Semenya attempted to qualify for the Tokyo Games in the 5,000 meters, an event that's exempt from the testosterone rules, but she fell short.

That could spell the end of Semenya's Olympic career. But for many South Africans, her impact remains powerful.

"She's inspiring," Justin Abrams told NPR this week in an informal sampling of public opinion among residents on the streets of Cape Town. "She should run no matter what."

"Pride of South Africa," said Edith Brown.

"She means a lot," added Thuleka Muvalo. "To me, they defeat her rights."

Mofokeng, the doctor and U.N. special rapporteur, considers Semenya a hero.

"Absolutely," she says. "She is, she was, she will always be. She will have her own chapter in our history. Caster still has the heart of many of us."

Meanwhile, as Semenya awaits the delivery of yet another court ruling in her long-running case, she anticipates another arrival: Last week, she announced that her wife, Violet Raseboya, is pregnant with their second child.

In an Instagram post, Semenya wrote, "Ten little fingers, ten little toes. With love and grace, our family grows. This precious soul that God decided to bless us with. We all can't wait to meet YOU!"

German cyclist Nikias Arndt said he was "appalled" an official from his country's cycling federation shouted a racial slur during the men's time trial at the Tokyo Games. Sebastian Gollnow/picture alliance via Getty Images hide caption

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Sebastian Gollnow/picture alliance via Getty Images

German cyclist Nikias Arndt said he was "appalled" an official from his country's cycling federation shouted a racial slur during the men's time trial at the Tokyo Games.

Sebastian Gollnow/picture alliance via Getty Images

TV cameras picked up a German cycling official yelling a racial slur during the men's time trial Wednesday at the Tokyo Olympics, prompting an apology from the official and a reaction from at least two of the cyclists involved.

Patrick Moster, sporting director of the German cycling federation, apologized shortly after he was recorded using a racial slur while cheering on German cyclist Nikias Arndt.

At the time, Arndt was trying to catch rival riders from Algeria and Eritrea. Looking on, Moster shouted, "Get the camel drivers" several times, according to Deutsche Welle.

Journalist Florian Nass, a commentator on the race for broadcaster ARD, immediately condemned Moster's remarks, saying, "Words fail me."

Words did not fail Algeria's Azzedine Lagab, one of the riders Arndt was chasing.

"Well, There is no camel race in #olympics," Lagab said, "that's why I came to cycling." He added, "At least I was there in #Tokyo2020."

After the race, Arndt said via Twitter, "I am appalled" by the sporting director's language, calling the slur unacceptable. Arndt added that the remarks fell far short of the Olympics' — and his own — values of tolerance, respect and fairness.

In his apology, Moster said, "In the heat of the moment and with the overall burden that we have here at the moment, my choice of words was not appropriate," according to a translation reported by Deutsche Welle. He added, "I am extremely sorry and can only offer my sincere apologies."

Reacting to the incident, Alfons Hörmann, president of the German Olympic Sports Confederation, or DOSB, stressed that the national team stands for the same Olympic values Arndt cited. He also pledged to have a personal talk with Moster immediately to discuss the situation, according to a statement from the cycling federation, BDR.

Hörmann has been coping with his own troubles at the DOSB, which has been embroiled in a leadership crisis since an anonymous letter — widely believed to come from the confederation's staff — accused him of overseeing a toxic workplace culture. An ethics panel recently recommended elections to choose a new president, and Hörmann, bowing to pressure, announced he would not run.

Luis Grijalva, a student at Northern Arizona University, has qualified to compete at the Tokyo Olympics and represent his home country of Guatemala. But as a DACA recipient he couldn't leave the United States without special permission. Shane Bevel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images hide caption

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Shane Bevel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Luis Grijalva, a student at Northern Arizona University, has qualified to compete at the Tokyo Olympics and represent his home country of Guatemala. But as a DACA recipient he couldn't leave the United States without special permission.

Shane Bevel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Luis Grijalva was running against the clock — but this time it wasn't on a track.

The Northern Arizona University track star qualified in June to run at the Tokyo Olympics representing his home country of Guatemala. But leaving the United States to compete abroad wasn't an option.

Grijalva is a DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, recipient. He was born in Guatemala but came to the U.S. at the age of one.

If he left the U.S. without a special permit from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Office, he would be self-deporting and would not be allowed back. But the process of obtaining a permit, known as advance parole, can take months.

Luis Grijalva relaxes with his Northern Arizona University teammates after winning the team championship at the Division I Men's and Women's Cross Country Championships on March 15 in Stillwater, Okla. Shane Bevel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images hide caption

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Shane Bevel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Luis Grijalva relaxes with his Northern Arizona University teammates after winning the team championship at the Division I Men's and Women's Cross Country Championships on March 15 in Stillwater, Okla.

Shane Bevel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

"Even though my roots started in Guatemala in some ways I feel as American as anybody else who was born here," he posted on Instagram, "DACA takes away my freedom of ever leaving the country and be able to come back in. ..."

"It would be an honor and a privilege to represent my home country but also be able to be a voice and represent over 600,000 Dreamers like me," Grijalva added.

He also said that he was making one last effort to get the USCIS office in Phoenix to grant him advance parole.

On Monday, Grijalva and his immigration lawyer Jessica Smith Bobadilla were successful.

"I just couldn't believe it just because we've been working so hard at it," Grijalva told NPR's Here & Now, "It seemed like a small dream a couple of months ago, but it actually became a reality."

Now, he heads to Tokyo.

"It feels awesome ... to be able to represent my mom, dad, family and generations of [my] family in Guatemala," Grijalva said. "So [it's] pretty special, representing 15 million people of Guatemala. It's an honor and a privilege to run for Guatemala and just run for my people."

Roos Zwetsloot of Team Netherlands competes during the Women's Street Final on day three of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Urban Sports Park on July 26, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images hide caption

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Roos Zwetsloot of Team Netherlands competes during the Women's Street Final on day three of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Urban Sports Park on July 26, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Pigeon shooting. Tug-of-war. Motorboating. These were all once included in the Olympic Games, but today, they're relics of the past. If you've ever wondered who gets to decide what's included in the Olympic Games, you're probably not the only one, but buckle up, because it's a little complicated.

The International Olympic Committee oversees all aspects of the Olympic Games and is in charge of deciding which sports will or won't be included. Of the organization's 99 members, many are former athletes or current leaders in athletics who hail from all over the world, according to the IOC website.

It falls to the IOC's Executive Board to propose which sports will be included; the rest of the IOC then votes. The IOC is also in charge of deciding what criteria must be met in order for a sport to be included.

The list of criteria is a lengthy one

The Unites States tug-of-war team in action during the 1908 London Olympics at White City Stadium. Topical Press Agency/Getty Images hide caption

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The Unites States tug-of-war team in action during the 1908 London Olympics at White City Stadium.

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As it stands, any sport considered for inclusion in the Olympics is evaluated based on five factors that are split into 35 criteria. The criteria include how much value the sport would add to the Olympics legacy; how long the sport has existed; how popular the sport is in the host country; how much it would cost to broadcast the events, and numerous other factors. Sports included in the Games must also be governed by an international sports federation and must comply with both the Olympic Charter and the World Anti-Doping Code.

This year's Games saw the inclusion of skateboarding, surfboarding, sport climbing and karate, all of which are being featured for the first time ever. Baseball and softball round out the new additions, returning to the global stage for the first time since 2008.

A cap on athletes can leave some sports on the sidelines

So, what contributes to a sport not making the cut? Having to limit the Games to a certain number of athletes, as well as scheduling needs and venue limitations, can lead to some sports being left off of the program, especially if they fall short of other criteria.

There's perhaps no better example of this than softball and baseball: while both are featured in this year's Games, it's the first time they've been included since 2008. The decision to exclude both softball and baseball from the 2012 Games was made via an anonymous IOC vote in 2005. Officials claimed that neither sport had global appeal, attracting backlash from players, according to ESPN. Olympic baseball and softball was not revived until 2020, but at present time, it looks as if neither sport has made the cut for 2024.

But it's not just the IOC calling the shots. A host city can also play a role in the decision, and push for a particular sport for the year that they are hosting. For a real-world example, look no further than the 2024 Games to be held in Paris, which will see the debut of breakdancing as an Olympic sport.

Britain's Tom Dean celebrates winning gold in the men's 200-meter freestyle swimming event at the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday. Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images

Britain's Tom Dean celebrates winning gold in the men's 200-meter freestyle swimming event at the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday.

Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images

Talk about overcoming long odds. In the past year, British swimmer Tom Dean has battled COVID-19 not once, but twice. And now, he's won two Olympic gold medals in Tokyo.

"This is the single greatest achievement of my life," the 21-year-old said in a news conference after his victory in the in the men's 200-meter freestyle Tuesday. "It's amazing. It's a dream come true having a gold around my neck."

Dean set a British record time of 1 minute, 44:22 seconds as fellow teammate Duncan Scott placed second. On Wednesday, Dean won his second gold medal in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay.

He told reporters that he had tested positive for the virus for the first time last September, but ultimately battled a more serious case of the virus that was diagnosed in January — just a few months ahead of the Olympic trials.

Tom Dean of Britain celebrates after winning the men's 200-meter freestyle at the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday. Martin Meissner/AP hide caption

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Martin Meissner/AP

Tom Dean of Britain celebrates after winning the men's 200-meter freestyle at the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday.

Martin Meissner/AP

He said that the second case was not life-threatening, but was serious enough to put his swimming career in jeopardy.

Dean hadn't been sure that he could swim after his second diagnosis. "The Olympic gold was a million miles away," he said.

Dean revealed his second COVID diagnosis after qualifying for the Tokyo Games in April, saying he was unable to exercise for weeks at a time while in quarantine.

In an April interview, Dean said that "after getting COVID twice, having three weeks out of the pool each time, it's been pretty brutal coming into trials with some real disruptions."

"I'm thinking how am I going to be able to recover from this in time to get a solid block of work done before the Olympic trials?" he said on Tuesday. "It was tough kind of wrapping my head around that during an Olympic year."

Tuesday's race marked Britain's first 1-2 finish in Olympic swimming since the 1908 Games in London, according to The Associated Press.

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