Tokyo Olympics leader doesn’t rule out canceling games at last minute

PeskyMonkey/iStock

(NEW YORK) — The chief of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee addressed concerns of rising COVID-19 cases during a press conference on Tuesday and did not rule out the possibility of a last-minute cancellation of the games.

“We can’t predict what will happen with the number of coronavirus cases. So we will continue discussions if there is a spike in cases. I think that is all I can say at this juncture,” said Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto, in a response translated from Japanese.

Muto said the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee will continue to monitor cases and make decisions based on the current situation at hand.

“We agreed that based on the coronavirus situation, we will convene five-party talks again. At this point, the coronavirus cases may rise or fall, so we will think about what we should do when the situation arises,” Muto said.

As of Tuesday, Tokyo Olympic organizers said 71 people accredited to the games, including athletes in the Olympic Village, have tested positive for the virus just days ahead of the opening ceremonies set for Friday.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said last week there is “zero” risk of athletes in the village passing on the virus to Japanese citizens or other residents of the village, according to the Associated Press.

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto recognized the public’s general concern over hosting the games during the Tuesday press conference.

“The problems [with the Olympics] have given rise to many people feeling discontent and anxiety about the Tokyo Games,” Hashimoto said in Japanese.

Hashimoto said “safety is paramount” and promised to give the general public of Japan a “sense of security” throughout the games.

At the beginning of the month, Japan announced a state of emergency due to large outbreaks in the greater Tokyo area, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As of Tuesday, the country reported 2,477 new cases.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Biden, Brady trade zingers at White House event for Super Bowl champs

Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — President Joe Biden welcomed the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the White House Tuesday, praising the team for helping the country get through the pandemic with some sense of normalcy, and trading some zingers with MVP quarterback Tom Brady.

As the event got underway, Biden gave a special shoutout to Chris Godwin, a wide receiver on the team and Delaware native.

“You know, born in Pennsylvania, raised in Delaware right come from, that’s a heckuva combination man,” Biden said.

He then took good-natured aim at Brady and coach Bruce Arians.

“You know, a lot has been made about the fact that we have the oldest coach ever to win a Super Bowl and the oldest quarterback to win the Super Bowl. Well, I’ll tell you right now, you won’t hear any jokes about that from me. As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing wrong with being the oldest guy to make it to the mountaintop. That’s how I look at it,” Biden, who at 78 is the nation’s oldest serving president, joked.

He thanked the players for giving Americans something to positive to root for amid hard times.

“And I hope you all know just how important it was for, after such a tough year for the nation. In the middle of a long, dark winter, every Sunday, people were able to sit down and watch you play. You created memories that helped folks make it through and believe that we could get back to normal again. And you did it as a team, trailblazer, including the first team with two women, full-time coaching positions,” Biden said.

He praised the team for helping with the vaccination effort at their Florida stadium, but also called out players who haven’t yet gotten their shot.

“Your stadium also became a lifeline for families in Tampa Bay this spring, administering nearly 200,000 vaccine shots. And y’all who don’t have a shot, man, get one, OK?” Biden said, drawing an “amen” from someone on stage.

Brady, who walked in to the event with Biden amid some questions about whether he would show up, then cracked some jokes of his own, with the president standing nearby.

“It didn’t look right there at one point. We were seven and five struggling a little bit, as the president alluded to, but we found our rhythm, we got on a roll, not a lot of people, you know, think that we could have won. And in fact, I think, about 40% of the people still don’t think we won,” said Brady, who has avoided questions about whether he ever supported Donald Trump.

“I understand that,” Biden said, smiling.

Brady, who noted he was a bit older than many of his teammates, also had a zinger about the former president’s preferred nickname for Biden.

“We had a game in Chicago where I forgot what down it was. I lost track of one down in 21 years of playing, and they started calling me ‘Sleepy Tom.’ Why would they do that to me?” Brady said, as the crowd laughed.

“I don’t know,” Biden shot back.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Rams running back Cam Akers tears achilles, out for year – according to ESPN

Dylan Buell/Getty Images

(LOS ANGELES) — Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers has torn his Achilles during a workout, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. 

Further testing confirmed the injury, according to Schefter.

Akers is likely out for the season. The team has not announced the injury. 

Akers was the team’s leading rusher last year with 626 yards and two touchdowns. Darrell Henderson Jr. was the second leading rusher with 624 yards and five touchdowns. 

The 22-year old Florida State product missed two games last year with a rib injury.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

ESPN: Aaron Rodgers turns down contract extension, would have been highest paid in league

Dylan Buell/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers declined a two-year contract extension that would have made him the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The new contract would have kept Rodgers in Green Bay for another five years. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has the largest contract in the NFL, which pays him an average of $45 million a year for ten years. 

During the NFL draft in April, Schefter reported Rodgers did not want to return to the team. The team has said they will not trade him. 

Rodgers has not participated in any off-season work with the team, including skipping the mandatory minicamp in June. Instead, he has been seen on vacation in Hawaii, hosting Jeopardy and playing in ‘The Match’ with Bryson Dechambeau against Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady and golfer Phil Mickelson.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Team USA guard Zach Levine enters health and safety protocols, not traveling with team

matimix/iStock

(LAS VEGAS) — Team USA and Chicago Bulls guard Zach Levine has entered health and safety protocols and will not travel with the team to Tokyo, according to USA Basketball. 

USA Basketball said they hope Levine can join the team later this week. 

Levine is the third player on Team USA to be entered into the health and safety protocols. Washington guard Bradley Beal was forced to leave the team and Detroit guard Jerami Grant was placed in contact tracing quarantine for four days.

The team will now travel with just eight players, according to ESPN. The team is still waiting on Suns guard Devin Booker, Bucks forward Kris Middleton, and guard Jrue Holiday. The three are playing in the NBA Finals. Milwaukee is leading 3-2 with game six Tuesday night.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Nashville prospect Luke Prokop announces he is gay

Derek Leung/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — Nashville Predators prospect Luke Prokop announced on social media that he is gay. 

He becomes the first gay player on an active NHL contract. No active or retired player has come out as gay, according to ESPN

“It has been quite the journey to get to this point in my life, but I could not be happier with my decision to come out,” Prokop wrote. “From a young age I have dreamed of being an NHL player, and I believe that living my authentic life will allow me to bring my whole self to the rink and improve my chances of fulfilling my dreams.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Scoreboard roundup — 7/18/21

iStock

(NEW YORK) — Here are the scores from Sunday’s sports events:

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL 
 
INTERLEAGUE
Final  Tampa Bay   7  Atlanta   5

AMERICAN LEAGUE
Final  Toronto             5  Texas         0
Final  Detroit             7  Minnesota     0
Final  Chicago White Sox   4  Houston       0
Final  Baltimore           5  Kansas City   0
Final  Toronto            10  Texas         0
Final  Cleveland           4  Oakland       2
Final  Seattle             7  L.A. Angels   4
Final  N.Y. Yankees        9  Boston        1

NATIONAL LEAGUE
Final  Milwaukee      8  Cincinnati      0
Final  Philadelphia   4  Miami           2
Final  San Diego     10  Washington      4
Final  N.Y. Mets      7  Pittsburgh      6
Final  St. Louis      2  San Francisco   1
Final  Philadelphia   7  Miami           4
Final  Colorado       6  L.A. Dodgers    5
Final  Washington     8  San Diego       7
Final  Arizona        6  Chicago Cubs    4
  
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER
Final  Minnesota   1  Seattle   0

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Simone Biles’ signature stunts to look for at the Tokyo Olympics

Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — Simone Biles is an unstoppable force in the world of gymnastics. The 24-year-old Olympic champion, one of the greatest female gymnasts of all time, is the most decorated U.S. gymnast ever, according to Team USA.

She’s proven her unmatched skills time and time again by nailing challenging moves never done before. Biles had four signature moves named after her in three different events: on the floor, on vault, and on the balance beam.

“The demand on the body is extraordinary, and the physical conditioning that has to take place in order to be able to withstand that kind of pressure is, frankly, off the charts,” said Don Spencer, gymnastic coach and USA Gymnastics Power TeamGym Technical Committee chairman.

Here’s a look at Biles’ signature moves and what makes them so challenging:

Floor exercises

The “Biles on the floor” was first successfully completed by Biles on the world stage in 2013 at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships. This move is a double layout with a half-twist, which means that her body remains straight and elongated as she flips twice. While in the air, she completes a half-twist.

What makes this move so challenging is the “blind landing,” according to Courtney Johnson, a USA Gymnastics-accredited judge. This means that Biles can’t see the floor where she will land when she comes down from the flip.

Not only does she have to be extremely high in the air to do two full, stretched-out flips, but the half-twist makes this move more difficult, Johnson said.

Her second signature move on the floor, “Biles II,” was first successfully completed on the world stage in October 2019 at the World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. For this move — a triple-double — Biles flips twice while twisting three times before hitting the ground.

“The timing has to be good enough for you to still get that height in the air but also move your arms to start this spin-rotation part,” Johnson told ABC News.

Biles is the first female gymnast to ever complete a triple-double.

On vault

The “Biles on the vault,” a Yurchenko half-on with two twists, was first successfully completed on the world stage at the 2018 World Championships. Yurchenko is a type of move named after Soviet gymnast Natalie Yurchenko that involves a round-off onto the spring board, followed by a back handspring on the vault.

So, Biles does a round-off, into a back hand-spring with a half turn, and completes the move by twisting twice in a somersault.

It was assigned a difficulty score of 6.4 — which makes it one of the most difficult vaults in women’s artistic gymnastics.

However, if Biles lands a Yurchenko double pike at the Tokyo Olympics — a roundoff, a back handspring and two straight-legged backflips — she will likely have a fifth move named after her. She’s already performed and successfully landed the move in competition.

On the balance beam

The “Biles on the balance beam,” which was first completed on the international stage at the 2019 World Championships, features a double-double dismount. Biles is the first gymnast to ever complete this skill, according to Team USA.

“If you’re listing the level of difficulty amongst all those skills, I would say the balance beam dismount is probably at the top of the list,” said former UCLA gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field.

The move is a double-twisting double backflip, completed on a 4-inch wide beam.

“The one that is just mind boggling to me is the dismount of balance,” Spencer said. “It’s hard enough just to get to a dismount, with multiple skills in front of it going down a straight line. To be able to execute a skill that twists twice and flips twice from a balance beam … that is just absolutely phenomenal.”

Coaches say that Biles’ genetics likely has a lot to do with her success. Johnson said her 4-foot-8-inch height and small stature gives her more time in the air to do high-difficulty skills, and it makes her unstoppable when combined with her strong, muscular build.

“She’s using her body and her muscles as efficiently as possible and it makes her that much more powerful,” Johnson said.

Her strength allows her to push her smaller body higher up into the air, Johnson said. And since she’s shorter and takes up less space — she can manage more twists, turns, and stunts than her competitors.

However, experts also say Biles’ mental strength and drive have likely played a big role in her gymnastics prowess.

“Your stress levels from the mental strain can really affect and manifest physically, so to be able to overcome those things and compete at the level that she’s competing is amazing and it just sets her apart,” Johnson said.

The pressure is on, with coaches, gymnasts and judges alike praising her focus.

“The focus has to be just razor blades sharp,” Spencer said. “The margin of error is so small, that one minor mishap — if it happens early, it can multiply and exacerbate the end, and even if it happens late, it can mess it up the landing, and so on.”

Biles is heading to her second Olympics, following a stunning set of wins in the 2016 Olympic games. Biles won the individual gold medals in all-around, vault, and floor — and now she’s ready to take on Tokyo.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Replacement athlete on US Olympic gymnastics team tests positive for COVID-19

iStock/BalkansCat

(TOKYO) — A replacement athlete on the U.S. women’s artistic gymnastics team has tested positive for COVID-19, according to USA Gymnastics.

The gymnast tested positive on Sunday, USA Gymnastics said. She hasn’t been named but is a teenager, according to the Japanese city of Inzai, where the American women’s gymnastics team was training.

The infected gymnast and one other replacement athlete are following additional quarantine restrictions, USA Gymnastics said.

The Olympians moved Monday to different sleeping and training facilities as previously planned to continue their preparations, according to USA Gymnastics.

“The entire delegation continues to be vigilant and will maintain strict protocols while they are in Tokyo,” USA Gymnastics added.

ABC News’ Kate Hodgson contributed to this report.
 

 

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

3 US tennis stars share message of support for Coco Guaff sidelined by COVID-19

ABC News

(TOKYO) — U.S. tennis star Cori “Coco” Gauff has been sidelined from the Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for COVID-19, leaving the women’s singles squad to just three first-time Olympians for the red, white and blue.

Alison Riske, Jen Brady and Jessica Pegula spoke with “Good Morning America” moments after learning they would represent Team USA without Gauff before heading to the Summer games.

“Obviously she’s going to be disappointed. She’ll be sad. But, you know, she has so much potential to do great things in this sport. And I know she will,” Brady said. “Hopefully she recovers well and we’ll see her back out on the court soon. Back here in the States.”

Just days ahead of opening ceremonies and before traveling to Japan, the 17-year-old phenom who was meant to lead a 12-member squad tweeted, “It has always been a dream of mine to represent the USA at the Olympics, and I hope there will be many more chances for me to make this come true in the future.”

Riske, 31, added to her teammate’s sentiment saying she wants Guaff to know “she’ll be missed” and to “keep her head up. Focus on your health and make sure you’re feeling OK — We’ll see you on the court soon.”

The United States Tennis Association tweeted a statement in response to her announcement.

“We were saddened to learn that Coco Gauff has tested positive for COVID-19 and will therefore be unable to participate in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games,” USTA’s statement read. “The entire USA Tennis Olympic contingent is heartbroken for Coco. We wish her the best as she deals with this unfortunate situation and hope to see her back on the courts very soon.”

It is unclear if Gauff was fully vaccinated before testing positive for COVID.

All three Tokyo-bound singles competitors expect “nothing but good vibes,” Brady said. And Riske said she is “most excited about Opening Ceremonies.”

“We all earned our way onto the team. We all deserve to be here in the end. We’re just going to embrace I think,” Pegula said.

Brady added: “It’s going to be something that I’m going to remember the rest of my life. Proud of each and every one of us … let’s go represent the U.S.”

For the first time in 25 years, the tennis roster for the U.S. will be missing another set of marquee names with both Serena and Venus Williams sitting out.

“These are the girls we compete against every single week of the year — and doing it against exact same people we are doing it against at the Olympics. And I think that’s an advantage for us,” Riske said.

While Americans have racked up 24 Olympic medals in tennis since 1988, Riske said “just to bring medals back would be amazing.”

While Guaff is the highest-profile athlete to test positive from Team USA, others from around the world including two South African soccer players, as well as a rugby coach have also come into contact with COVID-19. A group of eight British gymnasts are isolating after a case was detected on their flight.

The threat of coming into contact with or testing positive for the virus has loomed large over the Olympic athletes.

If a test is confirmed, the athlete faces immediate quarantine for up to 14 days and forfeit any chance of competing in the games.

To ensure Team USA gymnastics has enough replacements, the athletes have all been separated for safety reasons.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.