Between the trade war, military tensions and coronavirus finger-pointing, it’s been a rough few years for US-China relations.
But the Tokyo Olympics has allowed athletes from both countries to demonstrate what their governments haven’t for years: friendship.
On Tuesday, Chinese gymnasts Guan Chenchen and Tang Xijing won gold and silver respectively in the women’s balance beam final, while US gymnastics star Simone Biles claimed bronze. Both Chinese gymnasts are first-time Olympic medalists.
The win was particularly significant for Guan as the 16-year-old identifies Biles as her hero, according to her biography on the Games’ website.
After the results were announced, a beaming Biles embraced Guan. Her US teammate and all-around Olympic champion Sunisa Lee, who had loudly cheered on Guan during her routine, also hugged Guan. Afterward, Lee posted on Instagram that she was “so proud” of Guan, and retweeted a video of Guan’s dismount from the beam, captioned, “I love her (so much).”
The enthusiastic celebration and the warmth exchanged between the teams — so rarely seen now as US-China relations and public sentiment sour — quickly went viral online.
“We feel the same! This is what it means,” tweeted the official Chinese Olympic Committee, along with a heart emoji and a photo showing the celebration between the four athletes.
Even the nationalist Chinese tabloid Global Times chipped in, saying in an article Lee’s “sincere and joyous reaction touched viewers around the world.”
And many on the Chinese social media platform Weibo praised Biles and Lee for their sportsmanship, arguing the kind of camaraderie they shared with Guan and Tang embodies the true spirit of the Olympics.
“No matter where you are from, what race you belong to, what beliefs you have, people in international society should unite together, making human life better,” said one Weibo user, according to state media. “I see that hope at the Olympic Games. These athletes give us a good example.”
Editor’s Note: A version of this story appeared in CNN’s Meanwhile in China newsletter, a three-times-a-week update exploring what you need to know about the country’s rise and how it impacts the world. Sign up here.
Once again, Team USA’s women’s basketball team will play in the gold medal game at the Olympics.
The American women defeated Serbia 79-59 in the semifinals Friday to reach their seventh consecutive gold medal game. They’ve won every gold since the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 and boast a 54-game winning streak in Olympic play that dates back to the bronze medal game in 1992.
Brittney Griner — a star in the WNBA with the Phoenix Mercury — led Team USA with 15 points and 12 rebounds. The Americans will await the winner of Japan and France, who will play later Friday in the second semifinal.
The gold medal game will be held Sunday in Tokyo. Should the US win, WNBA stars Sue Bird of the Seattle Storm and Diana Taurasi, Griner’s Mercury teammate, will become the first athletes to win five gold medals in any team sport in Olympic history.
The United States — with three silvers and two bronzes — has won the most Olympic medals in women’s volleyball without winning gold.
But the Americans earned the chance to change that in Tokyo as they reached the final with victory over Serbia on Friday.
It was a rematch of the two teams’ Rio 2016 semifinal. Five years ago, Serbia won in five sets and went on to win the silver medal. This time, the US beat Serbia in straight sets: 25-19, 25-15, 25-23.
The US has finished on the podium at each of the past three Olympics, with silver in 2008 and 2012, and a bronze in 2016.
The second semifinal will take place later Friday between Brazil and South Korea. The gold medal match is scheduled for Sunday.
Australia’s Olympic Chef de Mission Ian Chesterman called on the country’s athletes to be more respectful following reports of Olympian misbehavior.
Earlier this week, a group of Australian athletes were criticized for their purported “excessive alcohol consumption” and “loud and disruptive” behavior on their flight home from Tokyo.
Chesterman said he has relayed the importance of “mutual respect” to Australia’s Olympic delegation.
Here’s what Chesterman had to say at a news conference Friday:
“I think the message which I’ve preached always is mutual respect. We have great respect for the athletes. We have worked really hard to make sure that they have everything that they need. And we’ve worked really hard with the sports to make sure that they’ve got everything that they need for the athletes as well. And we also then say that there’s a need for mutual respect back to the overall team as well. And everybody gets that. There was a group of people who made a mistake and they are obviously fully aware of that. And we continue to work with our team, remind our team of the overall commitment that they have to the Australian Olympic team and I’m very pleased to say that so far everyone understands that. It’s an honor to be part of this team. And they’re very proud to be a part of it. And we want to finish off these Games really well.”
The Jamaican trio of Elaine Thompson-Herah, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Shericka Jackson finished 1-2-3 in the women’s 100 meters in Tokyo. On Friday night in Japan, they have a chance to take the 4×100 meters relay title.
The three Olympians spoke to CNN about the legacy of sprinting in Jamaica, and why the island is responsible for some of the most dominant runners in the sport.
Watch their interview here:
Great Britain defeated India 4-3 to win the women’s field hockey bronze medal on Friday.
India scored three goals to wrap the first half, and Great Britain answered in the third quarter to tie the game.
Great Britain then scored another goal during the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, paving the way to a place on the podium.
The result left India’s women’s team just short of replicating what India’s men’s team had done a day earlier. On Thursday, India’s men’s field hockey team won bronze, giving the country its first Olympic medal in the sport since the 1980 Games in Moscow.
There’s still plenty of competition left as the Olympics head into their final weekend. But a storm, hot weather and rising coronavirus cases loom over the forthcoming finale of the Tokyo Games.
Covid-19’s surge continues: Tokyo reported 5,042 cases Thursday, a new-single day record for Japan’s capital. Doctors and public health experts have increasingly voiced concerns the Olympics is contributing to the spike in infections, though Japanese leaders disagree.
“The flow of people in Tokyo’s downtown has not increased compared to the time before the opening of the Olympics. I don’t think the Olympics has led to the increase of infection,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference Friday.
Though the Olympics draw to a close Sunday, experts will likely be unable to analyze the Games’ effect on Covid-19 cases for at least two weeks due to the virus’ incubation period.
Belarus coaches forced to leave Games: The International Olympic Committee has revoked the accreditation of two Belarusian coaches allegedly involved in trying to force sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya to return home against her will.
The Olympic body said it decided to remove the two coaches to safeguard “the wellbeing of the athletes of the NOC (National Olympic Committee) of Belarus who are still in Tokyo and as a provisional measure.”
Hasan’s quest continues: Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands will go for her second gold medal in tonight’s women’s 1,500 meters final. She already won the 5,000 meters race and is set to compete in tomorrow’s 10,000 meters final, too. No woman has ever won all three races in a single Olympics
Football gold, delayed: Team Canada and Sweden will play the women’s football final in Yokohama, near Tokyo, tonight. The match was delayed from its initial 11 a.m. local start time due to stifling heat and humidity, which has affected many of the athletes competing outdoors — and could pose concerns for the men’s and women’s marathons this weekend.
The races are taking place in the northern Japanese city of Sapporo, where temperatures are usually cooler than Tokyo. Despite an early morning start, temperatures on Saturday for the women’s marathon will likely be between 26-28 degrees Celsius (79-82 degrees Fahrenheit). It will be slightly cooler Sunday, when the men run, with a forecast of about 24 degrees Celsius (75 degrees Fahrenheit). Relative humidity values both days are expected to be between 70% and 80%, making it feel even warmer outside.
A tropical depression heading toward Tokyo could bring a much-needed respite from the heat, but also threatens to rain out Sunday’s closing ceremony. However, the forecast for the storm is still uncertain.
Medal tally: China leads the way with 34 gold medals, followed by the US with 30 and Japan with 22. The Americans top the total medal table with 92. China is second with 74 and the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) in third has 58.
What’s on tap:
- Athletics: It’s an action-packed penultimate night of competition at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium. Medal events begin at 8:50 p.m. Tokyo time with the women’s javelin throw, followed by three races: the men’s 5,000 meters final, then the women’s 400 meters and 1,500 meters finals. The night wraps with both the men’s and women’s 4×100 meters relay finals.
- Basketball: The US takes on Serbia and Japan plays France in the women’s semifinals.
- Boxing: Cuba’s Julio la Cruz fights for a second consecutive Olympic gold against the ROC’s Muslim Gadzhimagomedov. La Cruz, who won light-heavyweight gold at Rio 2016, has moved up to heavyweight this time around.
The full Olympic schedule can be found here.
At just 13 years old, Great Britain’s Sky Brown became her country’s youngest-ever medal winner when she took home bronze in the women’s park skateboarding competition at Tokyo 2020.
She said the Olympics will be “one of the best memories ever” for her.
Watch more from Brown’s interview with CNN below:
Americans April Ross and Alix Klineman have won the gold medal in women’s beach volleyball.
The duo beat Australians Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar in two sets, 21-15 and 21-16.
The win gives the US a record-extending fourth Olympic gold medal in the event. Famed duo Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor won gold three times in a row for the US from 2004 to 2012.
After previously winning silver at the 2012 London Games and bronze at Rio 2016, Ross, 39, has now secured her first Olympic gold medal. This was the 31-year-old Klineman’s Olympic debut.
Earlier Friday, Switzerland’s Anouk Verge-Depre and Joana Heidrich defeated Latvia’s Tina Graudina and Anastasija Kravcenoka in straight sets to win bronze.