What to Watch at the Olympics This Weekend
You love the Olympics, but you’re no expert, not even an aficionado. What to watch? Below, some highlights. Below that, what happened in the events we flagged for you earlier.
Events can be live-streamed on NBC's website.
Friday, Aug. 19
9:30 p.m. ET—Jamaica’s Usain Bolt and his final Olympic race
After winning gold in the 100 and 200 meters, Bolt and his teammates will go for a third consecutive gold medal in the 4-x-100-meter relay, with the women’s 4-x-100-meter relay also being contested during Friday’s evening session. Bolt is trying to win all three of his signature events for the third straight Olympics and match American Carl Lewis with nine gold medals, having already cemented his legacy as the greatest sprinter ever.
Saturday, Aug. 20
4:30 p.m. ET—Brazil looks for revenge in gold medal match in men’s soccer
Because men’s soccer in the Olympics features players mostly younger than 23, many of the typical stars aren’t competing. The host nation, however, is heavily favored to win the gold this year, led by its star Neymar. One of the final team competitions should offer the soccer-crazed nation a chance for redemption after a 7-1 clinic at the hands of Germany in the 2014 FIFA World Cup semifinals. Brazil has never won an Olympic soccer title.
Americans wanting to cheer on one of their own can tune in at 3:30 p.m., when David Boudia seeks to defend his 2012 Olympic gold medal on the 10-meter diving platform.
9 p.m. ET—Allyson Felix and Team USA go for gold in the 4-x-400 meter relay
For those unfamiliar with track and field, 400 meters is one lap around the track, which usually makes the 4-x-400 meter relay one of the most exciting events to watch. The U.S. women have won five straight gold medals in the event. The men’s 4-x-400 meter relay will also be contested on the final night of track and field, in addition to finals in the men’s 1,500 meters and 5,000 meters and women’s 800 meters.
Sunday, Aug. 21
8:30 a.m. ET—Men’s marathon
One of the original Olympic events, the men’s marathon traditionally closes the Olympic games and will be contested Sunday morning. American Galen Rupp is in the field and looking for his second career Olympic medal. He finished second in the 10,000 meters in 2012 and placed fifth in that event this year. Kenya's Jemima Jelagat Sumgong won the women's marathon, which was held last Sunday.
2:45 p.m. ET—Men’s basketball gold medal game caps off Olympics
Mike Krzyzewski and Team USA could be going for their third straight gold medal to close the Olympics, but first they have to get past Spain in Friday’s semifinals. With its contingent of NBA ringers, the Americans are expected to win the gold medal easily against either Australia or Serbia if they reach the final. Both teams challenged the Americans, unsuccessfully, earlier in the Rio Games, but with a gold medal on the line, the Americans will still be the heavy favorites after crushing Argentina in the quarterfinals.
With a win in this, his final Olympic competition, Krzyzewski would become the first head coach ever to win three gold medals with USA Basketball.
And here are highlights from the past two weeks of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games:
Thursday, Aug. 18
Bolt wanted to post a better time in the 200-meter final, but in his best event, the Jamaican sprinter still had no problem dusting the field. He started strong and cruised toward the finish line, winning by more than 0.2 seconds to add a third straight gold in the event over three Olympics, equaling the three straight he’s now won in the 100 meters.
Wednesday, Aug. 17
Wednesday was a relatively light day of competition, with the U.S. men’s basketball team regaining its form after three straight close games to blow out Argentina 105-78. The biggest surprise of the day came on the track, where Gatlin, a three-time Olympic medalist in the 100 meters, failed to qualify for the 200 meters final Thursday. The American finished in 20.13 seconds, just 0.03 seconds slower than the time needed to advance.
Bolt cruised into the final by winning his heat in 19.78 seconds, and Jamaica's dominance in sprint events continued when Elaine Thompson won gold in the women's 200 meters. She also won the 100 meters earlier this week, becoming the first woman to win both the 100 meters and 200 meters in the same Olympics since 1988. American Tori Bowie added a bronze medal in the 200 to the silver medal she won in the 100 meters.
Tuesday, Aug. 16
Americans Simone Biles and Aly Raisman finished first and second in both the women's all-around competition and the floor exercise. Considered the greatest women's gymnast ever, Biles bounced back after winning bronze in the balance beam Monday to collect her fourth gold medal in Rio, beating Raisman by 0.466 points. As a team, the U.S. women won nine medals in Rio, becoming the first group to accomplish that feat since 1972.
The American beach volleyball tandem Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross fell late Tuesday night to Brazil's Barbara Seixas and Agatha Bednarczuk in the event's semifinals. The Brazilian duo enjoyed a home court advantage on Copacabana Beach and won in straight sets to advance to the final. Three-time Olympic gold medalist Walsh Jennings suffered her first Olympic loss.
Monday, Aug. 15
Biles showed she was human on Monday, stumbling on the balance beam but recovering to earn bronze in the individual event. It was her fourth medal of the games. Her American teammate Laurie Hernandez earned her first individual medal by winning silver, and Sanne Wevers of the Netherlands won gold.
One of the most dramatic events Monday occurred on the track during the women's 400 meters. Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas dove—literally—across the finish line in 49.44 seconds to narrowly beat American Allyson Felix. The silver is the seventh Olympic medal for Felix.
Sunday, Aug. 14
Bolt cemented his status as the fastest man alive, cruising past Gatlin in 9.81 seconds to take the gold in the 100 meters. Gatlin, who nearly dethroned Bolt at the world championships last year, had to settle for silver but joined Bolt as one of only two men ever to claim three Olympic medals in the 100 meters.
In another stunning display at the track, South Africa's Wayde van Niekerk shattered Michael Johnson's 17-year-old world record in the 400 meters, demolishing the field with a time of 43.03 seconds from the outside lane.
Biles enjoyed a huge margin of victory in the individual vault final Sunday, winning by more than 0.7 points to claim her third gold medal. Her American teammate, Madison Kocian, took silver in the uneven bars, giving the U.S. women's gymnastics team nine medals so far through the team, all-around, and individual event competitions.
The first golf event at the Olympics since 1904 offered plenty of drama Sunday as Britain's Justin Rose and Sweden's Henrik Stenson battled for gold. Rose, the 2013 U.S. Open champion, sunk a birdie putt on the final hole to best Stenson, who won the British Open last month. American Matt Kuchar shot a final-round 63 to win the bronze.
In men's tennis, Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro and Great Britain's Andy Murray battled for the gold medal Sunday after del Potro upset No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal earlier in the event. Murray prevailed in four sets, becoming the first player ever to defend his Olympic singles title.
Saturday, Aug. 13
American Michael Phelps capped off his fifth Games with a gold medal in the 4-x-100 meter medley relay. Phelps teamed with backstroke gold medalist Ryan Murphy, Cody Miller, and Nathan Adrian to set a new Olympic record of 3:27.95. Phelps finished his Rio Games with five gold medals and one silver, for a career total of 28 medals, 23 of which are gold.
Friday, Aug. 12
Singapore's Joseph Schooling stunned the swimming world by upsetting Phelps, Chad le Clos, and Laszlo Czeh in the 100-meter butterfly and set a new Olympic record of 50.39 seconds. Phelps settled for silver in his final individual event, tying rivals le Clos and Czeh for second place at 51.14 seconds.
There were no such surprises in the women's 800-meter freestyle final as 19-year old American Katie Ledecky once again blew away the field. Ledecky cruised home in 8:04.79, an absurd 11 seconds clear of her closest competition, and smashed her own world record in the process. Even with a wide-angle camera, NBC had trouble showing any of Ledecky's competitors in the same shot because of her dominance. Ledecky finished her second Olympics with four gold medals and one silver.
In another major upset, the U.S. women's soccer team fell to Sweden in penalty kicks 4-3 after a 1-1 draw in regulation and extra time.
Thursday, Aug. 11
Biles was trailing after two of four events in the women's gymnastics all-around final. Unfortunately for the rest of the field, they were two of the 4-foot-8 star's best. Biles captured her first individual Olympic gold medal with a 2.1-point margin of victory ahead of American teammate Raisman, who won silver. Biles's margin of victory was wider than those from 1980 to 2012 combined. Raisman redeemed herself after barely missing out on an all-around medal four years ago.
Not to be outdone by Biles's dazzling performance, Phelps reminded the world how much he still has left in the tank in his fifth Olympics. The greatest Olympian of all time crushed the rest of the field—which featured U.S. rival Ryan Lochte and Japanese star Kosuke Hagino—in the final 100 meters of the 200-meter individual medley, winning easily by two seconds. Just 30 minutes after capturing his fourth gold of these Games, Phelps qualified for the final in the 100-meter butterfly.
Wednesday, Aug. 10
After dominating China and Venezuela in its first two Olympic games, the U.S. men's basketball team passed its first real test by beating Australia 98-88 Wednesday night. Led by NBA players Matthew Dellavedova (11 points and 11 assists), Patty Mills (30 points and six 3-pointers), and Andrew Bogut, the Australians put a scare into the Americans early in the game, taking a halftime lead and keeping it close until the final minutes.
But Carmelo Anthony and Kyrie Irving made sure the U.S. would stay unbeaten in Rio. Anthony scored 31 points and Irving added 19 points and five assists, with the duo hitting several 3-pointers in the game's final minutes to allow Krzyzewski's team to pull away.
In the pool, Phelps and Lochte qualified for the 200-meter individual medley final and three-time Olympic gold medalist Nathan Adrian won a bronze medal in the 100-meter freestyle.
On the women’s side, Ledecky dominated as the anchor for the U.S. 4-x-200 meter freestyle relay team, collecting her third gold medal of these Games and fourth overall.
Tuesday, Aug. 9
The American stars were out Tuesday, as Biles and the dominant U.S. women's gymnastics team won their second straight gold medal after blowing away the field in qualifying Sunday. Biles, Raisman, Kocian, Gabby Douglas, and Laurie Hernandez continued their dominance, cruising to the gold medal and winning by more than eight points in a sport normally decided by tenths.
A 25-time Olympic medalist, Phelps earned his second and third gold medals of these Games in the 200-meter butterfly Tuesday night and the 4-x-200 meter freestyle relay. The butterfly victory is especially sweet for Phelps, who fell short in the event in 2012. He didn't wait long to get back in the pool, as barely an hour later he teamed up with Lochte, Townley Haas, and Conor Dwyer to win his second freestyle gold medal in Rio.
For the women, 19-year old superstar Ledecky earned her second individual medal in Rio in the 200-meter freestyle. She is almost a lock to win any distance of 400 meters or longer, but the 200-meter event tested the incoming Stanford University freshman. She was up to the task, edging out Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom by 0.35 second.
There was a major upset in women's tennis, as defending Olympic gold medalist and 22-time grand slam champion Serena Williams fell in straight sets to Ukraine's Elina Svitolina. Serena and her sister Venus also lost in the first round of the doubles competition on Sunday, losing in straight sets to Lucie Safarova and Barbora Strycova. The Williams sister previously won gold in doubles in 2000, 2008, and 2012.
Monday, Aug. 8
Ibtihaj Muhammad made history as the first U.S. Olympian to compete wearing a hijab. The No. 2 fencer in the U.S., Muhammad fell in individual competition but still has a chance to medal in the women’s saber team event. (Her team won the bronze medal.)
In the pool, Phelps qualified for the 200-meter butterfly final and will seek revenge in London Tuesday after coming in second behind South Africa's Chad le Clos. Ledecky qualified for the 200-meter freestyle final. That race is also on Tuesday.
Sunday, Aug. 7
The U.S. didn't entirely dominate the Games’ opening day but made up for it by blowing away the competition in multiple major events.
Led by three-time world all-around champion Biles, already considered the greatest women’s gymnast of all time, the women’s gymnastics team finished almost 10 points ahead of the second-place team, China, in qualifying for the team final. Such a lead is unprecedented in the sport, but Biles, 2012 gold medalists Raisman and Douglas, Hernandez, and Kocian lapped the field in qualifying for the team, all-around, and event finals.
Much of the drama came within Team USA, as each team can send only two gymnasts to the all-around final. With Biles essentially a lock to qualify, that left Douglas and Raisman—the two returners from the 2012 squad—battling for the second spot. Although Douglas won a gold medal in 2012 in the all-around, Raisman got the better of her this year, edging out her teammate to get a chance at redemption after narrowly missing out on an all-around medal in London.
In the pool, Ledecky and the men’s 4-x-100 meter freestyle relay team gave the Americans even more momentum. The world record holder in the 400-, 800-, and 1,500-meter freestyles, Ledecky was expected to triumph in the 400-meter freestyle final. She delivered, shattering her own world record to win by almost five seconds, another stunning margin.
Unlike Ledecky, the men’s 4-x-100 meter freestyle relay team wasn't favored to win after losing to France in the final in 2012, but Phelps and company got the last word Sunday night. After the most decorated Olympian of all time gave the U.S. the lead in the second leg, Ryan Held and 2012 gold medalist Nathan Adrian preserved the advantage to complete the upset.
Saturday, Aug. 6
In a matchup of medal contenders on the soccer pitch, Carli Lloyd scored a goal early in the second half and Hope Solo made several key saves to propel the U.S. past France. The victory put the Americans in the quarterfinals of the event after they beat New Zealand in their first group-stage game Wednesday. Lloyd and company are attempting to become the first team ever to win the Women’s World Cup and Olympic gold in back-to-back years.
In the evening, Ledecky and the U.S. women’s 4-x-100 meter relay team finished second behind Australia, which set a world record of 3:30.65. As in 2012, the American women posted the fastest time ever by a U.S. quartet (3:31.89) but didn't have enough firepower to keep pace with the Australians.