USA tops gold medal count as Tokyo Olympics near end

United States' Andrea Drews, above, spikes as Brazil's Gabriel Braga Guimaraes defends during...
United States' Andrea Drews, above, spikes as Brazil's Gabriel Braga Guimaraes defends during the gold medal match in women's volleyball at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan.(Source: AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Published: Aug. 8, 2021 at 8:50 AM CDT
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TOKYO, Japan (KCBD) - As the sun rose for last day of competition at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the United States already held a comfortable lead in the medal count, starting the day with 108 overall, 36 of them gold- two fewer than China.

In what has been a historic Summer Games for the American women, Sunday proved to be different. With first-ever golds earned for the ladies in track cycling and indoor volleyball, and a much-expected win in women’s basketball, the U.S. is now able to leave Tokyo high atop the medal table, both in terms of gold and overall, for the third-straight Olympic Games.

Up until Sunday, no women from the United States have ever won gold cycling in a velodrome. That changed when Jennifer Valente of San Diego, Calif. rode to a historic win in the Women’s Omnium- an event that tests the athletes’ abilities in sprinting, tactics, and endurance. In the event, which is often referred to as the “decathlon of cycling,” Valente secured the gold with top-four finishes in the scratch, tempo, and elimination race, helping her to 124 points- 14 more than silver medalist Yumi Kajihara of Japan. Earlier this week, Valente earned bronze in the team pursuit.

What came as no surprise was the gold earned by U.S. women’s basketball. While the team, which was led by opening ceremony flag bearer Sue Bird and veteran Diana Taurasi, captured their seventh-straight Olympic title with a 70-55 win over host-nation Japan, the narrative was much different for their compatriots on the volleyball court, who have never clinched Olympic gold.

The American women have seen the podium on five occasions- two silver (2008, 2012), and three bronze medals (1984, 1992, 2016), but have never come home with the most-coveted prize.

The ladies entered Sunday’s final with a different mindset against Brazil, the same country which has denied Team USA gold on two previous Olympics.

The Red, White & Blue started off the contest with a commanding 6-1 lead, holding on to win the opening set 25-21. In the ensuing set, the U.S. women sat comfortably with a 20-11 lead over Brazil, who then capitalized on mistakes to go on an 8-2 run- cutting the U.S. lead down to three. However, the United States caught a break when Gabriela Braga’s serve failed to go over the net, thus stopping their momentum en route to a 25-20 set win. The third and final set was pretty much a victory lap for the first-time gold medalists. They swept the South Americans with a 25-14 win in set three, as the Brazilians could not defend Jordan Larson’s game-clinching spike.

The U.S. women are coached by Karch Kiraly, an Olympian himself, who won indoor gold in 1984 and 1988, followed by a gold in beach volleyball’s inaugural Olympic run in 1996.

Team USA closes the Tokyo Games with 39 gold, 41 silver and 33 bronze medals. The closing ceremony can be seen on KCBD. Coverage begins 6 p.m.

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