The 2020 Olympics will wrap with the closing ceremony on Sunday, but there is still plenty of action before then. Here are some must-watch events that feature USC athletes in the final few days of Olympic competition:
Women’s 400-meter hurdles
Three of the eight runners in Tuesday’s event final are Trojans, headlined by 31-year-old Dalilah Muhammad, who won the event in Rio and looks to be the only hurdler who could challenge fellow American Sydney McLaughlin for gold. McLaughlin, a rising star who is ten years younger than Muhammad, holds the world record in the event and was the first woman to post a time under 52 seconds.
Anna Cockrell, a 2021 grad who is also competing for the United States, made the final in her Olympic debut as her brother Ross and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers teammates cheered from their training facility over 7,000 miles away. Gianna Woodruff of Panama, a current USC grad student, also finished second in her heat to secure a spot in the final. With a mix of old and new talent and the bronze medal seemingly up for grabs, this is a race we could be talking about for a long time. The starting gun will sound at 7:30 p.m.
Women’s beach volleyball
As the semifinals approach, USC alumna April Ross looks to complete her medal set after winning silver in 2012 and bronze in 2016. Ross and her partner Alix Klineman hold the highest remaining seed after the top-seeded Canadian duo of Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes fell in the quarterfinals. Ross and Klineman will next face the Swiss team of Anouk Verge-Depre and Joana Heidrich Wednesday at 5 p.m.
USC senior Tina Graudina is also in the semifinal as she and her partner Anastasija Kravcenoka seek Latvia’s first-ever podium spot in women’s beach volleyball. (They are the first female duo from Latvia to even qualify for the Games.) The Latvian pair has already made history, but it will be exciting to see if they can keep their momentum going and reach the gold medal match. Graudina and Kravcenoka will take on Australia’s Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy Wednesday at 6 p.m.
Canadian sprinter Andre De Grasse captured USC’s first individual medal of the 2020 Olympics — a bronze — in the men’s 100-meter event on Sunday. De Grasse, who won his semifinal heat, will have a chance at another medal in the 200-meter race Wednesday morning. DraftKings has De Grasse as the favorite to win gold, followed closely by American Noah Lyles. Fellow Canadian and USC alum Aaron Brown is also in the event final, which starts at 5:55 a.m.
Women’s water polo
The U.S. women’s water polo team has been on a tear after narrowly losing to Hungary in group play, marking the team’s first Olympic loss since 2008. After defeating Canada 16-5 on Monday, the Americans will take on the Russian Olympic Committee, who they defeated 18-5 in the preliminary round. Barring an upset, the U.S. would either face Hungary again in the final or take on a powerful Spanish team that finished first in Group A.
USC senior Paige Hauschild, as well as alumni Kaleigh Gilchrist and Stephania Haralabidis, have all featured on the scoresheet for the U.S., while Amanda Longan made her Olympic debut in goal against Canada.
Men’s and women’s 400-meter
Yes, I’m mentioning a disproportionate number of track events, but that’s for good reason: USC has a renowned track and field program, and it would be wrong to write a USC Olympic preview without including decorated sprinter Allyson Felix. Felix, who is competing in her fifth and final Olympics, won her heat by a comfortable margin and posted the fourth fastest time in the field. She and 2021 grad Kyra Constantine of Canada will compete in the women’s 400-meter semifinal at 3:46 a.m. Wednesday; it airs at 6:10 p.m. on NBC.
On the men’s side, American Michael Norman looks to be in the medal mix. He holds the second-fastest time in the event this year at 44.07 but finished second behind world champion Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas in the semifinal with a time of 44.52. Without a clear gold medal favorite, the final on Thursday at 6:15 p.m. should be a good one.
Sophia Popov made headlines in 2020 when she won the Women’s British Open after entering the tournament at No. 304 in the world. Popov wouldn’t have qualified for the Olympics if they took place in 2020 as scheduled, but her shocking major victory gave her a spot on the German team. The opportunity is important to Popov, whose father, mother and brother all faced obstacles that prevented them from qualifying for the Olympic Games.
Another former USC All-American Tiffany Chan will represent Hong Kong in her second Olympics. Among the sixty women in the competition field, Popov is ranked No. 18 while Chan is No. 48.
In case you flipped off of NBC at the wrong time or didn’t stay up for a late-night event, here are some of the major USC-related storylines that have transpired so far:
Rai Benjamin beats world record — and takes second
In an incredible 400-meter hurdles race on Monday, former USC hurdler Rai Benjamin obliterated the world record by over half a second. And he took silver. Norwegian Karsten Warholm won the event in 45.94 seconds, a time so fast that it eclipsed 18 of the 48 Olympians who competed in the men’s 400-meter race without hurdles.
Isaiah Jewett’s Olympics cut short after fall in 800-meter semifinal
2021 grad Isaiah Jewett was near the front of the pack as he rounded the final turn of the 800-meter semifinal heat. Then, the sprinter’s worst nightmare happened — it appeared that he was clipped by Botswana’s Nijel Amos. Both men’s races were over, but in an act of sportsmanship, they jogged to the finish line together.
Kelly Claes and partner ousted by Canadian team after controversial challenge reversal
USC alumna Kelly Claes and her partner Sarah Sponcil, of the United States, lost a nail-biter on Sunday to Canada’s Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson. The third set was closely contested, and some of the final points were decided by a double challenge reversal, where the U.S. challenged an out-of-bounds call, won the challenge and then saw it subsequently overturned. NBC’s Chris Marlowe gave this explanation on Twitter:
The match shouldn’t have come down to the wire, though, as Claes and Sponcil held a 10-4 lead in the second set before a comeback by the Canadians.