TOKYO — Suni Lee is the best American story of these Olympics. She is also but one of a hundred worthwhile stories in the Tokyo Games. With the Closing Ceremonies in sight, here is the good, the ugly and the imminent of the Olympics:
1. A remarkably large contingent of Minnesotans made their presence felt. Regan Smith, 19, became the first Minnesotan to win more than two medals at one Olympics, then Lee, 18, matched her. The Lynx contingent with Team USA basketball heads into the quarterfinals as the gold-medal favorite. Former Gophers swimmer Bowe Becker won gold in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay.
2. Caeleb Dressel won five gold medals and Katie Ledecky won two gold and two silvers. Australia seemed prepared to threaten American dominance in the pool, but the USA won 30 medals to the Aussies' 20, even if Australia won the all-important artistic hair-flow celebration gold, thanks to coach Dean Boxall.
3. Xander Schauffele is one of the nicest players on the PGA Tour, and has begun rising in the ranks of the best players never to win a major championship. Maybe an Olympic gold softens that criticism. He won the gold medal on Sunday in Japan, although the better competition might have been two-man teams, a different form of the Ryder Cup.
4. Tokyo is one of the world's largest and most technologically advanced cities, so it has been charming to see the Olympics roll out two quaint oddities: the baseball mitt bullpen cart at Yokohama Stadium, and the robot basketball shooter at Saitama Super Arena.
The bullpen cart should be copied and adopted in every ballpark in the world. The shooting robot is fascinating — or, if you've watched a lot of sci-fi, frightening. If a robot can make half-court shots, how far away is world domination?
1. From Simone Biles to Naomi Osaka to racquet-busting Novak Djokovic, the pressure of expectations and the mental health of athletes has become a defining topic of these Games.
While losing in straight sets and failing to medal in Tokyo, Djokovic threw one racquet into the stands and smashed another. "Without pressure there is no professional sport," he had said. "If you are aiming to be at the top of the game, you better start learning how to deal with pressure."
Yes, he said that before he threw a public tantrum.
2. Before the Olympics, American swimmer Michael Andrew said he did not want to get vaccinated. During the Olympics, he refused to wear a mask in the press interview mixed zone, then did wear one on his next trip through, but refused to answer questions when asked about it.
Andrew just might be the next Vikings quarterback.
3. One of the most striking visuals of these Games was three members of the U.S. men's epee fencing team wearing pink masks. The other member of the team, Alen Hadzic, wore his usual dark mask. The symbolism was heavy-handed but apt.
The pink masks were worn in protest of Hadzic's presence on the team despite being investigated for sexual misconduct. SafeSport suspended him, but it was overturned on appeal.
So Hadzic was allowed to compete, but sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson was disqualified for smoking marijuana in the wake of the death of her mother.
1. The IOC pretends not to be political, which means that it often is unintentionally politic.
The IOC banned "Russia" from the Olympics but let Russian athletes compete under the banner of the Russian Olympic Committee, the kind of decision that is less of a punishment of cheaters than a demonstration of insipid leadership.
Now the IOC is reviewing the actions of American shot putter Raven Saunders, who won silver Sunday and, on the podium, crossed her arms.
Asked what that meant, she said, "It's the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet."
The USOPC is speaking with the IOC, arguing that nothing Saunders did was disrespectful or overt. How the IOC can be offended by that is unclear, but Saunders put the IOC in a position where it can make another bad decision, and that is likely what will happen.
2. One dominant U.S. women's team — the national soccer team — failed to win a gold medal for the second consecutive Olympics.
The women lost 1-0 to Canada in the semifinals in Tokyo. They lost to Sweden in the quarterfinals in Rio.
In this tournament, the USWNT was shut out in its first and last game of the tournament, each time by a physical foe that made the USA look old and slow.
3. An even more dominant international team, the USA women's basketball team, has won 52 consecutive games in the Olympics and is into the semifinals. The backcourt has not performed particularly well and the team is committing too many turnovers, but the powerhouse front line — including Tina Charles and the Lynx's Sylvia Fowles coming off the bench — have allowed the Americans to wear down opponents.
4. The third impressive American women's team in these Olympics — the volleyball team — advanced into the quarterfinals and should have injured Jordan Thompson of Edina back for the elimination games.