Latter-day Saints in the Olympics, day 9: Silver in gymnastics, bronze in shot put and a record in track

USA gymnast MyKayla Skinner won silver on vault and New Zealand’s Valerie Adams celebrated her bronze in shot put in the ninth day of Olympic competition in Tokyo on Sunday, Aug. 1.

Also, see more about Australia’s Peter Bol making history for his country in the 800-meter semifinals and an update on volleyball as Olympians with connections to the Church compete in Tokyo.

Gymnastics  

Mykayla Skinner of the United States, performs on the vault during the artistic gymnastics women’s apparatus final at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan.
Mykayla Skinner of the United States, performs on the vault during the artistic gymnastics women’s apparatus final at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. Credit: Ashley Landis, Associated Press

Skinner, 24, was on the podium after the vault final Sunday, Aug. 1, and held up her silver medal as she smiled behind her mask. Teammates were in the stands, including Simone Biles, whose withdrawal from the vault final allowed Skinner to compete.  

Skinner was fourth after the qualification round, but there’s a rule of two athletes per country moving on to the finals. She was after Biles and Jade Carey, who were first and second.

Biles withdrew from the team finals citing her mental health. She’s struggling with what gymnasts call the “twisties” where they lose spatial awareness while performing. It was Saturday morning in Tokyo when USA Gymnastics announced that Biles wouldn’t be competing in the vault final and Skinner would be in the lineup.

In the vault finals, each of the eight gymnasts do two different vaults and the scores are averaged together.  

Skinner earned 15.033 and 14.800 on her vaults, for an average of 14.916. Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade won gold with 15.083 and bronze went to Seojeong Yeo of South Korea, whose score was 14.733. 

Skinner was an alternate in Rio in 2016 and was a college champion at the University of Utah.

Shot put 

Valerie Adams, of New Zealand, holds up a photo of her children as she celebrates her third place finish competes in the final of the women's shot put at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021, in Tokyo.
Valerie Adams, of New Zealand, holds up a photo of her children as she celebrates her third place finish competes in the final of the women’s shot put at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021, in Tokyo. Credit: Matthias Schrader, Associated Press

Adams, 36, threw her arms up and cheered as the shot put competition wrapped up. As she held the New Zealand flag high, she also showed a photo of her two children, son Kepaleli, 2, and daughter Kimoana, 3.

Adams won the bronze medal with her best throw of 19.62 meters, about 21.46 yards. Lijiao Gong of China won gold with a throw of 20.58 and silver went to USA’s Raven Saunders with a throw of 19.79.

After qualifications, the top 12 compete in the finals. After three throws, the top eight do three more throws of the 4 kilogram or 8.8 pound metal ball. They keep the best throw of the six attempts. Her best throw was her third as each competitor chased the 20-meter mark.

Tokyo marks her fifth Olympics and fourth medal. She first competed in Athens in 2004 and won gold in Beijing in 2008 and in London in 2012. In Rio in 2016, she won silver.

“From the last Olympics in Rio to these Olympics I’ve had two children,” she said at the press conference following the event. “This is my biggest inspiration. As a mum at the tender age of 36, it’s awesome to be competitive in my chosen event and be here and win a bronze medal, not only for me but for my country and for my children. 

“I really hope to make them proud and I hope to continue to inspire female athletes that if they decide to have children, take the time off that they need to do so, because you can always come back and today I’m a testament to that. 

“It just goes to show the strength of a woman. You can be a mom and come back and be an athlete as well.” 

Track 

Peter Bol, foreground right, of Australia, wins a men's 800-meter semifinal at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021, in Tokyo.
Peter Bol, foreground right, of Australia, wins a men’s 800-meter semifinal at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021, in Tokyo. Credit: Petr David Josek, Associated Press

Bol won his semifinal heat in the 800-meter race, setting another Australian record and moving on the finals.  

The 27-year-old’s time of 1:44.11 in the semifinals was two hundredths of a second faster than his time in the qualifying heat of 1:44.13 the day before.   

The previous Australian record was 1:44.21 was set by his training partner Joseph Deng three years ago.

The top two from each of the three semifinals plus the next two fastest runners move onto the finals, which are on Wednesday, Aug. 4. 

Tokyo is Bol’s second Olympics. Originally from South Sudan, Bol’s family made their way to Australia when he was a child. He started running as a teenager when a teacher convinced him to start running. 

Volleyball 

Taylor Sander of the United States spikes a ball during a men’s volleyball preliminary round pool B match against argentina, at the 2020 Summer Olympics, early Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan.
Taylor Sander of the United States spikes a ball during a men’s volleyball preliminary round pool B match against argentina, at the 2020 Summer Olympics, early Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. Credit: Manu Fernandez, Associated Press

Team USA, including outside hitter Taylor Sander, lost to Argentina 3-0 (25-21, 25-23 and 25-23) in the final game of preliminary round in Pool B. The winner of the match took the final spot in the quarterfinals.  

In volleyball, the 12 teams were divided into two pools of six teams and each team plays the other five teams in the pool. The top four teams in the pool advance to the quarterfinals. Team USA was 2-3 in Pool B, coming in fifth and not advancing to the quarterfinals.

Sander, 29, of California, played at BYU and was part of USA’s bronze-winning team in 2016.  

Read more of Church News’ coverage of athletes connected to the Church competing in the Olympics

Competing Monday 

USA’s Sarah Robles and Tonga’s Kuinini “Nini” Manumua compete in 87-plus kilogram weightlifting on Monday, Aug. 2. In basketball, the Australian women, including Leilani Mitchell, play Puerto Rico in the Group C preliminary round. Over on the sand, Team USA’s Jake Gibb and teammate Tri Bourne face a duo from Germany in the elimination round.

On social  

Adams celebrated her Olympic experience sharing an image of her holding a photo of her children while draped in the New Zealand flag and “No Words.” 

Bol recapped his semifinals with winning his heat, setting a personal best and Australian record, and advancing to the finals.   

Jordan Matyas, of Team USA’s rugby sevens team, reflected on her first Olympic experience and her team’s sixth place finish.  

“Although it’s not my time to be a winner on the pitch we are all winning in some other way. I’m proud to be apart of something greater than myself,” she wrote.

  

Bruna Benites, of Brazil’s soccer team, who came in sixth overall, shared her appreciation the support they’ve received and quoted a scripture about gratitude.  

Team USA’s Alexis “Lexi” Lagan reflected on her experience in Tokyo as she looks ahead.  

“This has been an incredible experience that I can hardly put words to. I’m so happy with what I have been able to accomplish and look forward to my upcoming competitions,” she wrote.

Puerto Rico’s Jarod Arroyo, who competed in swimming, shared a photo in front of the Olympic rings.