Fraser-Pryce, Felix feature in day one of athletics
July 29 2021 11:47 PM
In this file photo taken on September 29, 2019, Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (left) finishes fi
In this file photo taken on September 29, 2019, Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (left) finishes first ahead of Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson in the Women’s 100m final at the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha. (AFP)

AFP/ Tokyo

The opening day of athletics at the 2020 Tokyo Games will take place at the Olympic Stadium today. Here is a look at five stand-out events.

Men’s 10,000m final
The only final on the opening day of track and field will see a new champion for the first time since 2012 in the absence of two-time defending champion Mo Farah. The 38-year-old Farah, who swept the 5,000m and 10,000m at both the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympics, failed to make the British team for Tokyo.
Star quality in the 25-lap race in Tokyo comes in the shape of two Ugandans: world record-holder Joshua Cheptegei and world-leader Jacob Kiplimo. Commonwealth champion Cheptegei, who finished sixth in the event in Rio before winning world silver in 2017 and gold in 2019, and Kiplimo are both aiming for the 5,000m-10,000m double in Tokyo.
While Kiplimo might own the world lead, most eyes will be on Cheptegei, who in 2020 broke not only Bekele’s 16-year-old 5,000m world record, but also the Ethiopian’s 15-year-old mark in the 10,000 (26:11.00), before then setting world records in the 5km and 10km road races.

Women’s 100m heats
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce clocked 10.63sec to become the second-fastest 100m sprinter of all time in June. The 34-year-old Jamaican is now aiming to become the first woman to win a single individual Olympic athletics event three times, to add to the 100m victories she claimed in 2008 and 2012. Second-quickest this year is Fraser-Pryce’s compatriot Elaine Thompson-Herah, the defending champion in both the 100 and 200m. Fraser-Pryce will also be under pressure from Blessing Okagbare, who ran a wind-assisted 10.63sec to win the Nigerian trials, and Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith, who won the world 200m title and also claimed silver in the 100m and 4x100m in Doha.

Men’s 400m hurdles heats
One of the headline events of the Olympic track events, given that it will pitch Norwegian Karsten Warholm againt American rival Rai Benjamin. Benjamin ran 46.83sec when winning the US trials, but not to be outdone, Warholm, at his home meet in Oslo and in his favoured lane seven, then ran 46.70sec to break Kevin Young’s world record set at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Warholm held off Benjamin in a thrilling duel at the 2019 world championships in Doha, and the rivalry between the pair should guarantee a spectacle. Athletes chasing a podium finish include Brazil’s Alison Dos Santos and Qatar’s sub-47sec performer Abderrahman Samba.

Women’s 5,000m heats
Sifan Hassan will kick off her audacious treble bid when she takes to the track for heats in the 5,000m. The Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman is targeting not just the 5,000m, but also the 1500 and 10,000m in an unprecedented tilt at middle-distance dominance. Hassan became the first athlete to achieve the 1500 and 10,000m world double in Doha in 2019, an astonishing display given that it coincided with a four-year ban handed down to her then coach Alberto Salazar, the head of the now-disbanded Nike-funded Oregon Project. The 5,000m could prove to be Hassan’s toughest event: in Gudaf Tsegay, Ejgayehu Taye, Senbere Teferi, Hellen Obiri and Agnes Tirop, the Tokyo entry list features five of the world’s 10 fastest ever over the distance.  There will be no Letesenbet Gidey, however, the Ethiopian world record holder focusing instead on the 10,000m, in which she also has the world record, snatched two days after Hassan had set a new mark. A potential hurdle for Hassan is that the 5,000m final comes on August 2, following heats for the 1500m earlier that day.

Mixed 4x400m relay heats
The mixed relay makes its Olympic debut having previously appeared at the 2019 world championships, where a US quartet featuring veteran Allyson Felix won gold. The 35-year-old elder stateswoman of US track and field brings the curtain down on her 17-year Olympic career in Tokyo.
In her fifth and final Olympics, Felix is bidding to become the most decorated female track and field athlete in Games history. She is currently tied with Jamaican legend Merlene Ottey with nine medals, a dazzling haul that includes six golds and three silvers.
One more medal in Tokyo — virtually guaranteed given her place in the dominant US women’s 4x400m relay squad — will see her pull clear of Ottey. If she wins two or more, she will overtake Carl Lewis as the most decorated American track athlete in history.

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