Leading athletes set sights on Gold at Tokyo 2020 Olympics | Sunday Observer

Leading athletes set sights on Gold at Tokyo 2020 Olympics

25 July, 2021
Allyson Felix of the United States
Allyson Felix of the United States

All leading athletes are set to compete on the world’s largest stage in 48 track and field events, from July 30 to August 8, 2021, at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games, creating exciting competition, gripping rivalries and flashes for the record books.

The qualifying system for individual events at Tokyo 2020 was fundamentally different from previous versions. Instead of being only based on set qualifying standards, the new system is also based on IAAF World Rankings. Qualifying standards provided an alternate pathway, but are to be set high enough that only exceptional performances will meet them. Maximum entries per event were set, with the world rankings being used to fill the quota after the standards-based entrants and universality entrants are set.

For relays, the qualification is somewhat similar to previous years. Eight teams selected through the results at the 2019 World Championships, then adding the finalists of 2021 World Athletics Relays if different ones and some more selected through time rankings up to 16 teams by event.

At Rio 2016 Summer Olympics, the United States earned 13 gold, 10 silver, 9 bronze and overall 32 medals, which was more than double the haul of the next nation Kenya that secured 6 gold, 6 silver, 1 bronze and a total of 13 medals. Jamaica came third with 6 gold, 3 silver, 2 bronze and a total of 11 medals. China ended fourth with 2 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze and a total of 6 medals. A total of 141 medals were awarded and 42 nations reached the medal table.

The Tokyo 2020 won’t be anything like the Games you’ve watched in the past. The strict on-the-ground rules, will be in effect because of the COVID-19 pandemic that triggered a new state of emergency for Tokyo. The author predicts the following elite athletes as the leading contenders for gold medals.

Women’s 400m - Allyson Felix (United States): Felix, 35, is an Olympic legend. With just one medal in Tokyo, she will become the most decorated female athlete in Olympic history. She specialized in 200m from 2003 and gradually shifted to 400m. Her racing repertoire also spans 100m, 4x100m, and 4x400m. At 200m, she is London 2012 Olympic champion, a 3-time World champion and 2-time Olympic silver medalist at Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. At 400m, she is Rio 2016 silver medalist.

Felix has won five additional Olympic gold medals as a member of the United States’ relay teams: three at 4x400m (2008, 2012 and 2016), and two at 4x100m (2012 and 2016). The 2012 US Olympic 4x100m team also set the women’s 4x100m world-record that still stands. Felix is the only female athlete to ever win six Olympic gold medals, and is tied with Merlene Ottey as the most decorated female Olympian in athletics history, with a total of nine Olympic medals.

Felix is also the most decorated athlete, male or female, in World Championships history with 18 medals, and also has the most gold medals at 13. In 2018, she became a mother. A severe case of preeclampsia resulted in an emergency c-section and her daughter Cammy spent a month in the NICU. At Tokyo, her fifth Olympics, she could tie or break the record for most medals won by an American held by Carl Lewis with 10 medals. She is included in Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020.

Men’s 100m and 200m - Andre De Grasse (Canada): De Grasse, 26, the last man standing, with Usain Bolt retired and other once elite sprinters failing to qualify. He will be the only sprint double medalist from Rio 2016. De Grasse, the first Canadian sprinter to win three Olympic medals in a single games, won a silver in 200m and bronze in both 100m and 4x100m at Rio 2016. At 2019 World Championships, he won a bronze in 100m and a silver in 200m.

Men’s 100m - Christian Coleman (United States): Coleman, 23, has over the past three seasons, established himself as the warm favorite to succeed Usain Bolt as the Olympic 100m champion. Most recently when he surged to the world title in a personal-best time of 9.76 secs, he became the sixth-fastest man in history.

Men’s 100m - Trayvon Bromell (United States): Bromell, 26, returned to form in 2021, recording a personal best and world leading time of 9.77 secs. He won the 2021 Olympic Trials. Bromell is the current junior record holder and the first ever junior to break 10-second threshold. His 9.77 makes him the 7th fastest of all time.

Men’s 200m - Noah Lyles (United States): Lyles, 23, the current world 200m champion has run the four fastest 200m times in the present Olympic cycle. He ran a season-best 19.74 at the US Trials, the fastest time in the world in 2021. He has the ability to match the retired Usain Bolt’s feat of sweeping the Olympic sprints and a similarly electric personality. He was anointed as the future of US sprinting and won 2019 World 200m in 19.50 (only Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Michael Johnson have run faster).

Women’s 100m and 200m - Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (Jamaica): Fraser-Pryce, 34, the 2008 and 2012 Olympic 100m champion, came back from childbirth to win the 2019 World 100m title in 10.71. She is the first mom to win an Olympic or world 100m title in 24 years. Her 10.63 on June 5, 2021 made her the second-fastest woman in history behind Florence Griffith Joyner. Her personal best of 21.79 in 200m ranks her No. 2 in 2021.

Women’s 100m and 200m - Dina Asher-Smith (Great Britain): Asher-Smith, 25, the fastest British woman in recorded history will be Team GB’s “poster girl” in Tokyo, given her seamless upward trajectory and personality. She will have live chances in 100m and 200m.She won a gold in 200m, two silver in 100m and 4x100m at 2019 World Championships, making her the greatest British female sprinter in history.

Women’s 200m - Gabrielle Thomas (United States): Thomas, 24, ran 200m in 21.61 to become the second-fastest woman ever, trailing only two times posted by world record holder Florence Griffith-Joyner, 33 years ago. Thomas’s time was stunning, she shot past Marion Jones, Merlene Ottey, Allyson Felix, and a long list of former Eastern bloc sprinters, exceptionally fast company. Flo-Jo’s times have long been considered untouchable, her world record of 21.34 from the Seoul 1988 Olympics is still far out in the distance, but Thomas now has an obstructed view and a potentially long future.

Men’s 400m - Wayde van Niekerk (South Africa): Van Niekerk, 29, the current world record and Olympic record holder in 400m, became the only athlete to establish a new world record in men’s events at Rio 2016, clocking 43.03 on August 14, 2016. The same year, he became the first sprinter in the history to run 100m under 10 secs, 200m under 20 secs, and 400m under 44 secs. In 2017, he became the only sprinter in history to have run sub-10, sub-20, sub-31 and sub-44 performances at 100m, 200m, 300m and 400m respectively.

Men’s 400m - Michael Norman (United States): Norman, 23, ran a quiet 44.07 to win 400m at the US Trials and could also be favored in Tokyo, pending the health of defending gold medalist and world record holder Wayde van Niekerk, who has wrestled with injuries since Rio 2016. Michael holds the world best time in 400m at 43.45, set in 2019 and tied as the fourth on the all-time list.

Women’s 400m - Shaunae Miller-Uibo (Bahamas): Miller-Uibo, 27, the reigning 400m Olympic champion, was also the fastest over 200m in 2019. As per the schedule she would have to run a 400m heat on the morning before trying to win gold in 200m final in the evening.

Women’s 400m - Quanera Hayes (United States): Hayes, 29, gave birth to Demetrius in October 2018 and said returning to the track for 400m was a challenge. Still, her hardest experience as a mom was when her husband and baby whilst in Bahamas got caught to the Covid-19 shut down of the island for four months.

Men’s 110m Hurdles - Grant Holloway (United States): Holloway, 23, ran 110m hurdles in a searing 12.81 secs, just .01 off Aries Merritt’s 2012 world record, and cruised to an easy victory at the US Trials. He will be the favorite in Tokyo.

Men’s 400m Hurdles - Karsten Warholm (Norway): Warholm, 25, the world record holder in 400m hurdles, is a two-time World Championship gold medalist (2017, 2019) and European Championship gold medalist (2018). He clocked 46.70 in Norway on July 1, 2021 to surpass the record of Kevin Young established in 1992.

Men’s 400m Hurdles - Rai Benjamin (United States): Benjamin, 23, narrowly missed a world record at the US Trials, running 46.83 in 400m hurdles, just shy of Kevin Young’ revered 46.78, which has stood since the 1992 Olympics. He currently holds the third-fastest time in the world.

Women’s 400m Hurdles - Sydney McLaughlin (United States): McLaughlin, 21, crushed 400m hurdles world record to win the U.S. Olympic Trials and supplant now former record holder Dalilah Muhammad as the gold-medal favorite. McLaughlin clocked 51.90, bettering Rio 2016 gold medalist Dalilah’s previous record of 52.16 in 2019. McLaughlin became the only woman to finish the 400m hurdles in under 52 secs. At Rio 2016 at 17, she was the youngest American to compete in athletics.

Women’s 400m Hurdles - Dalilah Muhammad (United States): Muhammad, 31, the top US female sprinter at the moment, is the second-fastest in history. Dalilah is the reigning Olympic and world 400m hurdles champion and twice lowered the world record in 2019. Dalilah who dealt with a COVID infection and a hamstring injury, finished second at the US Trials. Dalilah, who was so set back this spring that she considered making US Trials her first meet of the season, said she saw McLaughlin’s world record coming, “makes it exciting for fans, but nerve-racking for me.”

Women’s 800m - Athing Mu (United States): Mu, 19, the future of the event in the US and possibly in the world, ran the second-fastest women’s 800m in the American history, 1:56.07 at the US Trials, to assume Olympic favorite status in Tokyo. Mu ran with breathtaking grace and upright power, walking away from the field. The last American to win 800m at the Olympic Games was Madeline Manning at Mexico City 1968.

Men’s 5000m and 10,000m - Joshua Cheptegei (Uganda): Cheptegei, 24, the current world record holder of 5,000m and 10,000m, both set in 2020. In 2018, he set a world record for 15 km road race. Then, became the cross-country world champion in 2019. On August 14, 2020, at the Monaco Diamond League meet, he set a new 5000m world record of 12:35.36, breaking Kenenisa Bekele’s 16-year-old time of 12:37.35. On October 7, 2020, in Valencia, he set a world record of 26:11.00 in 10,000m, again breaking Kenenisa Bekele’s 15-year world record.

Men’s High Jump and Long Jump - JuVaughn Harrison (United States): Harrison, 21, who is ranked second in the world in both long jump and high jump is set to become the first American since Jim Thorpe in 1912 to compete in the two events at the Olympics. On March 12, 2021 at the NCAA Division I Indoor Track and Field, he set personal records in high jump with 2.30m and in long jump with 8.45m, thus becoming the first man in history capable of jumping at least 8.40 and 2.30 in long and high jumps.

Women’s High Jump - Maria Lasitskene (Russia/ Neutral Athlete): Lasitskene, 28, won an unprecedented three high jump world championship titles in 2015, 2017 and 2019. has a personal best of 2.06m. She was a piping hot favorite for gold at the Rio 2016 – only to be barred from competition when the IAAF, banned all Russians from the Games.

Women’s Triple Jump - Yulimar Rojas (Venezuela): Rojas, 25, the Olympic silver medalist at Rio 2016, two time World Champion (2017 London and 2019 Doha) in Triple jump. Her personal best of 15.43m was achieved on May 22, 2021in Spain.

Men’s Pole Vault - Armand Duplantis (Sweden): Duplantis, 21, has a world best of 6.15m. Duplantis has also won 2020 Diamond League and 2021 European Indoor Championships, setting record heights.

Men’s Discus Throw - Daniel Stahl (Sweden): Stahl, 28, was crowned World Champion at the 2019 World Championships. In 2017, he managed a throw of 71.29m, setting a new personal best. His throw remains the best in the world since 2013.

Women’s Discus Throw – Sandra Perkovic (Croatia): Perkovic, 31, a two-time Olympic (2012, 2016) and World (2013, 2017) champion and a five-time European champion with a personal best of 71.41m.

Women’s Javelin Throw - Kelsey-Lee Barber (Australia): Barber, 29, won gold at the 2019 World Championships, and her personal best is 67.70m. Barber is based at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra. Her seasonal best chart over the past decade shows almost linear improvement. Tokyo will be her first outing as the athlete to beat.

Men’s Shot Put - Ryan Crouser (United States): Crouser, 28, threw 23.37m on June 18, 2021, at the US Olympic Trials to reach a new world record surpassing Randy Barnes’s 31-year-old record. On January 24, 2021, he threw 22.82m to set a new world indoor record breaking Randy Barnes’s world record of 1989. Crouser is the reigning Olympic champion with a gold at Rio 2016 and Olympic Games record holder at 22.52m. His performance in 2020 included a world-leading throw of 22.91m to place him third on the world all-time list. By the end of the 2020, he had thrown 22m or more 104 times in his career, the most in history.

Women’s Shot Put - Valerie Adams (New Zealand): Adams, 26, won gold medals at 2008 and 2012 Olympic games and a silver medal at 2016. She has a personal best of 21.24m.

Women’s Shot Put – Gong Lijiao (China): Lijiao, 32, the leading Chinese athlete with a personal best of 20.35 in Shot Put. She has a silver from London 2012.

Men’s 20km Race Walk - Toshikazu Yamanishi (Japan): Yamanishi, 25, won gold in 20 km race walk at the 2019 Asian with a world leading time of 1:17.15 and gold at 2019 World Championships.

Men’s Decathlon - Kevin Mayer (France): Mayer, 28, the world champion and world record holder, established a new world record of 9126 points in 2018. At Rio 2016, Mayer earned a silver with a new personal best of 8834 points. At the 2017 World championships, he won his first decathlon of the year winning his first World gold with a world-leading score of 8768 points.

Men’s Marathon - Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya): Kipchoge, 36, the world record holder with 2:01:39, set on September 16, 2018, at the Berlin Marathon. He has been described as “the greatest marathoner of the modern era.” At 18, he became the 5000m world champion at the 2003 World, then followed with a bronze in Athens 2004. In his marathon debut, he won the 2013 Hamburg Marathon with a course record. His first victory at a World Marathon came at the Chicago Marathon 2014. He won the London Marathon a record 4 times and the Olympic marathon in Rio 2016. On October 12, 2019, Kipchoge ran the first sub-2 hours marathon in history at a special event in Vienna, achieving a time of 1:59:40 though not accepted as a world record.

Women’s Marathon - Brigid Kosgei (Kenya): Kosgei, 27, won 2018 and 2019 Chicago and 2019 and 2020 London Marathons. She is the current marathon world record holder with a time of 2:14:04 achieved on October 13, 2019.

(The author is the winner of Presidential awards for sports and recipient of multiple National accolades for academic pursuits. He possesses a PhD, MPhil and double MSc. He can be reached at [email protected])