In this file photo taken on August 18, 2016, Jamaican Usain Bolt waves a flag as he celebrates after winning the men’s 200m final in the track and field event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium from Rio de Janeiro. (AFP)
TOKYO, Japan – Usain Bolt may have hung up his boots in 2017, but the Tokyo Olympics are the first Summer Games in 17 years not to feature the incomparable Jamaican sprinter.
In his absence, a group of rising athletic stars, with Swedish pole vaulter Armand Duplantis, American sprinter Noah Lyles and recent world records in the 400m hurdles Karsten Warholm and Sydney McLaughlin leading the way. travel to Japan to build their own legacy. .
While Bolt, 20, was a bit of a player at the 2004 Athens Olympics, eliminated in the first round of the 200m, he won eight gold medals at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Games.
There is no doubt that the sport has struggled to overcome its important peaks.
It is therefore a tragedy that the 10 days of athletics which begin in Tokyo on Friday are going without spectators due to the anti-Covid-19 measures, as they feature a group of young stars more than capable of at least taking on part of Bolt’s coat. .
Jamaican Usain Bolt strikes a pose as he competes in a lap of honor on the final day of the 2017 IAAF World Championships at the London Stadium in London on August 13, 2017 (AFP)
To add to the excitement, advancements in running shoe technology have ushered in a host of mid- and long-distance specialists who set hunting world records every time they take to the track.
Gold on a new record
Duplantis took the men’s pole vault to another stratosphere by not only setting a new world record of 6.18m indoors last year, but also by jumping 6.15m outdoors to finally improve. one centimeter the previous record of Sergey Bubka in 1994.
“Winning is really the only goal,” said the 21-year-old when asked if more records are on target in Tokyo.
“In a dream world, I would like to go and break the world record and do something very legendary at the Games. But these are my first games, I just want to win, that’s the only thing on my mind. “
The 400m hurdles are set to be one of the most successful track events for men and women, after Norway’s Warholm and American McLaughlin both set new world records in the race in Tokyo.
The two have close rivals up their necks in the form of American duo Rai Benjamin and reigning world and Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad.
Trayvon Bromell aims to become the first American sprinter to win the men’s Olympic 100m since Justin Gatlin in 2004 – and for once, there is no serious Jamaican threat.
In contrast, in the women’s event, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is trying to win gold for Jamaica for the third time.
Lyles is focused on the 200m, although he will face stiff competition from compatriot Erriyon Knighton, whose 19.88 seconds in May at the age of just 17 broke two world records in the 200m in the age category previously held by Bolt.
Hassan tries the triple
Warholm’s Norwegian teammate Jakob Ingebrigtsen, just 20, is now a real rival to the strong East African contingent with his quick arrival after setting European records in the 1,500m and 5,000m and winning races. continental titles.
“My goal is long term, I want to be able to win gold in the major championships,” he said.
“Last season it wasn’t about winning, it was about running fast. This year, it’s the opposite for Tokyo. I have to make sure that I will be at my best in Tokyo. “
Middle and long distance races in world championships rarely produce records as they tend to be more tactical.
But technological advancements in running shoes mean that no record is secure yet, at least not in the presence of Dutch gung-ho Sifan Hassan, who will attempt an unprecedented treble of 1500m, 5000m and 10000m.
Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei should be the man to beat as he attempts a 5,000m / 10,000m double.
Only 18 gold medalists from the 43 individual events contested at the Rio Olympics five years ago will be in Tokyo.
800m world champion Donavan Brazier of the United States and Olympic 110m hurdles champion Omar McLeod of Jamaica missed the selection, while other stars including world and Olympic triple jump champion Christian Taylor , are absent due to injury.
The U.S. team is counting on 35-year veteran Allyson Felix who will become the most decorated female track and field athlete in Games history if she adds nine medals to her record at her fifth Olympics.
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