Tokyo Olympics Athletics – Our highlights

With the dust settling on an enthralling athletics programme at the Tokyo Olympics we run our eyes over the highlights and performances that caught our eye.

Race of the Tokyo Olympic Games

Rai Benjamin’s performance at any other Olympics would have been seismic. Over half a second below the existing world record, all on the biggest occassion of his life. That Karsten Warholm was one stride in front makes it unfathomable. That Alison Dos Santos became the third quickest of all time gives it a touch of the insane.

Perhaps the greatest athletics race of all time took place in Toyko and frankly it’s not even close.

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Well it actually turns out it might be. Just days later the women did almost the exact same. Sydney McLaughlin and Dalilah Muhammad dueling right to the line. 51.46, 51.58 and with Femke Bol running 52.03 she also became the third fastest of all time. 400m hurdles is booming and with Bol and McLaughlin just 21 and 22 it’s only just beginning.

The 400m hurdles, both men and women, will be the highlights of not just this Olympics but many global athletics champs to come.

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Breakout star of the Tokyo Olympic Games

We knew Athing Mu was good. Did we know she was that good? Well probably yes to that too. But expecting something and delivering it at your first Olympics is something completely different. Mu is a phenomenon and could well become one of the sport’s most decorated ever athletes. An Olympic gold, having barely turned 19, just how far will Mu go? Don’t write anything off. Her 4 x 400m women’s gold makes her a double Olympic champ.

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Shock of the Tokyo Olympic Games

Johannes Vetter came to Tokyo as the man to beat. Undefeated in two years, 19 consecutive wins and the second furthest throw of all time. Reach anywhere near his best and a first Olympic title was surely his. No-one in the field had thrown within five metres of his furthest.

Vetter never challenged in Tokyo, second in his qualification group and then ninth in the final. His 82.53m first round throw was not even good enough to enter the second phase of throws.

Neeraj Chopra came to Tokyo as the fourth best in the field on 2021 bests. He leaves as the Olympic champion and India’s first ever athletics Olympic gold medalist. Some return and hopefully a breakout performance for the country (to see a piece I produced for World Athletics click here).

Interestingly silver and bronze medalists in Tokyo, Jakub Vadlejch and Vítězslav Veselý are 6th and 11th on the 2021 World list. They are two who stepped up when it matters.

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British performance of the Tokyo Olympic Games

Many deserve mention. Holly Bradshaw’s first and most treasured global medal, jumping 4.85m to finally deliver her best on the biggest occassion. Keely Hodgkinson’s mature silver in the 800m, displaying a tactical nous well beyond her nineteen years. Josh Kerr’s fearless pursuit of the best two milers in the world to claim 1500m bronze.

But for me it has to be Laura Muir. Since 2015, Muir has reached five different global outdoor finals. 5th, 7th, 4th, 6th and in Doha fifth. Always in the mix, always falling agonisingly short. On Saturday 6th August, the Scotswomen exercised those demons, banishing the heartache in one symbolic sprint down the home straight. Passing Sifan Hassan, Muir’s silver was a visceral reminder that the highest of highs often come not far from the lows that help define them.

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Country performance of the Tokyo Olympic Games

Elaine Thompson-Herah, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Shericka Jackson. Your women’s 100m Olympic medalists. A clean sweep of the podium is almost impossible but Jamaica have now done it twice. Echoing Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Warren Weir in London 2012 (over 200m), the Jamaican trio are the best in the world right now. It will come as no great shock that they backed it up with 4 x 100m relay gold.

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Unheralded performance of the Tokyo Olympic Games

Yulimar Rojas is the finest female triple jumper the world has ever seen. Her 15.67m, seventeen centimetres better than a once untouchable 25 year old world record. With three of the top four furthest jumps ever it is time we recognised the Venezuelan as perhaps the most talented in world athletics. To read about her extraordinary early life have a read of her story.

Like our Olympics athletics highlights, check out the rest of our Tokyo comment pieces here.

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Featured image “View from Tokyo Skytree” by Kinchan1 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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