The Tokyo Rundown Issue #4
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Women's 100m Semis and Finals
After watching the semi-finals, we knew the final was going to be fast. Four women eclipsed 10.8 seconds, with Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (JAM) running 10.73 to tie the seventh fastest time in history. All the big names advanced to the final, while only one American, Teahna Daniels, advanced.
Speaking of the final, does anyone know where to get a good broom? The Jamaicans could use a couple after that sweep.
The island nation reminded the world why they are synonymous with sprint success, taking all three medals in this race. Elaine Thompson won in 10.61 seconds, setting a new Olympic record and running the second-fastest time in history. Thompson was dominant for a couple years before going through some personal struggles. Whatever was ailing her clearly is in the past and the Jamaican has the world record officially on watch.
Not far behind was compatriot Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. After running 10.63 earlier this season, we knew SAFP would be a gold medal contender. Many doubted her chances after she stepped away to start a family, but the 2021 silver medalist proved that “mom strength” is real. It is also even more evidence that we need to stop the narrative that motherhood and athletic performance are antagonists, because moms continue to show out on the world stage.
Taking bronze was Sharicka Jackson, running a personal best in the process. Her mark of 10.76 seconds moves her to 11th all-time and cements her into a rich Jamaican history.
Marie-Josee Ta Lou (CIV) finished fourth in 10.91, with Teahna Daniels (USA) coming in seventh. Daniels is only 24 and looks to have a bright future in the sprints.
Women's 800 Semis
The cut from semis to finals is a lot sharper than from prelims to semis. Roughly half the field makes it out of the first round, where only a third advance in the next series of cuts. That means we’re almost guaranteed to see big names miss out on the final, and 2021 was no exception.
Keeping in line with my prediction from yesterday, Ajee Wilson (USA) did not make the final. The American was in position with 100 meters left but couldn’t find the gears down the home straight and faded to fourth in her heat. Reigning world champion Halimah Nakaayi (UGA) was also eliminated in that heat, finishing eighth. Rose Mary Almanza (CUB) was also knocked out during Heat 3, finishing fourth.
Athing Mu continues to assert her dominance, winning Heat 2 in 1:58 while leading wire-to-wire. At this point, it’s Mu’s race to lose. It’s a shame that she is not able to compete against the likes of Caster Semanya and Francine Niyonsaba. A race with those three would be absolutely incredible and we’d potentially see Mu pushed to her limits for (maybe) the first time.
Mu’s victory dragged her competitors in Heat 2 to the fastest semi-final of the day, with Finland’s Sara Kuivisto finishing in sixth but setting a national record in the process.
Raevyn Rogers was able to narrowly sneak into the final after a nerve-wracking race. Rogers was only fifth with 100 meters remaining but was able to pass two runners down the stretch and earn one of two time qualifiers.
Other favorites Natoya Goule (JAM), Jemma Reekie (GBR), and Keely Hodgkinson (GBR) all advanced to the final.
Men's 800 Heats
What a rollercoaster. Heats are normally a pretty standard process and for most of this event, that’s how things went. But for American fans, there was a catch. The young American, Isaiah Jewitt, is known for running from the front and despite moving from the NCAA to the Olympic stage, his tactics didn’t change. Jewitt took his heat out fast but started to fade with around 250 meters left. He ultimately came across in fifth, two spots out of an automatic qualifier. With his fate hanging on the next five races, all Jewitt could do was wait.
Fortunately for him, the other heats didn’t try to use his time as a benchmark. Jewitt was the fastest non-automatic qualifier, finishing with a time of 1:45.07. His fellow American teammates also ran well and will be moving on to the semi-finals.
Bryce Hoppel finished third in the final heat, letting off the gas in the final meters when he had realized no one was catching him. Hoppel looked a bit anxious, potentially working too much to follow and cover moves that didn’t need to be matched, but such is the life for an Olympic rookie.
Someone who’s not a rookie on this stage is Clayton Murphy. The reigning bronze medalist looked extremely smooth throughout his race, pulling away down the homestretch. The prelims don’t tell us much but Murphy sure looks like a podium contender.
Outside of the Americans, nothing of particular note happened. It sounds like a broken record, but when there are this many heats in Round 1, there’s not usually too much drama in the first races.
Women's 400m Hurdles Heats
“Pressure is an illusion”. Those are the words Sydney McLaughlin said in an interview after her prelim heat and if you weren’t confident she was going to win before that, you best be now. McLaughlin cruised through her heat, looking every bit like the world record holder as she easily gapped her competitors. It’s hard to picture her off the podium at this point.
The rest of the other favorites also moved on to the semi-finals, including the other two Americans, Anna Cockrell and Dalilah Muhammed. On paper, the battle for gold looks to be between Muhammed and McLaughlin. Both have held the world record in the past four months and look to be in peak form right now. Cockrell was only third in her heat but is coming off a long college season and continues to find a way.
The semi-finals are slated for the evening session of Day 4.
Women’s 400m Hurdles
There might not be a more exciting moment in athletics than when Sydney McLaughlin steps on the track. The sport’s biggest young star set a world record in the event at the US Olympic Trials and became the first woman to eclipse 52 seconds in the process.
McLaughlin will have all eyes on her but her teammate, Dalilah Muhammad, should attract just as many. Until their showdown in Eugene, Muhammad was the world record holder and the “rivalry” that has formed between the two has elevated this event to a whole new level of exciting.
It will be interesting to see how Anna Cockrell (USA) does after such a long season. The former USC Trojan has been competing for months thanks to NCAA seasons. With just over a month since the US Trials, Cockrell may have had enough time to decompress a bit before her first shot on the biggest stage.
Since 2017, American’s have rethought what was possible in the women’s steeplechase. An event that had been predominantly dominated by East Africans was flipped on its head when Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs went 1-2 at the World Championships. The question now is can they replicate that success on the Olympic stage?
If you caught our preview newsletter, we mentioned Coburn as one of favorites to win gold. Coburn looks to be in sub-9:00 shape after her race in Monaco and should have no issues moving through the first round.
While Frerichs has been a little more inconsistent this season, she had a solid performance at the Olympic Trials. The Bowerman runner shouldn’t have any issues in the preliminary round but it should be a good chance for her to showcase her fitness and silence any doubts from the outside.
The other American in the field is Valerie Constien. The Colorado alum has been representing Tracksmith leading into the Olympics and was someone few expected to be competing in Tokyo. Based on season bests, Constien ranks fourth in her heat, with the top three set to automatically qualify. Her chances of making it here were slim but now she looks to be a real contender for making the final.
Besides the Americans, the favorite is Beatrice Chepkoech of Kenya. She has run 8:44, substantially better than anyone else in the field. Also keep your eyes on Winfred Yavi (BRN) and Mekides Abebe (ETH), who have both been running near the 9-minute barrier in 2021.
Men’s 400m Heats
This event shouldn’t produce much drama, with a majority of the field moving on to the semi-finals. All three Americans, led by Michael Norman, should advance to the next round without much issue.
The biggest name to watch may be Wayde Van Niekirk of South Africa. The world record holder set the mark in the Olympic final back in 2016, coming agonizingly close to breaking 43 seconds. Since then, he suffered a major knee injury during a celebrity futbol match that has made his return to sport a long, slow process. Van Niekirk has only run 44.56 seconds this season, a long way from his personal best of 43.03. Will he be able to find some magic in Tokyo and resurrect his career or will the wait continue?
Men’s 100 Semi-Finals & Finals
These races are slated to take place on Sunday morning in the United States. Coming off the preliminary heats, the Americans are still expected to be strong contenders for the gold medal. Ronnie Baker looked strong in his first Olympic race, as did Fred Kerley. Trayvon Bromell… did not. Coming into Tokyo, Bromell was the betting favorite to win this event. While his opening round was certainly not what he was hoping for, Bromell has faced much worse scenarios in the past couple of years and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him bounce back as though it never happened.
Keep an eye on Andre De Grasse of Canada as well. De Grasse was one of the rising young stars in Rio, and while his races since then have been a mixed bag, I expect to see him strongly contend for a podium finish.
Men’s 800 Semi-Finals
As mentioned in the women’s commentary, this is where the cuts start to happen. The first round was largely a “business casual” event, with the favorites using it to open up their legs. Now, things get serious.
All three Americans moved on to the final, with Clayton Murphy looking the most dominant. Murphy is arguably a favorite to win gold and after struggling in Europe for a couple of competitions, looked right at home in his prelim.
Bryce Hoppel and Isaiah Jewitt were not nearly as dominant but both did what they needed to in order to advance. Hoppel looked a bit nervy during his race but if he can settle into his groove, he should make the final. Jewitt is a different story. He executed his race plan (hard from the gun) but didn’t have the strength to hold on against Olympic competition. After that result, will he try the same thing in the semi-finals or switch it up?
While there are still plenty of big names left, two others to keep your eyes on are Nijel Amos (BOT) and Marco Arop (CAN). Amos was the silver medalist when Rudisha set the world record and is capable of running 1:41. Arop looked incredibly smooth in his prelim heat, commanding the race like a master tactician.
All of these heats should be exciting with all of the big names looking to make the final.
One more round until the (real) showdown. Rai Benjamin and Karsten Warholm are actually in the same semi-final heat of the 400m hurdles but with two automatically qualifying from each, they should have no issue moving on. The bigger question is will they be pressing the gas in this heat or saving it until the final?
Raven Saunders and Jessica Ramsey are both in the final of the women’s shot put and have serious medal potential. Going off of season bests, Ramsey and Saunders are second and third (respectively). Saunders breezed through Round 1, while Ramsey struggled a little before taking some advice from Saunders. With the nerves worked out, can the American duo go 1-2 in Tokyo?
World record holder Keni Harrison will be looking to move on to the 100m hurdle final. She blitzed her prelim, running away from her competitors with ease. Fellow Americans Christina Clemons and Gabrielle Cunningham also made the semi-finals. Cunningham was originally not even on the Tokyo roster but made the team after Brianna Rollins-McNeal’s suspension was upheld.
Harrier Moment Of The Day
Being a MN company, we are huge Joe Klecker fans. Click the image below to see how his hometown came out to support him during his 10k.
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