For many people, athletics or track and field is simply an Olympic sport. They never watch it outside of the Olympic Games, but it may be their favourite every four years. Even Stephen Colbert, host of the Late Show said, “for me track and field is my favourite sport at the Olympics.”
World Athletics has previewed a few events. The athletics portion of the Olympic Games begins Friday, July 30th.
Two world records, just two days apart, and now the world’s all-time top two are preparing to go head-to-head on the biggest stage of them all. The women’s 10,000m looks set to be quite a show.
In one of the most highly anticipated clashes of the Games, Dutch star Sifan Hassan, the double 2019 world champion and multiple world record-holder, will take on Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey, the world silver medallist who now has both the world 5000m and 10,000m records to her name, as they look to build on the history they made in Hengelo earlier this summer.
First it was Hassan in the spotlight. Racing on home soil at the FBK Games on 6 June, the 28-year-old ran 29:06.82 to take more than 10 seconds off the world 10,000m record of 29:17.45 which had been set by Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana five years earlier at the Rio Olympics.
Four of the main contenders in the men’s 5000m will enter the event off the back of competing in another discipline.
Ugandan duo Joshua Cheptegei and Jacob Kiplimo are entered for the 10,000m, held four days before the first round of the 5000m. Jakob Ingebrigtsen is entered for the 1500m, the heats of which take place on the same day as the 5000m heats, while the semis and final are respectively held one day before and after the 5000m final. Ethiopia’s Getnet Wale, meanwhile, will potentially have two rounds of the steeplechase in his legs before turning his attention to the 5000m.
But Spain’s Mohamed Katir, one of the breakthrough sensations of the year, will start the 12-and-a-half-lap event with fresh legs, which could give him the slight advantage.
In terms of pure speed, Cheptegei tops the bill as he owns the world record for the distance with his 12:35.36 clocking from 2019. The 10,000m has been his focus at recent major championships and he won the world title for that distance in 2019. He is no stranger to doubling up, too, as he contested the 5000m and 10,000m in Rio and claimed gold in both events at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
100m and 110m hurdles
The margin for error is so minuscule in the 110m hurdles that it regularly throws up unexpected results.
The form guide would say that reigning world champion Grant Holloway, who broke the world indoor record over 60m hurdles this year, and missed the 110m hurdles record by just 0.01 at the US Olympic trials, is the clear favourite but favourites fall too in an event as fraught as the high hurdles. When the aim of the game is clearing 10 barriers, each just over one metre tall, at a full sprint, the risk is high of something going awry.
However, Holloway has made the event his own since graduating from college in 2019, immediately establishing his superiority on the international scene by annexing the world title in Doha and improving year on year.
The 23-year-old US athlete has not lost a hurdles race, heat or final, since August last year and will arrive in Tokyo at the top of his game after his 12.81 clocking in Eugene.
The USA has dominated this event historically, winning the gold medal 19 times previously (out of 28 editions), so Holloway would make this a neat 20th title for his country.
The man who would be most likely to challenge him, the 2016 Olympic champion Omar McLeod, will not be in Tokyo. His challenge finished when he hit the first hurdle at the Jamaican Olympic trials in late June.
The other sub-13-second men…