Tokyo Olympics Daily: Thompson-Herah is the fastest woman alive

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Tokyo Olympics updates

Elaine Thompson-Herah has become the quickest woman alive after leading a Jamaican sweep of the medals in women’s 100 metres. A wide-open men’s field will compete for the chance to become the world’s fastest later on Sunday.

Thompson-Herah’s time of 10.61 seconds on Saturday night is the second-fastest ever run by a woman. It is topped only by the late Florence Griffith-Joyner’s world record of 10.49 seconds set in 1988, a time still surrounded by controversy given that it occurred in an era when steroid abuse was rife.

The women’s 100 metres final lived up to its billing as one of the most exciting events of the Tokyo Olympics so far, with Thompson-Herah breaking FloJo’s Olympic record of 10.62 seconds from the Seoul Games in 1988.

“I think I celebrated early a little too much,” Thompson-Herah said after the race, adding that she “most definitely” could have broken the world record had she not begun pointing and yelling in jubilation just before the finish line.

She was followed by compatriots Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the 2008 and 2012 Olympic gold medallist who stumbled on her third step but recovered for silver, and the former quarter-mile specialist-turned short sprinter Shericka Jackson for bronze. 

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Referring to FloJo’s longstanding world record, also considered suspect in part because of windy conditions on the day, Thompson-Herah said “eventually those times will erase, even if it takes five, four years they will erase slowly. To run this Olympic record tonight sends out a signal that anything is possible”. 

Anything is also possible in the men’s 100 metre final on Sunday evening in Tokyo, which will be the first such event without three-time champion Usain Bolt since the 2004 Athens Games. 

Leading the field of semi-final qualifiers are defending Olympic bronze medallist Andre De Grasse of Canada in 9.91 seconds and surprise contender Lamont Marcell Jacobs, who set a new national record of 9.94 seconds for Italy in the first round.

Neither time is within striking distance of the world record of 9.58 seconds held by Bolt, who retired after the 2017 world championships. 

Andre De Grasse, of Canada, wins a heat in the men’s 100 metres run at the 2020 Summer Olympics © AP

The race will be notable for featuring a new generation of sprinters and a few absences. The latter include the 2019 world championships gold and silver medallists, Christian Coleman and Justin Gatlin of the US, respectively. Coleman is suspended for a series of missed anti-doping tests, while Gatlin at age 39 did not qualify for the team at the American trials.

Fellow American Trayvon Bromell, expected to be another favourite for gold with a personal best of 9.77 seconds, had a poor showing in the first heats on Saturday, failing to secure an automatic qualifying spot and advancing on a time of 10.05 seconds. 

With temperatures forecast near 27C at race time, De Grasse said that heat and oppressive humidity were welcome features for a speedier final. “I don’t know what [time] it will take, but it will be fast. The weather conditions are helping,” he said.


  • Defending 200 metres world champion Dina Asher-Smith of Britain withdrew from her signature event in Tokyo as she is battling a hamstring injury sustained shortly before the Games. Asher-Smith failed to advance from the semi-finals of the 100 metres and subsequently said she had been struggling to find the right diagnosis for the injury, which occurred in the finals of the British trials. Asher-Smith is still listed to compete in the 4 x 100 metres relay, heats for which begin on Thursday.

  • The number of new daily Covid-19 cases in Tokyo has burst above 4,000 for the first time since the pandemic began as the virus situation in Japan deteriorates. Even though the Olympics are being held behind closed doors, the rise of the Delta variant and public weariness with virus restrictions has led to a surge in cases, with authorities struggling to bring them under control.
    “Cases have doubled compared with last week,” said health minister Norihisa Tamura on Sunday. “The Delta variant is steadily taking over and that’s affecting the speed of the outbreak. We’re in a new phase, with a risk that infections keep rising, and the question is how we overcome that.”

  • Britain’s BMX riders continue to spring surprises. Charlotte Worthington, 25, won the women’s freestyle park event, beating the US’s Hannah Roberts, the three-time world champion. Worthington had crashed in her first run, but in a spectacular second and final attempt, where she became the first woman to produce a 360-degree backflip in competition, earned a score of 97.50 and the gold. The victory adds to Bethany Shriever’s win in the women’s BMX racing, and Kye Whyte’s silver in the men’s event.

Charlotte Worthington of Britain competes in the women’s BMX freestyle final at the 2020 Summer Olympics © AP
  • The Olympic swimming competition has ended with the US team, as ever, leaving as the leading nation in the pool. But the Americans received a stiff challenge in Tokyo from an inspired Australian team. 

    On Saturday, the two countries split the remaining golds. For the US, Caeleb Dressel was crowned the world’s fastest swimmer after winning the men’s 50 metres freestyle. The country’s men’s quartet posted a world record to win the 4 x 100 metres relay, while Robert Finke triumphed in the men’s 1,500 metres freestyle.
    But Australia’s Emma McKeon grabbed her fourth Olympic title in these Games by winning the women’s 50 metres freestyle and being part of the team that won the 4 x 100 metres medley relay. At the end of competition, the US team managed 11 golds and 30 medals overall, compared to Australia’s nine golds and 20 medals. 

  • Belinda Bencic became the first Swiss woman to win Olympic tennis gold, defeating the Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 on Saturday night, with a chance for a second gold in women’s doubles tennis on Sunday. With her individual victory, Bencic became the first Swiss tennis gold since Marc Rosset in 1992.

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic reacts after losing to Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta in their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games men’s singles tennis match for the bronze medal © AFP via Getty Images
  • Men’s tennis world number one Novak Djokovic will leave Tokyo with no medals, after a meltdown in the bronze medal match against Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain and withdrawing from the mixed-doubles bronze medal match shortly after. The Serbian star came into these Games hoping to become the first male athlete to complete the so-called “Golden Slam”, winning each major tennis tournament and Olympic gold in a calendar year.

On the podium

Simone Biles pulled out of the floor exercise apparatus final, USA Gymnastics said on Sunday, leaving the balance beam as the only remaining event in which she could compete in Tokyo. She has been suffering from a performance-related issue that gymnasts call the “twisties”, meaning her body is not operating as her mind instructs.

Gymnasts have been sharing their experiences of the phenomenon. Rhys McClenaghan posted on Twitter a moment in training when he experienced the twisties, explaining it was “quite honestly funny to watch, but that’s because I didn’t land head first”.

Click here to see FT’s “alternative medals table” which ranks nations not just on their medal haul, but against how they should be performing against economic and geopolitical factors

Tokyo Olympics Daily is published at 4pm Japan time. It is written by the team behind the Scoreboard business of sports weekly newsletter, with contributions from the FT’s Tokyo bureau. Sign up to Scoreboard here to receive it in your inbox every Saturday morning.

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