Over 10 days in Tokyo, the world’s best track and field athletes finally get to compete for those coveted Olympic medals. A year late, in an empty stadium, amid a pandemic and all the constraints of mitigating the spread of COVID-19, the Games still go on.
The Olympic Games offer their own brand of dramatics in “normal” times—and 2021 is anything but “normal.” The heat and humidity in Japan will add to the challenge and perhaps level a few playing fields. Here on this blog we’ll update you throughout the track and field competition from July 29–August 8 on results, news, inspiring stories, and memorable moments.
2021 Olympic Results Today, at a Glance:
Gabby Thomas Anchors 4x100m Relay to Silver Medal Finish
Team USA, previous champs in the women’s 4x100m relay, finished second behind Jamaica in the final on Friday in Tokyo.
Jamaica clinched gold in 41.02, a national record; they were behind the U.S. (world and Olympic record holders with 40.82) the last two Olympics but started off and stayed strong during the relay. A dominant sprinting team of Briana Williams, Elaine Thompson-Herah (her third gold these Games, after the 100 and 200 meters), Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and Shericka Jackson delivered for Jamaica.
“For two years we have been unimpressive, you know, so to get it back today is special,” Fraser-Pryce said after the race. Jamaica won gold in the event at Athens 2004.
Team USA, with Javianne Oliver, Teahna Daniels, Jenna Prandini, and Gabby Thomas, got a big push from Prandini in the third leg that made up some distance, but not enough to overtake the Jamaicans. 200m bronze medalist Thomas anchored for a strong finish, crossing the finish line in 41.45 behind Jackson.
There was a brief concern that a flag thrown would disqualify the Jamaicans due to a lane violation during one of the passes, but no such luck for the silver medalists; the Netherlands DNF’d.
After setting a national record and coming in second in the semis, Great Britain secured the bronze in 41.88; their men’s team snagged the silver for the same event.
“People always [overlook] the British teams, but in 2016 we put our names on the map when we got a bronze medal. Then the boys went out and got a world championship gold medal,” said Asha Philip of Great Britain. “We are competitors. The rest of the world need to be scared of us, and are. That’s a great thing. People need to watch out for us, we have more to come.”
Katie Nageotte Reaches New Heights, Wins Pole Vault Gold
TOKYO, JAPAN – AUGUST 05: Katie Nageotte of Team USA reacts as she competes in the Women’s Pole Vault Final on day thirteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 05, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
After a rough start—clearing the lowest height of 4.50 only on her third attempt, and the second height of 4.70 on her second attempt—it wasn’t looking like Team USA’s Katie Nageotte would be in contention for a medal in the pole vault finals in Tokyo on Thursday.
2019 pole vault world champion Anzhelika Sidorova of the Russian Olympic Committee, on the other hand, had breezed through the competition. Sidorova held the gold medal-position for four rounds, and looked to be the uncontested winner.
But after five rounds, and in her second attempt, Nageotte cleared 4.90 to secure the gold-medal position, leaving Anzhelika to answer. Anzhelika bailed on her final attempt at 4.95, having to settle for silver.
Holly Bradshaw of Great Britain finished third to win the bronze.
Nageotte didn’t stop at the win. After running into the stands to celebrate with her coach, she decided not to grab the flag and start her victory lap, but instead to attempt a celebratory jump at 5.01. Ultimately it proved to be too much with all the emotions swirling, and she bailed during her run as she started to cry in joy.
The 2019 Pan American Games silver medalist, this is Nageotte’s first gold on the international stage. “It’s fun to look back and see how far I’ve come,” she said in an Instagram video two days before this competition. (The video, which goes into how she got her and what the Olympics mean to her, is worth a watch.)
Oh, and hey side note: Props to Team USA’s Heather MacLean—those braids were on point. —Jen Ator
I did her hair!!! 🙋♀️
— Heather MacLean (@heathair31) August 5, 2021
Team USA Will Defend Their Olympic Gold in Women’s 4x400m Final
Poland gave a glimpse of what a strong quartet they are in the women’s 4×400-meter round 1 race in Tokyo on Wednesday. A fantastic team and reputation, they proved they are ones to watch in the final.
Poland, Germany, and Switzerland fought for the top spot in the first lap. Germany hightailed down the back straight of the second lap to get to the front, with Poland and France catching and passing them in the final meters. Poland kept a healthy lead in lap three, handing off to Justyna Swiety-Ersetic who finished with a nice gap to win the heat in 3:23.10
The Cubans laid a late charge to go from fifth to finish ahead of Germany in second in a season’s best of 3:24.08, Germany in third (3:24.77).
In the second heat, Team USA, who won gold in the event at the 2016 Rio Olympics, made it look smooth and easy on their campaign to get back to the finals. Kailyn Whitney led things off to get in good position on the first lap. Jamaica got an edge on Wadeline Jonathas in lap two, but she fought to get around the shoulder in the final straight away to earn back the top spot. Kendall Ellis got off to a quick start in lap three with Jamaica fighting on her heels the whole time. But Lynna Irby pulled away in the final lap to win the heat in 3:21.86.
Jamaica finished second in a season’s best of 3:21.95. Canada and Great Britain were neck and neck in the race for third, when with 180m to go, Netherland’s Femke Bol came out of nowhere to nearly beat them. Ultimately, Great Britain squeezed out the third automatic qualifying spot in 3:23.99.
Netherlands finished fourth in a new national record of 3:24.01 and will advance to the final on time, along with Canada, who placed fifth in the second heat (3:24.01)
A number of big teams did not have the days they expected. Team Australia finished seventh in 3:30.61, while Bahamas did not finish the race, which means 2016 400m gold medalist Shaune Miller-Uibo will not have an opportunity to run for an additional medal here in Tokyo. (She is running in the women’s 400m individual final.
You can watch the final on Saturday, August 7 at 8:30 a.m. EDT. —Jen Ator
In the 4 x 100-Meter Relay, Team USA Easily Advances to the Final
Team USA comes into the Tokyo Games as the reigning champ in the 4 x 100-meter relay, hoping to bring home its 12th gold medal in the event.
For a chance to defend that title, the team needed to place in the top three of its heat or get one of the next two fastest times. After three smooth passes, anchor Aleia Hobbs took the lead alongside Great Britain’s Daryll Neita. Neita quickly outpaced Hobbs and USA took second place in 41.90 behind Great Britain’s 41.55. GB’s team included Dina Asher-Smith, who had pulled out the 200-meter competition with a hamstring injury. The Jamaican relay team also auto-qualified after coming in third (42.15).
Also running on the United States’s relay was Javianne Oliver, Teahna Daniels, and English Gardner. Daniels and Oliver competed earlier in the Games in the 100 meters—an event that the Jamaicans swept.
You might recall the last time Team USA was in a qualifying round for the 4 x 100-meter relay at the Olympics. It was the Rio Games in 2016. Who could forget the dropped pass between Allyson Felix and English Gardner in the second and third positions after Felix’s arm was bumped? Everyone thought they were out. But after appealing, they ran a surreal solo time trial on an empty track, made it to the final, and ultimately won gold.
Qualifying drama-free, this year’s team has its eyes set on a competitive final round. “We had good hand-offs and stuff, but there’s always room for improvement,” Daniels told NBC’s Lewis Johnson after the race.
You can watch the relay final at 9:30 a.m. Eastern on Friday August 6. —Malissa Rodenburg
One Last Time: Allyson Felix Advances to Women’s 400m Final; Quanera Hayes Through on Time
It was a very fast first heat, with the top four inside 50 seconds. And that would set the tone for the rest of the women’s 400m semifinals on Wednesday.
Dominican Republic’s Marileidy Paulino resulted took the top spot, setting a new national record of 49.38. Candice McLeod of Jamaica was second in 49.51.
Team USA’s Quanera Hayes, who went out well to eat up stagger to start, tied up badly in the final 80 meters and ultimately may have gone out too hard, finishing fourth 49.81. She made it through to the final on time.
Running smooth the whole way, Shaunae Miller-Uibo of Bahamas came off the turn in good position in heat two to take the win in 49.60. Jodie Williams of Great Britain ran a massive personal best to break 50 and earn the second automatic qualifying spot in 49.97.
First-time Olympian Wadeline Jonathas of Team USA moved quickly in the final straight away of heat 2 to make up some distance, but ultimately finished fourth in 50.51 and will not advance to the finals.
And in heat 3, Jamaica’s Stephanie Ann McPherson ran a terrific race to win in a personal best of 49.34. Allyson Felix, looking smooth and totally in control, took second in a season’s best of 48.89 to qualify for one last individual final at her fifth and final Olympic Games. Sada Williams of Barbados was third in 50.11, a new national record.
“It was a fight to get here. When I was younger, I never really thought about making a final,” Allyson Felix said after the race. “This time, you get older and it seems harder. You just have to get smarter and figure it out. It is a very humbling experience but very rewarding to see the progress.”
This moment was never a guarantee for Felix. There were a lot of moments when she was doubtful that she would be able to feel like herself again, she said. “I am slowly getting there and, for me, it is just one race at a time. I will re-focus, regroup and get back out there and keep fighting.”
You can watch the final at 8:35 a.m. EDT on Friday, August 4. —Jen Ator
Kipyegon and Hassan Dominate in the Women’s 1500m Semifinal; Elle Purrier St. Pierre and Cory McGee Advance
Heat one was loaded with talented women in the women’s 1500-meter semifinal on Wednesday, but only five of them would automatically continue on to the final.
They went out fast from the start, with Gabriela Debues-Stafford of Canada taking an early lead in the first lap, Japan’s Nozomi Tanaka right behind her, and American Elle Purrier St. Pierre in third. Tanaka then briefly led in the second lap with Faith Kipyegon, the defending Olympic champion, right on her shoulder and Debues-Stafford staying tight in third.
From there, Kipyegon started to dominate. One of the favorites to win gold, Kipyegon won the heat in 3:56.80. Freweyni Gebreezibher of Ethiopia was second (5:47.54) and Debues-Stafford third (3:58.28). Jessica Hull of Australia was fourth (3:58.81) and Tanaka in fifth (3:59.19) rounded out the automatic qualifiers.
“Coming here is a bit emotional for me, because in this Olympic cycle I gave birth to my daughter,” Kipyegon said after the race. “I know she is watching me and hoping for the best from mummy.”
Holding a spot in the middle of the pack, Kenya’s Winny Chebet fell, tripping up Cory McGee directly behind her and causing them both to hit the track hard before recovering to finish the race, McGee in 11th (4:10.39) and Chebet in last (4:11.62). McGee was advanced to the next round by the referee.
Purrier St. Pierre finished sixth in 4:01.00 and made it through to the final on time.
In heat two, Australia’s Linden Hall took a quick, steadfast lead for most of the race, with Winnie Nanyondo of Uganda and Laura Muir of Great Britain holding in the top three.
The Netherland’s Sifan Hassan resumed her usual back-of-the-pack spot until the final lap when she mounted a strong effort to win the heat in 4:00.23. Muir took second (4:00.73), with Hall holding on for third (4:01.37). Nanyondo, fourth in 4:01.64, celebrated after making it through to the final, with Marta Perez taking the final automatic spot in a personal best of 4:01.69.
“I wanted to sit back for at least a lap but ended up at the front of the line. I guess that excitement and adrenaline of an Olympic semifinal will do that,” Hall said after the competition. “It worked out. The whole time I was just thinking, you need to stay in the top five. My little race motto was just, ‘top five, stay alive’. [I’m] still alive, still kicking.”
Hassan, who is going for a never-been-done-before three distance events at the Tokyo Olympics, will be racing six times in nine days. So far, she’s already won Olympic gold in the women’s 5,000m. (Here’s the rest of the schedule of what she’ll need to run, plus who her biggest competitors are.)
“I was so tired from all the emotions, the medal [gold in the women’s 5000m on Monday] and also the fall [in the first round of the 1500m on the same day],” Hassan said after the race. “The body is so tired and the semifinals are always hard. Everybody does their best to get to the final. But I felt better every lap and am so grateful. I’m so lucky.”
Team USA’s Heather MacLean finished 12th in 4:05.33. Edinah Jebitok of Kenya, who had advanced to the semis by the referee after being involved in a fall during the third heat of round one, finished 13th (4:05.56).
You can watch the final at 8:50 a.m. EDT on Friday, August 6. —Jen Ator
Team USA’s Brittney Reese Takes Silver in the Long Jump After a Close Final
On Tuesday morning, track and field in Tokyo concluded with a very close and competitive long jump final.
All eyes were on America’s veteran long jumper Brittney Reese.
For most of the rounds Reese–who has won an Olympic gold and silver previously–and Nigeria’s Ese Brume were tied at a jump of 6.97m. In the case of a tie, the win goes to the second best time and it was there the two battled it out.
But in a shocking finish it was Germany’s Malaika Mihambo who jumped a surprise 7.00m in her final jump and overtook them both. Ultimately, Reese’s second-best of 6.95m won her silver in her fourth Olympic showing, while Brume took bronze with her second-best of 6.90m.
Fan favorite and first-time Olympian Tara Davis finished sixth. She struggled with her take off throughout the rounds, but kept her energy high and finished with an impressive best of 6.84m. And in case you were wondering: Yes, Davis, who recently turned pro, came out rocking her signature cowboy hat. — Malissa Rodenburg
Allyson Felix Begins Fifth and Final Olympics, Advances to the 400 Meter Semifinal
Allyson Felix started her campaign at her fifth and final Olympics on Tuesday in Japan, placing first in her heat (50.84) in the first round of the 400 meters.
The first 3 in each of six heats and the next 6 fastest advanced to the semifinals, which are at 6:30 a.m. Eastern on Wednesday, August 4.
Felix cruised into the finish with no pressure, ahead of Roneisha McGregor of Jamaica (51.14) and Lada Vondrova from the Czech Republic (51.14). But Felix isn’t quite ready to talk about the final farewell—she said after the race that she’s ready to “bump it up” in the semifinal.
“I love the sport, and it has been so much in my life,” she said. “Knowing that this is my last time around means a lot to me.”
Team USA member Quanera Hayes also qualified for the next round, placing second in her race in 51.07, behind Jodie Williams of Great Britain (50.99). And in the sixth heat, American Wadeline Jonathas earned her spot in the semifinal with a second-place finish in 50.93, behind Marileidy Paulino of the Dominican Republic, who had the fastest time of the session, 50.06.
It was an undramatic session of the 400 meters, void of surprises or drama. The favorites all advanced, including Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas (first in the first heat in 50.50), the defending Olympic champion who nipped Felix in 2016 for the gold medal by diving for the finish line.
The final is at 8:35 a.m. Eastern on Friday, August 6. —Erin Strout
Making it Look Easy: Muhammad and McLaughlin Cruise Through to Finals; Anna Cockrell Makes Her First Olympic Finals
As rain started coming down hard in Tokyo on Monday, women’s discuss and pole vault competitions were suspended, while the women’s 400-meter hurdles semifinal soldiered on.
Things started with a blatant false start by Amalie Iuel of Norway. After speaking with officials, she went back to the starting block, choosing to still run even though she was disqualified.
Looking completely unfettered, Dalilah Muhammad pulled away strong and early in the first heat to make no question about her earning a spot in the final, easing up towards the line to win in 53.30. Janieve Russell of Jamaica clinched the second automatic qualifying spot, finishing second in 54.10.
In heat 2, world record holder Sydney McLaughlin looked fiercely focused, took an early lead to cruise to a win in 53.03. Gianna Woodruff of Panama finished second in a personal best of 54.22, a new national record.
As the rain intensified, Femke Bol of Netherlands easily won the final heat with a time of 53.91. Anna Cockrell pushed through the line to edge out Ukraine’s Viktoriya Tkachuk to finish second in 54.17 and earn an automatic spot in her first Olympic finals.
You can watch the finals at 10:30 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, August 3. —Jen Ator
Gabby Thomas Advances on Time While Jamaicans Powerhouses Flex in 200-Meter Semifinal
On Monday in Japan, Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce ran uncontested to win the first heat with a time of 22.13 seconds, looking barely out of breath as she finished. Beatrice Masilingi of Namibia finished second in 22.40, setting a new world U20 record. Anthonique Strachan of Bahamas, and Riley Day of Australia finished third in 22.56, a season’s best for both athletes.
“I have never run two 200m in a day after winning three rounds of the 100m so this is definitely different,” Fraser-Pryce said after the race. “It takes a lot of commitment and work, but I am glad I made it to the finals, and I am feeling good and looking forward to it.”
Team USA’s Jenna Prandini faded a bit in the last 70 meters, finishing fifth in 22.57. She will not advance to the finals. Netherland’s Dafne Schippers, fourth-fastest woman in history, struggling with back issues for the last two seasons finished sixth (23.03).
In heat 2, Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson-Herah, who won gold in the women’s 100-meter in Tokyo, came through strong and fast from the start to win in a personal best of 21.66.
Namibia’s Christine Mboma outstrided Team USA’s Gabby Thomas to finish second in 21.97, with Thomas clocking 22.01. That time would be enough to get Thomas through to the final in the first of two time qualifying spots.
In the final heat, the ever-consistent Marie-Josee Ta Lou of Côte d’Ivoire won in a new season best of 22.11, with Bahamas’ Shaunae Miller-Uibo taking the second automatic qualifier spot with a time of 22.14.
In third it was Mujinga Kambundji of Switzerland, who set a new national record of 22.26. She joins Thomas as the second non-automatic qualifier to advance to the finals.
In her first Olympics, Team USA’s Anavia Battle finished sixth in 23.02.
Fraser-Pryce knows it won’t be an easy win for anyone in the finals, herself included: “The ladies are really bringing it this year, and you have to be ready and prepared for anything. I just have to go out and run the best race that I can, run and hope that I put myself in a very good position to stand on the podium.”
You can watch the finals at 8:50 am Eastern on Tuesday, August 3. —Jen Ator
RACE REPORT: Team USA’s Keni Harrison Wins Silver in 100m Hurdles at 2020 Olympics
Gabby Thomas, Jenna Prandini, and Anavia Battle Advance to the 200-Meter Semifinal
In the first round of the women’s 200 meters on Monday in Japan all three Americans moved on to the semifinals, each looking like they still had plenty left to give in the next two rounds. The top three in each of the seven heats, plus the next three fastest times moved on in the competition.
In her heat, Team USA’s Anavia Battle cruised near the lead along with Switzerland’s Sui Kambudji before coming in second in 22.26. Gabby Thomas (22.20) looked smooth and controlled, almost instantly making up the stagger from the inside lane, until Nigeria’s Christine Mboma took over to win.
In a post-race interview on the broadcast, Thomas said even though the stadium is empty due to COVID-19 restrictions, she could still sense the energy of her first Olympics. She also clearly stated her goal for the Games: “I want a gold medal,” she said. “I’m excited to go for it.”
After a fast start, the last American of the night, Jenna Prandini cruised to win her heat in a smooth 22.56. Jamaica’s Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce was in control of her heat, winning easily in 22.22.
Notably missing was Great Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith who withdrew due to a hamstring injury.
The semifinals are at 6:25 a.m. Eastern on Monday. —Malissa Rodenburg
Team USA is On to the 1500-Meter Semifinal; Hassan Tumbles Through Her Triple
Sifan Hassan is racing three distance events at the Tokyo Olympics. If that wasn’t difficult enough, she fell in the first round of the 1500 meters with a little less than 400 meters to go. She got up, kept racing, and—Hassan being Hassan—she won her heat in 4:05.17.
In less than 12 hours, Hassan, who represents the Netherlands, will race the 5,000-meter final. In all, she’ll race six times in nine days.
In the same heat, Team USA’s Elle Purrier St. Pierre finished comfortably in third, just behind Australia’s Jessica Hull (4:05.28).
Edinah Jebitok of Kenya was also tangled in Hassan’s fall and unfortunately was not able to recover in the same fashion. She was advanced to the next round by the referee.
Gabriela Debues-Stafford of Canada won the first heat in 4:03.70, with Laura Muir of Great Britain right behind in 4:03.89. Winny Chebet of Kenya was third in 4:03.93. Cory McGee finished eighth in 4:05.15, which was fast enough to advance to the next round on time.
“I didn’t know what the time was and I thought, ‘Oh, this is feeling like a little bit of effort.’ I wasn’t expecting it to be that fast,” Debues-Stafford said. “I felt really good, and to do it from the front and to control it the way I did, I’m very pleased with that.”
Faith Kipyegon, the defending Olympic champion who earlier this month ran 3:51.07, won heat three in 4:01.40. Winnie Nanyondo was second (4:02.24) and Australia’s Linden Hall was third (4:02.27). Heather MacLean finished the third heat in fifth place (4:02.40), earning a spot in the semifinal as well.
You can watch the the 1500-meter semifinal at 6 a.m. on August 4 and the final at 8:50 a.m. on August 6. —Erin Strout
Raven Saunders Protests on the Podium
After receiving her silver medal, Raven Saunders briefly held her arms in an ‘X’ above her head.
Saunders has already drawn attention for her purple and green hair, Joker and Incredible Hulk masks, twerking after her throw, and, of course, her 19.79 meter toss that won her second place in the women’s shot put finals.
Her advocacy and voice for several marginalized communities has also put her in the spotlight.
"I'm not just fighting for myself, I'm fighting for a lot more people."
— On Her Turf (@OnHerTurf) August 1, 2021
“We keep pushing. We keep fighting,” said Saunders in an interview with NBC after competition. “I’m not just fighting for myself, I’m fighting for a lot more people.”
She also gave a shout out to all LGBTQ people, anyone struggling with their mental health, and the Black community. “We can do it. We can do it. If you keep pushing, keep grinding, keep looking forward.”
Crashes and False Starts Mark the 100-Meter Hurdle Semifinal
Keni Harrison and Gabi Cunningham made it through a somewhat dramatic—and quick—semifinal round of the 100-meter hurdles on Sunday night in Tokyo.
In the first heat, American Christina Clemons did not advance. She ran from lane six and was distracted by the commotion around her as other competitors fell. She called it a “rookie mistake.”
“I got a little distracted, I won’t lie,” she said, later adding, “it’s so dangerous, especially if somebody next to you falls or does anything that is impeding your lane.”
In Harrison’s heat, it took four starts before the race got underway. Though nobody was ultimately disqualified, the field was called back with false starts several times. Harrison, the world record holder (12.20), finished second in 12.51.
“It’s just something that you have to just get over. At the 2015 world champs I false started so I told myself, ’I am never going to false start again and I’m going to sit in those blocks and make sure that when the gun goes off, I go off,’” Harrison said. “Every time they blow the gun back again, I’m like, ‘Did it just happen?’ I don’t think any of us were really prepared for it. It’s kind of quiet. It’s not as loud as a normal gun.”
Cunningham got through to the final in a fast heat, finishing fourth in a personal best of 12.67. Puerto Rico’s Jasmine Camacho-Quinn set an Olympic record in the race in 12.26.
“Honestly, the main thing was just to make it through. Five years ago I didn’t make it through so I just wanted to have the speed to get to the final,” Camacho-Quinn said. “I just take it step by step. Don’t overthink it, don’t panic and everything will happen. That’s what you just saw right there.”
The 100-meter hurdles final is at 10:50 p.m. Eastern on Sunday. Take a look at the full list of qualifiers here.—Erin Strout
Team USA Had a Field Day
That about sums it up. It was a lot of fun for the field evens today in Tokyo, with Raven Saunders winning her first Olympic medal in the women’s shot put final, taking silver.
Meanwhile, in the women’s hammer throw, all three women from Team USA—Brooke Anderson (74.00m), Gwen Berry (73.19m), and Deanna Price (72.55m)—advance to the finals as they look to get America’s first Olympic medal in the event.
And in the long jump qualifiers, first-time Olympian Tara Davis came out strong, hitting 6.85m on her first jump to score above the qualifier of 6.75m and make it through to the final.
Four-time Olympian Brittany Reese went 6.52m on her first attempt, before hitting 6.86 on her second jump to also advance.
“I’m excited. It’s the last one, so on Tuesday, I’m going all out,” Reese told NBC after the competition. “And as we say at home: ‘Last one, best one.’” —Jen Ator
Sifan Hassan Will Attempt the Triple
Sifan Hassan confirmed through her agency that she has decided to include the 1500 meters in her Tokyo Olympics schedule. The 2019 double world champion, who won the 1500 meters and 10,000 meters, will showcase her range again at the Tokyo Olympic Games—this time in a historic triple attempt.
“For me, it is crucial to follow my heart,” Hassan said, in a written statement. “Doing that is far more important than gold medals. That keeps me motivated and it keeps me enjoying this beautiful sport.”
Hassan comfortably made it through the first round of the 5,000-meter semifinals. The first round of the women’s 1500 will be broadcast on Sunday, August 1 at 8:35 p.m. Eastern. —Jen Ator
Coburn, Frerichs, and Constien Advance to the Steeplechase Final
Who doesn’t love a boring, drama-free first round of the 3,000-meter steeplechase? So much that could go wrong, didn’t. Team USA’s Emma Coburn, Courtney Frerichs, and Val Constien all qualified for the final during three heats on Sunday morning in Japan.
Coburn, now a three-time Olympian, was third in her heat in 9:16.91—Winfred Mutile Yavi of Bahrain was first (9:10.80) and Perth Chemutai of Uganda was second (9:12.72).
With about 600 meters to go Coburn was assured an auto-qualifier, securely in third place, so she eased off the pace to conserve her energy for the final. It was about 100 degrees on the track on Sunday, but it didn’t seem to bother the 2017 world champion and 2016 Olympic bronze medalist, who noted that half the track was in the shade.
Frerichs, the American record holder and 2017 silver medalist, also advanced with ease, taking first in her race in 9:19.34. She stayed in a lead pack until 800 meters to go and then decided to take charge, surging ahead. Nobody cared to go with her. It was a smart strategy to stay out of trouble and eliminate some risk of falling. Gesa Felicitous Krause of Germany was second in 9:19:62 and world record holder Beatrice Chepkoech was third in 9:19.82.
Growing up in Missouri has prepared Frerichs for the kind of conditions she’s racing in, she said.
“I’m relying on my roots right now,” she said on the broadcast, adding, “I’m feeling really, really awesome.”
First-time Olympian Val Constien lined up with some fierce-looking shades and qualified for the final by way of her time: 9:24.31. She was fourth in the final heat of the event, behind Hyvin Kiyeng of Kenya (9:23.17), Marusa Mismas-Zrimsek of Slovenia (9:23.36), and Mekides Abebe of Ethiopia (9:23.95).
She said in her post-race interview that she’s motivated to show others who might dare to dream of becoming an Olympian that they can do so without a shoe contract. Constien works a full-time job.
“I’ve been working really hard for a really long time,” she said.
RACE REPORT: Elaine Thompson-Herah is the Fastest Woman Alive, Winning 100-Meter Olympic Gold
History Made: Poland Takes Gold in First-Ever Olympic Mixed Relay
Poland pulls off a major upset to win gold in the inaugural Olympic mixed 4×400-relay in 3:09.87.
Dominican Republic, who carried a big lead for most of the race, took silver in 3:10.21.
After appealing their disqualification in Round 1, Team USA’s Trevor Stewart, Kendall Ellis, Kaylin Whitney, and Vernon Norwood held on to win bronze in 3:10.22.
Ajee’ Wilson is Out of 800-Meter Final, But Mu and Rogers Advance
It has been more than 50 years since an American woman won the Olympic 800 meter, and more than 30 since a medal of any color was won. But they are one step closer after the women’s 800-meter semifinals as Athing Mu and Raevyn Rogers advance to the finals.
In heat 1, Ajee’ Wilson fought for positioning in the first lap to maintain a top three position, but fell back from the leaders in the final straight away to finish fourth in 2:00.79. Jamaica’s Natoya Goule took first in 1:59.57, with Jemma Reekie of Great Britain in second (1:59.77) to automatically qualify for the final.
Youngest in the field by five years, Athing Mu took it out quickly to lead the pack, clocking a 58-second first lap and winning comfortably in 1:58.07. In second, Habitam Alemu of Ethiopia (1:58.40) also advanced.
“I wanted to make sure I secured my spot without any question about it,” Mu told NBC after the race.
In the final heat, China’s Chinyu Wang led the first lap in 59.5 seconds. Rose Mary Almanza of Cuba pushed the pace at the start of the second lap, but it was Great Britain’s Keely Hodgkinson with an impressive kick from the back of the pack to win in 1:59.12, out sprinting Wang who finished second in a personal best of 1:59.14. Rogers finished third in 1:59.28.
With the next two fastest times, Rogers and Alexandra Bell (1:58.83) round out the finalists, which will be broadcast on Tuesday, August 3 at 8:25 a.m. ET. —Jen Ator
Could the U.S. Sweep Again?
Team USA’s Gabbi Cunningham finished in third in heat one with a time of 12.83, behind Andrea Carolina Vargas of Costa Rica and Netherland’s Nadine Visser, who both clocked season bests.
Cunningham placed fourth at the U.S. Olympic Trials in a PR of 12.53. She was added to the team after Brianna McNeal, the defending Olympic champion in the event, received a five-year suspension for an anti-doping rule violation related to missing out-of-competition drug tests.
The redemption story continues for world-record holder Keni Harrison, as she led comfortably to win her heat in 12.74 ahead of Australia’s Liz Clay, Italy’s Luminosa Bogliolo, and Elivera Herman of Belarus, who also automatically advanced.
Harrison won the U.S. Olympic Trials in a season’s best time of 12.47 to make her first Olympic team, five years after a shocking disappointment at the 2016 Trials.
“It’s exciting to be out here. I’ve waited so long for this moment,” Harrison told NBC’s Lewis Johnson after the race.
At Trials, it was Cool Ranch Doritos earrings. In her Olympic debut, it was gorgeous braids, glitter, and butterfly hair accessories. One thing’s for sure: Christine Clemons knows how to make people pay attention.
Clemons grabbed the final spot on Team USA by a mere five-thousandths of a second over Gabbi Cunningham at Trials. In Tokyo, she got off to a quick start in heat 4 before seeming to ease back in the final yards to finish second in 12.91 behind Jamaica’s Britany Anderson.
Puerto Rico’s Jasmine Camacho-Quinn, the world leader this year at 12.32, won the final heat of the night in 12.41. With no one else in the field having run that fast this year, Camacho-Quinn proves she’ll be Team USA’s fiercest competition.
Semifinals will be broadcast on Sunday, Aug 1 at 6:45 a.m. ET, with finals following at 10:50p.m. ET. —Jen Ator
Sydney McLauglin, Dalilah Muhammad, and Anna Cockrell Advance
The U.S. women competing in the 400-meter hurdles got through the first round with little drama on Saturday in Japan.
Sydney McLaughlin, who set the world record of 51.90 in the event at the U.S. Olympic Trials, won her heat after the field received a false start warning. It didn’t shake her at all—she eased up early when it became clear she would win her heat handily.
After her blazing-fast race at the Trials, McLaughlin comes to the Tokyo Olympics as the one to beat. She doesn’t feel the stress, she said.
“Pressure’s an illusion,” McLaughlin said after the race, on the NBC broadcast. “It’s what you make it.”
Dalilah Muhammad, the defending Olympic champion, had the fastest race of the heats, finishing her race first in 53.97. She’s been training in Ft. Worth, Texas, so the oppressive humidity in Tokyo isn’t taking much of a toll, she said.
“I’m feeling good,” said Muhammad, who had a difficult year in 2020 after contracting COVID-19.
Anna Cockrell, who is a first-time Olympian and NCAA champion from the University of Southern California, was third in her heat to make the semi-final round. She described the conditions as “soupy” and emphasized that she’s just taking one day—and one race—at a time during her rookie experience at the Games.
“I’m just trying to keep it all in perspective,” she said. “Putting one piece of the puzzle together at a time.”
The semifinal round of the women’s 400 meter hurdles is at 7:35 a.m. Eastern on Monday, August 2. —Erin Strout
Nigerian Sprinter is Out After Testing Positive for HGH
On Saturday in Japan, the Athletics Integrity Unit released a statement announcing that the agency had provisionally suspended Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria, who had tested positive for human growth hormone. She had qualified on Thursday for the semifinal round of the 100 meters, but will not be allowed to compete.
The adverse analytical finding came from an out-of-competition test on July 19, according to the AIU.
Co-Eds Make Their Olympic Debut; Team USA Disqualified, Then Re-Instated
Making its debut in the Olympics, the mixed 4×400-meter relay includes two men and two women from each country. They can run in any order, but most teams opt for male-female-female-male. The world record of 3:09.34 is held by the United States, set at the 2019 World Championships in Doha, Qatar by team Allison Felix, Michael Cherry, Wilbert London, and Courtney Okolo.
The heavy favorites to win this event were informed shortly after their heat that they would not have the opportunity to go for gold, disqualified because the first exchange from Godwin to Irby was outside of the takeover zone, violating technical rule 24,19.
“We come out, we try our best and it was a complete surprise to all of us. All we can do is prepare for the future and see what happens next,” Elija Godwin said after the event. “It’s amazing, no matter the outcome. Competing on one of the biggest stages in track and field is always an amazing event. It’s my first Olympics and I won’t forget it.”
But wait…you’re saying there’s a chance? “I’m told Team USA is appealing DQ,” tweets reporter David Woods, “because officials put No. 2 runner Lynna Irby at wrong exchange line. So what looked like Irby’s error might be official’s error. Stay tuned.”
And yes, four hours later, USATF released a statement confirming the U.S. 4x400M Mixed Relay team had been reinstated and will compete in Saturday’s final. —Jen Ator
Raven Saunders Dominates to Qualify for the Women’s Shot Put Finals
In her second trip to the Olympics, Raven Saunders is heading to the shot put finals. Saunders, who finished fifth at the 2016 Rio Olympics, dominated her preliminary round on July 30. After fouling on her first attempt, she threw an impressive 19.2 meters on her second.
Nicknamed “The Hulk,” Saunders showed up looking strong wearing a Joker-esque mask and chromatic single-lens sunglasses. She’s already had an impressive 2021, throwing a personal-best of 19.96 meters at the Olympic Trials in June.
“I feel really good. I feel absolutely amazing. I’ve been preparing myself for pretty much a dog fight, a battle, maybe one of the greatest shot put competitions of all time, so I’m really ready. I’m really focused. I’m ready to get it and compete against really great athletes,” Saunders said after the competition.
America’s other two throwers did not advance. Aquilla Adelaide fell short, coming in ninth in the second heat with 17.68 meter throw. Jessica Ramsey narrowly missed the 18.80m qualifying distance with her 18.75m throw.
Other field updates: the triple long jump qualification rounds took place shortly before the shot put. No jumpers from Team USA qualified to advance. Competing was Orji Keturah, Jasmine Moore, and Tori Franklin. No American has ever medaled in the Olympic triple long jump. —Malissa Rodenburg
WR RACE REPORT: Karissa Schweizer and Elise Cranny Advance to 5,000-meter Final at the 2021 Olympics
Jamaica Did What Jamaica Does, While All of Team USA Also Advances in the 100 Meters
Oh my lord these 100 times 🤯
— Brittney Reese, OLY, MBA (@DaLJBeast) July 30, 2021
Team USA went three-for-three in the first round of the women’s 100 meter to all advance to the semi-final on Friday in Tokyo.
In the opening heat, Teahna Daniels, who finished third at Olympic Trials, took first (11.04) in the opening heat ahead of Great Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith (11.07) to automatically advance, along with Murielle Ahoure.
“I’m excited. Are you kidding me? This is the most anticipated race and just to be in it and to be competing, I am soaking in every moment,” Daniels said after the race. “There is no pressure, as I don’t put pressure on myself, or other people’s expectations of me. I just know what I can do. I am excited, I think I am going to be in the final.”
In heat three, runner-up at Olympic Trials Javianne Oliver was edged out by Germany’s Alexandra Burghardt (11.08), finishing second second in 11.15.
And in the final heat of the evening, Jenna Prandini, who is also racing the 200 meters for Team USA, held on for third with a time of 11.11. Prandini was added to the 100-meter squad after Trials champion Sha’Carri Richardson received a one-month ban for testing positive for marijuana.
Team Jamaica, as expected, showed its leadership in the event. Reigning Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah made it look easy storming through the line during heat two in 10.82. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, ranked first in the world, looked smooth and relaxed to win her heat in 10.84. At 34 years old, the four-time Olympian is running faster than ever. If she earns a medal here in Tokyo, she would become the first athlete man or woman to win four medals in the 100 meters. And 2016 Rio Olympic 400-meter bronze medalist Shericka Jackson, who surprised many when she made this year’s Jamaican team in the 100 and 200, finished second in the final heat in 11.07.
But it was Côte d’Ivoire’s Marie-Josee Ta Lou who might have made the biggest statement of the night. After finishing fourth place in both the 100 and 200 at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Ta Lou found her redemption running into a headwind to win her heat in 10.78, setting a new African record. —Jen Ator
Smooth Sailing for Mu, Rogers, and Wilson in First Round of the 800 Meters
The three women competing in the 800 meters for Team USA—Athing Mu, Raevyn Rogers, and Ajee’ Wilson—all advanced to the semi-final during the opening session of the 2021 Olympics on Friday in Tokyo.
Mu, 19, in her Olympics debut, bided her time in the pack before she surged ahead in the closing 100 meters and easily won her heat in 2:01.10, followed by Habitam Alemu of Ethiopia, and Joanna Jozwik of Poland.
“Of course there’s pressure,” Mu said after the race, “but I’m just going about my rounds, you know literally anything can happen. I’m just here competing doing all I can to be at the best on the day.”
Mu comes in with the world-leading time, making her a heavy medal favorite.
“I’m gonna come out here, do what I can, of course the gold medal is on my mind, but I’m just here competing, and doing all I can to be good on blast day,” she said.
In the following heat, Rogers, also a first-time Olympian, similarly earned the win in the final stretch of the two laps, finishing in 2:01.42. Great Britain’s Keely Hodgkinson, in second place, also advanced, along with Mary More of Kenya.
It was Wilson, American record-holder (1:55.61) and 2016 Olympian, who ended up with the fastest race of the evening among the American trio. She earned an auto-qualifier by placing second in 2:00.02, behind Jemma Reekie of Great Britain, who ran 1:59.97. Chunyu Want was third in 2:00.05 to also advance to the semi-final round.
Almost all of the heavy-hitters in the notably talented field had little drama in the opening round, though Melissa Bishop-Nriagu of Canada was among those who did not make it to the semi final, which is at 7:50 a.m. on July 31. —Erin Strout