Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 143, July 2021 July 2020 - Page 23

OLYMPIC GAMES
Expect Fireworks ... Women ’ s Middle Distances
Sifan Hassan
Wayde van Niekerk
admission , he was very rusty . Given the severity of his injury , this was not surprising .
This year he has again raced sparingly , competing in four 200m races and just two 400m races . He looked solid in winning the 200m title at the SA Championships in April , but there were anxious moments when he pulled up in the 200m at the Boston Games , late in May . His team reassured everyone that this was merely a precaution , as he had felt a twinge – again , nothing untoward after such a debilitating long-term injury – but time was not on Wayde ’ s side for resting and recovery , with the window for qualification for Tokyo closing on 29 June .
Wayde duly lined up for his first 400m of 2021 on 19 June in Madrid , and finished second in 44.56 . That meant he had secured his qualification , but he seemed to struggle in the final 100m , always his strength in the past . His second 400m was run 10 days later on 29 June , which he won in 44.87 , but while Wayde is running sub-45s , he does not look like the invincible athlete of 2015 to 2017 . Another withdrawal in Hungary due to a niggle has left many wondering whether he is race fit for Tokyo , both physically and mentally .
The good news is that only America ’ s Randal Ross has dipped under 44 seconds this year , but there are nine athletes though who have run faster times than Wayde this year , and he will need to find another gear if he wants to be on that podium in Tokyo . That said , Wayde is known for his fighting spirit , but we will have to wait and see if that will be enough .
Wayde ’ s 400m races
Heats – 1 August , from 03:45 SA Time Semi-final – 2 August , from 13:05 SA Time Final – 5 August , from 14:00 SA Time
The women ’ s 1500m , 5000m and 10,000m look set to produce some scintillating duels . The biggest news is that Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands may attempt all three events . This could cost her medals in all three events , whereas if she were to focus on just one , or at most two events , a medal would likely be hers for the taking .
1500m : Defending champion Faith Kipyegon of Kenya is the favourite in the women ’ s 1500m after her blistering 3:51.07 ( fourth-fastest ever ) in the final 100m at the recent Monaco Diamond League , where she went flying past Hassan . Britain ’ s Laura Muir will also be in with a shout for the medals , following her massive 800m PB of 1:56.73 , also in Monaco .
5000m : Ethiopia ’ s Gudaf Tsegey has been entered in both the 5000m and 10,000m , and is the 2021 list leader in the 5000m . Should Hassan elect to race the 5000m , then Tsegay is her biggest rival . Also look out for Kenya ’ s Helen Obiri , a double
Men ’ s 4x100m Relay
The SA men ’ s relay team just before lockdown in March of 2020 looked really exciting . With Akani , Clarence Munyai , Simon Magakwe , Henricho Bruinjties , Thando Dlodlo and Sinesipho Dambile all in good form , it left 4x100m relay coach Paul Gorries with a difficult but good headache to try select his best quartet , and he also had waiting in the wings the exciting junior , Shaun Phatutshedzo Maswanganyi , and a returning Tlotliso Gift Leotlela to consider . Then COVID hit and the 2020 World Relay Championships scheduled for May were cancelled .
Fast forward to 2021 and the situation in the lead-up to the World Relay Champs in Poland had changed dramatically . Henricho was injured , Thando was struggling for form , and Clarence was misfiring , delivering both hot and cold performances . On the other hand , Gift was looking in great shape in his first season after being out for three years with repeated injuries , and Akani was his old self .
In the end , in very cold weather , South Africa won the 4x100 gold medal in Poland , but only after a blistering anchor leg by stalwart Akani , who closed down a gap of over a metre on the Brazilian team and out-dipped them on the line . In the end the Brazilians were disqualified , so even if the South African quartet of Thando , Gift , Clarence and Akani had not won outright ,
World Champion ( 2017 / 19 ) who was second in the Rio Olympics , as she is coming back into form . The 5000m is her favourite event , and she always comes out fighting .
10,000m : This race should also produce major fireworks , as the two fastest women in history will go toe to toe . Ethiopia ’ s Letesenbet Giday is not only the 10,000m World Record-holder , but also holds the 5000m World Record , and will line up against the former 10,000m World Record-holder , Hassan . The Dutchwoman clocked 29:06.82 on 6 June to break the World Record 29:17.45 set by Almaz Ayana in 2016 , and the new mark was supposedly untouchable , yet a mere two days later Giday took almost five seconds off Hassan ’ s record with her 29:01.03 . Meanwhile , Obiri clocked 30:53.60 at altitude in Nairobi ( 1750m ), so looks good for a low 29-minute clocking , and if all three are on song , it may well take another World Record to win gold .
Akani Simbine & Clarence Munyai
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