with a 14:54.38 in her second race , but additionally qualified for the 10,000m in 31:08.51 .
In other news , news broke shortly before the Games that two Namibian athletes have been added to those female athletes banned from a specific event , this time the 400m , due to the DSD rule ( although they will still compete in the 200m ), whereas a New Zealander who commenced life as a man is controversially competing in the women ’ s weightlifting . The apparent contradictions of treatment across different sporting codes will undoubtedly come up again during the Games .
Unquestionably , the past two seasons have been the most unusual and the Olympic Games are set to be equally unique . Worldwide , COVID-compliant competitions have brought a renewed focus on elite racing , thanks largely to high-profile record-breaking attempts in both road and track and field . This has seen new World Records in the women ’ s 5km , 10km ( twice ) and half marathon distances on the road , the women ’ s 20km race walk , men ’ s shot put and both men ’ s and women ’ s 400 hurdles .
The Netherlands saw the women ’ s 10,000m World Record improved twice in a single week . Sifan Hassan was first , slicing 10.63 seconds from the five-year-old record with her 29:06.82 , on home ground in Hengelo . A mere three days later , Letesenbet Gidey reduced the record further to 29:01.03 at the Ethiopian Trials held in the Netherlands , and became the first woman to simultaneously hold both the 5000m and 10,000m World Records since Norwegian Ingrid Kristiansen ( 1986-1993 ).
Apart from the World Records , the last year of results have been riddled with personal , national and area records . Many reasons have been given for this plethora of improvements , with new shoe technology being amongst the foremost . In the past five years , road times have been decimated by the introduction of carbon plates sandwiched between lightweight cushioned midsoles , to such an extent that World Athletics had to introduce rules to limit the shoe technology !
All in the Shoes
Road shoes are now limited to a 40mm midsole stack height , while shoes for 800m and above on the track may have a maximum stack of 25mm – and in both cases , only one plate is allowed in the shoe . Similar restrictions are made on sprint and field shoes , but the
The new PUMA faster + spikes search to gain from technology continues for all events . A classic example of this come from Karsten Warholm , who recently set a new 400m hurdles World Record of 46.70 seconds in Oslo .
The Norwegian acknowledges that his PUMA faster + spikes contributed to the record through their lightness , rigidity and propulsion . These spikes were developed by PUMA in collaboration with the Mercedes Formula 1 racing team , and Karsten and his coach identified how the spike not only provides stability around the bends , but also that the plate keeps the athlete in the correct posture to maintain form when fatigue would normally hamper the final 40m sprint to the line .
Similarly , Armand ‘ Mondo ’ Duplantis highlights how the PUMA faster + plate enhances his run-up and take-off in the pole vault . The Swede holds the World Record of 6.18m , set indoors in 2020 , and the outdoor World Best of 6.15m . ( World Athletics does not differentiate between indoor or outdoor records in pole vault .) “ The exceptionally light carbon plate designed in collaboration with the Mercedes Formula 1 team feels as though I am running barefoot ,” he says .
Too Little Testing ?
Sceptics have questioned the amount of doping control during COVID lockdowns , but both WADA and the Athletes Integrity Unit have been active throughout this period , with both in- and outof-competition testing . Many cases have been prosecuted , and indeed , a few cases have hit the headlines with considerable controversy . For example , two US athletes made headlines in the past month for contravention of doping regulations .
Sha ’ cari Richardson , currently the fastest sprinter in the world , lost her opportunity to become an Olympian by knowingly using marijuana , a substance of abuse , prior to the US Olympic trials . The 21-year-old accepted a 30-day ban and theoretically would have been able to compete in the 100m heats and the relay , but was not selected by USA Track and Field . In the case of Shelby Houlihan , the US 1500m and 5000m record-holder , an out-of-competition positive test for nandrolone led to a four-year ban . Although open to appeal , and despite claims of a contaminated burrito , she was correctly denied the opportunity of a place at the trials and will not be in Tokyo .
And those are just three of the many cases that came to the fore during the lockdown and pandemic period , making the many improvements of records as unlikely to have been chemically-enhanced .
More Records Unlikely
Another angle of argument suggests that the lack of competition has allowed more focused and consistent training , as well as more bodily recovery time , promoting higher performance levels , and this certainly has contributed to the stellar performances . In the absence of a busy schedule of normal racing , there have also been many paced and staged record attempts , some augmented by the now legal ‘ wave light ’ on the track kerb , which indicates precise pace to achieve a predetermined time . All may be credible contributions , and many enthusiasts are therefore predicting more World Records in Tokyo , but in my opinion , this is unlikely , for a few reasons , whereas I feel there is every chance for a swarf of personal bests down the field .
While Karsten Warholm and Sydney McLaughlin recently ran silky smooth record-breaking performances of 46.70 and 51.90 seconds respectively in the men ’ s and women ’ s 400m hurdles , which will place them as favourites for the gold medals in Tokyo , the circumstances will be significantly different . For example , the men ’ s hurdles heats commence on Friday with three tough races prior to the final on Tuesday night . This is vastly different to a single Diamond League effort .
To highlight the rigors of the 10-day athletics schedule , look no further than Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan . She is arguably the world ’ s most versatile female athlete at present , having set 5km and 10,000m World Records , and also famously breaking the European 21km record at her first attempt at the distance in 2018 . She is entered for the triple of 1500m , 5000m and 10,000m in Tokyo , and over an eight-day period , she will face six races covering a total of 24.5km of world class track
Doping contraventions have also hit other leading athletes , such as 400m World Champion Salwa Eid Naser of Bahrain , who has received a two-year ban .