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5 Races you do not want to miss at the Tokyo Olympics

Updated: Aug 7, 2021

With the athletics just around the corner we’ve narrowed down the 5 races that we think may just be worth getting up early for and the one’s you really cannot afford to miss.

Men's Marathon – 07/08, 11:00pm

This race is here predominantly in this list for one man – Eliud Kipchoge. Arguably the greatest marathon runner that has ever lived is bidding to win back to back Olympic Marathons. A feat only accomplished by two other men in history. In fact only 5 men have ever won 2 Olympic Marathon Medals, so he would join a very elite group. Of the 14 Marathon’s that he has started (not counting the Nike sub-2 attempt or the Ineos 1:59 challenge) he has won 12 of them (in one he finished 2nd behind Wilson Kipsang who was later banned for doping). It was his 2020 London Marathon performance that has created a chink in his armoury when he finished 8th in his second slowest recorded time (only behind the 2016 Olympic Marathon in which he won gold). Since then he has won the NN mission marathon in 2:04, but is he back to his best and can someone dethrone the greatest marathoner that has ever lived on the grandest stage of all?

Well, many will try, Kenya’s two other athletes both have personal bests of 2:03 whilst Ethiopia are also sending a strong team. Galen Rupp from the U.S is also returning after his Bronze in Rio whilst from a British standpoint Callum Hawkins looks to win his first International Medal in the Marathon. After pulling out whilst leading the Commonwealth games Marathon in 2018 due to heat exhaustion, he returned and finished a remarkable 4th place in the heat of Doha. Can Hawkins improve and finish on the podium?

There is the potential for so many things to go wrong in the marathon. One missed drinks bottle and one rough patch in the race could turn the event upside down. But that’s what makes them so interesting, especially with an Olympic medal on the line.

Women's 200m – Final 03/08, 1:50pm

At the last world championships, the women's 200m felt a little flat but not this time around. You can make a very strong case for why five different women have a good chance of standing on the top step of the podium. Dina Asher-Smith from Great Britain will be bidding to win the Olympic Title to go alongside her World Title from 2019. She lives for the big stage, setting her personal best of 21.89 whist winning the world title. Shelly Ann-Fraser Price, arguably the greatest female 100m sprinter of all time, has run her best ever times over 100 and 200 metres this year, and at the age of 34. The reigning 200m Olympic Champion, Elaine Thompson is finding her form again this year, running very quickly over the 100m. Shaunae Miller-Uibo, the reigning Olympic 400m champion was arguably the favourite coming into this year is still undecided about competing in both the 200 and 400 metre events. The big dark horse comes from the United States in the form of Gabrielle Thomas. She had remarkably never broken 22 seconds before the U.S Olympic Trails in Eugene. Over the course of that weekend, she broke the 22 second barrier in the heats, semi-finals and ran the second fastest time ever in the final, clocking 21.61 seconds.

With lots of women running unexpectedly quick times coming into the year it really has become very had to predict who will be standing on the Podium. But that’s what makes this event so interesting this year.

Men's 5,000m – Final 06/08, 1:00pm

Where to start with this one? So many big names and fast times that there truly are quite a few different potential winners.

The Florence Diamond League at the beginning of June really wet the appetite for the 5,000m at the Olympics. Different running styles, tactics and expectations made for a fascinating race, culminating in the five fastest times in the world this year and all faster than the personal best of double Olympic Champion Mo Farah. Jakob Ingebritsen won in Florence ahead of Gebrhiwet, Ahmed, Katir and Knight with the current world record holder Cheptegei finishing in sixth place.

Has Cheptegei rediscovered his world record form and can he run away from everyone? As of writing, Ingebritsen has five races in six days, so will he be at the top of his game? Kenya and Ethiopia will also have three athletes each that can never be ruled out whilst Canada have both Mo Ahmed and Justin Knight. Mohammed Katir has made incredible progress in what has been a hardly believable breakthrough year, or will somebody else steal the limelight?

So many questions to answer, hopefully it creates an entertaining race and all this talent doesn’t nullify each other.

Men's/Women's 400mH – Men's Final 03/08, 04:20am. Women's Final 04/08, 03:30am.

Okay so technically this should count as two races, but there were so many more than 5 races that we were looking forward too. The world record has been broken in both of these events this year so naturally we are looking forward to seeing if they can be broken again, but this time on the biggest stage of all.

Let’s start with the women and this event is dominated by two women from the U.S – Sydney McLaughlin (who broke the world record this year) and Dalilah Muhammad (the previous world record holder). McLaughlin was the first women in history to run sub 52 seconds in this event when she ran 51.90 seconds at the U.S Olympic Trials back in June and it seems that the world record tumbles whenever these two line up against each other. In fact, in the last three championship meets between the two, the world record has been broken three times (twice by Muhammad – U.S Olympic trials and World Championships in 2019 and once by McLauglin), so… will it happen again? We can’t wait to find out!

Add into the mix Femke Bol from the Netherlands who has run 52.37 seconds and we have a very impressive 400mH waiting for us.

On the men's side, it’s much of the same story, with two main protagonists going for gold in Karsten Warholm from Norway and Rai Benjamin from the United States. It’s appeared that the world record in this event has been under threat for some time, with many people thinking it would fall at the 2019 World Championships. That didn’t happen and led to Warholm chasing the record in 2020, running 47.10 seconds or faster on four separate occasions (and narrowly missing out by 0.17 of a second on the world record) whilst Benjamin did not race a competitive 400 metre hurdles race in 2020.

Then at the start of Olympic year, Benjamin ran 46.83 seconds leaving him just 0.05 seconds short of Kevin Young’s 29-year old world record of 46.78 seconds. The gauntlet had been thrown down and Warholm duly responded in front of his home crowd at the Oslo Diamond League running a new world record of 46.70 seconds. Game on then, and lets hope for some fast times and even closer racing come the Tokyo Final.

Although it is hard to look past Warholm and Benjamin, there is a queue of other athletes pushing for the final podium spot. Dos Santos from Brazil is the third quickest in the World this year (47.34 seconds) but you also have the likes of McMaster (47.50 seconds) and Samba who was the second ever athlete to run sub-47 seconds and finished in the bronze medal position in 2019.

Men's/Women's 1,500m – Men's Final 07/08, 12:40pm. Women's final 06/07, 1:50pm

Okay so I’ve done it again – I’m sorry. In fact I’m not because I think these could be the best events at the games. I was always going to include the men’s 1,500m but including the women's is on the assumption that Siffan Hassan is running as she is currently entered in the 1,500, 5,000 and 10,000m. If you thought the double that Jakob was attempting was ambitious, think again!

Let’s start with the men. There are many different ways to race a 1,500m. The Rio Olympic 1500 metre in 2016 was won in 3:50 whilst the last World Championships was won in 3:29. Quite a range that makes for very interesting viewing. The pre-race favourite, Timothy Cheriyout has a couple of lingering question marks over his head. He lost for the first time at the Kenyan National Trials for the first time since May 2019, finishing fourth, with doubts emerging over his fitness and place in the team. He has since won two high quality diamond league races, impressively setting a new personal best in Monaco (3:28.28). He is the clear pre-race favourite, but he has given hope to those behind that he can be beaten?

Jakob Ingebritsen is arguably his closest challenger but is yet to beat Cheriyout, always seeming to just fall short. His 3:28.68 in Monaco last year and 3:29 this year alongside the multiple 3:30 clocking's show his consistency and coupled with his race-craft he is a very dangerous pretender to Cheriyout's throne. He does however have a 5,000m final the day before the 1,500m final so who knows how much that will have taken out of him – after all the last time he completed a 5,000m at a major championships he collapsed at the finish.

Behind the two main favourites are a huge number of athletes vying for a spot on the podium. Many of these racers are gutsy and willing to take the race by the scruff of the neck. Stewy McSwayn, Oli Hoare and Josh Kerr are a few examples of athletes that are right in the hunt for a medal and just love to race. Stewy is fresh off running a sub 3:30 in Monaco for the first time in his career, Kerr ran a 50 last lap to win the British Championships whilst Hoare has been running quick times and winning races in the states.

In the women's event, I believe that it contains one of the most underrated athletes in track and field - Faith Kipyagon. This is despite winning or coming second in every major championship 1,500 metre race since 2014. Quite an impressive statistic. She is the reigning Olympic champion and arguably the favourite heading into the event after running 3:51.07, the fourth fastest time in history, and beating Hassan and destroying a world class field in Monaco. You never quite know what to get with Hassan however. A 1,500 and 10,000 metre double at the 2019 World Championships was ludicrous as she front ran a 3:51 to take gold and that was after winning the 10,000 metre title. This then is one of the most highly anticipated finals (if Hassan runs the 1,500m) in recent times. Is there a possibility of the world record being taken down?

Unlike Hassan, Laura Muir has elected to focus on just the 1,500 metres, despite running a huge personal best of 1:56.73 in Monaco. She has been criticised in the past for not running sensibly but she has dramatically improved her tactical intelligence in recent years. Can she use this incredible speed and gutsy running to bring home a medal for Great Britain? Ethiopia also has a very strong team, with all three of their athletes running sub 4 minutes at their national championships and there are plenty of other women under that elusive mark too. It promises to be quite the race.

1500m races are unpredictable, but with the fields in both the men's and women's events, the Tokyo 2020 final may just me more unpredictable so than usual. You’ll have to wait till the 6th of August for the women and a day later for the men in order to find out who comes out on top!

All times are British Summer Time

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