By Brett Davies
The Final night at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium was magical. Nicola McDermott was absolutely brilliant in the high jump, She beat her national record (2.02m) to win the silver, showing composure and nerves of steel to jump her way into history. She was chasing the Russian Mariya Latiskene (gold with 2.04m) who is a classy, experienced athlete. The Russian won after a focussed, business-like performance, yet was seriously challenged by the young Australian. The girl from Central Coast NSW was well-prepared and mentally tough in an edge-of-your-seat contest. She has a great future at world and Olympic level.
McDermott won the first medal by an Aussie woman in the event for 57 years. Eleanor Patterson did well to finish 5th, not too far off her best.
There was a gripping contest in the women’s 10,000m, where the great Sifan Hassan (NED) achieved a historic double in the 5000m and 10.000m, just falling short of her goal of a distance triple crown, when Hassan won the bronze in the 1500m. Tonight, Hassan was content to just sit and bide her time and let others do the heavy lifting out front,
Hironaka (JAP) led for the first few kilometres, at a steady 3.02 kilometre pace. World record-holder Letesenbet Gidey (ETH) then made the decision to step it up and she stretched the field. By halfway (15.08.23), the pack was down to 9 and the pace was gradually starting to wind up. Around 7.5km, the Kenyan champion Obiri succumbed to the pressure and was dropped. There were 3 left: Gidey, Hassan and the Bahrainian Kalkidan Gezahegne.
After 8km (23.56), Gidey showed some frustration and gestured to Hassan to go to the lead and do her share of pacemaking. Hassan was having none of it, and sat in, while the pace slowed slightly and Gidey was showing signs of fatigue. Gidey led into the last lap, around the last bend and then Hassan kicked away. Hassan won easily, with Gezahegne going past the exhausted Gidey for the silver. Hassan ran 29.55.32 with a final lap of around 61.6. Gezahegne ran 29.56.18 and Gidey staggered home in 30.01.72. Hassan confirmed her status as one of the greats. Could she move to the marathon? Nothing seems beyond this extraordinary talent.
The men’s javelin was a boilover. Indian Neeraj Chopra won narrowly from the two Czechs Vadlejch – who is coached by Czech legend Jan Zelezny and Vesely. In the competition, Vetter was not better. The heavily-favoured German was way down on his best and could not lift for the occasion.
In the men’s 1500m, we saw a masterful display from the gifted young Norwegian, Jakob Ingebrigtsen. Showing maturity and patience, Ingebrigtsen went out hard, tracked by Ollie Hoare, in 56.2. World Champ Cheriuyot took over and kept the pace going, hitting 800m in 1.51.8. Ingebrigtsen and Stewart McSweyn followed closely. Hoare had gone out a little hard in the first lap and by 900m,he began to lag a little. McSweyn had lost a little ground by the 1200m mark as Cheriuyot continued to press hard. Around the last bend, Ingebrigtsen made a move to the front and had a winning break. Stretching away, the young Norwegian smashed Kipsang’s Olympic record with 2.28.32.
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It was Norway’s first medal in the event and Ingebrigtsen is sure to be around for years. He carries on the tradition of great Norwegian runners over the years, seen in the extraordinary feats of Grete Waitz, Ingrid Kristiansen & Verbjorn Rodal. Cheruiyot, winning silver in 3.29.01, helped to set up a great race and would be happy, considering that he was almost not going to be here. The surprise medallist was Josh Kerr (GBR) who came within 0.24 of Sir Mo Farah’s national record, losing the silver by just 0.04. The Aussies fared pretty well, considering the quality and depth of the field. McSweyn battled hard, but couldn’t cope with the incredibly fast pace and eventually finished 7th in 3.31.91 – which would have been and Olympic record before these Games. Ollie Hoare (11th, 3.35.79), has plenty to build on from these Games, and did well to hold it together after going out very hard. It was an unforgettable contest.
The always exciting 4x400m rounded off the night. The USA women dominated as expected, with one of the best performances of all time (3.16.85). Allyson Felix rounded off a great career with the help of the new stars of the track. McLaughlin set it up and Mu brought it home. The Polish women – with a great opening leg from Kaczmarek – ran a national record (3.20.53) and beat the Jamaicans for the silver.
In the men’s race, the Americans were close to the Olympic record (2.55.70) The Dutch were spectacular with their silver in a new national record (2.57.18). They were led out by their charismatic national record-holder, Liemarvin Bonifacia set up his team for a great performance. The 32 year-old Liemarvin looked like a movie star out on the track, and he drew on all his experience to set up his team for a great performance final leg runner, Angela, held of the Botswanans who were closing fast and also ran a national record (2.57.27) Seven of the eight finalists broke 3 minutes, the deepest field ever.
This was pretty close to the greatest Olympic track and field program ever., with world records and numerous national records and some unbelievable performances by an Australian team that has come on in leaps and bounds and there are many of this young team that should improve substantially in years to come. There’s just a no-doubt fantastic marathon left to run.