About the Games
From world records to incredible comebacks, this weekend saw athletes take great strides forward on the road to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics that will take place in 2021. Here are the highlights from a weekend of nonstop action.
Ruth Chepngetich breaks world half-marathon record
World marathon champion Ruth Chepngetich showed she is in fine fettle in the lead-up to Tokyo 2020 by breaking the world half-marathon record in Istanbul on Sunday (4 April). The Kenyan athlete – who placed third in last October's London marathon – soared to victory in a time of 64:01, shaving 29 seconds off of Ababel Yeshaneh's previous world best set in February 2020. The record time was also a minute and half under Chepngetich's personal best, in the runner's very first race outing of 2021.
The half marathon is a non-Olympic discipline but the win in Istanbul will fill the world champion with confidence as she prepares for the Olympic marathon event in Tokyo. To triumph in Japan, she will need to beat her closest rival Brigid Kosgei who holds the world record over the 42km distance.
Beth Potter sets world's best 5km time
Great Britain's Beth Potter set an unofficial world's best time for a 5km road race when she clocked 14:41 in a local meet in Lancashire, England. The Scottish athlete, who has been concentrating on the triathlon after reaching the final of the 10,000m at Rio 2016, finished two seconds inside the time set by Beatrice Chepkoech in February of this year.
While the result will send shockwaves across the athletics community, the world record is unlikely to be ratified due to a lack of drug testing at the event.
A clearly shocked Potter had this to say about her victory: “It all started to sink in when I had about a kilometre to go and I saw the clock said 11 something and I was trying to do the maths in my head, I was convinced the clock was wrong, I couldn’t believe it.”
Big wins and big upsets in the US Olympic Wrestling Trials
15 American wrestlers booked their tickets to Tokyo 2020 over a thrilling weekend of action at the US Olympic Wrestling Trials in Texas. In one of the biggest upsets of the event, two-time world freestyle champion Kyle Dake defeated the 2012 Olympic champion, Jordan Burroughs, in the 74kg final. He will be joined in Tokyo by 2018 world champion David Taylor who took the 86kg crown, 20-year-old Gable Steveson (125kg) and 2017 world silver medallist Thomas Gilman (57kg), among others.
In the women's freestyle, there were notable wins for 68kg world champion Tamyra Mensah-Stock who will compete in her first Olympic Games in Tokyo. Other winners included Sarah Hildebrandt (50kg), Jacarra Winchester (53kg) and reigning Olympic champion Helen Maroulis, who will be aiming for a second gold medal in Tokyo.
In the Greco-Roman competition, Ildar Hafizov triumphed at 60kg to book his ticket to the Games. Also on the plane will be Alejandro Sancho (67kg), John Stefanowicz (87kg) and 2019 Pan Am Silver Medallist G’Angelo Hancock (97kg).
IKEE Rikako makes Olympic 4x100m team
In one of the stories of the Olympics to date, Japanese swimmer Ikee Rikako booked a spot on the 4x100m relay team for Tokyo 2020 only two years after being diagnosed with leukaemia. Having returned to competition seven months ago, the 20-year-old swimmer won the 100 butterfly in 57.77 seconds at the Olympic trials. And while the time was not enough to qualify for the Olympics individually, it did meet the Games qualifying time for the 4x100 medley relay team.
The swimmer, who holds the Japanese record with a time of 56.08, had this to say about her prospects for this year's Games: I’m really happy I won today but if you ask me if I can stand toe-to-toe against the best in the world with the time I had, then it would be a no. I have a lot of work to do."