Best race ever? Warholm wins record-setting hurdles race

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Associated Press 03 August, 2021 - 07:44am 37 views

What is the world record for the 400 meter hurdles?

The final of the men's 400-meter hurdles produced one of the most dramatic moments of the Tokyo Olympics. Norway's Karsten Warholm edged Team USA's Rai Benjamin for the gold medal as he broke his own world record, posting a blistering time of 45.94 seconds. USA TODAYDrama, disbelief & jubilation: The men's 400-meter hurdles at the Tokyo Olympics had it all

Olympics Live Updates: Elaine Thompson-Herah Wins 2nd Gold; Athing Mu Dominates the 800

The New York Times 02 August, 2021 - 05:11pm

Simone Biles returned to competition and won bronze in the balance beam final. Brazil reached the men’s soccer final, and U.S. teams advanced in men’s basketball and women’s beach volleyball.

Three days after winning the women’s 100 meters, Thompson-Herah broke clear of the field in the 200 on Tuesday night to win in 21.53 seconds, a national record.

Christina Mboma of Namibia was second, and Gabby Thomas of the United States was third.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who won the silver in the 100, finished in fourth place.

Noah Lyles, one of the favorites, slowed as he neared the finish of his heat and was passed by two runners, missing an automatic qualifying spot. He later advanced to the final based on his time. Lyles said he was going with his plan — which apparently meant conserving some energy — but acknowledged that it turned out to be “a little risky.”

It was Friday, before her opening round heat of the women’s 800 meters, and Mu did not hide her dismay.

“I’m sure everyone saw my face,” said Mu, a 19-year-old American whose name is pronounced “Ah-THING Moe.”

“I don’t even know what he said, but it was terrible. Like, where do you even get that from?”

Mu said all this with a charming, disarming smile — she was used to people getting her name wrong, she said, but it also seemed clear that she wanted some respect. So she went out and made sure to earn it as an Olympic gold medalist.

On Tuesday, Mu became the first American to win gold in her event since 1968, the latest and greatest milestone for one of the sport’s rising stars.

Mu, who is from Trenton, N.J., finished in 1 minute 55.21 seconds, her personal best and an American record. Her strategy from the start was clear: go to the front and stay there. Her commanding pace turned the race into a coronation.

Keely Hodgkinson of Britain was second, and Raevyn Rogers, Mu’s American teammate, finished third for the bronze.

Mu arrived in Tokyo a few weeks after she completed a historic freshman year at Texas A&M, where she broke a host of collegiate records and won the N.C.A.A. title in the 400. At the end of June, she announced she was going pro and signed with Nike.

She proceeded to dominate the 800 meters at the U.S. trials, winning a spot in Tokyo by running the fastest time in the world this year. The fastest time, that is, until today.

Guan, who is 16 and in her first Olympics, is a specialist on the balance beam and it showed at these Games. With a routine much more difficult than that of her competitors, she had qualified first for the balance beam final.

On Tuesday, she was the eighth and last gymnast to compete and she nailed split leaps, back handsprings, flips and an aerial before flying into the air for her double pike dismount and landing to applause in the arena. Her score of 14.633 was enough to put her ahead of everyone.

Biles, the face of the sport and of Team U.S.A., returned to competition for the final day of artistic gymnastics after skipping all but one competition because of a mental health issue.

Biles, 24, performed back handsprings, flips, split leaps and a double back flip in the pike position for her dismount. There were a few moments of shakiness, but overall it was a solid routine.

Gone were the twists from her complicated and difficult dismount that was named after her. But she finished her routine with a smile, running to give her coach, Cecile Landi, a hug and then embracing her teammate Sunisa Lee, who did not win a medal.

Dani Alves, Gabriel Martinelli, Bruno Guimaraes and Reinier converted their kicks in the shootout for Brazil after their goalkeeper, Santos, stopped Mexico’s first penalty and then watched its second attempt hit the post and bounce away.

Carlos Rodriguez kept Mexico alive by making Mexico’s third kick, but Reinier stepped up moments later to end it, slipping his shot past goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.

The semifinal at Ibaraki Kashima Stadium was a rematch of the 2012 Olympic final, and featured the past two men’s soccer champions. Mexico beat Brazil at Wembley in 2012, and Brazil claimed its first men’s title on home soil in 2016.

Brazil will face the winner of Tuesday’s second semifinal between the tournament favorite, Spain, and host Japan in Saturday’s gold medal match in Yokohama.

In a do-or-die quarterfinal matchup against Spain, the world’s No. 2-ranked team, the Americans overcame a sluggish first half and found some harmony on offense to notch a 95-81 win on Tuesday afternoon at Saitama Super Arena.

Leading the way for the Americans was Kevin Durant, who scored 29 points and hit several tough shots after halftime to puncture Spain’s organized defense. He finished the game shooting 10 for 17 from the field, including 4 of 7 from 3-point range. His strong play helped the Americans brush aside a poor first half in which they shot just 38 percent from the field.

Ricky Rubio was the main instigator for Spain, scoring 38 points. The Spanish, bigger and apparently better drilled, used their size as an advantage whenever they could. They won the rebounding battle, 42-32, and cashed in on several second-chance opportunities around the basket.

After two exhibition losses before the start of the Games, the United States started its Olympic campaign with a loss to France. The Americans mostly cruised through their next two contests — against far weaker opponents, Iran and the Czech Republic — and had some time to establish some rhythm as a group.

On Tuesday, under the oppressive midday sun at Olympic Stadium, Warholm obliterated his own world record to win his first Olympic gold medal, edging Benjamin, who finished second.

Warholm finished in 45.94 seconds. Benjamin also went under the existing world record in 46.17. Alison dos Santos of Brazil was third.

“I always say that the perfect race doesn’t exist, but this is the closest I’ve come to a perfect race,” Warholm said.

In the run-up to the Games this summer, Warholm and Benjamin had each seemed determined to assert himself as the world’s best. At the U.S. Olympic trials in June, Benjamin came desperately close to breaking the event’s longstanding world record, coming within .05 seconds of the mark that Kevin Young had set in winning Olympic gold for the U.S. in 1992. As it was, Benjamin’s time was the second-fastest in history.

One week later, Warholm finally did it: He ran 46.70 seconds in front of an adoring crowd at Bislett Stadium in Oslo to break Young’s record and set himself up as the favorite — by the slimmest of margins — in Tokyo.

Warholm, 25, and Benjamin, 24, offered a hint of a preview when they wound up in the same semifinal heat on Sunday. Both men eased through the finish line — Warholm less than a tenth of a second ahead of Benjamin — as they conserved energy for Tuesday’s final.

But their heat was tantalizing nonetheless — their first time going head-to-head since 2019, when Warholm edged Benjamin to defend his world championship.

Benjamin and Warholm are only two of the athletes who have combined to make the 400-meter hurdles one of the marquee disciplines at the Games — and must-see TV for those watching from home.

Last week, Warholm was asked whether he thought it would take another world record to win the gold medal.

“Maybe someone will else will do it,” he said. “I’ve done my job.”

He did his job again on Tuesday, shattering his own world record in an empty Olympic Stadium.

Timanovskaya, a 24-year-old sprinter whose specialty is the 200-meter dash, became the center of an international drama after her delegation forcibly tried to send her home from the Games. She had complained in an Instagram video that her coaches registered her for an event she hadn’t trained for, the 4x400-meter relay, because they had failed to conduct enough antidoping tests on other athletes.

“I will not say that politics came into my life, because in general there was no politics,” she said in a phone interview, declining to give her location for security reasons. She said that she has been offered asylum by Poland, which has told her she can continue her athletic career.

“I simply expressed my dissatisfaction with the coaching staff, who decided to put me in the relay race without telling me about it, without asking me if I’m ready to run,” she said. She worried that a poor performance in an unfamiliar event could cause her injury or trauma.

After her Instagram video, which she later took down, the head coach of the Belarusian national team, Yuri Moisevich, and the deputy director of the Belarusian Republican Track and Field Training Center, Artur Shumak, came to Timanovskaya’s room to persuade her to recant and go home. The order, they said, came from above their pay grade.

“Put aside your pride,” Moisevich can be heard saying on a partial recording she made of the conversation, later adding: “That’s how suicide cases end up, unfortunately.”

Timanovskaya is an unlikely dissident. Born in eastern Belarus, she said she was partially deaf as a child and underwent several operations until her hearing was restored at age 12.

That was when she was allowed to begin physical education classes. Soon, her teachers realized she had a talent for running and jumping. At 15, relatively late for an elite athlete, she was sent to a special training school for Olympic hopefuls. By the time she was 18, she was representing Belarus at competitions in Sweden, Qatar, Poland, Britain and Italy.

When protests erupted last fall after longtime Belarusian strongman Aleksandr Lukashenko claimed victory in widely disputed elections and was inaugurated for a sixth five-year term, Timanovskaya did not join the hundreds of thousands of protesters in the streets. She continued her grueling preparations for Tokyo, training from 9 a.m. until 2 or 3 p.m. with her husband, a former runner.

As the government cracked down on the protests, about 1,000 athletes signed an open letter calling for new elections and an end to the torture and arrest of peaceful demonstrators. As a result, 35 athletes and trainers were ejected from the national team.

Timanovskaya was not one of them because she did not sign the letter.

“I just wanted to prepare for the Olympics,” she said. “I did not sign anything, so that no one bothers me.”

She is a third-degree black belt and won a 2012 world championship. She is a bona fide celebrity in the sport, with videos of her performances racking up tens of millions of views. She even wrote a dissertation on the art of punching.

Yet with karate making its Olympic debut in Tokyo, her sudden elevation in May to head coach of Japan’s national team shook the sport in the land of its birth. Unlike her predecessors, she is young, female and willing to challenge the conventional wisdom of a discipline that is traditional, some would say, to a fault.

“I was shocked by the decision,” said Ms. Usami, 35, speaking from her home in western Japan. “It was something that no one had ever even considered.”

Her appointment, which came after her predecessor was accused of injuring an athlete with a bamboo sword during training, has crystallized a decades-old question in Japan.

Is karate a traditional martial art, a tool for forging the body and tempering the spirit? Or is it a modern competitive sport, a showcase for elite athletes, with a place in today’s Olympic Games?

To many conservatives in Japan, karate and other Japanese martial arts represent values like self-sacrifice and deference to authority that they believe are fundamental to the national character and see as critical to the country’s rise from the ashes of World War II.

But that romanticized vision of a virtuous warrior code — known as bushido, or “the way of the warrior” — has also had a dark side: overwork, harassment and an intense pressure to conform that, in extreme cases, can lead to death.

Those glory days had seemed to be long gone. India, which once won hockey medals at 10 straight Olympics, has not touched one since 1980. But at these Olympics, the Indian men’s hockey team has raised echoes of the great teams of the past, and the women’s team, which has never won a medal, is in contention for the first time.

The men’s gold medal bid came to an end on Tuesday with a 5-2 loss to Belgium in the semifinals, but the team still had a chance for a bronze, its best performance in a generation. The women remain alive for gold.

“Disappointed, but you don’t have time to worry about that,” said Sreejesh Parattu Raveendran, the goalkeeper known as the Wall. Now we still have a chance to win a medal, and that’s more important for us than crying at this time.”

The golden era started in 1928 when India, which had only been playing international matches for two years, won at the Amsterdam Olympics, scoring 29 goals and giving up none. It won in 1932 and ’36 as well. Dhyan Chand, widely considered the greatest hockey player ever, was part of all three teams.

After World War II, the streak continued, with gold medals in 1948, ’52 and ’56, before India finally lost to Pakistan in 1960. It reclaimed the title in 1964.

But that was the end of the Indian dominance. The country won one more gold medal, in the ed boycott year of 1980, but has no medals since. India was 12th and last at the London Olympics and eighth four years ago in Rio. In a country where cricket is by far the dominant sport, hockey was becoming more and more of an antiquated curiosity.

But the 2020 India team has been a throwback to its glory days. After a 4-1 record in the group stage, India upended Britain in the quarterfinals, 3-1, to advance to the final four.

The women’s team, without any of the men’s glorious history, has similarly overachieved, shocking Australia in the quarterfinals. It plays in a semifinal of its own against Argentina on Wednesday.

“This will be a very big, big thing in India,” said the women’s team captain, Rani Rampal.

Indeed, the teams are causing a stir back home. The Times of India said the women’s victory over Australia rivaled India’s win over England in cricket at Lord’s in 1983 as the greatest sporting upset in Indian history.

The paper had called the men’s semifinal “an hour of reckoning,” saying that “a win will not just confirm a return to the Games podium, but it will restore belief in the sport.”

Though India lost the game, a bronze and that return to the podium is still in the offing. So too, maybe, is a new day for Indian hockey.

Ross and Klineman beat Laura Ludwig and Margareta Kozuch of Germany on Tuesday morning in two close sets, 21-19, 21-19, in 44 minutes. In the semifinals, they will face the Swiss team of Anouk Verge-Depre and Joana Heidrich, which won a closely contested match with Brazil, 21-19, 18-21, 15-12.

Ross has won a medal in the last two Olympics and, with Klineman, is in good position to do so again if they win at least one of their next two matches. Their semifinal is scheduled for Thursday. Of course, winning the semifinal would lead to an appearance in the gold medal match — a much-preferred option to chasing the bronze as one of the semifinal losers.

Klineman, 31, switched to beach volleyball in 2017 after mostly playing indoor volleyball, and teamed with Ross, 39. Ross won silver in 2012 with Jennifer Kessy and bronze in 2016 with Kerri Walsh Jennings.

SOCCER After Mexico beat Brazil in the first men’s semifinal, Japan plays Spain in the second semifinal at 7 a.m. on NBC SN.

BASKETBALL In the last men’s quarterfinal, Australia plays Argentina at 8 a.m. on USA Network.

CYCLING Track finals including the women’s team pursuit and men’s team sprint air at 6 a.m. on NBC SN.

BEACH VOLLEYBALL Women’s quarterfinal action will air at 9 a.m. on NBC SN.

The decorated track star, who has six golds and is running in her fifth Games, told The New York Times Magazine in June that she was looking forward to competing, even though she would have understood if the Olympics had been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I would do anything to compete. That’s what the Olympics mean to me. That’s who I am,” she said. “At the same time I understand that a pandemic is going on. We have had so much loss of life, and I don’t want to contribute to any more.”

Felix has more medals in track and field — nine — than any other American woman. But as she has grown older, she has also earned increased attention for her work off the track. The difficult birth of her daughter, Camryn, in 2018 caused her to speak out for racial equality in maternal health care. And a 2019 column she wrote for The Times criticizing the maternity policies of Nike, her sponsor at the time — which the company subsequently improved — established her as an advocate for women’s equality in sports.

She talked to The Times Magazine in June about her conflict with Nike, how her perspective on the Olympics had changed since she was a teenager, and how her faith had helped her put her career in perspective.

Thompson-Herah had not only retained the 100-meter Olympic title she won in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, but she had also done so by shattering Florence Griffith Joyner’s Olympic record set in 1988. (Thompson-Herah’s official time is 10.61.)

One day later, Lamont Marcell Jacobs of Italy produced an even more stunning time — 9.80 seconds — to win the men’s 100, becoming the surprise winner of the race to supplant Usain Bolt as the world’s fastest man. Jacobs was little known before storming to the fastest time in an Olympic final by a man not named Bolt.

Both runners beamed after their races. But so did an anonymous figure dressed in a shirt and slacks in a seat overlooking the track: Andrea Vallauri, international manager for Mondo, the Olympic track supplier.

He is responsible for supplying the world’s fastest runners with the world’s fastest track. And his surface already has world records under threat.

Since Friday — the first day of the track and field competition — records and personal bests have tumbled. Six women ran under 11 seconds in the women’s 100 final, including Shericka Jackson, whose 10.76 was the fastest third-place finish at an Olympics. On Sunday, Jacobs, an unheralded sprinter who had specialized in the long jump until 2018, set a European record in the men’s 100 final.

For Vallauri, the early signs from the track competition have been an Olympic triumph of a different sort. Mondo, which has now designed 12 Olympic tracks, spent almost three years coming up with the surface in use in Tokyo: road testing different versions, sourcing materials, experimenting with different kinds of rubber. Along the way, Mondo asked athletes for their preference, the equivalent of a taste test of a new recipe for a familiar soft drink.

The answers the company received, Vallauri said, were unanimous. “The feedback from the athletes was the same,” he said. “This one.”

At least 299 people connected to the Games have now tested positive in Japan, including 28 athletes, according to Tokyo 2020 officials.

While organizers have managed to keep the pandemic from upending the Games, which are taking place in a tightly controlled bubble separating Olympic delegations from the general public, cases continue to rise in the rest of Japan.

The country has recorded an average of nearly 10,000 new infections daily over the past week, the most since the start of the pandemic, according to New York Times data.

So far, at least 299 people with Olympic credentials, including 28 athletes, have tested positive for the coronavirus in Japan. Others have tested positive before their departure to the Games and are not included in the chart below.

Note: Data is shown by the date in Tokyo when a case was announced. Some athletes tested positive before arriving in Japan.

Sources: Tokyo 2020 organizing committee and staff reports.

By Jasmine C. Lee and John Yoon

The athletes, from the men’s rowing and rugby teams, had finished their events at the Olympics and, though details are unclear, appeared to have embarked on a drunken, rowdy evening that resulted in the damage to the rooms, Australian media reported.

According to Reuters, a life-sized emu and kangaroo — the Australian team’s mascots — also temporarily disappeared from the Australian team’s accommodation, but were later found in the area where the German team is staying.

In a statement, the Australian Olympic committee said the two teams had apologized and that no further disciplinary action would be taken.

“The vast majority of athletes have absolutely done the right thing through their stay and been model citizens both on and off the field of play,” said Ian Chesterman, the chief of Australia’s Olympic team. He added: “A few have let themselves down.”

A spokesman for the committee, Strath Gordon, said in an email that the incident had been “appropriately dealt with” and that the delegation has “put the matter behind us.”

Rowing Australia, which won two gold medals, declined to comment on the incident. Rugby Australia, whose team placed seventh in the men’s event, did not respond to a request for comment.

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