With recent spikes in the number of Covid-19 cases in Bermuda, a final decision on the fate of the 2021 Carifta Games will be announced in May.

 Jasmine Camacho-Quinn stormed to a 100m hurdles win in 12.32 (1.7m/s) to move to equal seventh on the world all-time list at the Tom Jones Memorial Invitational in Gainesville, Florida, on Saturday.

Prior to her season opener one week before where she ran a windy 12.47, Camacho-Quinn's last hurdles race had been in 2019 and the Rio 2016 Olympian had started questioning whether her future lay in competing over the barriers.

But her perseverance is paying off and in Gainesville the two-time NCAA champion took 0.08 off her own Puerto Rican record, which had been set in 2018, to make a statement in Olympic year.

Behind her, British sisters Tiffany Porter and Cindy Sember both clocked 12.62, with Brittany Anderson finishing fourth in 12.91.

In the men's 110m hurdles, USA's world 60m hurdles record-holder Grant Holloway – who clocked a wind-assisted 13.04 (2.2m/s) a week earlier – ran a world-leading 13.07 (1.3m/s) for a dominant win. Trey Cunningham was second in a PB of 13.28.

World 400m champion Steven Gardiner went quickest over one lap, clocking 44.71 in his first 400m race since his world title win in Doha in 2019, as Britain’s Matthew Hudson-Smith was second in 45.53. Fastest in the women’s events was Jessica Beard with a time of 51.00.

Javianne Oliver won the women’s 100m from Olympic long jump champion Tianna Bartoletta – 11.12 to 11.16 (2.2m/s).

The men’s 100m saw the quickest time come in the university race as Jo'Vaughn Martin improved his PB from 10.40 to 9.94 (1.6m/s) to equal the world lead. Justin Gatlin went quickest in the 'Olympic Development' races with 9.98 (1.4m/s) ahead of Andre De Grasse with 9.99, Kenny Bednarek with 10.03 and Noah Lyles with 10.08.

Just one week after clocking 10.72 for 100m, Sha'Carri Richardson continued her fine form to run 22.11 (1.0m/s) in her 200m season debut on the first day of Tom Jones Memorial Invitational action on Friday (16).

It is the 21-year-old’s second quickest ever time for the distance behind her PB of 22.00 set in Florida last August and saw the world U20 record-holder win the heat by almost half a second ahead of Lynna Irby with 22.57.

World and Olympic medallist Blessing Okagbare was third in 22.66.

The time clocked by Richardson – who moved to sixth on the world all-time list with her 100m run the week before – is the second-fastest in the world at this early point of the season behind Shaunae Miller-Uibo’s 22.03 from earlier this month.

World 400m bronze medallist Fred Kerley went quickest in the men’s 200m heats, equalling his PB with 20.24 (0.9m/s) ahead of Jereem Richards with 20.30. Erriyon Knighton won another heat in 20.39 (0.5m/s).

World 400m hurdles silver medallist Sydney McLaughlin improved her 100m hurdles PB to 12.92 (0.2m/s) at the Bryan Clay Invitational in Azusa, California, on Friday (16).

 

With that result, the 21-year-old becomes the first woman to break 13.00 for the 100m hurdles, 23.00 for 200m and 53.00 for the 400m hurdles.

She was back in action just 40 minutes later and ran 51.16 in the 400m heats.

 

Jamaica discus thrower, Shadae Lawrence, registered a fourth consecutive win after taking first place at the Tom Jones Memorial Invitational meet on Friday.

Lawrence recorded a distance of 57.86m, finishing well clear of the rest of the field.  Finishing in second was the University of Miami’s Kristina Rakočević who recorded 51.80m, with Jalani Davis (Ole Miss) third with a distance of 51.32.

The win for the Jamaican national record holder follows up on a victory last week at the USA Track & Field (USATF) Sprint Summit.  Elsewhere, former Jamaica College jumper Clayton Brown also claimed the top spot in the men’s high jump.  Brown took first place with a leap of 2.21m, ahead of Old Miss’ Allen Gordon who took second in 2.16m.  Third place went to Louisville’s Trey Allen who recorded 2.11m.

In the Men's 200 Dash Olympic Development Trinidad and Tobago’s Jereem Richards clocked 20.30 to secure second place, behind the United States’ Fred Kerley who took the top spot in 20.24.  Erriyon Knighton was third in 20.39.

Jamaica’s Inter-Secondary School Sports Association (ISSA) has been given the green light to stage the GraceKennedy Boys and Girls Championships at the National Stadium in Kingston from May 11-15.

Akeem Bloomfield has moved to allay fears that he had suffered a long-term injury when he fell during the 200m at last weekend’s Miramar South Florida Invitational.

Bloomfield, who is based in Florida at MVP International, stumbled and fell at the top of the straightway in the half-lap sprint and was seen clutching his leg while grimacing in pain. He was eventually helped off the track, triggering fears that he would have been out for some time, perhaps for the remainder of the season.

With the Jamaican Olympic trials coming up in June, there were even fears that he would not be able to compete and try to book a spot in the country’s contingent for the summer Olympics in Tokyo.

However, after an MRI examination, the 200/400m athlete posted some encouraging words on Instagram that would have his many fans breathing a collective sigh of relief.

“It did look like a bad injury on TV but the MRI results showed that there was no major tear or damage,” a relieved Bloomfield posted on Instagram.

Notwithstanding the good news, Bloomfield revealed that he is still in some amount of discomfort.

“My right glute and hamstring contracted really bad and as of right now are just really inflamed,” he said.

“I am expected to make a full recovery and hopefully I will be back in training soon.

“Again, thanks to everyone who took the time to reach out. The support means a lot.”

 

Christian Coleman, the 100 metres world champion, will miss the Olympic Games despite having a ban for breaking anti-doping whereabouts rules reduced to 18 months.

The American missed three drugs tests in the space of a year and was initially hit with a two-year suspension after a ruling from the Athletics Integrity Unit.

Coleman took responsibility for a first missed test on January 16, 2019, and claimed the second, on April 26 of the same year, was due to a "filing failure".

He said he was only notified about a third missed test in December 2019, the following day. Coleman said he had been out Christmas shopping but had returned during the one-hour window to be tested and questioned why he was not contacted by telephone by the tester.

Coleman took his challenge to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which has partially upheld the 25-year-old's appeal.

CAS has ruled Coleman's ban, which was originally due to end on May 13, 2022, will now expire on November 14. It means he will miss the Olympics, which run from July 23 to August 8 in Tokyo.

However, he will be able to defend his world title in Oregon next year.

A CAS statement read: "In coming to its decision, the CAS Panel determined that Christian Coleman had indeed committed an Anti-Doping Rule Violation under Article 2.4 of the World Athletics Anti-Doping Rules, but found the athlete's degree of negligence to be lower than that established in the Challenged Decision: the Athlete was not at home during the 60-minute time slot on the day of the out-of-competition doping control (9 December 2019), as he should have been, and the Athlete should have been on 'high-alert' on that day, given the two existing whereabout failures against him. 

"On the other hand, however, had the Athlete been called by the Doping Control Officer, he would have been able to return to his apartment during the 60-minute window and a test would have been concluded. Although a telephone call during the 60-minute window was not required by the rules, it was nevertheless reasonable for the Athlete to expect such a call, as a matter of standard practice among other Doping Control Officers.

"In conclusion, the CAS Panel determined that an 18-month period of ineligibility was the appropriate sanction in the circumstances."

Double Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah, Olympic and World Championships 400m bronze medalist and former 100m world record holder Asafa Powell have been named to a Jamaican selection that has named to participate in the World Relays set for May 1-2 in Chorzow, Poland.

Jamaica hurdler Damion Thomas believes he is finally firmly back on the right track after several recent seasons where he was plagued by injuries and indifferent form.

The 21-year-old Louisiana State University student registered his first NCAA title this past indoor season and last month continued that form with brilliant hurdling, which saw him clock a world-leading 13.22 seconds (1.3m/s) at the Texas Relays.

The efforts mark a comeback of sorts for Thomas who tied the U20 world record in the 110-meter hurdles, after running 12.99 over the 39-inch height at the 2018 Jamaican Junior Championships. He then followed up the record-breaking moment by winning gold at the World U20 Championships.

A quadriceps injury during the 2019 season, however, hampered the hurdler's efforts to build on a promising start to his collegiate career and, of course, in 2020, the global pandemic saw sports grind to a halt for several months.

 "I'd say last year's coronavirus [pandemic] shutting down the season was probably more heartbreaking than my sophomore year and the injuries," Thomas said in an interview with Milesplit USA.

"I felt healthy, training was going so well into the meet and then they shut it down for everybody. Right after that meeting, I remember all of us just going to one room and we literally were staring out the window. 'Like dang this is crazy.'"

 The athlete, however, managed to use the quarantine period to his advantage, putting work into honing his technique.  He has emerged from the hiatus as strong and sharp as ever and is so far a big favourite to secure a spot on the Jamaica Olympic squad later this year.

"It feels good to know that I'm on the right path," Thomas said of his resurgence.

“I think the big thing now is ... not to be complacent and continue to look at the flaws in my race to see where I can get better. I want to stay hungry and continue to feel like an underdog. Even though I'm world-leading, that doesn't mean anything going forward."

 

Olympics great Mark Spitz believes politically active athletes are unlikely to heed demands for them not to protest during Tokyo 2020.

United States swimming superstar Spitz won seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Games to establish himself as an all-time legend of the pool.

He recalled the Black Power salute from American track athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the Mexico Games four years earlier as a prime example of Olympians using their platform to take a powerful stance in front of the watching world.

On the podium in Mexico City, after Smith won gold in the 200 metres and Carlos took bronze, the American sprinters each stood with a black-gloved hand raised and head bowed, an immortal protest against racism in the United States.

Spitz acknowledged the determined efforts of current sporting superstars such as LeBron James and Lewis Hamilton to draw attention to similar matters of racial prejudice.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach said last year that the Olympics "are not and must never be a platform to advance political or any other divisive ends".

Bach added: "Our political neutrality is undermined whenever organisations or individuals attempt to use the Olympic Games as a stage for their own agendas, as legitimate as they may be."

In an interview with Stats Perform, Spitz said of the IOC's intentions: "I know they have had some campaigns at a political level not to make it a platform for people to speak out against things that are obviously a concern to them, and they use when they stand on the podium and win a medal to voice their opinion.

"I am on the fence in how I feel about it. An example was Tommie Smith and John Carlos who held their hands up in the 1968 Olympic Games in track and field. And that still resonates to this day.

"And the issues they spoke loud and clear about are still happening here in America and worldwide. So I don't think people's rightful opportunity to speak out will be eradicated."

Speaking courtesy of Laureus, Spitz added: "I think there's a proper place and a proper time and in most people's opinion the proper place and time are when the most people in the world are listening to you.

"And certainly that provokes those sort of things to happen at the Olympics, or other events for that matter."

Formula One champion Hamilton and NBA superstar James have used their global fame as a means to call for equality in society and sport.

Spitz stressed he remained "down the middle of the line" on political protests in sport, but he added: "I think morally if they feel they need to speak out then they should. And there's a way to do that in a polite and politically correct and accurate way. I think those two gentlemen [Hamilton and James] have done so."

Spitz, now 71, no longer holds the record for the most gold medals in a single Games after fellow swimming great Michael Phelps won eight at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

He predicted organisers of the delayed Tokyo Olympics - set back a year by the COVID-19 pandemic - will go the extra mile to deliver a standout entertainment experience for the worldwide audience.

International spectators have been banned from travelling to watch the Games, in an effort to control the spread of the virus.

"I suspect and hope they will go off without a hitch, but in keeping with tradition I'm not sure how they'll do an opening ceremony with all those people, or an opening ceremony show," Spitz said.

"It is a big revenue generator for the television networks to have those part of the festivities. It's a shame if it's not done as we're accustomed to seeing, but I think it will be modified and we'll be happy with what the presentation will be I hope."

Only 100 days remain until the rearranged Tokyo Olympics begin, some 12 months after they were originally scheduled to take place in the Japanese capital.

The overriding question over the past year has simply been: how will this happen?

Uncertainty still lingers over the monumental logistical effort needed to reschedule an Olympics, one that did not take place as planned for the first time since World War II as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Over a year since it was first confirmed the Games would be put back, the global health crisis is still wreaking havoc as countries battle COVID-19 with varying levels of success.

For the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Japanese government, a more pertinent question may be: how could the Games not go ahead?

Soon, more than 11,000 athletes plus their coaches, as well as throngs of media and officials from around 200 nations, will flock into a single city during a pandemic.

As the Games come into view and the ceremonial lighting of the Olympic cauldron draws closer, the message has been pretty clear – one way or another, the show will go on.

So, just where are we at and what do we still not fully know about how the Games will function?

HOW THE SITUATION IS VIEWED IN JAPAN

While there appears little chance of another immediate postponement, there has not been particularly mass support from the people of Japan.

A Times report in January citing an unnamed Japanese government source suggested the Games would be cancelled – suggestions that were labelled as "categorically untrue" by the IOC.

But a survey taken by the Kyodo News Agency in the same month found approximately 80 per cent of people wanted another postponement or cancellation. 

A more recent poll taken by consultancy Kekst CNC found 56 per cent of respondents in the country do not want the Olympics to take place.

Confidence in Japan's ability to host the Games will hardly have been improved by the Olympic torch relay being prevented from taking place on public roads in Osaka on April 13 and 14 due to a surge in coronavirus cases.

While a full lockdown has never been imposed in Japan, a second state of emergency in Tokyo was only lifted on March 22.

Daily new infection rates in Japan decreased to a little over 500 in early March, but rates have steadily been on the rise again, with over 3,695 reported on April 10. Over 9,000 people have died after having a confirmed case in the country.

There are also concerns about the speed of the vaccine rollout in Japan, with frontline medical workers having not started receiving jabs until February. It could be July by the time the wider population is offered a shot.

PLAYBOOKS, TESTING AND NO MANDATORY VACCINATIONS

Despite those reservations, the IOC and Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee have pressed ahead to come up with an extensive collaborative list of rules in a 'playbook'.

Athletes and officials, members of the press, and international federations are among the groups who will have to follow playbooks for the duration of the Games.

The guidance we have all become so familiar with for over a year is stressed: avoid physical contact, maintain distance, follow good hand hygiene, wear masks, and keep away from crowded spaces where possible.

Chanting and singing is discouraged, with the playbook stating athletes should be supported instead by clapping.

Additionally, an activity plan must be provided for the first 14 days when entering Japan – including details of planned activities, travel intentions, and accommodation details.

All those required to adhere to the rules of the playbook are permitted to visit only official Games venues and selected other locations, while going to bars, shops, restaurants or tourist locations is not allowed.

No mandatory period of quarantining will be required, unlike what was in place for the tennis Australian Open earlier this year, but anyone who provides a positive coronavirus test will have to isolate – which the playbook states may be at a government-approved isolation facility.

Athletes will not be required to have received a vaccine against COVID-19 to take part in the Games, although the IOC has actively encouraged participants to take the opportunity if possible.

The issue of whether vaccines should be mandatory remains a contentious one. Middle-distance athlete Genzebe Dibaba, a silver medallist for Ethiopia in the 1,500 metres at Rio 2016, recently told Stats Perform News she feels competitors should get a jab.

"Yes, I think it's safe and more comfortable to manage, to meet with the other athletes. [I think it's] better to take the vaccine," she said.

Swimming great Mark Spitz, a legend of the 1972 Games in Munich where he won seven golds, also believes Olympians should take a vaccine.

Speaking courtesy of Laureus, Spitz told Stats Perform: "Personally I've received the vaccine because of my age, I didn't jump in front of anyone in line. And there's nothing to fear from the vaccine.

"According to the doctors and the experts we're somewhere in excess of 90 per cent protected - that doesn't mean I don't observe social distancing, masking up and all the other things we've heard so much about and have been observing.

"I think the athletes will have to cope with these type of observances. I think the athletes should be vaccinated, not only for their own good but for anyone they come into contact with in their journey to get to Tokyo."

Athletes are to be tested every four days, but no decision has yet been taken on whether a positive result will see competitors prohibited from taking part in their events – the contention over potentially false positive tests remaining a sticking point.

At past Olympics, Games accommodation 'villages' have earned a reputation as party venues, with competitors clustered and able to blow off steam at the end of a brutal four-year training cycle.

But this year promises to be an altogether different experience, with athletes told to arrive five days before competing and leave no later than two days after their event finishes.

Temperature checks are required to be taken every day, and playbooks warn that such tests will also be required to enter any official Games venue – a temperature of more than 37.5 degrees would mean a competitor is not allowed to enter.

TRAINING DISRUPTION AND OVERSEAS FANS BANNED

Disruption to the Games has not just been a nightmare for organisers. Athletes too have had to rip up plans and training schedules, and find ways to adapt during unusual times.

Qualifiers and warm-up events have been cancelled or rescheduled, many official competitions have bitten the dust, and several months have been spent at home training, with practice facilities closing during lockdowns.

Amid the uncertainty has been the real fear of a full cancellation, and many have pondered whether the Games will lack integrity due to the varying levels of preparedness of athletes.

But many also believe athletes will just be desperate to compete on the biggest stage of all after over 12 months of turmoil.

"Everybody knows how special the Olympics are; for an athlete it cannot really get any better. You obviously want to do yourself proud and your family, but also you are representing your country," Fabian Cancellara, the cycling time trial gold medallist at both the 2008 and 2016 Olympics, told Stats Perform.

"Obviously with cycling I had many other big events, but the Olympics is huge and something you can never forget both when competing and the whole Olympic experience.

"You wait four, or in this case five years. Who knows how it is going to be in Tokyo really, nobody is quite sure but I'm sure they can still put a great Olympics on.

"The athletes will be even more hungry after waiting an extra year and whoever gets to experience what I did and become an Olympic champion, it's going to be amazing for them."

Spitz acknowledged the disruption, but he too hopes competitors will have had ample time to prepare.

"I can't speak on behalf on a lot of different sports and how their training habits have been affected. I know swimming, for example, it's been a bit of a concern since we can't get into pools here in America," he said.

"It has a profound effect on swimming obviously. Especially these large pools we need to practise in, 50-metre pools, it's not in somebody's back yard, and you need to be coached and assembled in a team.

"So, this was put on the sidelines for a number of months back in the winter time, but a lot of the athletes are on track right now. They have opened up these facilities and far enough in advance that come time for the Olympic Games we're going to see top-notch performances from swimmers around the world. How it's affected gymnastics or other sports I'm not quite sure but it definitely has affected them."

One thing that is certain is those competing are sure to do so in a very different atmosphere to past Olympics.

Last month, it was confirmed no overseas visitors will be allowed to attend the Games – a significant blow to an event that prides itself on providing an international flavour.

Approximately 900,000 to one million tickets had reportedly been sold across the Olympic and Paralympic Games to overseas spectators, all of which will need to be refunded.

Fears of a behind-closed-doors Games are unlikely to come to fruition, although a decision about a potential cap on capacity of venues is likely to be made in the near future.

TOO COSTLY TO CANCEL?

Of course, for all the messages of unity and triumphing amid adversity, there will be cynics asking whether this all boils down to one thing: money.

There is undoubtedly an element of truth that there is plenty to lose financially.

As of December 2020, it was reported the budget for the Olympics had risen to a whopping £11.5billion, an extra £2.1bn compared to the totals a year prior.

The additional costs are said to be mainly down to measures needed to combat the threat of COVID-19 and the renegotiating of contracts.

And there is pressure too from broadcasters, who contribute to around three quarters of the IOC's budget, who remain adamant the Games should go ahead.

So, yes, here we are with 100 days to go and barring a monumental change of heart, the show will indeed go on.

Genzebe Dibaba believes it would be a more comfortable experience at the Tokyo Games if athletes are vaccinated against coronavirus and is confident organisers will do all they can to protect competitors at the Olympics.

Wednesday marks 100 days until the Games are due to begin in the Japanese capital, a year later than planned after the original dates in 2020 were scuppered by the pandemic.

The health crisis continues to cause issues for nations across the globe but the message from the International Olympics Committee (IOC) and from the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee has thus far been that the show will go on.

While international fans are banned from attending, and social-distancing measures, track-and-trace systems and temperature checks will be enforced, a vaccination against COVID-19 will not be a pre-requisite to participate in Tokyo.

Middle and long-distance runner Dibaba, a silver medallist in the 1500 metres at Rio 2016 and the world record holder over that distance, thinks athletes should have a jab for the Games.

"Yes, I think it's safe and more comfortable to manage, to meet with the other athletes," Dibaba told Stats Perform News.

"[I think it's] better to take the vaccine."

As part of the solutions to try and prevent transmission of the virus at the Games, Tokyo 2020 and the IOC have come up with 'Playbooks' for athletes, officials and the media to follow – which includes having to complete an activity book outlining plans while in the city.

Regular testing will also be enforced, with athletes being checked every four days, and Dibaba acknowledged organisers are doing what they can to put on a safe Games.

"It's hard to feel safe because it's a virus and you can get it at any minute," she added.

"But since it's the Olympics, I know they will do everything they can to protect us."

Dibaba spoke about the difficulties athletes have faced in training for an Olympics facing so much uncertainty.

But the Ethiopian – a world champion in 2015 – is still focused on moving up a step on the podium in Tokyo, even if she feels a crack at breaking her own 1500m world record may have to wait a little while.

"For now I'm getting ready for the Olympics, not for the record," Dibaba said. 

"It's a race, since it's a record anyone can break it if they work hard. If they go for the record I will be there. 

"If not I'm just working for the Olympic Games, not for the record. After the Olympics, I promise you I will try one more time that I will go for the record."

Never before has the idea of 'Olympic spirit' been more pertinent as the days close in on a second attempt to stage the 2020 Tokyo Games.

The coronavirus pandemic meant the Olympics had to be postponed for the first time since World War II last year and the ongoing global health crisis has led to continued uncertainty as to whether they can even take place over the rearranged dates of July 23 to August 8.

It is already known that international spectators will not be allowed to travel to Japan, with stadiums to admit only local fans to try to limit the spread of COVID-19.

But, as things stand, it is full steam ahead for Tokyo to finally host the Games of the 32nd Olympiad. As global communities look to match the kind of resolve that makes the Games so special, join us in looking back at 10 of the most memorable moments in Olympics history, with 100 days to go until the action begins.

OWENS DEFIES HITLER AND EARNS LEGENDARY STATUS

It was not just the sensational athletic feats that enshrined Jesse Owens as an all-time great. At the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Owens – an African American – sensationally won four gold medals, in the 100 metres, 200m, 4x100m relay and the long jump, breaking or equalling nine Olympic records and setting three world records along the way. But what was perhaps even more remarkable was the context of his achievements, with Germany under the Nazi rule of Adolf Hitler. Owens' success struck a blow to Hitler's propaganda drive and disproved his theory of Aryan racial superiority. In 1984, Carl Lewis would emulate his idol by winning the same four events in Los Angeles.

BEAMON'S LEAP OF THE CENTURY

The 1968 Games were held amid a tense local political backdrop, with many protesters having been killed by the army 10 days before the Olympics in Mexico City. During the Games, black Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos - the 200m gold and bronze medallists - gave the Black Power salute on the podium, standing alongside Australian Peter Norman who wore a badge in support of Smith and Carlos' Olympic Project for Human Rights. A day later, Bob Beamon pulled his socks high up in support of his compatriots having achieved what would be known as the 'Leap of the Century'. The New Yorker - who had a troubled upbringing - leapt an astonishing 8.90 metres (29 feet, two and a half inches), which was 55 centimetres better than the previous world record. The jump was so remarkable that officials had to measure its distance manually as the optical device being used at the Games did not reach far enough. To this day, it remains an Olympic record, though the world benchmark belongs to Mike Powell, who jumped 8.95m in 1991.

NADIA'S A PERFECT 10

Prior to the 1976 Games in Montreal, the idea of a 'Perfect 10' in gymnastics felt like somewhat of a fable – an impossible quest. And then a 14-year-old from Romania caught the imagination and the hearts of the watching world on the uneven bars. Nadia Comaneci achieved the impossible, becoming the first gymnast in Olympics history to score a 10 … not that it was immediately obvious. Because the scoreboard allowed for only three digits, Comaneci's score showed up as '1.00'. It was only when the announcer confirmed the score that an elated crowd erupted in celebration. Comaneci would go on to achieve the feat six more times at the Games, while becoming the youngest all-round Olympic gold medallist ever.

HEART AND SEOUL AS FLO-JO SETS RECORDS TUMBLING

The remarkable thing about Florence Griffith Joyner's achievements in 1988 is how relatively ordinary she had been prior to dazzling in Seoul. A silver four years earlier in the 200m came with the caveat of Russia, East Germany and most of the Eastern Bloc opting to boycott the Games. 'Flo Jo' had seemingly given up on athletics completely in 1986, working as a bank clerk and hair stylist before returning in 1987, shedding weight and finishing second in the 200m at that year's World Championship. Considered a decent but not elite 100m runner, all of that changed when 'Flo-Jo' smashed the women's 100m world record with a time of 10.49 at the US Olympic trials in July 1988. She said her transformation was based on modelling her training on that of Canadian Ben Johnson. Johnson famously won the men's 100m in Seoul in what was a world-record time of 9.79s, only to hand the gold medal after failing a drugs test, giving sport one of its most shocking moments. Yet at the same Games, 'Flo-Jo' was the flamboyant queen of the track, taking gold in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m – the former in an Olympic-record time of 10.54 that stands to this day, and the 200m in a world record of 21.34 that also remains unsurpassed. She died in 1998 after a seizure, a tragic end to a staggering story.

JOHNSON AWESOME IN ATALANTA

Before Bolt came along, there was another man who held the unofficial moniker of fastest man on the planet. Michael Johnson's achievement in the 1996 Olympic Games led legendary commentator David Coleman to profess: "This man is surely not human." Just three days after claiming the 400m title, Johnson left rivals in his wake with an astonishing performance in the 200m where his time of 19.32 seconds beat his own world record by over three tenths of a second. It was a benchmark that would stand until Bolt came along with a staggering 19.30s in the final of the 2008 Olympics, later going even quicker with a mind-boggling 19.19 at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin.

FREEMAN THE SYMBOL OF UNITY IN SYDNEY SPACESUIT

Cathy Freeman was the poster girl of the 2000 Sydney Olympics – and Australia's only realistic hope of an athletics gold delivered in memorable style. Her face could be seen on billboards, buses and newspaper front pages throughout the country. Freeman represented more than just an athlete of supreme talent, for the Aboriginal superstar became viewed as a figure of unity, a symbol of reconciliation in Australia. Few will forget the sight of Freeman lighting the flame for the Games, which grew around her in front of a waterfall and left the perception she was floating in mid air. A silver medallist four years previously in Atlanta, the noise of over 112,000 fans caused a deafening roar as Freeman's face was shown on the giant television screens prior to the 400m final on September 25. In her now famous 'spacesuit', Freeman trailed Lorraine Graham and Katharine Merry heading into the final bend but left her rivals in her wake down the straight to claim a memorable gold - Australia's 100th in Olympics history.

STEVE'S FIVE GOLD RINGS LEAVE RIVALS IN OAR

"If anyone sees me go near a boat, you've got my permission to shoot me." Those were the famous words uttered by Steve Redgrave as he won a fourth gold medal at Atlanta 1996, in the coxless pair alongside Matthew Pinsent. But the lure of history proved too much and four years later, here he was again in Sydney competing this time as part of the coxless four and, at the age of 38, winning a fifth Olympic gold – at the time the first Briton to do so. He was the first endurance athlete who could claim to have won five golds at consecutive Games – doing so between 1984 and 2000.

HOLMES DOUBLES UP IN ATHENS

A promising career beset by injuries and illness took its toll on Kelly Holmes, who would later open up on her battle with clinical depression. But the countless hours spent in training, and gruelling rehab sessions, would be rewarded in the most magical of ways across six glorious days at Athens in 2004. The Briton had always harboured dreams of being a 1,500m Olympic champion and was in two minds as to whether she would even compete in the 800m. But race she did, and a textbook in tactics paid dividends as Holmes bided her time among a strong pace to take the lead on the final bend and hold off Hasna Benhassi and Jolanda Ceplak on the line. Just five days later, Holmes would again race towards the back of the pack in the 1,500m before hitting the front on the final straight to defeat world champion Tatyana Tomashova. Holmes became only the third woman in history and the first Briton since Albert Hill 84 years earlier to win an 800m and 1,500m Olympic double in a memorable triumph against adversity.

MAGIC 8 FOR RECORD-BREAKING PHELPS

Four years prior to competing in Beijing, swimming sensation Michael Phelps had collected six golds and two bronze medals at the Athens Games. No Greek tragedy by any stretch, but it was in Beijing where Phelps made history – winning eight gold medals, the most in a single Olympics, beating the record of fellow American swimming legend Mark Spitz who won seven in 1972. Having levelled the tally with a narrow triumph over Milorad Cavic in the 100m butterfly, Phelps' moment of history arrived in the 4x100m relay medley as the USA stormed to victory. Phelps competed five Games between 2000 and 2016, and his tally of 28 Olympic medals is a record.

LIGHTNING BOLT A BLUR IN BEIJING

No list of great Olympic moments would be complete without one of the greatest athletes of all time. In 2008, if you had blinked you could almost have missed Usain Bolt tearing to 100 metres glory as he broke his own world record in a time of 9.69 seconds - a time he would beat with an astonishing 9.58 in Berlin a year later. Bolt's remarkable performance set the tone for an unrivalled period of sprinting dominance as he took gold in the 100m and 200m at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Games. Jamaica also won the 4x100m relay in each of the Olympics where Bolt competed, and only a doping test positive for a relay team-mate saw him finish his career with eight Olympic golds instead of nine.

Slightly disappointed over her times on the weekend, Kiara Grant believes there is no reason why she should not break 11 seconds this season as she plans to fight through a competitive field to make Jamaica’s team to the Olympics this summer.

Based on how well she has been training, “there is no reason why I shouldn’t break 11 seconds,” she said.

The 20-year-old Grant, a junior at Norfolk State University, ran 11.29 for second place in the 100m and 23.25 to win the 200m at the Gamecock Invitational at Gregger Park on Saturday.

“This was my opener. I could have been better but they’re okay times for an opener,” she said, “so I know what I need to fix in practice. It’s to see how I can lower my times before regionals asap.”

She has about two weeks to those regionals and she believes that is more than enough time to get the required work in. “I have two meets to get those times down. I am a lot stronger and I have been putting the background work, so with the right competition I can get my times down,” she said confidently.

Grant, who has a personal best of 11.04, said she was expecting to run 11.1 or 11.0x on Saturday and around 22.9, said running her intent to go faster is not just for regionals but for the much bigger event this summer.

“That’s the biggest goal right now. I am up for the Olympics. It doesn’t get better than that. That’s why I am working on getting my times down,” she said.

“Sha’ Carri Richardson ran 10.7, we have to do something over these next two weeks. We have to apply some kind of pressure,” she declared.

 

 

Natalliah Whyte was well pleased with her 100m outing at the Miramar South Florida Invitational on Saturday but she is hoping that she will go much faster as the season progresses. Whyte was third in 11.16 behind runaway winner Sha’ Carri Richardson, who ran a jaw-dropping 10.72s, the fastest time in the world this year.

The 23-year-old Jamaican, who ran the lead-off leg for Jamaica’s gold medal-winning 4x100 relay team at the World Championships in Doha in 2019, had run even faster in the preliminary round clocking 11.07s, her season-best.

However, taking the two races together, Whyte said she was happy with the overall performance.

“The first 100 metres of the season after not competing or doing much due to Covid this time last year, and with a time of 11.07 in the heats and 11.16 in the finals, I am satisfied,” she told Sportsmax.TV following her race.

She explained that the races were meant to provide her and her coach with indicators of what her progress is this season.

“It’s really just taking each race at a time and finding out my weak points and working on those so I can put everything together to get that perfect race,” said Whyte, who trains with Puma MVP International at their base at the Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

“I was hoping to go faster in the final run but, as I said, the race wasn’t perfect but there is still room for improvement. It’s the first race of the season and I think everything will come together as I move forward.”

Whyte did not compete indoors during the winter but does not believe it had any impact on her performances outdoors where she has run two 200m races recording times of 22.88 and 23.28 on March 20 and April 4, respectively.

“Not competing indoors doesn’t give you that early push that pushes you into outdoor. So basically, just training doesn’t give you a true benchmark of where you would want to be,” she explained.

“Competing with world-class athletes is what really sets the standard for what to work on and to just see where you are in your progress. So this meet was a great meet. It had a lot of world-class athletes so it was a true test of progress.”

Having run both short sprints so far this season begs the question, does she plan to compete at both at the Olympic this summer should she qualify at her national championships set for June? Whyte said it’s too early to say.

“Both events complement each other so at the moment I am using each event to get better at the other. The 200m really helps with speed endurance but eventually, when it gets closer to that time, my coach and I will decide based on how the season progresses, what will be best,” she said.

“At the moment, I am delighted for the opportunity to compete. I haven’t run the 200 consistently for the past few years so I am just trying to familiarize myself with the event again. So it’s really a learning process as I go along.  I am also trying to stay injury-free, which is my number one goal.”

Commenting on Richardson's phenomenal time, Whyte said: "Richardson's run was spectacular, she’s a very talented athlete."

 

Texas A&M's Tyra Gittens was super excited about her new personal best in the heptathlon this weekend but acknowledged that there is still room for a lot of improvement. This is especially true if he wants to achieve her goal of competing in the multi-event discipline at this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.

The 22-year-old Trinidadian, the 2021 NCAA pentathlon champion competing in her first heptathlon is more than two years scored an NCAA-leading 6274 points after completing the seven events at the Texas A&M Invitational held at Bryan-College Station in Texas on Friday and Saturday.

She won all four disciplines in windy conditions on Friday. She opened up with a time of 13.14 in the 100m hurdles for 1103 points, cleared 1.82m in the high jump, scoring 1003 points and won the shot put with a throw of 12.85m that earned her 717 points. In the final event of the day, she won the 200m sprint in 23.33, scoring 1046 points.

She returned on Saturday morning winning the long jump with a leap of 6.67m that earned her 1062 points. She only managed 631 points for the javelin and then rounded out the competition with a 2:28.52 run in the 800m for 712 points.

“Mood for a huge personal best, new school record, and an NCAA leading 6274 points in my first heptathlon in forever! Still so much to work on and I can’t wait to recover and get back into training” she posted on Instagram afterwards, very much aware of the work that she needs to get done if she is to book a ticket to Tokyo.

The 6247 points she scored is still 173 shy of the Olympic qualifying standard of 6420 points.

 

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