Jamaica sprinter Yohan Blake will have his hands full at the Tokyo Olympics not just taking part in two events on the track but also serving as a panelist for India Broadcasters Sony Sport.

The 31-year-old, who will be competing in his third Olympics, will participate in the 100m and 200m sprints.  Blake was once thought to be the heir apparent to illustrious compatriot Usain Bolt and holds the seconnd fastest times ever recorded over both events.

Following hamstring injuries in 2013 and 2014, however, he has failed to replicate that kind of form in recent years.  In fact, in Tokyo, he will be looking to make it on the podium at major games for the first time in nine years.  Whether he gets among the medals or not, however, the sprinter could already be considering what’s next.

“I am very excited to associate with Sony Sports as an expert panelist on their live wrap-around studio show, SPORTS EXTRAAA, and take fans closer to the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020.  Not only will the viewers in India watch me proudly represent my country at the Games but they will also watch me provide insights on the performance of the world's finest on the grand stage,” Blake told South Asian news agency ANI.

The programs will be broadcast all across India.

 

 Jamaica gymnast, Danusia Francis, will be unable to compete in the majority of her scheduled events for the Tokyo Olympics after suffering a torn ACL.

Francis, the country’s lone competitor in Artistic Gymnastics, was scheduled to take part in the four-event Women’s All-Round competition on Sunday.

After suffering a knee injury, however, the 27-year has had to alter those plans.  The results of an MRI, taken in the Olympic Village on Friday, showed that the damage to the joint was worse than hoped for.

As a result, Francis will only be able to compete on the Uneven Bars, which is the apparatus that is least likely to cause further damage to the injured joint.  That means the athlete will skip the Vault, Balance Beam, and Floor exercises.

Francis is the second female gymnast to represent Jamaica at the Olympic Games following in the footsteps of Toni-Ann Williams, who at the 2016 Rio Olympics, was the first female gymnast to compete for Jamaica at the Olympics.

The gymnast was able to qualify for the Games based on her performance at the 2019 World Championships.  She finished among the top 20 athletes who were not on a qualifying team. She ranked ninth in the group of competitors.

The Jamaican sprinter is looking for her third Olympic 100m gold.

Former 100m world record holder and Olympic champion Donovan Bailey believes Jamaica’s women could sweep the blue ribband event in Tokyo.

Heading into the women’s 100m, it is the Jamaican trio of Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Elaine Thompson-Herah, and Shericka Jackson who have clocked the fastest times over the distance this year.

Out front, is reigning world champion and two-time winner of the event Fraser-Pryce, with her best time of 10.63, which was recorded last month.  The time was the second-fastest time ever recorded over the distance and fastest in 33 years.

Next up, reigning Olympic champion Thompson-Herah has a season-best of 10.71, a run that she recorded a few weeks ago.  American sprinter Sha’carri Richardson is next on the world's top list with her time of 10.72, which was recorded in April.  Richardson will, however, miss out on the Games after testing positive for marijuana last month.

Jackson, formerly a 400m specialist, had a breakout performance in the sprints last month where she recorded a personal best of 10.77, at the country’s national trials where she was second behind Fraser-Pryce.  The fourth-fastest this year, by an athlete, and certainly puts the 27-year-old firmly in the conversation.

“The women’s 100m will be won by Shelly-Ann Fraser, that's my personal favourite.  I really think Jamaica has the opportunity to sweep.  I think Shericka Jackson has something up her sleeve,” Bailey said during the SportsMax.Tv special series Great Ones.

“We know Elaine will be there, but I think Shelly-Ann is going to get up and keep Elaine out, but I think Shericka Jackson has something for somebody,” he added.

In addition to their fast times this season, all three Jamaicans have the experience of standing on the medal podium.  Fraser-Pryce won the event at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, while Thompson-Herah won the 2016 edition.  It will be Jackson’s first time competing at the event, but she claimed a bronze medal in the 400m at the 2016 Rio Games.

“I was looking forward to this race because I really wanted to see Sha’Carri Richardson under the spotlight with the greatest sprinters of this generation.  I was looking forward to that,” Bailey said.

“The men’s final is open but the women’s final for me is a little more straightforward.  When the lights shine bright, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce will not back down.”

Jamaica long jumper Tajay Gayle looks set to add an Olympic medal to the gold he won at the 2019 edition of the World Athletics Championship in Doha.

The Jamaica national champion’s best distance this year is 8.29, well short of the 8.60 recorded by world leader, Greece’s Miltiadis Tentoglou in May.

However, track and field analyst and SportsMax.tv Tokyo Take host Leighton Levy believes the jumper's improvements in other areas will make him a force to be reckoned with when he faces the field in Tokyo.

“I think Gayle is going to fly in the long jump and be among the medals, gold even,” Levy said on this week’s episode. (See full episode below)

“His improved speed is an asset and once he makes the adjustments on the runway for that additional speed, we are in for a spectacular performance from Gayle.”

The jumper has, in fact, shown off plenty of improved speed after recording new personal bests in both the 60m and 100m sprints this season.  Gayle ran 6.78 in the later in February but was even more impressive in the 100, clocking 10.18 to shave huge chunks off his previous personal best of 10.74.  Gayle’s personal best of 8.69, in the long jump, was set in 2019.

Novak Djokovic has admitted he is still "50/50" over whether he will take part in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics due to coronavirus countermeasures put in place in the Japanese capital.

The world number one made history on Sunday by beating Matteo Berrettini in the Wimbledon final to match Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 grand slam titles.

Djokovic has won all three majors in 2021 and recently suggested he would represent Serbia at this year's Olympics, with the tennis tournament due to begin on July 24.

However, with organisers this week confirming spectators will be banned from attending events in Tokyo amid rising coronavirus cases, Djokovic is unsure if he will travel to Japan.

"My plan was always to go to Olympic Games, but right now I'm a little bit divided," he said after his sixth Wimbledon triumph. 

"I also hear that there's going to be a lot of restrictions within the [Athletes'] Village. Possibly you would not be able to see other athletes perform live. 

"I can't even have my stringer that is very important part of my team. I can't have a stringer. I'm limited with the amount of people I can take in my team as well.

"It's kind of 50-50 because of what I heard in the last couple days."

 

Djokovic has competed at the Games on three previous occasions, but unlike Nadal and Federer he has never previously claimed a gold medal, the bronze he won in 2008 being the best the 34-year-old has managed.

Nadal, Dominic Thiem, Roberto Bautista Agut, Denis Shapovalov, Nick Kyrgios, Simona Halep and Serena Williams have previously confirmed they will not play at the Olympics.

Switzerland's Federer, who won gold in the men's doubles in Beijing 13 years ago, has yet to make a decision on his participation.

2011 World Champion Yohan Blake clocked his fastest time this year after winning the men’s 100m at Friday’s American Track League in Atlanta, Georgia.

The 31-year-old got a solid start before putting away the field to finish in a time of 9.95.  The Jamaican was the only athlete in the field to dip below 10 seconds.

American Elijah Hall was second in 10.08 and his compatriot Kyree King third in 10.12.  Another Caribbean athlete in the race, St. Kitts and Nevis’ Jason Rodgers was fifth in 10.26.  Another Jamaican, Javoy Tucker finished eighth in 10.35.

Blake finished in second position at his country’s national trials two weeks ago but has vowed to leave the Olympic Games later this month with a medal.  The sprinter, who has the second-fastest time recorded over both the 100m and 200m was excited by his performance with the Olympics just a few weeks away.

“I am very excited about the time; give God thanks,” said Blake.

“This is going to be my last Olympic, and I am looking forward to it. Definitely, I am not leaving that stadium (Tokyo 2020) without a medal.”

Naomi Osaka wants "some level of privacy and empathy" from the media when she returns to action and says she "could not be more excited" to play in the Olympics.

Osaka has not played since withdrawing from the French Open after revealing she would skip press conferences at Roland Garros as "people have no regard for athletes' mental health".

The four-time grand slam champion from Japan revealed she had suffered "long bouts of depression" since winning the US Open in 2018.

Osaka says she has not changed her stance on press conferences and feels she had been unfairly scrutinised.

The world number two wrote in Time magazine: "I communicated that I wanted to skip press conferences at Roland Garros to exercise self-care and preservation of my mental health. I stand by that.

"Athletes are humans. Tennis is our privileged profession, and of course there are commitments off the court that coincide. But I can't imagine another profession where a consistent attendance record [I have missed one press conference in my seven years on tour] would be so harshly scrutinised.

"Perhaps we should give athletes the right to take a mental break from media scrutiny on a rare occasion without being subject to strict sanctions.

"In any other line of work, you would be forgiven for taking a personal day here and there, so long as it's not habitual. You wouldn't have to divulge your most personal symptoms to your employer; there would likely be HR measures protecting at least some level of privacy.

"In my case, I felt under a great amount of pressure to disclose my symptoms - frankly because the press and the tournament did not believe me. I do not wish that on anyone and hope that we can enact measures to protect athletes, especially the fragile ones.

"I also do not want to have to engage in a scrutiny of my personal medical history ever again. So I ask the press for some level of privacy and empathy next time we meet."

 

Osaka is feeling the benefits of a break and is relishing representing her country in the Olympics on home soil in Tokyo.

"After taking the past few weeks to recharge and spend time with my loved ones, I have had the time to reflect, but also to look forward," the 23-year-old said. 

"I could not be more excited to play in Tokyo. An Olympic Games itself is special, but to have the opportunity to play in front of the Japanese fans is a dream come true. I hope I can make them proud."

Organisers for the Tokyo Olympics have confirmed spectators will be banned from attending events being held in the city after Japan's capital was placed into a state of emergency again.

The decision was taken following a meeting between organisers for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, plus the Japanese government.

It was announced Tokyo will once more enter a state of emergency, which will run until at least August 22, amid rising coronavirus cases.

Japan's Olympics minister Tamayo Marukawa is quoted as saying: "We reached an agreement on no spectators at venues in Tokyo."

Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto said it is "regrettable", while adding: "A very heavy judgement was made...[but we] no choice but to hold the Games in a limited way."

The decision was widely expected but marks a fresh blow for the Games, which were postponed by a year because of the global pandemic.

Many residents of Japan have expressed opposition to the Games due to the hordes of athletes, officials and media arriving from overseas.

While avoiding the huge numbers of infection rates seen in other nations, Japan has registered over 800,000 cases and 14,800 deaths, while 920 new daily cases were reported on Wednesday. There have also been concerns about the speed of the country's COVID-19 vaccine programme.

Despite the vocal opposition, the government has pressed ahead with plans for the Games, which organisers stated in December would cost a staggering $15.4billion.

The Olympic Games officially get under way on July 23 with the opening ceremony, although softball and football start two days earlier, and run until August 8. Following that, the Paralympics are set to take place between August 24 and September 5.

 

Major events at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games could take place behind closed doors after Japan confirmed a new state of emergency would be imposed.

Chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato said any event scheduled for after 9pm would be unable to take place in front of spectators.

Currently, major athletics events, including the women's and men's 100 metres finals on July 31 and August 1, are due to take place after that time.

"We are now having experts discuss regarding the event and spectators within the area of the state of emergency declaration," Kato said.

"The threshold is 50 per cent of capacity or 5,000 people and, thinking about the time, the event should be ended around 9pm.

"In the case of Tokyo, the intensive measures, that is relying on the judgement of the governor.

"However, Tokyo is under a state of emergency declaration, so any event after 9pm is going to be without spectators.

"Having said that, specific counter measures, how to handle this, is going to be discussed after July 12, when the state of emergency declaration is issued.

"We have to be thinking about the handling of the spectators.

"The contractor is the Tokyo prefecture and the implementor is the Olympic Committee.

"From this perspective the government will air its opinions and at the end of the day the implementer will make the final decision."

It is possible the entire Olympics will happen without spectators, local reports have suggested.

Should fans still be allowed in to venues, it seems likely scheduling will need to be altered to avoid blue-riband events happening in front of empty seats after the curfew.

Bars and restaurants in Tokyo must close at 8pm under the restrictions, but events such as concerts will have a 9pm curfew.

Prime minister Yoshihide Suga has declared the emergency measures will be in place until August 22, amid rising coronavirus cases.

The Olympic Games, already delayed by a year, officially begins on July 23 with the opening ceremony, although softball and football start two days earlier.

Many residents of Japan have expressed opposition to the Games going ahead, given the influx of competitors, officials and media from overseas.

The Olympics is due to run until August 8, and is scheduled to be followed by the Paralympics from August 24 to September 5.

 On reflection, three-time Jamaica national 400m hurdles champion Janieve Russell can’t help but think that it was her destiny to compete in the event, after the fortuitous circumstances that led to her moving away from the long jump, a discipline near and dear to her heart.

After a superb run that led to her blowing away the country’s best athletes, in a season-best of 54.04 seconds, to claim the Women's 400m Hurdles title at the Jamaica National Championships, it was clearly a great choice but for a long time, one that wasn’t even on the cards.

In fact, Russell spent the majority of her junior career as a long jumper and competed successfully at the ISSA Boys and Girls Championships for her high school, Holmwood, in the event.  The 2019 World 400m hurdles silver medalist now believes wholeheartedly that the track itself called her to her destined event after the unexpected way she ended up competing in it.

"I believe the track was choosing my destiny for me because I really love long jump; that was my main event back in high school and by some chance, I was entered to the 400m Hurdles because someone on the team had to pull out. And then, I just continued, went to MVP and the coach said you are going to stick to the hurdles, not the long jump,” Russell explained.

Russell has had a solid career, and in addition to the three national titles, has picked up wins at the Commonwealth Games and World Cup.

Winning her third national title was a special moment for Russell, who admitted that she fully expected to be up against a challenging field. Her top priority though was to finish in an automatic spot, then channel all her energy to focusing on Tokyo.

"It is a tough field in the 400m hurdles event this year, so I am just using these trials to work on my mental state and I am just really happy to come out on top because my aim was just to be in the top three and just be on the Olympic team,” Russell said.

Off the back of a rectus femoris injury (acute tearing injury of the quadriceps) that she suffered in 2016, Russell insists that she has gotten stronger physically and mentally. 

"My MVP team and I have been working hard on our mental training, been working on my physical (fitness), ensuring that I am not injury prone, because, trust me, two weeks or one week before any trials I have always had an injury. I have been very careful this year, I have been eating properly, I have been doing everything by the book and I am just really grateful again to be out here by the grace of God to compete injury-free and to be on top."

Though she is a decorated nine-time gold medalist at the CARIFTA Games and a double gold medalist at the 2012 World Junior Championships, Russell’s ultimate aim is to match the feats of Deon Hemmings and Melanie Walker who both won gold medals for the country at the Olympic level.

"I will definitely try, as I said before it is a very tough field. I am just going out there with guts and to just represent my country, come out with a personal best and just do the best I can."

The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will run from July 23 to August 8.

 

The sporting calendar provides many memorable days throughout the year but rarely do elite events overlap as often as at the Olympics.

At this year's delayed Tokyo Games, there is the prospect of seeing several of the world's top athletes all competing for gold at the same time.

August 1 looks a good bet for the standout day in 2021.

The final round of the men's golf event could see Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm in the mix, with Andy Murray hopeful he will meanwhile be defending consecutive singles gold medals in the tennis.

This comes on the same day that Simone Biles could potentially become the most decorated Olympic gymnast of all time.

As if that were not enough, the men's 100m final is another must-watch event.

Expectations will be high heading into that second Sunday of the Games, with examples from the past three competitions living up to their billing...

AUGUST 16, BEIJING 2008

Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt would be firmly in contention to appear on the Games' own Mount Rushmore and each enjoyed one of the finest moments of their respective careers on the same day.

Phelps had spent the opening week of the Beijing Olympics pursuing Mark Spitz's 1972 record of seven golds and had six as he entered the pool again for the 100m butterfly final, almost 12 hours before Bolt's big moment.

Seventh at the turn, the United States superstar needed a remarkable recovery to triumph over a devastated Milorad Cavic by 0.01 seconds.

Phelps would pass Spitz with his eighth gold of the Games the following day, by which point he was sharing the headlines with Jamaica's own ultimate athlete.

Bolt's blistering 9.69-second final triumph in the 100m stood as a world record until the same man beat it exactly a year later. The new benchmark remains unmatched.

And that Saturday in China also saw the small matter of Roger Federer's only gold medal, claimed alongside Stan Wawrinka in the doubles final after falling to James Blake as the top seed in the singles.

AUGUST 4-5, LONDON 2012

It is actually tough to choose just one day from the 2012 Olympics, where this weekend delivered from start to finish.

On the Saturday evening, at the Aquatics Centre, swimming prepared to say goodbye to its greatest name. Phelps and the United States won the 4x100m medley, clinching his 18th gold medal in what appeared set to be his final race.

Indeed, Phelps confirmed his retirement following the Games, only to return in predictably dominant fashion in 2016.

Across the city that same night, Team GB athletes were capping a stunning run of medals that would see the day dubbed "Super Saturday". There were six home golds in all, including big wins for Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah in quick succession.

The drama only continued the next day, too, as Murray finally sealed a Wimbledon win over Roger Federer in the tennis event, while Bolt lit up London Stadium in the 100m.

AUGUST 14, RIO 2016

Although there will be no Bolt brilliance in Tokyo, Brazil was treated to another show as he became the first three-time winner of the 100m – later doing likewise in the 200m.

The first triumph was almost overshadowed on the track, however, coming shortly after Wayde van Niekerk had broken Michael Johnson's 17-year 400m world record by 0.15 seconds.

Again, the excitement was not reserved for athletics, with Murray in action that evening to claim another gold after coming through a four-hour epic against Juan Martin del Potro.

Murray is the only player – men's or women's – to win consecutive singles golds, while Rafael Nadal's presence added a little more stardust even though he lost the bronze final to Kei Nishikori.

A stunning Sunday also saw Biles add to the reputation she takes with her to Tokyo, a third gold on the vault making her the most decorated American gymnast.

And there was history, too, for Justin Rose, as he edged past Henrik Stenson at the 18th hole of the fourth round to become the first Olympic golf champion in 112 years.

The Olympic Games serve as the world’s biggest showcase of sporting talent.

For the Caribbean region, when we hear Olympics, the sport we mainly think about is track & field.

With the region’s rich and storied history of success in the sport, gold, silver and bronze medals are often used to measure the success of respective athletes.  It is, however, far from the only stand.

For some countries, having a representative on the biggest global track & field stage in the world is worth just as much or more than any individual medal.

Antigua & Barbuda is one of those countries and the athlete who has represented them the best on the big stage is sprinter Daniel Bailey.

Bailey, the 100m sprint specialist, has represented his nation in four Olympic Games and five World Championships.

His best result came at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, Germany.

The headliners were Olympic champion and world record holder Usain Bolt and defending double sprint champion from the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, Tyson Gay.

In the fastest race in history, Bolt ran 9.58 to destroy the world record, Gay ran an unbelievable 9.71 to finish second and Asafa Powell finished third in 9.84.

Bailey just narrowly missed out on a historic medal for Antigua & Barbuda, finishing fourth in that race with a time of 9.93.  It wasn’t his first major championship appearance, but it was also when Bailey became a household name in men’s sprinting.

However, Bailey’s first time representing Antigua and Barbuda on the biggest stage of global athletics came five years earlier in 2004.

As a 17-year-old, he carried the flag for his country during the opening ceremony of the Athens Olympics. It is a memory he will carry with him forever.

“I was elated. I was really, really excited to be holding the flag for my country Antigua & Barbuda. A couple of days before, we had a meeting to decide who would do it and when they shouted my name and said ‘Daniel Bailey, you’re going to hold the flag’, it was a special feeling because I know how much it meant for an upcoming athlete to be holding the flag for his nation,” Bailey said.

To put that into perspective, he carried the flag at those Olympics just one month after competing at the World Junior Championships in Grosseto, Italy where he finished 4th in the 100 metres in a time of 10.39.

At those Athens Olympics, Bailey finished 6th in his 100 metres heat in 10.51.

Four years later, at the Beijing Olympics, Bailey, then 21, was again the flag bearer.

During the Games, he advanced to the quarter-finals after finishing second to Bolt in 10.24 in the preliminary round.

Bailey then ran 10.23 to finish 4th but failed to advance from his quarterfinal, a race which saw him lined up against Jamaica’s former world record holder Asafa Powell and American Walter Dix, who eventually won the bronze.

A year after those Olympics would see Bailey enter the prime of his sprinting career.

He would finish 4th at the 2009 World Championships and then fifth at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu.

On July 17, 2009, in Paris, Bailey ran a personal best and an Antiguan national record of 9.91.

Bailey then carried his nation’s flag at the third straight Olympics in London 2012 where he competed in the 100 metres.

Running in heat 4, against Bolt once again, Bailey would run a time of 10.12 to finish 2nd   and advance to the semi-finals.

Bailey then lined up against Bolt, American Ryan Bailey and  Richard Thompson, the silver medallist from the 2008 games in his semi-final.

He finished 6th in that race in 10.16 and failed to reach the Olympic final once again.

Bailey admits that he had entered into those Olympics with high hopes but suffered some setbacks along the way.

“I had it in my mind to make my first Olympic final. I was really working hard that year and then I got an injury that set me back a little bit. The first week I got to London I caught a bad flu, and it took a toll on my body. I got eliminated in the semi-finals, but I think my overall performance was good based on what was happening.” 

Fast forward four years to the 2016 Rio Olympics and Bailey became one of the few athletes in history to ever be their country’s flag bearer at four straight Olympic Games opening ceremonies.

That year, he competed in Heat 2 of the men’s 100 metres and finished 2nd in 10.20 behind eventual silver medallist Justin Gatlin and advanced to the semi-finals.

He was then slated to appear in semi-final 3 but did not show up for the start due to injury.

Bailey may not have had the medal haul of many Caribbean greats but he has competed at the highest level of the sport for more than a decade and is a role model for sprinters hailing from smaller Caribbean islands like his native Antigua & Barbuda.

“You have to love it and enjoy it,” were Bailey’s words of wisdom for a new generation of up-and-coming athletes.

“My word to the up-and-coming athletes is to go for your goals. Whatever you believe in, nobody can stop that. Always work hard and smart and remember that dedication is the key to success at all times.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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