Athletics: Neeraj Chopra, Karsten Warholm to Sifan Hassan, Top 6 performances of Tokyo Olympics

Postponed Tokyo Olympics returned with great moments in athletics in 2021, the Games' most prestigious events, some of them in fact happened for the first time.

Neeraj Chopra
Neeraj Chopra

Olympic Games mean gale of everlasting moments. Tokyo 2020, a unique sporting spectacle by virtue of the COVID-19 pandemic, created ripples around the infected and mourned world. It gave us moments to cherish and brought us back to mainstream sports.

Postponed by a year due to the pandemic, Tokyo Olympics returned with great moments in athletics, the Games’ most prestigious events, some of them in fact happened for the first time. From those mind-blowing moments, FirstSportz has come up with select six.

Top six performances from athletics that occurred at the postponed Tokyo Olympics in 2021

Marcell Jacobs – Men’s 100m gold

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Marcell Jacobs celebrating after winning the men’s 100m gold at the Tokyo Olympics.

When Usain Bolt announced retirement after dominating the track for three successive Olympics in 2016, there was speculation about who would be his successor in the athletics’ most prestigious event – 100m dash – at the Tokyo Olympics. But very few might have thought that Italy’s Marcell Jacobs would be the one to succeed Bolt, the greatest sprinter of all time.

Jacobs, 27, had upset the sprinting world when he notched 9.80 seconds, a European record, to win the 100m gold. The Italian overwhelmed a star-studded field to end 25 years of dominance by sprinters from the Americas.

By bagging the tag of ‘World’s Fastest Man, Jacobs also became the first European to win the Olympic 100m title since Britain’s Linford Christie at Barcelona 1992, and Italy’s first Olympic sprint champion since Pietro Mennea took the 200m at Moscow 1980. It was indeed a great moment that stunned the athletics world.

Sifan Hassan – Women’s 10,000m gold

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Sifan Hassan became the first person to win three medals at the Olympic Games over 1500m, 5,000m, and 10,000m.

Sifan Hassan’s journey from refugee to one of the greatest athletes of this or any other era was confirmed at the Tokyo 2020 as she became the first person to win three medals over 1500m, 5,000m, and 10,000m.

Hassan, representing the Netherlands, has won gold in a pulsating women’s 10,000m race in a time of 29:55.32 in the sweltering heat of the Japan National Stadium. She was followed home by Bahrain’s Kalkidan Gezahegne who won silver (29:56.18), while an exhausted Gidey took bronze (30:01.72).

One amazing fact about Sifan Hassan is that she completed 24,500 metres of Olympic racing in a matter of eight days.

After taking the gold in 5000m, having recovered from a fall in the 1500m heats that morning, the Dutch runner fell short in 1500m. Her dream run finally ended with the 10,000m gold as she completed a treble in the Olympics. With this, she finished one of the greatest long-distance running at the showpiece event.

Neeraj Chopra – Men’s javelin throw gold

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Neeraj Chopra burst into celebration after becoming India’s first individual gold medallist in athletics at the Olympics.

A country of billion people with no record of individual gold in athletics in the Olympic Games was the story often told about India, showing the country’s poor sports culture and the record at the biggest sporting spectacle of the world.

But at Tokyo 2020, India finally broke the glass shield when 23-year-old Neeraj Chopra clinched the men’s javelin throw gold, to the disbelief of the world. At Tokyo’s National Stadium, in a rain-soaked evening, Chopra threw his best 87.58m (in the second of six attempts) to be Olympic champion.

He became only the second individual Indian athlete after shooter Abhinav Bindra to win Olympic gold.  The gold is also India’s first Olympic medal in track-and-field events in 100 years. Czech Republic’s Jakub Vadlejch won silver, and his fellow countryman Vitezslav Vesely won bronze to complete the podium. World No. 1 and world champion Johannes Vetter finished ninth, putting up a disappointing show.

Karsten Warholm – 400m men’s hurdles gold

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Norway’s Karsten Warholm broke his own record to win men’s 400 metres hurdles gold.

How many do break their own record, that too, at the Olympics? Norway’s Karsten Warholm, a two-time world champion, dared to break his own record at Tokyo Olympics.

He achieved an amazing feat. In the men’s 400 metres hurdles final, touted as one of the stand-out events of the 10-day track and field program at the National Stadium, Warholm beat the stifling midday heat and humidity to win the gold medal, clocking astonishing 45.94 seconds, beating his previous world best of 46.70sec. To put his performance into perspective, it must be said that only four runners in history have even clocked sub-47sec times, let alone sub-46.

American arch-rival Rai Benjamin won silver with 46.17sec, with Brazil’s Alison Dos Santos claiming bronze in 46.72, both regional records that also smashed their previous personal bests.

Sydney McLaughlin – 400m women’s hurdles gold

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Sydney McLaughlin of the United States smashed her own world record to win the women’s 400m hurdles gold.

A day after an epic men’s 400m hurdles duel between Karsten Warholm and Rai Benjamin, Sydney McLaughlin of the United States smashed her own world record as she stormed to victory in the Olympic women’s 400m hurdles final. McLaughlin powered home in 51.46sec, with world champion and 2016 Olympic gold medallist Dalilah Muhammad claiming silver in 51.58. Femke Bol of the Netherlands took bronze in 52.03.

The 21-year-old McLaughlin’s blistering time bettered her world record set at the US trials in Oregon in June when she ran 51.90 seconds. Three days after this mind-blowing performance, McLaughlin led Team USA to 4x400m women’s relay gold.

Mutaz-Essa Barshim & Gianmarco Tamberi – Men’s high jump

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Qatar’s Mutaz-Essa Barshim and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi posing with the gold after they decided to share the medal in the men’s high jump event.

Two Olympic high jumpers have shed aside cut-throat competition for a gold medal at Tokyo Olympics to let their decade-long friendship triumph. They decided to share the coveted gold medal. Qatar’s Mutaz-Essa Barshim and Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi both had high jumps of 2.37 meters. They each attempted to beat that and clear 2.39 meters and failed on their first try.

They could have gone into a jump-off, each taking turns until they beat the score. But instead, Barshim asked if they could share the gold medal, to which Tamberi agreed after an official said to the pair that they were allowed to do so. Barshim and Tamberi have been friends for more than a decade since their first meeting at the World Junior Championships 2010 in Moncton, New Brunswick.

Yulimar Rojas – Women’s triple jump gold

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Yulimar Rojas became the first woman from Venezuela to win an Olympic gold medal.

Like India’s Neeraj Chopra, Venezuela’s Yulimar Rojas achieved a unique feat for her country. She smashed a triple jump world record that had gone uncontested for more than 26 years. It was Venezuela’s only gold medal of the Tokyo Olympics and first in athletics. In doing so, she became the first woman from Venezuela to win an Olympic gold medal. 25-year-old Rojas won the gold setting a new world record of 15.67 metres.