The end of Tokyo 2020 will bring James Rhodes much sadness but definitely increased sleep….his final Olympic roundup of an incredible games.
What a week. I am writing this about 30 minutes after the end of the Olympics Closing Ceremony from Tokyo. I’ve been engrossed by the sporting action of the past 16 days, which has included a host of World Records, National Records and Personal Bests across the athletics action. There’s also been plenty of domestic track and road action over the past seven days to bring you. Buckle up!
I could write you an essay about everything that has happened in Tokyo, but I shall save that for another day and instead do my best to bring you a concise summary of the biggest results. Despite some press articles putting a negative spin on the Team GB performance, I’d say it’s been an encouraging set of results.
Despite the absence of Mo Farah, who has brought home two gold medals in 2012 and 2016, and with individual medal hopes Dina Asher Smith and Katarina Johnson Thompson sadly injured, Team GB still brought home six medals; silver in the men’s 4x100m relay, women’s 800m and women’s 1500m, with bronze in the men’s 1500m, women’s 4x100m relay and women’s pole vault.
That’s the same number as in London nine years ago, and one short of Rio. Thirteen athletes also set new lifetime bests, and five National Records were set (women’s 800m, 1500m, steeplechase and 4x100m relay, and the mixed 4x400m relay). Our athletes performed in the most difficult of circumstances, and that should be praised.
Middle Distance Greatness
It was in the middle distance races that our individual athletes shone. A gutsy run from Laura Muir saw her take silver in the 1500m, behind Faith Kipyegon and ahead of Sifan Hassan. Her time of 3:54.50 also improved her own British Record. I don’t think anyone can deny the deservedness of Laura’s long-awaited success. Katie Snowden and Revee Walcott Nolan set PBs in their heats over the same distance.
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There was also a record-breaking performances over two laps, with the final being the first time three British athletes were in an 800m final. They ran to their best, with all three – Keely Hodgkinson, Jeema Reekie and Alex Bell – setting new lifetime bests.
Keely’s proved her ability to perform on the biggest stage, finishing in second ahead of American Athing Mu, obliterating Kelly Holmes’ longstanding British Record in the process (1:55.88). That record was six and a half years older than Keely! Jemma finished an agonising fourth (1:56.90) and Alex seventh (1:57.66).
Josh Kerr, who told me for my Countdown to Tokyo piece that he would run sub-3:30 in order to stand on the Olympic podium, did exactly that. In a race won by Jakob Ingebrigsten in a new European and Olympic Record, the Scot ran the best race of his life to cross the line in 3:29.05, a shade behind Timothy Cheriyout for bronze. That’s the second fastest time in history by a Brit. Incredible.
Jake Heyward improved his PB in his semi-final (3:32.89) and finished ninth in the final, with Jake Wightman tenth.
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Lizzie Bird was the first British woman to make an Olympic steeplechase final, a position that she took full advantage of to improve her British Record to 9:19.68 and finish ninth.
The marathon races, in less-than-optimum conditions in Sapporo, proved tough for the six Brits in action. Steph Davis recorded the highest finishing position (39th, 2:36:33), with Steph Twell 68th (2:53:26) and Jess Piasecki 71st (2:55:39).
Chris Thompson was the only of the trio of men to reach the finish line, doing so with “a smile on his face” as he posted on Twitter. Callum Hawkins revealed to me he’d been struggling with niggles in our Countdown to Tokyo chat, which turned out to be a not insignificant ankle issue. Ben Connor also DNFed.
Away from the Brits, there was an unprecedented three medals for Sifan Hassan in the 5000m (gold), 10000m (gold) and 1500m (bronze). Faith Kipyegon retained her 1500m title.
Ugandan success came in the form of World Record holder Joshua Cheptegai, who won the 5000m after taking silver in the 10000m behind Selemon Barega. His compatriot Jacob Kiplimo took bronze in the 5000m.
Eliud Kipchoge became only the third athlete to retain his marathon title, ahead of Abdi Nageeye and his teammate Bashir Abdi, whom he lovingly encouraged over the last few metres to
In just the third marathons of their career, Peres Jepchirchir and Molly Seidel made it to the podium taking gold and bronze respectively, with World Record holder Brigid Kosgei rewarded with silver. Molly almost gave up the sport with depression and eating disorders, and her medal was one of my favourite of the Games.
Outside of the distances we usually cover in these round ups, there were incredible World Records in the 400m hurdles for Karsten Warholm (45.94) and Sydney McLaughlin (51.46), whilst Yulimar Rojas finally broke the WR in the final jump of the triple jump.
It really was a superb eight days of athletics, and has certainly whet the appetite for the trio of major events next summer (World Championships, European Championships and Commonwealth Games).
Sublime Simpson second at Sierre Zinal
Robbie Simpson produced a stunning performance to finish second at the Sierre Zinal Mountain Race that included a who’s who of mountain running. Simpson finished in 2:32:26, just 42 seconds behind mountain running legend Kilian Jornet who claimed his 9th victory. The women’s race saw Maude Mathys of Switzerland take victory in 2:46:03.
Whilst the end of the track season is drawing closer, there remains no shortage of events taking place.
Luca Bigg (1:52.62) and Rachel McClay (2:05.29), alongside Holly Dixon (4:26.38) and Alex Alston (3:51.08) were quickest over 800m and 1500m respectively at Wednesday’s BMC Regional Races in Eltham. In open races held on the same evening, George Mallett (15:06.39) ran a new PB to win a male-only 5000m.
The second BMC event of the week was in Gillingham, where Khasisa Mhlanga (2:05.51) and Thomas Bridger (1:55.44) were quickest over two laps, the latter in a PB. Vicky Jackson (4:52.52) and Max Wharton (4:21.82) ran leading times at the Medway & Maidstone AC Open Meeting at the same track.
Aldershot, Farnham & District’s Open provided Martin Turton (3:56.70) and Alice Garner (4:30.76) with new lifetime bests to be fastest over 1500m, whilst Dom James (8:46.16) and Rebecca Murray (9:35.95) ran their quickest 3000ms of the year.
Saturday saw the Hercules Wimbledon 5K Festival Night, with a series of ten races over 12.5 laps. Paced by Jack Rowe, Jonathan Escalante Phillips recorded the fastest time of the evening, going under 14 minutes for the first time with 13:57.76. He was followed by Lucian Allison (14:07.72) and Ricky Harvie (14:18.51).
Louise Small continued her return to competitive action after a long time absent through injury to clock a seasons best 16:28.77 as the fastest woman ahead of Alex Eykelbosch (16:29.97) and Niamh Brown (16:34.97) were in a high-quality field.
Tuesday’s Kettering Evening Open saw Joe Strange (1:57.40) and Karen Cudby (2:22.27) go quickest over 800m, with Jenny Critchley (5:23.79) and Jake Boat (4:40.77) doing the same for the mile. Lily Stewart (2:22.95) and Ben Murphy (1:52.80) took the honours over two laps at the Tonbridge AC Open Meeting, also held on Tuesday.
There were plenty of high-quality races held in Derby at the DADA 2 Open Graded Flat Track & Field Meeting on Tuesday, including new PBs for Hugo Milner (3:48.55) and Ruby Davies (5:20.6) over 1500m, whilst Cameron Nightingale did the same over 3000m (9:37.21) in a race where Rebecca Miller (11:06.21) was the only female entrant.
Crossing over to Scotland, Saturday’s Team East Lothian Open Graded meeting included nine 1500m races, where Georgia Leadingham (4:39.85) and Conan Harper (4:09.53) recorded the quickest times, the latter with a new lifetime best.
Cairess & Harvey light up Battersea
As ever, there are a multitude of RunThrough events to bring you. I’ll cover most in a few paragraphs down, but today I am starting at Wednesday’s RunThrough Battersea Park 10km, where Emile Cairess recorded an incredible 28:14. That is a time that puts him 27th on the British all-time list and is the fastest by a British athlete in 2021 by over 90 seconds.
He finished three minutes ahead of the rest of the field, which included Rose Harvey – herself running a superb 33:04, over eight minutes ahead of the second woman and a 30 second lifetime best.
Elsewhere, the Race Organiser’s Olympic Park 10k saw victories taken by Henrietta Tarasewicz (37:37) and Joshua Teece (32:12). A few miles west in Regents Park, David Conliffe (36:00) and Rosie Thorogood (43:42) were quickest at the London Summer 10k.
Mellor leads the way in Preston
Jonny Mellor produced a fine display at Preston 5 to clock 23:45 to finish well clear of a strong field with 2:17 marathon man Ben Johnson second in 25:23 and Rob Danson third in 25:28.
Sara Avery’s time of 30:35 was enough to put her 4th on the V55 UK all time list and take the win ahead of Sophie Pilkington (33:04) and Debbie Broad (33:20).
The Preston 10 saw a standout performance from Emily Kearney who ran 55:47 to move well clear at the top of the UK 10 mile rankings for 2021. Hannah Brown was second with 59:16 with Keely Smith third in 65:21.
Michael Young was the winning man clocking 53:53 ahead of Mark Emmerson (54:17) and Nathan Postill (54:51).
Tuesday’s EMGP Milton Keynes 10K provided Jordan Clay (30:43) and Laura Bromilow (36:27) with victories, whilst a day later it was Johnny Hay (30:26) took the win at the Yateley 10k, almost three minutes ahead of the next finishers.
Thomas Gostelow (31:40) and Sophie Hall (37:40) won at Thursday’s Holme Pierrepont 10K. Chris Hopkins (34:40) and Gemma McDonald (40:00) went quickest at the Broughshane 10k, with the 5k races taken by Ricky Johnston (15:57) and Lucy Thompson (18:48).
The Dunoon 10K Coastal Road Race saw Jamie Crowe (30:19) take victory ahead of Fergus Roberts (30:44), at a race where Lesley Blackwood (39:35) was over 90 seconds ahead of second placed Mel Curle (41:18).
Returning to RunThrough’s events now. Saturday’s Kempton Park Half Marathon went to Paul Gardiner (74:56) and Clare Mullenger (86:21), with the 10k race won by Katie Sloane (36:58) and Rich Lazell (35:14).
At Battersea Park on Sunday, Nick Bester (31:27) and Erin Willmers (37:23) were fastest over 10k, with Shannon Flockhart (16:57) and Patrick Henderson (16:14) taking the honours over the two lap 5k course. Michael Young (33:18) and Rebecca Concannon (37:26) went quickest at the Chase the Sun Tatton Park on Wednesday.
Laura Barber (88:36) and Mike Toft (75:08) took an emphatic victory at Sunday’s Windmill Half Marathon.
Sunday also saw a number of 10k races take place. Ready for me to sum them up in one paragraph? Here goes. Victories at the St Albans Summer 10k went to Carole Coulun (37:54) and Jim Arrowsmith (34:42). Ross Brocklehurst (35:51) and Annabel Preston (42:22) did the same at the 16th Rye Summer Classic Series 10K. The Tenbury 10K was won by Robert Meredith (34:36) and Alice Godding (40:43). Samuel Crozier (33:43) and Rebecca Twardochleb (37:03) took the titles at KMF Newcastle 10k.