Read our preview for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Athletics and find out the best head-to-head clashes to watch.
400 metres hurdles:
The men’s 400m hurdles clash between Karsten Warholm and Raj Benjamin is shaping up as the biggest showdown of the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games.
Raj Benjamin started the season with 47.13 in Walnut and went on to win the US Trials final in 46.83 at Hayward Field in Eugene moving past Warholm into the top.2 spot of the world all-time list for a few days.
One week later Warholm clacked 46.70 on his home track at the Bislett Games in Oslo on 1 July to break Kevin Young’s previous world record of 46.78 set in the final of the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. The Norwegian star won his second race of the season in Monaco setting the meeting record with 47.08.
Warholm and Benjamin started their rivalry in the final of the 2019 Diamond League in Zurich. Warholm improved the European record to 46.92 beating Benjamin, who also broke the 47 seconds barrier with 46.98. The Norwegian smashed his European record by 0.05 to 46.87 in Stockholm last August.
Warholm will make his second appearance at the Olympic Games. Five years ago the Norwegian finished sixth at the European Championships in Amsterdam before reaching the Olympic semifinal in Rio de Janeiro.
Twenty-one Brazilian hurdler Alison Dos Santos set four consecutive national records clocking 47.68 in Walnut, 47.57 in Doha, 47.38 in Oslo and 47.34 in Stockolm.
Abderrhaman Samba from Qatar broke the 47 seconds barrier with 46.98 in the Diamond League in Paris in 2018; an injury problem slowed him in 2019, but he bounced back by winning the world bronze medal in Doha. Samba set his seasonal best of 48.26 at the Doha Diamond League meeting.
The other final candidates are Kyron McMaster, who improved his British Virgin Islands national record of 47.50 this year, US Trials second placer Kenneth Selmon, European champion and Olympic bronze medallist Yasmani Copello from Turkey, who clocked a seasonal best of 48.18, Jaheel Hyde from Jamaica who won the national title with 48.16 at the National Trials in Kingston, and Alessandro Sibilio from Italy, who won the European Under 23 gold medal with 48.42 missing Warholm’s championships record by 0.05.
Armand “Mondo” Duplantis has dominated the men’s pole vault in the past two years setting two world indoor records (6.17m in Torun and 6.18m in Glasgow) in February 2020 and the world outdoor record of 6.15m in Rome last September.
The 21-year-old Swede cleared a world indoor seasonal best of 6.10 in Belgrade last winter. During the 2021 season he has won 11 of his 12 consecutive competitions, losing only to his friend Sam Kendricks in Gateshead in rainy and cold weather conditions. Kendricks won his second world outdoor gold medal with 5.97m beating Duplantis on countback at the World Championships in Doha. Unfortunatley Kendricks tested positive to Covid-19 and was forced to pull out the Olympic Games.
Duplantis is the only man to clear over 6 metres this year and jumped over this barrier three times in Hengelo with a world seasonal best of 6.10m, in Karlstad with 6.00m and in the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Stockolm with 6.01m.
The field features four men who have cleared over the magic barrier: former world record holder Renaud Lavillenie (6.16m indoors and 6.05m outdoors), Thiago Braz Da Silva (reigning olympic champion in Rio de Janeiro with the olympic and South American record of 6.03m), Piotr Lisek (6.02m) and this year’s NCAA indoor and outdoor champion KC Lightfoot. Twenty men have cleared 5.80m in an outstanding season for the men’s pole vault.
The other name to watch is Chris Nilsen, who won the US Olympic Trials in Eugene with 5.90m and improved his seasonal best to 5.92m in Bydgoszcz.
Ernest John Obiena, who set the national record of the Philippines of 5.87m in Bydgoszcz, is aiming to become the first athlete from his country to win an Olympic medal for 85 years.
The men’s pole vault and 400m hurdles are scheduled on Thursday 5 August, which is shaping up as a special day for Scandinavian stars Duplantis and Warholm.
For the first time since 2004, the 100m gold medal will be won by a sprinter, who is not named Usain Bolt.
Trayvon Bromell starts as the favourite to follow in the footsteps of Bolt after winning the US Trials 100m final in Eugene in 9.80 beating Ronnie Baker (9.85) and Fred Kerley (9.86). The former 60m world indoor champion set the world leading time and the seventh fastest time with 9.77 last June in Florida.
Bromell made a successful comeback five years after the 2016 Olympic Games, where he was carried off the track in a wheelchair after rupturing his Achilles tendon during the 4x100 relay. Bromell has won 15 of his last 16 100m races and broke the 10 seconds barrier 10 times. He lost for the first time after a 14-race winning streak in Monaco, where he finished fifth in 10.01, but he bounced back at the Diamond League meeting in Gateshead in 9.98.
Ronnie Baker won eight consecutive 100m competitions, including two Wanda Diamond League races in Stockolm in 10.03 and in Monaco in 9.91.
Fred Kerley qualified for the US team in the 100m two years after winning the world bronze medal in the 400m in 44.17 in Doha.
South Africa’s Akani Simbine set the African record and the second fastest time in the world this year with 9.84 in Szekesfehérvar and finished second in Monaco in 9.98.
André De Grasse will be aiming to win his second consecutive Olympic medal in the 100 metres. The Canadian sprinter set his seasonal best of 9.92 in Jacksonville last May.
This year’s 60m European Indoor champion Marcell Jacobs has become the first Italian sprinter to break the 10 seconds barrier twice in the same season with 9.95 in Savona and 9.99 in the Monaco Diamond League meeting.
Home favourite Ryota Yamagata set the Japanese record of 9.95 last June in Tottori becoming the fourth Japanese sprinter to break the 10 seconds barrier.
Noah Lyles is aiming to add the Olympic gold medal to the world title he won two years ago in Doha. Lyles has stepped up as the man to beat in the men’s 200 metres since Usain Bolt retired in 2017.
Lyles won all of his 200m races in 2018 breaking the 19.7 barrier four times. He improved his PB to 19.50 in Lausanne in July 2019 and went on to win his first world title in Doha two months later.
The US sprint star has remained unbeaten in the 200m since his defeat against Michael Norman in the Diamond League meeting in Rome in June 2019.
Lyles set the world seasonal best time of 19.74 in the US Olympic Trials in Eugene beating Kenny Bednarek, who improved his PB to 19.78. Bednarek also finished fourth in the 100m in the US Trials in 9.89, won three top races in Ostrava (19.93) Gateshead (20.33 into a strong headwind), Doha (19.88) and finished second in Walnut (19.94) and Szekesfehrvar (19.99). He has become one of the few sprinters in history to have broken 10 seconds in the 100m, 20 seconds in the 200m and 45 seconds in the 400m.
Seventeen-year-old Erryion Knighton grabbed the headlines at the US Trials where he set a world under 18 record with 20.04 in the heats and broke Usain Bolt’s world under 20 record in the semifinal with 19.88 and then he improved this time with 19.84 in the final to finish third behind Lyles and Bednarek, booking his Olympiic berth for Tokyo. In his debut on the European circuit Knighton finished third in the 200m in 20.03 behind André De Grasse and Kenny Bednarek.
André De Grasse will be aiming to win his third Olympic medal after claiming the bronze in the 100m and the silver in the 200m. The Canadian sprinter set his seasonal best of 19.89 in Doha coming close to his PB of 19.80 set in the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games five years ago.
Joe Fahnbulleh from Liberia won the NCAA Outdoor title in Eugene improving his PB to 19.91 this year
110 metres hurdles:
Grant Holloway broke the 60m hurdles world indoor record with 7.29 in Madrid last February and missed Aries Merritt’s world outdoor by 0.01 in the semifinal of the US Olympic Trials in Eugene with 12.81 before securing his spot for Tokyo with a win in 12.96 in the final.
Holloway, who has not lost a hurdles race since August 2020, could secure the 20th title in the 110m hurdles for the USA in the history of the Olympic Games. He won all of his 14 competitions this year, including the Continental Tour race in Szekesfehervar on his European debut in 13.06.
Holloway will take on his compatriots Devon Allen and Daniel Roberts, who clocked 13.10 and 13.11 this year.
The second fastest entrant is Japanese record holder Shunsuke Izumiya, who clocked 13.06 this year.
The line-up also features four sub-13 hurdlers Sergey Shubenkov (12.92), 2016 olympic silver medallist Orlando Ortega (12.94), Hansle Parchment (12.94) and Pascal Martinot Lagarde (12.95) and the three 2021 European Indoor medallists Wilhelm Belocian (gold), Andy Pozzi (silver) and Paolo Dal Molin (bronze).
Michael Norman starts as the favourite after winning the US Trials final in the 400 metres with the second fastest time in the world this year of 44.07. Norman came close to qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Games with his fifth place in the 200m at the US Trials with 20.14 as an 18-year-old high school student. A win in Tokyo would be very special, as his mother Nobue Sato was born in Japan and set a middle school record in the 100m.
Norman beat Michael Cherry, who finished second in his personal best of 44.35, and Randolph Ross, who clocked 44.74 at the US Trials. Ross, the son of former Olympic hurdler Duane Ross, won the NCAA title in 43.85 setting the 13th fastest performance on the world all-time list.
This year Norman has won five of his seven races, including the Diamond League in Doha in 44.27, but he had to settle with third place in 44.65 in Szekesfehervar.
The clash between Norman and reigning Olympic champion and world record holder Wayde Van Niekerk is shaping up as one of the most exciting races of the Tokyo Olympic Games. Norman and Van Niekerk are the only two sprinters, who have dipped under 10 seconds in the 100m, 20 seconds in the 200m and 44 seconds in the 400m.
Van Niekerk tore his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in a charity rugby match and made his comeback last year. The South African star finished second to Anthony Zambrano in his first race of the year in Madrid in 44.56 and won in Lucerne in 44.87.
Steven Gardiner won five of his six races this year and set his seasonal best of 44.47 in Szekesfehérvar, where he beat Bryce Deadmon, Michael Norman and Michael Cherry.
World silver medallist Anthony Zambrano won three of his four races this year in Salamanca (44.91), Florence (44.76) and Madrid (44.51).
Reigning Olympic champion Ryan Crouser set a world indoor record of 22.82m in Fayetteville last January and then he broke the world outdoor record with 23.37m at the US Olympic Trials in Eugene.
Crouser will renew his battle against his compatriot Joe Kovaks, who won the greatest ever shot put competition at the 2019 World Championships in Doha with a personal best throw of 22.91. Crouser took the silver medal with 22.90m beating Tom Walsh on countback. Crouser has remained undefeated in 20 consecutive competitions since Doha 2019.
Walsh won the world title in London 2017, finished third in the Olympic Games in Rio 2016 and at the World Championships. The shot putter from New Zealand improved his seasonal best to 22.22m in Szekesfehérvar.
Johannes Vetter threw to 97.76m in Chorzwow to move to second on the world all-time list. The 2017 world champion missed the long-standing world record set by Jan Zelezny by 72 cm. The German star won the European Team Championships with a world leading mark of 96.29m. He dominated the 2021 season with an average of 91 metres in his ten competitions of the year. He picked up an injury in the Chorzow competition, but he made a successful competition in Kuortane (93.59m), Luzern (92.14m), Gateshead (85.25m) and Thum (86.48m) extending his winning streak to 18 consecutive competitions.
Vetter will take on Keshorn Walcott from Trinidad and Tobago, who won a surprising gold medal in London 2012 when he was still a teenager. Walcott set the second best of his career with 89.12m and finished in the top three in all of his competitions this year.
Anderson Peters from Grenada is another javelin thrower, who has claimed a surprising global title. Peters won the world title in Doha 2019 with 86.89m and the Pan-American title with a national record of 87.31m. India’s Neeraj Chopra was forced to miss the 2019 World Chmpionships in Doha, but he made his come-back with a national record of 88.07m in Kuortane.
Mutaz Barshim is aiming to win his first Olympic gold medal after claiming two consecutive silver medals in London 2012 and Rio de Janeiro 2016. Barshim came back from a career-threatening ankle injury by winning the world outdoor gold medal in Doha with 2.37m in front of his home fans. This year the double world champion cleared 2.30m three times in Tokyo, Doha and Florence.
Ilya Ivanyuk set the world seasonal best with 2.37m and won two Diamond League competitions in Doha and Florence with the same height of 2.33m, but he cleared just 2.25m in Monaco.
Maksim Nedasekau won the European Indoor gold medal with a national record of 2.37m beating Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi, who equalled his seasonal best by clearing 2.35m. Nedasekau equalled his PB in Szekesfehrvar with 2.37. Tamberi, who missed the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro 2016 after suffering a serious ankle injury in Monaco during an attempt at the Italian record height of 2.41m, finished third in the Florence Diamond League with a seasonal best of 2.33m and fourth in Szekesfehrevar with 2.30m.
Rising US star Ju’Vaughn Harrison won the high jump with 2.33 and the long jump with 8.47m (the second farthest jump in the world this year) at the US Olympic Trials becoming the first US athlete to qualify for both events since Jim Thorpe at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockolm. Harrison won the NCAA Indoor and outdoor titles in both the long jump and the high jump. Last winter he improved his indoor PB to 8.45m moving up to eighth in the world indoor all-time list
In the long jump Harrison will face reigning world champion Miltiadis Tentoglou from Greece, who set the world seasonal best performance improving his PB by 28 cm to 8.60m in a domestic meeting. The Greek jumper defended his European Indoor title with 8.35m missing his indoor Pb by three cm.
Cuba’s Juan Miguel Echevarria is chasing his first olympic medal after winning the world indoor gold medal in Birmingham 2018 and the world outdoor bronze in Doha.
Tajay Gayle from Jamaica is aiming to win the Olympic gold medal two years after claiming the world gold medal in Doha with 8.69m. The Jamaican jumper recently showed his good form by winning in the Diamond League in Stockolm with a wind-assisted 8.55m and at the Jamaican Trials with 8.23m.
Fabrice Zango is aiming to win the first ever Olympic gold medal in the history of Burkina Faso. Zango won the world bronze medal with 17.66m and improved the world indoor record to 18.07 in Aubière.
Pedro Pablo Pichardo won the European Indoor title in Torun last March and set the world seasonal best performance with 17.92m in Szekesfehérvar beating Zango, who bounded out to 17.82m.
Will Claye won two consecutive Olympic silver medals behind his former University of Florida teammate Christian Taylor in London 2012 and Rio de Janeiro 2016 and will try to continue the US tradition at the Olympic Games. Two years ago Claye improved his lifetime best to 18.14m becoming the third best performer of all time behind Jonathan Edwards (18.29m) and Christian Taylor (18.21m). Taylor will miss the Olympic Games after rupturing his Achilles tendon.
Two-time Olympic champion David Rudisha will not defend his title. A new olympic champion will be crowned. The race for the gold medal is wide-open.
Nijel Amos from Botswana set the world seasonal best clocking 1:42.91 in the Wanda Diamond League in Monaco to beat Emmanuel Korir from Kenya (1:43.04), Marco Arop (1:43.26) and world bronze medallist Ferguson Rotich (1:43.57). All these athletes will be major contenders for a medal in the Japanese capital.
Nijel Amos: “I had an injury when I supposed to run in the Doha meeting, but 1:42 in Monaco shows that things are going in the right direction towards the Olympics”.
Clayton Murphy won the US Trials Final in 1:43.17 beating Isaiah Jewett and 2019 world championships finalist Bryce Hoppel showing that he is back to the form that helped him win the Olympic bronze medal in Rio de Janeiro behind Rudisha and Taofik Makloufi. Murphy is aiming to win USA’s 10th medal at the Olympic Games and the first since 1972.
Elliot Giles broke Sebastian Coe’s British Indoor record clocking 1:43.63 last February in Torun and confirmed his good shape this summer with the British title in Manchester, a win in the Continental Tour in Szekesfehrvar in 1:44.89 and two solid Diamond League races in Stockolm (1:44.05) and Monaco (1:44.07).
Another major contender is 2021 European Indoor champion Patryk Dobek, who set his outdoor PB of 1:43.73 in Chorzow.
Reigning world champion Timothy Cheruyiot bounced back from a fourth place at the Kenyan Trials with two wins in the Wanda Diamond League in Stockolm with 3:32.30 and Monaco in a world leading time of 3:28.28 setting the seventh fastest time in history. Kenyan selectors earned Cheruiyot a well-deserved spot in the Kenyan team.
The Monaco Diamond League produced four sub-3:30 times and nine of the top ten times in the world this year. In the Principality Cheruiyot beat Jacob Ingebrigtsen, who broke the 3:30 barrier with 3:29.25 on the track where he set the European record of 3:28.68 last year.
Another major medal contender is 28-year Australian middle-distance star Stewart McSweyn, who broke the Oceanian record with 3:29.51 in Monaco and won the Dream Mile at the Bislett Games in Oslo with an area record of 3:48.37.
The other athletes to watch in the battle for medals are 2018 world indoor champion Samuel Tefera from Ethiopia, who improved his lifetime best to 3:30.71 in Monaco, Kenyan Trials winner Charles Simotwo, who lowered his career best to 3:30.30 in Monaco, 2019 world championships bronze medallist Marcin Lewandowski, who set the Polish record clocking 3:30.42 in that very fast Monaco race.
World Championships finalist Josh Kerr set the fastest British time of the year with 3:31.55. The British team will be also represented by Jake Wightman, who broke the 3:30 barrier last year with 3:29.47 in Monaco.
Joshua Cheptegei and Jakob Kiplimo will run the first round of the 5000m four days after the 10000m. Cheptegei, who broke the world record last year with 12:35.36 in Monaco, has already doubled up 5000m and 10000m at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and won two gold medals over both distances at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. The Ugandan star finished sixth in 12:54.69 in his only 5000m race of the season at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Florence.
Kiplimo set the 3000m Ugandan record of 7:26.64 in Rome and a PB in the 5000m of 12:48.63 in Ostrava. Last autumn he won the half marathon gold medal in Gdynia before breaking the world half marathon record of 57.37. Kiplimo clocked 26:33.63 in the 10000m in Ostrava and 12:55.60 in Lucerne. He has never beaten on the track since the 2018 World Under 20 Championships in Tampere.
Jacob Ingebrigtsen is entered for the 1500m heats, which take place on the same day as the 5000m heats. Ingebrigtsen has already doubled up in past big championships. He won the gold medals in the 1500m and 5000m at the European Outdoor Championships in Berlin 2018 and claimed 1500m and 3000m gold medals at the 2021 European Indoor Championships in Torun. The Norwegian star broke the European 5000m record clocking 12:48.45 at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Florence.
Spain’s Mohamed Katir will focus only on the 5000 metres. The Spanish middle-distance runner set national records in the 5000m with 12:50.79 in Florence, in the 1500m with 3:28.76 and in the 3000m with 7:27.64 in Gateshead.
Getnet Wale will run two rounds of the 3000m steeplechase before focusing on the 5000 metres. Wale clocked 7:24.98 in the 3000m indoors in Liévin and won the 5000m at the Ethiopian Trials improving his PB to 12:53.28. Nibret Melak, two-time Ethiopian cross country champion and winner of the prestigious Cinque Mulini cross country race, and reigning world under 20 cross country champion Milkesa Mengesha will join Wale on the Ethiopian team.
Lemecha Girma was beaten by 0.01 by Conseslus Kipruto in the 3000m steeplechase final at the World Championships in Doha. Girma set the fastest time in the world this year in Monaco with 8:07.75. Wale was inititially entered fo the 3000m steeplechase but will focus on the 5000m. Girma will face 2019 world bronze medallist Soufian El Bakkali from Morocco, former world under 20 champion Leonard Bett and Abraham Kibiwott, who finished second in Monaco in 8:07.81.
Kevin Mayer won the Olympic silver medal in Rio de Janeiro 2016 setting a French record of 8834 points. The world record holder made three fouls in the long jump at the 2018 European Championships in Berlin, but he bounced back to break the world record with 9126 points in Talence. He was forced to retire during the pole vault at the 2019 World Championshiips in Doha, but he made a successful come-back last December when he secured the Olympic qualifying standard with 8552 at the Combined Events Challenge at La Reunion.
Canada’s Damian Warner won the Olympic bronze medal in Rio 2016 and three world medals (silver in Beijing 2015, bronze in Moscow 2013 and Doha 2019). The Canadian decathlon star came very close to 9000 points with 8995 last May when he won the Hypo meeting for the sixth time in his career in Goetzis. Warner set world decathlon best performances in the long jump with 8.28m, 13.36 in the 110m hurdles and narrowly missed out on his own world decathlon best with 10.14 in the 100m.
Garret Scantling, who pursued a NFL career in American Fooball, won the US Trials competition with a PB of 8467. The other contenders for a medal are Pierce LePage from Canada, who finished second in Goetzis with a PB of 8534, world silver medallist Maicel Uibo and NCAA indoor and outdoor champion Karel Tilga from Estonia, world under 20 champion Ashley Moloney from Australia, and 2017 world bronze medallist Kai Kazmirek from Germany.
World record holder Eliud Kipchoge is chasing his back-to-back marathon title in Sapporo on 8 August. Only two runners have managed to win two consecutive marathon titles: Abebe Bikila in in Rome 1960 and Tokyo 1964 and Waldemar Cierpinski, who claimed two titles in Montreal 1976 and Moscow 1980. Kipchoge won ten consecutive marathon races and set the world record with 2:01:39. His unbeaten streak was broken last October, when he finished eighth in 2:06:49, but he came back successfully by winning the Entshede Marathon in 2:04:30 last April.
Kipchoge will face a strong Ethiopian trio led by world champion Lelisa Desisa, Shura Kitata and Sisay Lemma. Kitata won the 2020 edition of the London Marathon in 2:05:41.
The other kenyan runners are Lawrence Cherono and Amos Korir, who finished second and fourth at the 2020 Valencia Marathon running respectively in 2:03:04 and 2:03:30. The line.up also features Bashir Abdi (Belgian record holder with 2:04:20), Suguru Osako (Japanese record holder with 2:05.29 in Tokyo 2020). 2012 Olympic champion Stephan Kiprotich from Uganda, 2016 Olympic bronze medallist Galen Rupp and Eyob Faniel, Italian record holder with 2:07.19 in Seville 2020.
The US men’s 4x100 team will be vying to win a 17th Olympic gold medal. Three of the world’s five fastest sprinters (Trayvon Bromell, Ronnie Baker and Fred Kerley) are part of the US team. They will be joined by Micah Williams, who improved his PB to 9.91.
Great Britain will feature National 100m champion CJ Ujah, Reece Prescod and 100m European gold medallist Zharnel Hughes.
The Japanese team will be chasing a second consecutive Olympic medal after the silver won in Rio 2016. The home team will be led by Ryota Yamagata, who broke the Japanese 100m record with 9.95.
African 100m record holder Akani Simbine will lead the South African team, that won the World Relays in Chorzow last May.
Brazil set the South America record of 37.72 to finish fourth at the 2019 World Championships. The entry list also features Italy with Marcell Jacobs, 2019 world finaiist Filippo Tortu and 200m European finalist Eseosa Desalu, and Jamaica that includes 2012 Olympic silver medallist Yohan Blake and 100m national champion Tyquendo Tracey.
The US features Michael Norman and Michael Cherry and world seasonal leader Randlph Ross, who finished in the top three at the US Trials. Trevor Stewart, who improved his PB to 44”25, is also part of the team.
Trinidad and Tobago will be chasing their third Olympic medal after finishing third in 1964 and 2012. The Caribbean team will field Machel Cedenio, Deon Lendore, Jereem Richards and Asa Guevara. They won the World Relay title in 2019 in Yokohama.
The Netherlands won the 4x400 at the European Indoor Championships in Torun and at the 2021 World Relays.
Other medal candidates are Colombia featuring world 400m silver medallist Anthony Zambrano, Belgium, the world bronze medallist in Doha with brothers Kevin and Dylan Borlée, and Jamaica featuring Demish Gaye and Nathon Allen.
Japan’s Tashikazu Yamanishi won the world title in the 20 km in Doha 2019 and is ranked fifth in the world all-time list. The Japanese walker has broken the 1:18 barrier five times. He defended his Japanese title this year with 1:17.20.
Koki Ikeda won the 20 km at the 2018 World Race Walking Team Championships and has a PB of 1:17:25.He finished sixth at the World Championships in Doha. Eiki Takahashi has a PB of 1:17:26 and finished 10th in Doha.
Sweden’s Perseus Karstrom has won seven of his eight races over the 20 km distance.
The Chinese team is represented by Wang Kaihua, who leads the world seasonal list with 1:16:54 (third best performance in the world all-time list), 2016 Olympic silver medallist Cai Zelin and 2016 World Race Walking Team Championships Under 20 champion Zhang Jun.
The other top names are 2017 world champion Eider Arevalo from Colombia, 2018 European champion Alvaro Martin, European silver medallist Diego Garcia and 2015 world champion Miguel Angel Lopez and British record holder Tom Bosworth.
Sydney McLaughlin smashed the world record to a sensational 51.90 in the US Olympic Trials in Eugene last month. McLaughlin qualified for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro at the age of 16 and went on to reach the semifinal.
She won the world silver medal at the World Championships in Doha setting the second fastest time in history with 52.23. In that final she pushed Dalilah Muhammad to a world record time of 52.16.
Muhamad contracted Covid-19, but she bounced back by finishing second at the US Trials in 52.42.
Femke Bol has remained unbeaten in her four Diamond League races this season clocking 53.44 in Florence, 53.33 in Oslo, 52.37 in Stockolm and 53.24 in Gateshead and moved up to fourth in the all-time list.
Anna Cockrell secured the third qualifying spot at the Olympic Trials in Eugene with 53.70, beating Shamier Little, who did not qualify for Tokyo, but she bounced back by clocking 52.39 in the Stockolm Diamond League meeting.
The other names to watch are Anna Rhyzykova from the Ukraine, who dipped under the 53 seconds barrier with 52.96 in Stockolm, Janieve Russell from Jamaica, who won the National Trials in Kingston in 54.07 and finished third in Szekesfehrvar in 53.68 and European champion Lea Spunger, who finished fourth at the World Championships in Doha.
Venezuela’s Yulimar Rojas is the big favourite to win her first Olympic gold medal in the women’s triple jump five years after claiming the silver medal behind Colombia’s Caterine Ibarguen. Rojas has reached another level and could threaten the world record set by Inessa Kravets at the 1995 World Championships in Gothenburg with 15.50m. She won two consecutive world outdoor titles in London 2017 with 14.91m and Doha 2019 with 15.41m.
Rojas has jumped over 15 metres 17 times in her career and leapt over this barrier six times this year. The Venezuelan star coached by four-time long jump world champion Ivan Pedroso broke the world indoor record with 15.43m in Madrid in February 2020. She equalled this distance to set an outdoor PB in Andujar, missing Kravetz’s world record by seven cm. In the build-up to Tokyo Rojas also won in Doha with 15.15m in Madrid with a wind-assisted 15.34m and leapt to 15.12m in Monaco, where he made a couple of huge fouls in her last test before Tokyo.
Rojas will take on Jamaica’s Shanieka Ricketts, who won the Diamond League final in Zurich in 2019 beating Rojas and won the world silver medal in Doha. This year she finished second to Rojas at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Doha improving her PB to 14.98m.
Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce is aiming to become the first woman to win the 100m Olympic title three times. The 34-year-old Jamaican sprint legend has already won two consecutive gold medals in Beijing 2008 and London 2012 and nine world titles (four in the 100m, one in the 200m and four in the 4x100 relay). She clocked 10.63 on 5 June in Kingston to become the second-fastest 100m sprinter in history and won the Jamaican Trials in 10.71 beating her compatriots Elaine Thompson Herah and Shericka Jackson.
Thompson Herah, who defends the 100m and the 200m Olympic gold medals, finished third at the Jamaican Trials in 10.84 and won the 100m at the Continental Tour meeting in Shekesfehérvar in 10.71 beating Fraser Pryce.
Jackson, who won the olympic bronze medal in the 400m in Rio de Janeiro 2016, improved her PB to 10.77 in the semifinal in the Jamaican Trials before finishing second in the final in 10.82.
The Jamaican trio will face three-time world medallist Marie Josée Ta Lou, who won in the Oslo Diamond League in 10.91 and missed her PB by 0.01 with 10.86 in Szekesfehrvar, Blessing Okagbare, who clocked a wind-assisted 10.63 at the Nigerian Championships and clocked 10.89 in Szekesfehrvar.
Dina Asher Smith from Great Britain is chasing her second Olympic medal five years after winning bronze in the 4x100 in Rio de Janeiro 2016. The 25-year-old British star won the 200m title and two silver medals in the 100m and 4x100 relay in Doha 2019. This year she won the 100m at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Gateshead in 11.45 in rainy weather conditions, in Hengelo in 10.92 and at the British Championships in Manchester in 10.91.
Six women have broken the 22 seconds barrier in the 200 metres in the same year for the first time in history. Gabby Thomas set a world leading time in each round at the US Olympic Trials, improving her PB to 21.61 to become the second fastest-ever sprinter over this distance.
Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce set the second fastest time in the world this year with 21.79 at the Jamaican Trials. The Jamaican sprint legend returns to 200m in a global major event for the first time since the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, where she won one of her nine world titles.
Fraser Pryce’s compatriot Shericka Jackson will double up in the 100m and 200m in Tokyo. Jackson, who won the Olympic bronze medal in the 400 metres in Rio de Janeiro 2016, finished second at the Jamaican Trials improving her PB to 21.82m. Reigning olympic champion Elaine Thompson Herah qualified for the Olympic Games for the second time in her career after finishing third at the Jamaican Trials in 22.02.
Shaunae Miller Uibo won the 400m Olympic gold medal but she chose to focus on the 200m this time. The Bahamian star finished second in the 200m behind Sherika Jackson in Szekesfehravar and won the 200m at the Wanda Diamond League in Monaco in 22.23 beating Marie Josée Ta Lou by 0.02. She set her seasonal best of 22.03 last April.
Three-time world medallist Ta Lou will try to improve on her fourth place in Rio de Janeiro five years ago.
Reigning world and European champion Dina Asher Smith is unbeaten in her two 200m races this year in Savona (22.52), Florence (seasonal best 22.06), but she was sidelined by a minor injury which forced her to miss the Wanda Diamond League in Gateshead.
Jenna Prandini (2015 NCAA champion) is ranked fourth in the 2021 world seasonal list with her 21.89 PB set at the US Trials. The third US qualifier Anavia Battle dipped under 22 seconds with 21.95 at the US Trials in Eugene.
Dafne Schippers from the Netherlands will make her third Olympic appearance five years after winning the silver medal behind Thompson Herah in Rio de Janeiro.
World 200m bronze medallist Mujinga Kambundji, who carried the Swiss flag during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Olympic Games, is in good shape this year after a tough 2020 season and finished third in Florence (22.60) and fourth in Monaco (22.75) in her two Diamond League appearances. Gina Bass could become the first athlete from Gambia to reach an Olympic final.
Shaunae Miller Uibo had said during the year that she is likely to run the 200m and not the 400m because the schedule does not allow to make the double. However, the Bahamian sprinter remains entered for both events and could decided to run the 400m.
Miller Uibo won the olympic 400m title five years ago in Rio de Janeiro edging Allyson Felix by 0.07. She won the world silver medal in Doha setting the fifth fastest ever with 48.37 and clocked the second fastest time in the world this year with 49.08 at the Continental Tour meeting in Eugene.
Allyson Felix finished second at the US Olympic Trials in Eugene in 50.02 to qualify for her fifth Olympic Games and her first as a mother. Felix won nine Olympic medals (six gold and three silver). With another medal she would equal Merlene Ottey as the most decorated female athlete in Olympic history and tie Carl Lewis by a US athlete.
Quanera Hayes, who is mother of two-year-old Demetrius, won the Olympic Trials final in 49.78 and could chase her first Olympic medal. Wadeline Jonathas, fourth at the World Championships in 49.60 and third at the Olympic Trials in Eugene, will also make her first appearance on the Olympic stage. Former world 400m bronze medallist Stephanie Ann McPherson won the Jamaican Trials in 49.61 and could fight for an individual medal after winning the 4x400 relay silver medal in Rio de Janeiro.
World record holder Kendra Harrison will go head-to-head against Puerto Rico’s Jasmine Camacho Quinn.
Harrison finished sixth at the 2016 US Trials missing out on Olympic selection. She bounced back two weeks later by breaking the world record in 12.20 at the Diamond League meeting in London. Harrison has been unbeaten so far this year and won the US Trials final in Eugene in 12.47.
Camacho Quinn crashed out in the semifinals of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. The Puerto-Rican hurdler set the national record with 12.32 and holds five of the six fastest times in the world this year. The two-time NCAA champion clocked 12.46 in Eugene, 12.44 in Hengelo, 12.38 in Florence and 12.34 in Szekesfehrvar.
The other major contenders for a medal are Tobi Amusan from Nigeria, who finished fourth at the World Championships in Doha 2019, 2018 world indoor silver medallist Christina Clemons, British sisters Cindy Sember and Tiffany Porter, who won the silver and bronze medals respectively at the European Indoor Championships, and European Indoor champion Nadine Visser from the Netherlands.
Sifan Hassan from the Netherlands became the first athlete in history to win the 1500m and 10000m at the 2019 World Championships in Doha. The Dutch middle-distance star is chasing an unprecedented challenge and could become the first athlete to win Olympic medals in the 1500m, 5000m and 10000m in the same edition of this event. Hassan set the world record in the 10000m in Hengelo with 29:06.62 last June a few days before winning the 1500m in the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Florence with 3:53.63 ahead of Kipyegon, who set the Kenyan record with 3:53.91.
Kipyegon avenged this defeat by beating Hassan in a new Kenyan record of 3:51.07, the second fastest time in history. The Kenyan middle distance runner will chase her second consecutive Olympic gold medal five years after her triumph in Rio de Janeiro.
Laura Muir from Great Britain narrowly missed her 1500m PB with 3:55.59 in Florence last June and is the third-ranked contender. The British middle-distance star showed her impressive form by winning the 800m in the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Monaco in her PB of 1:56.73, but she will focus only on the 1500m in Tokyo.
Hassan will face five of the ten fastest ever 5000m runners in history: Gudaf Tsegay, Ejgayehu Taye, Senbere Teferi, Hellen Obiri and Agnes Tirop.
Hassan set the European record with 14:22.12 in the Diamond League meeting in London and ran 14:35.34 in Irvine this year.
Tsegay set the world seasonal best clocking a PB of 14:13.32 to win the Ethiopian Trials ahead of Taye (14:14.09) and Teferi (14:15.24).
Obiri is the only woman to have ever won world indoor, cross country and outdoor titles. The Kenyan middle-distance star won two consecutive world titles in the 5000m in 2017 and 2019 and finished second to her compatriot Vivian Cheruiyot at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro 2016.
Liliian Rengeruk won the Kenyan Trials beating Obiri and Agnes Tirop, who won two world medals in the 10000m in London 2017 and Doha 2019 and set her PB of 14:20.68 in 2019.
Hassan will go head-to-head against 2019 world silver medallist Letesenbet Gidey in the 10000m in one of the most eagerly clashes of the Tokyo Olympic Games. Hassan clocked 29:06.82 at the FBK Games in Hengelo to improve the previous world record held by Almaz Ayana by more than 10 seconds. Just two days later Letesenbet Gidey improved Hassan’s world record clocking 29.01.03 on the same Hengelo track.
Sifan Hassan: “I was happy it was broken after two days because I want the 10000m to become exciting and it also gives me motivation to work hard”.
Hassan will run the 10000m after 5000m heats on 30 July and the final on 2 August, the 1500m heats on 2 August, the semifinals on 4 August and the 10000m on 7 August.
Hassan won the world gold medal in Doha 2019 in 30:17.33 beating Gidey (30:21.23).
Gidey is joined by Tsigie Gebrselama, who finished second in 30:06.01 at the Ethopian Trials, and Tsehay Gemechu, who took fourth place at the 2019 World Championships in the 5000m in Doha. The line-up also features Kalkidan Gezahegne from Barhein, who set the national record with 29: 50.77, Eilish McColgan, who broke Paula Radcliffe’s British 5000m record with 14:28.55 in Oslo, and Germany’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen, who won the world bronze medal in the 5000m in Doha.
Athing Mu won the 400m at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in 49.57 and the 800m at the US Olympic Trials in 1:56.07. Mu’s parents moved from Sudan to the USA. She is the youngest of seven siblings. The 19-year-old US athlete is aiming to emulate Madeline Mims, who won the 800m Olympic gold medal in Mexico City in 1968.
Mu will face four athletes, who have broken the 1:57 barrier this year. Cuba’s Rose Mary Almanza won the 4x400 relay at the World Relays in Chorzow and set two PBs clocking 1:56.42 in Ordizia and 1:56.28, when she won at the Wanda Diamond League in Stockolm.
Natoya Goule finished second to Almanza in Stockolm in 1:56.44. The Jamaican middle distance runner set the national record clocking 1:56.15 and finished sixth at the 2019 World Championships in Doha.
Werkwuha Getachew broke the national record with 1:56.67 to win the Ethiopian Trials in Hengelo.
The strong British team will feature Jemma Reekie, who finished second to Laura Muir in Monaco in 1:56.73, and 19-year-old rising star Keely Hodgkinson, who won the European Indoor gold medal in Torun and set two European Indoor records with 1:58.89 in Ostrava and 1:57.51 in Stockolm.
The line-up will also features world champion Halimah Nakaasyi, who set the Ugandan record with 1:58.03 in Monaco, Raevyn Rogers and Ajée Wilson, who finished second and third at the US Olympic Trials, and France’s Renelle Lamote, who improved her PB to 1:57.98 in Monaco this year.
3000 metres steeplechase:
Hyvin Kyeng won the world title in Beijing 2015 and the Olympic silver medal in Rio 2016 and world bronze in London 2017. Kyeng started the season with a fourth place in Doha, but she won her next two Diamond League races in Stockolm (9:0434) and Monaco (9:03.21).
Kyeng will face her compatriot Beatrice Chepkoech, who set the world record with 8:44.32 in Monaco 2018 and won the world title in Doha 2019 with a championships record of 8:57.84. Chepkoech finished fourth at the 2016 Olympic Games and at the 2017 World Championships. She finished second to Kyeng with her seasonal best of 9:04.94 in Monaco.
The Ethiopian challenge is led by Mekides Abebe, who set a national record of 9:02.52 in Oslo.
Yaroslava Mahuchik cleared a world indoor seasonal best of 2.06m and won the European Indoor gold medal in Torun. This summer the Ukrainian 19-year-old rising star cleared a world-leading performance of 2.03m in Stockolm and won the European Under 23 gold medal in Tallin with 2.00m.
Mariya Lasitskene won the world outdoor title with 2.04m beating Mahuchik on countback. The three-time world champion equalled the fourth best performance in the world this year clearing 2.00m in Finland on 14 July.
Nicola McDermott from Australia is shaping up as a potential medal contender after setting the Oceanian record with 2.01m in Stockolm.
The list of podium candidates includes 2016 world indoor champion Vashti Cunningham, who won the US Olympic Trials in Eugene and set the second best in the world this year with 2.02m, Nadezhda Dubovitskaya (PB 2.00 this year), 2017 world silver medallist Yulya Levchenko and Iryna Herashchenko and Swiss record holder Salome Lang
World seasonal leader Katie Nageotte has been the most consistent pole vaulter this season clearing over the 4.90m barrier four times. Nageotte cleared a world leading performance with 4.95m at the US Olympic Trials and won the Wanda Diamond League competition in Monaco with 4.90m.
Two years ago Anzhelika Sidorova bounced back from the disappointment of losing the Diamond League final by winning the world gold medal in Doha with 4.95m ahead of Sandi Morris. The Russian vaulter set her seasonal best of 4.91m in Florence.
Katerina Stefanidi will defend the olympic gold medal with 4.85m. The Greek star has completed a full set of outdoor medals which also includes the world gold medal in London 2017 and the European title in Berlin 2018.
Olympic and world silver medallist Sandi Morris finished third with 4.60m at the US Trials. This year Morris cleared 4.88m indoors and 4.84m outdoors and won the Diamond League competition in Gateshead with 4.76m.
Holly Bradshaw set the British record with a clearance of 4.90m at the National Championships in Manchester and backed up this performance with 4.82m in Huelva.
Six athletes jumped over the seven metres barrier. World bronze medallist Ese Brume set the world seasonal best with 7.17m. Two-time Olympic medallist Brittney Reese won the US Trials with 7.13m beating Tara Davis, who jumped 7.04m. Davis won the NCAA indoor and outdoor titles and improved her PB to 7.14m last spring.
Malaika Mihambo is currently ranked 10th in the world seasonal list, but she raises her level when it matters most. Two years ago the German jumper won the world outdoor title with 7.30m in Doha beating Ukraine’s Maryna Beck Romanchuk. The Ukrainian jumper avenged this defeat by beating the German jumper at the 2021 European Indoor Championships in Torun.
In this year’s Diamond League meetings Mihambo won in Oslo and jumped a wind-assisted 7.02m in Stockolm. Ivana Spanovic, who won the Olympic bronze medal with 7.08 in Rio de Janeiro 2016, won two Diamond League competitions this year in Florence and Stockolm.
Sandra Perkovic is chasing her third consecutive Olympic gold medal. The Croatian discus throw legend became the second woman ever to win back-to-back titles at the Olympic Games and won two world medals and five European gold medals. This year Perkovic claimed her 43rd Diamond League win in Florence setting the third best performance in the world this year with 68.31m.
The main rivals for the gold medal are 2019 world champion Yaime Perez, who set a seasonal best of 68.99m, and 21-year-old Van Klinken from the Netherlands, who set the world seasonal list with 70.22m in Tucson, and Valarie Allman, who threw over 70 metres with 70.01m at the US Trials.
Seventeen years after her first Olympic appearance in Athens 2004, Valerie Adams is still a solid medal contender in Tokyo 2021 at the age of 36. The shot putter from New Zealand improved her seasonal best to 19.75m in Cetniewo and won in the Stockolm Diamond League with 19.26m and Lucerne with 18.91m. Adams will take on 2019 world champion Gong Lijao from China, who holds the world seasonal best with 20.39m (the second best performance in her career) and has thrown over the 20 metres seven times this year, and European Indoor champion Auriol Dongmo from Portugal.
Maria Andrejczyk starts as the favourite for the gold medal five years after missing the bronze medal at the 2016 Olympic Games by just two cm. The Polish thrower set the third best performance in history with 71.40m at the European Throwing Cup. Andrejczyk won the European Under 20 title in 2015 and led the qualifying round with 67.11m in Rio de Janeiro, but she missed out on a medal with 64.78m, as she was edged by world record holder Barbora Spotakova.
Andrejczyk’s main contenders for a medal are 2018 European champion Christin Hussong, who set the second best performance in the world this year with 69.19m, world silver medallist Liu Shiying and Lyu Huihui, fourth on the world seasonal list with 66.55m, and two-time Olympic champion Barbora Spotakova, who won the Diamond League competition in Monaco at the age of 40.
DeAnna Price improved her own North American record to 80.31m at the US Olympic Trials to become the second hammer thrower in history to break the 80m barrier.
Anita Wlodarczyk won back-to-back Olympic titles in London 2012 and Rio de Janeiro 2016 and also claimed four world titles. The Pole made her come-back this year from knee surgery and set a seasonal best of 77.93m in Bydgoszcz last June.
The other main contenders for the podium are 2017 world bronze medallist Malwina Kopron, US Brooke Anderson, who threw 78.18m, 2019 Pan-American champion Gwen Berry and 2015 world bronze medallist Alexandra Tavernier from France.
Nafissatoun Thiam from Blegium will defend her Olympic title. The Belgian heptathlon star was back to her best form last March when she won the European Indoor gold medal in the pentathlon in Torun with a national record of 4904 points. She has not contested a full heptathlon this summer, but competed in individual events producing 1.89m in the high jump and 6.62m in the long jump and 14.99m in the shot put.
Katarina Johnson Thompson won the world title in Doha 2019 breaking Jessica Ennis Hill’s British record with 6981 points. She returned to competitions after rupturing her Achilles tendon last winter with 1.84m in the high jump and leapt to 6.10m in the long jump in Gateshead.
Annie Kunz leads the world seasonal list with her PB of 6703 points set at the US Trials. Kunz beat Kendell Williams (6683) and Erica Bougard (6667).
Xenia Krizsan won the European Indoor bronze medal and the Hypo Meeting in Goetzis setting the Hungarian record with 6651. Anouk Vetter returned to her best form with her second place in Goetzis with 6536 points. The other top contenders are Vererna Mayr from Austria, who set her seasonal best of 6254 points, and 2017 world silver medallist Carolin Schaefer from Germany.
World record holder Brigid Kosgei is the athlete to beat in the women’s marathon. The 27-year-old Kenyan runner broke the world marathon record with 2:14:04 in Chicago in 2019 and defended the London Marathon title in 2:18:58.
Kosgei will take on two-time world half marathon champion Peres Jepchirchir, who won the Valencia Maathon title with 2:17:16 last December and broke the world half marathon for a women-only race clocking 1:05:16 at the World Half Marathon Championships in Gdyna, and Ruth Chepngetich, who won the world marathon title with 2:17:08 in Doha. Chepngetich finished third at the London Marathon in 2:22:05 last October and broke the world half marathon record in a mixed race with 1:04:02.
The Jamaican team features Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce, Sherika Jackson and Elaine Thompson Herah, the three fastest entrants for the individual 100m race. The other members of the Jamaican team are Natasha Morrison (10.87 in the 100m this year) and double world under 20 champion Briana Williams
The US team will feature Javianne Oliver, Aleia Hobbs and Jenna Prandini.
Dina Asher Smith, Darryl Neita and Asha Phillip are part of the British team, that will be in the hunt for a medal.
Germany and Switzerland finished fourth and fifth at the World Championships in Doha and will fight for the top positions.
The USA won the 4x100 relay five years ago in 41.01 beating Jamaica (41.36) and Great Britain (41.77). Three years later Shericka Jackson anchored Jamaica to win at the 2019 World Championships in Doha in 41.44 ahead of Great Britain and the USA.
The US team has won the gold at six consecutive Olympic Games since the 1996 edition in Atlanta. The US win in 3:19.06 at the 2016 Rio Games earned Felix her sixth Olympic gold medal. Felix will be part of the US team for both the 4x400 and the mixed 4x400 relays.
The star-studded US team could also feature Sydney McLaughlin, Dalilah Muhammad, Quanera Hayes, Wadeline Jonathas and Athing Mu.
Jamaica selected Stephanie Ann McPherson and Candice McLeod, who finished first and second in 49.61 and 49.91 at the Jamaican Trials.
Poland and Great Britain could fight for medals.
The mixed 4x400 relay will make its Olympic debut. This discipline ws held for the first time at the World Championships in Doha 2019. The US team featuring Will London, Allyson Felix, Courtney Okolo and Michael Cherry in a world record time of 3:09.34. Felix improved Usain Bolt’s record for career world titles with her 12th gold.
Jamaica won the world silver medal in Doha setting the national record of 3:12.73.
Italy claimed the win at the 2021 World Relays with a team formed by Edoardo Scotti, Giancarla Trevisan, Alice Mangione and Davide Re.
Liu Hong claimed her third world title, less than two years after giving birth to her daughter Xixi. Liu triumphed in Rio in 2016 and set the world record with 1:24:58 in 2015. She will face her compatriot 2017 world champion Yang Jiayu, who set the world record of 1:23.49 improving Liu’s previous mark by 49 seconds, and Qieyiang Shijie, who clocked 1:24:25 becoming the fourth-best performer in the world all-time list. The list of medal candidates features Erica Sena from Brazil, who finished fourth at the two most recent editions of the World Championships, Glenda Morejon, who clocked 1:25.29 on her debut over this distance in 2019, and Italian walkers Antonella Palmisano (world bronze medallist in London 2017) and Eleonora Giorgi (world bronze medallist in the 50 km in Doha).
Matej Toth from Slovakia will defend his Rio 2016 Olympic title in the 50 km race. Toth will face world record holder Yohan Diniz from France. The 43-year-old Frenchman has not competed since the 2019 World Championships. Diniz broke the world record with 3:32:33 when he won the 2014 European title in Zurich. He clocked 3:37:43 in 2019.
The Japanese team features Masatora Kawano, who set the Japanese record with 3:36:45 in 2019, Satoshi Maruo (Japanese champion in 3:38:42 in 2021) and Hayato Katsuki (second t the National Championships in 3:42:34), 2019 world bronze medallist Evan Dunfee from Canada, Portuguese veteran Joao Vieira, who won the world silver in 2019 and 51-year-old Spanish legend Jesus Angel Garcia, who will be taking part in his eighth Olympic Games and won the 1993 world title back in 1993.