Italian job in Tokyo night of high drama
“United by emotion.”
Whoever picked this slogan for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games needs a gold medal.
And whoever scripted Sunday’s programme of events at Tokyo’s National Stadium should certainly walk away with an Oscar for “Best Picture” and “Best Director” - rolled into one.
And if there’s a competition to select the moment of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, we already have a winner!
There were certainly many talking points at Sunday's track and field action at the Games, the highlight of which, surely, must be Yulimar Roja’s world record in the triple jump (15.67 metres) that earned Venezuela her first Olympic gold medal in athletics.
“I was looking for it (the world record), I knew we had that distance in my legs to get it today… I was failing a bit in the technical aspect, but the last jump was one to give everything,” Rojas, named World Athlete of the Year in a coronavirus-troubled 2020, said.
Then there was the 100 metres final that saw, yes, Italy’s Texas-born Jacobs Lamont Marcell win an unexpected gold in a European record 9.80 seconds, beating pre-race favourites Fred Kerley (USA, 9.84) and Andre de Grasse (Canada, 9.89) to the minor medals.
“It was my childhood dream to win an Olympic Games and obviously a dream can turn into something different - but to run this final and win, it is a dream come true,” Jacobs said.
This was after another Italian Gianmarco Tamberi cleared 2.37 metres to win the high jump gold medal, jointly with Qatar’s Mutaz Barshim.
Kenya’s Ferdinand Omanyala was also very much part of Sunday's script, finishing third in his semi-final of the 100m and improving his national record to 10.00 seconds, beating his role model Yohan Blake in the process.
Two other stars with Texas connections – Michael Saruni and Emmanuel Korir – were involved in the 800m semi-finals with Saruni failing to sail through and Korir joining Ferguson Rotich as Kenya’s finalists in the two-lap race.
Rotich was the fastest in the semis, winning the third in one minute, 44.04 seconds with Korir digging in for second in head one (1:44.74).
Saruni (1:44.54) failed to advance after finishing sixth in heat two.
Saruni and Korir are both students at University of Texas, El Paso (UTEP) where they are coached by former Kenyan Olympic champion Paul Ereng.
There was drama in heat three with Isaiah Jewett (USA) and Nijel Amos (Botswana) both taking a bad fall with barely 200 metres to go.
They two rose up, hugged and jogged to the finish line in a memorable Olympic moment.
Surely the image of the Games should have been clicked here…
“At the end of the day it’s sport… we are all united by emotion as they say,” Amos reacted to what will probably be the moment of the Tokyo Olympic Games.
"I was getting ready to go, and I just felt when I was starting to lift (something) suddenly hit the back of my heel, and that caused me to fall. And it was devastating. I'm not going to lie,” Jewett said.
"I knew I always have to finish ... so I got Nijel up as well because I can see he was devastated. (I said) ‘Come on man’. He apologised to me, and (I said) let's just finish the race, man."
When the start-list for the final was published last night, Amos was appearing which means he has been granted a reversal of fortunes.
While Saruni was too disappointed to talk to journalists, both Rotich and Korir exuded confidence of a possible Kenya 1-2 in the final.
“It was a good race and I’ve achieved my dream of running in an Olympic final,” Rotich said.
“I’m in great shape and I knew my heat was strong one… I’ll have to be mentally smart and strong enough in the final.”
Korir was equally relieved: “Making it to the final is not easy because everyone is tough… Most of us ran 1:44/ 1:45… it was hard but I fought.
“If I will be in a healthy state, I will take something back home.”
Earlier, Korir was red-carded after false-starting in the 400m, but that didn’t throw him off-course in the 800m later in the afternoon.