TOKYO: Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson-Herah made history with the first women’s Olympic sprint “double-double” on Tuesday, as superstar gymnast Simone Biles stared down the dreaded “twisties” to bravely win bronze on a day that saw world records smashed and organisers investigate Belarus’ treatment of an athlete now in diplomatic protection.
Thompson-Herah’s blistering 200 metres win, following her brilliant 100m victory, made her the first woman to win both Olympic sprints twice in a row, evoking memories of her retired compatriot Usain Bolt.
It rounded off a stunning day on the track, when Norway’s Karsten Warholm obliterated his own 400m hurdles world record and Athing Mu, 19, became the first American woman to win the 800m in 53 years.
Thompson-Herah’s 21.53sec was the second fastest ever seen after Florence Griffith Joyner’s world record of 21.34, set at the drug-tarnished 1988 Seoul Olympics.
As well as becoming the first woman to claim a 100m-200m double-double, the 29-year-old is the only female track and field athlete to win four individual Olympic golds.
“It really means a lot to me to be in that history book, because I’ve been through a lot and it tells my story,” the Jamaican said.
Namibia’s Christine Mboma, who was only running the 200m because she is barred from her preferred 400m for elevated testosterone levels, took silver in 21.81, while the USA’s Gabby Thomas took bronze in 21.87.
Gymnast Biles had pulled out of her other finals as she battled a disorientating mental block, but she returned in medal-winning style to high excitement at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre.
The American four-time gold-medallist, widely considered the “GOAT” (Greatest Of All Time) put in a solid routine including a double backward somersault and double pike dismount, smiling broadly as she was congratulated by her team-mates.
Biles was lying in the silver medal position until the final competitor, 16-year-old Chinese Guan Chenchen, stepped up and scored 14.633 points to take first place, pushing team-mate Tang Xijing into silver.
“I was just happy to be able to perform regardless of the outcome,” said Biles, who revealed her aunt died two days ago. “I did it for me and I was proud of myself for being able to compete one more time.”
China’s double world champion Zou Jingyuan won the men’s parallel bars and Japan’s all-around winner Daiki Hashimoto, 19, completed a breakout Olympics with gold in the horizontal bar.
Earlier, the Olympic Stadium witnessed one of the great races when Warholm shattered his own world record by nearly 0.8sec in an epic 400m hurdles final.
The 25-year-old stormed over the line in 45.94 seconds, pushed hard down the home straight by USA rival Rai Benjamin, who took silver in 46.17 — the second fastest in history.
“Man, it’s so crazy. It’s by far the biggest moment of my life,” Warholm said after carving his name among the greats of athletics history and crouching in apparent disbelief on the track. “You know the cliche that it hasn’t sunk in yet? I don’t think it has, but I feel ecstatic.”
There was more drama in the women’s long jump, when Germany’s Malaika Mihambo snatched gold from former champion Brittney Reese with her last leap of the competition.
Mihambo, 27, was lying in the bronze medal position ahead of her final jump, but powered down the runway to register a season’s best of 7.00 metres and Reese could not respond. Nigeria’s Ese Brume took bronze.
“It was, I think, the most exciting women’s long jump competition in history,” said Mihambo.
In other track and field events, Swedish world record-holder Armand Duplantis leapt 6.02m to take pole vault gold, and Poland’s Anita Wlodarczyk won the women’s hammer for the third straight Games with a heave of 78.48m.
New Zealand’s Lisa Carrington started her gold medal march in canoe sprint with a pair of victories in the women’s kayak single 200 and the kayak double 500.
Carrington has now won the 200 in three consecutive Olympics and hasn’t lost an Olympic or world championship in the event in a decade.
She teamed with Caitlin Regal to win the 500 less than an hour after her fourth race. Carrington raced four times Tuesday in heat and wind at the Sea Forest Waterway in the semi-finals and finals of the two events.
She is also a medal favorite in the kayak 500 single and fours later this week.
Xie Siyi and Wang Zongyuan gave China another 1-2 finish in Olympic diving, claiming gold and silver in men’s 3m springboard. Xie broke down in tears when the scores for his final dive were posted, a string of 9.0s and 9.5s that clinched the victory with 558.75 points. Wang came over to give his team-mate a hug.
The biggest drama was for the silver, but Wang nailed his final dive to finish with 534.90 and hold off Jack Laugher of Britain.
In cycling, Germany won the women’s team pursuit gold in a world-record time of 4:04.242, and the Netherlands won the team sprint — their first men’s track title since 1936 at the Izu Velodrome.
Briton Jason Kenny’s silver in the team sprint made him the first track cyclist to win eight Olympic medals, just minutes after his wife, Laura, won her fifth medal in the team pursuit.
Sena Irie became the first Japanese woman to win Olympic boxing gold, defeating Nesthy Petecio of the Philippines on unanimous points to take the featherweight title.
Roniel Iglesias added his name to Cuba’s Olympic boxing hall of fame after winning a second gold medal after London 2012, putting on a masterclass to defeat British hope Pat McCormack on unanimous points.
A surprise gold medal came for Cuba in the men’s canoe double 1,000m ahead of China and Germany.
Tamyra Mensah-Stock of the United States defeated Blessing Oborududu of Nigeria 4-1 in the women’s 68kg freestyle wrestling final to claim the second Olympic gold medal ever for an American female wrestler.
In weightlifting, Uzbekistan’s Akbar Djuraev defeated Armenia’s world record holder Simon Martirosyan to win gold in the men’s 109 kg category.
Russian wrestler Musa Evloev defeated Artur Aleksanyan of Armenia 5-1 in the Greco-Roman 97kg final.
Away from the competition, the International Olympic Committee said it expected a report later in the day from the Belarusian team on the case of sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who sought refuge in the Polish embassy in Tokyo on Monday after refusing her team’s orders to fly home.
She was expected to fly on Wednesday to Poland, which has offered her a humanitarian visa. The IOC spoke twice on Monday to Tsimanouskaya, who was in a safe and secure place, said spokesman Mark Adams.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime of intolerable “transnational repression” in the matter.
Tsimanouskaya told the German newspaper Bild that her rupture with the team had not initially been about politics. “I could never have imagined that would turn into such a big political scandal.”
Published in Dawn, August 4th, 2021