Tokyo, Selemon Barega of Ethiopia ambushed the favourites from Uganda to win the first athletics gold at the Tokyo Olympics on Friday, in the men’s 10,000 metres, said dpa international.
Barega, 21, ran away on the final lap of a tactical race for victory in 27 minutes 43.22 seconds on a warm and humid night at National Stadium.
World champion and world record holder Joshua Cheptegei and fellow Ugandan season leader Jacob Kiplimo failed to catch Barega as they had to settle for silver (.41 of a second back) and bronze (.66), respectively.
Barega won in the absence of 2012 and 2016 long distance double champion Mo Farah of Britain who had failed to qualify for the 10,000m at age 38.
Barega did not come out of nowhere, having already won 5,000m silver at the 2019 worlds as a teenager. He follows in the footsteps of iconic countrymen Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele, who won two golds each over the distance between 1996 and 2008.
“Since Kenenisa won last time we have been unable to achieve a gold medal. I feel really proud to be part of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics,” Barega said. “I want to achieve a history like my previous colleagues.”
Cheptegei said he was bothered by the conditions and not fully fit.
“I have two feelings. One is that I’m very happy to have won an Olympic silver medal today … But the other side of me is really not satisfied with the result because I came here expecting to win a gold,” he added.
The third Ugandan runner, Stephen Kissa, had his big moment when he built a lead of more than 50m very early on before being caught at the halfway mark and retiring not much later.
In preliminary action, Norwegian superstar Karsten Warholm had little difficulty in easing into the semi-finals of the men’s 400m hurdles while Ivorian Marie-Josee Ta Lou led the women’s 100m heats in African record time.
Warholm, 25, has dominated his discipline since winning worlds gold in 2017 and his 48.65 seconds to reach the semi-finals was a virtual jog compared to his world record 46.70 earlier this month. Qatar’s world bronze medallist Abderrahman Samba was fastest with 48.38.
“It was nice to get out on the track again,” said Warholm. “It’s something you’ve been looking forward to for a long time.
“[I’ve] been here for two weeks already, I’m starting to get bored so it was very nice to get around.”
Ta Lou matched the African record 10.78 while Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the Jamaican double Olympic champion from 2008 and 2012, was among six women to go under 11 seconds on the fast Tokyo track.
“Surprise, surprise,” said Ta Lou, who has various minor medals from worlds but no gold. “I’m in shock actually. I know I’m ready.
“I will be re-focusing on my run because I really didn’t expect to run as fast as I just did.”
Two-time world champion Hellen Obiri of Kenya qualified for the Olympic 5,000 metres final along with Dutch 1,500m and 10,000m world champion star Sifan Hassan and Ethiopian season leader Gudaf Tsegay.
World champions Daniel Stahl of Sweden (discus), Gong Lijao of China (shot put), Yulimar Rojas of Venezuela (triple jump) and Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar (high jump) also advanced to finals.
But the United States suffered yet another relay disaster on the big stage when the world champions and world record holders were disqualified in the heats of the inaugural Olympic 4x400m mixed over a baton exchange mistake after originally winning their race. Poland paced the heats.
“Mistakes happen. We are human,” US runner Elija Godwin said. “We come out, we try our best and it was a complete surprise to all of us. All we can do is prepare for the future and see what happens next.”
Source: Bahrain News Agency