James and Claye eye gold on Day 7 of Olympic athletics

Sports Tokyo 2020

Tokyo, Japan | AFP

by Luke PHILLIPS

France's world record-holder Kevin Mayer has it all to do to win the decathlon. AFP
France’s world record-holder Kevin Mayer has it all to do to win the decathlon. AFP

The seventh day of athletics at the Tokyo Olympics takes place on Thursday. AFP Sport looks at five stand-out events:

Men’s decathlon - Day 2

Canada’s Damian Warner is in pole position heading into the second and final day of the decathlon, with fancied French rival Kevin Mayer, the world record holder, only fifth.

Warner, 31, registered 10.12sec in the 100m, 8.24m in the long jump, 14.80m in the shot put, 2.02m in the high jump and 47.48sec in the 400m for an overnight total of 4,722 points.

Australian Ashley Moloney impressed with 2.11m in the high jump and 46.29sec in the 400m in Wednesday’s evening session and sits second on 4,641 pts.

Warner has the quickest personal best of the field in Thursday’s opening 110m hurdles, but Mayer will be expected to cut into his lead in the following discus and pole vault competitions.

The decathlon concludes later Thursday with the javelin and 1500m.

Nafi Thiam is well positioned to win a second Olympic gold medal. AFP
Nafi Thiam is well positioned to win a second Olympic gold medal. AFP

Women’s heptathlon - Day 2

Belgian star Nafi Thiam looks well set to defend her Olympic heptathlon title after world champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson pulled up injured and exited the competition on the opening day.

The Briton, who was competing against Thiam in a full heptathlon for the first time since the 2019 world championships, suffered a calf injury and fell to the track during Wednesday’s closing 200m.

Thiam sits third, 20 points behind compatriot Noor Vidts and 47 adrift of leader Anouk Vitter of the Netherlands.

The heptathletes will take on the long jump and javelin early Thursday ahead of the brutal final 800m.

Men’s 400m - Final

There will be a new Olympic champion in Tokyo after Rio winner Wayde van Niekerk, who ran an electrifying world record of 43.03sec in 2016, failed to qualify for the final.

Instead, one of the favourites for the one-lap race will be Grenada’s Kirani James, the 2012 Olympic gold medallist.

James will face stiff competition from reigning world champion Steven Gardiner of the Bahamas, unbeaten in the 400m since the 2017 world championships, and United States medal hope Michael Norman.

Norman narrowly missed qualifying for the 2016 Rio Games as an 18-year-old high school student, going on to compete in the 200m and then setting the world’s fastest 400m times in 2018 and 2019.

Grenada's Kirani James was in fine form in the 400m semi-finals. AFP
Grenada’s Kirani James was in fine form in the 400m semi-finals. AFP

Men’s triple jump - Final

There was a US one-two at the last two Olympic Games thanks to Christian Taylor and Will Claye.

Only Claye is present in Tokyo after Taylor ruptured his achilles in May, ruining his hopes of a third straight Olympic title.

Claye, who has also settled for silver behind Taylor at the past two world championships, will surely be pushed by Hugues Fabrice Zango of Burkina Faso and Portugal’s Pedro Pichardo.

Zango, the bronze medallist in Doha who is aiming to win his country’s first ever Olympic medal, broke the world indoor record with a leap of 18.07m in January, and has the second best outdoor jump in the world this year of 17.82m.

The world’s leading outdoor performance this year belongs to Pichardo, the 28-year-old Cuban-born athlete jumping 17.92m last month.

Will Claye is the favourite to win the Olympic triple jump final. AFP
Will Claye is the favourite to win the Olympic triple jump final. AFP

Women’s pole vault - Final

The Russian Olympic Committee’s world champion Anzhelika Sidorova will be among the key contenders going for gold again.

The field also features defending Olympic champion Katerina Stefanidi, who won world gold in 2017 but had to settle for third two years later in Doha.

She has struggled with a heel injury, and while not among this year’s three 4.90m-plus athletes, the Greek vaulter should never be ruled out given her major championships experience.

Joining Sidorova in making a vault over 4.90m this summer are the USA’s world leader Katie Nageotte and British record-holder Holly Bradshaw.

Cuba’s 2015 world champion Yarisley Silva will be competing at her fourth Olympic final, nine years after securing silver in London.

Anzhelika Sidorova is the reigning women's pole vault world champion. AFP
Anzhelika Sidorova is the reigning women’s pole vault world champion. AFP

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