Rookie Tomala wins ‘crazy’ walk gold as Felix targets Olympic history

Sports Tokyo 2020

Poland's Dawid Tomala won the men's 50km race walk in hot conditions in Sapporo. AFP
Poland’s Dawid Tomala won the men’s 50km race walk in hot conditions in Sapporo. AFP

Tokyo, Japan | AFP

by John WEAVER

Poland’s Dawid Tomala won an astonishing 50km walk Olympic gold on Friday despite only completing the distance once before as US sprint great Allyson Felix sets her sights on track and field history in Tokyo.

Tomala’s feat in gruelling conditions set the stage for a big day of athletics, with Felix bidding to become track and field’s most decorated female Olympian and Dutch runner Sifan Hassan pursuing an unprecedented distance treble.

Elsewhere on day 14, Sweden face Canada in the women’s football final and six-time defending champions the USA take on Serbia in the women’s basketball semi-finals.

With only three days of competition before Sunday’s closing ceremony, China top the medals table on 34 golds, with the United States four behind and host nation Japan third on 22.

Tomala won Poland’s fourth gold of the Games in punishing heat in Sapporo, the revised venue for the race walks and marathons intended to avoid Tokyo’s high summer temperatures.

It was an incredible win by the 31-year-old, given he only completed his first 50km race walk this year in Slovakia, finishing fifth.

“This was only the second 50km in my life and I win it,” he said. “It is crazy, right?”

Tomala crossed the line in 3 hours 50 minutes and 8 seconds, becoming the first Polish champion after three-time winner Robert Korzeniowski.

April Ross and Alexandra Klineman beat Australia’s Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy to win the women’s beach volleyball, securing USA’s fourth title in the event.

Allyson Felix is bidding to become the most decorated female Olympian in track and field history. AFP
Allyson Felix is bidding to become the most decorated female Olympian in track and field history. AFP

‘Fight to get here’

Later Felix, 35, goes into Friday’s 400m final level with Jamaican great Merlene Ottey on nine Olympic medals and looking to claim sole ownership of the record.

“It was a fight to get here. When I was younger, I never really thought about making a final,” said Felix, who won silver in the event at the 2016 Rio Games.

“This time, you get older and it seems harder. You just have to get smarter and figure it out.”

The Ethiopia-born Hassan, already the 5,000m gold-medallist, goes up against Kenya’s defending champion Faith Kipyegon in the final of the 1500m, with the 10,000m still to come.

With two-time winner Mo Farah failing to make the British team, a new Olympic champion will be crowned in the men’s 5,000m, where Joshua Cheptegei headlines a strong trio of Ugandans including Jacob Kiplimo and Oscar Chelimo.

Jamaica look runaway favourites in the women’s 4x100m relay, led by double sprint champion Elaine Thompson-Herah and 100m silver medallist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

In football, Sweden, the 2016 runners-up, take on first-time finalists Canada in the women’s final in Yokohama.

The match, initially scheduled for 11:00 am, was relocated from the Olympic Stadium and pushed back to the evening because of heat concerns, with temperatures climbing to 32 degrees Celsius (89.6 Fahrenheit) on Friday.

The Netherlands will bid for a record fourth Olympic women’s hockey title against Argentina after Britain beat India 4-3 to secure bronze.

World number one Nelly Korda held a four-stroke lead going into the third round of the women’s golf tournament.

In karate’s Olympic debut, three-time world champion Ryo Kiyuna of Japan is vying to become the first gold medallist in the men’s kata, while China are favourites in the final of the men’s team table tennis.

Away from the action, two Belarusian coaches have been kicked out of the Games over an alleged attempt to force a sprinter to fly home.

The International Olympic Committee said it had removed the accreditations of Artur Shimak and Yury Maisevich and they had left the Olympic Village.

The body said this week that it was investigating the pair over their role in the case of Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who sought protection at a Tokyo airport to avoid being put on a plane home.

Dutch distance runner Sifan Hassan is targeting an unprecedented Olympic treble. AFP
Dutch distance runner Sifan Hassan is targeting an unprecedented Olympic treble. AFP

Great Britain beat India to win women's hockey bronze. AFP
Great Britain beat India to win women’s hockey bronze. AFP

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Tokyo 2020 AFP