Simone Biles will make her long-awaited bid for an individual gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday, while the men’s 400m hurdles and women’s 200m finals take centre stage on the track.
American superstar gymnast Biles, who won four gold medals in Rio five years ago, has said she is struggling with the “twisties”, a condition where gymnasts lose the ability to orientate themselves in mid-air.
She dramatically pulled out of last week’s team competition final after one vault as Team USA took silver, and said she feared for her mental health.
The 19-time world champion subsequently withdrew from the all-around final and three of the four apparatus finals—the floor, vault and uneven bars.
But Biles will be back in the last women’s final of the Games, on the beam, and all eyes will be watching to see how she handles the pressure.
Although it is not her strongest apparatus, the 24-year-old is a three-time beam world champion and took Olympic bronze in 2016.
Victory would be one of the great comeback stories, with Biles having documented her mental health struggles during the Games in regular social media posts.
Biles had arrived in Tokyo seeking five gold medals to equal the all-time Olympic record for a female competitor of nine.
The Olympic Stadium is also set for a dramatic day, with potential world-record bids.
Norwegian star Karsten Warholm, who broke a 29-year world record earlier this year, will renew his rivalry with the United States’ Rai Benjamin in the 400m hurdles final to close out the morning session.
“I’m excited for the final,” said Benjamin, who took silver behind Warholm at the 2019 world championships in Doha.
“It feels great to go through, but the job’s not done.”
Another world-record holder, Sweden’s Armand Duplantis, is a hot favourite for a men’s pole vault final which lost some of its lustre with the withdrawal of world champion Sam Kendricks after a positive Covid-19 test.
Jamaican duo face off again
The athletics schedule concludes with what promises to be a thrilling women’s 200m final.
“I just have to go out and run the best race that I can, run and hope that I put myself in a very good position to stand on the podium,” said 2012 silver medallist Fraser-Pryce.
Thompson-Herah, who recorded a blistering 21.66secs in Monday’s semi-finals, and Fraser-Pryce could be challenged by 2016 400m winner Shaunae Miller-Uibo, rising US star Gabby Thomas and Namibian teenager Christine Mboma.
“I just come here for the experience,” said 18-year-old Mboma, who was not allowed to run in the 400m due to elevated testosterone levels.
“I hope to run a good time and get a medal. I just do my best.”
Elsewhere, Britain’s Jason Kenny will attempt to win his seventh Olympic gold in the men’s track cycling team sprint final.
Transgender weightlifter, Puerto Rican hurdler make history on day 10
Tuesday’s action comes after at least two athletes made history on Monday: weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, the first transgender athlete to take part in the Games, and Jasmine Camacho-Quinn, who claimed Puerto Rico’s first-ever athletics gold as she charged to victory in the 100m hurdles.
After a storm of publicity surrounding Hubbard’s involvement as the first transgender woman at a Games, she failed to make a successful lift in the +87kg competition won by China’s Li Wenwen.
Hubbard, 43, who was born male and competed as a man before transitioning to female in her 30s, was allowed to compete after meeting International Olympic Committee guidelines on testosterone for transgender athletes.
Her presence on the biggest stage has reignited debate about transgender athletes in women’s sport.
Before a low-key exit from the arena, she made a brief statement to reporters expressing gratitude to the International Olympic Committee and the International Weightlifting Federation for supporting her campaign.
“Of course, I’m not totally unaware of the controversy that surrounds my participation in these Games,” she said.
Camacho-Quinn, meanwhile, left the stadium triumphant after claiming Puerto Rico’s first athletics gold in Games history (and second gold medal ever) as she charged to victory in the 100m hurdles.
“For such a small country it gives little people hope,” Camacho-Quinn said.
Camacho-Quinn, 24, who had set an Olympic record 12.26sec in the semi-finals of the women’s 100m hurdles, surged home to claim her first major title in 12.37sec.
Dutch runner Sifan Hassan also had a day to remember—she fell in her morning heat of the 1500m before picking herself up and winning the race. Barely 12 hours later she was back on the track and sprinting to victory to take her first gold of the Games in the 5,000m, winning in 14min 36.79sec.
The Ethiopian-born athlete is going for a unique triple of 1500m, 5,000m and 10,000m—but said the dream would have been over but for a reviving cup of coffee.
“I was so tired. Without coffee I would never be Olympic champion. I needed all the caffeine. I was so scared I wasn’t going to do it,” she said.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)