Valente wins omnium gold, Kajihara clinches first Japanese medal on track

By: AFP      Published: 10:14 AM, 8 Aug, 2021
Valente wins omnium gold, Kajihara clinches first Japanese medal on track
Gold medallist USA's Jennifer Valente poses with her medal after the women's track cycling omnium event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Izu Velodrome.–AFP

US track cyclist Jennifer Valente won gold in the women's omnium in the final velodrome race of Tokyo 2020 on Sunday.

Valente finished 14 points ahead of Yumi Kajihara, who took silver to win Japan's first medal on the track in front of a delighted home crowd in Shizuoka. Dutch rider Kirsten Wild took bronze.

After winning a silver medal in the team pursuit in Rio and then a bronze in the same event earlier this week in Japan, Valente finally added a gold to her list.

She is a four-time world champion in team pursuit but a surprise Olympic champion now in omnium, with Wild and Britain's Laura Kenny the favourites when the action began on Sunday.

But Kenny finished sixth after struggling to recover from a dramatic crash in the opening scratch race while Wild was knocked out early in the elimination, which proved costly.

The omnium is one of track cycling's most unpredictable events, featuring four separate races - the scratch, tempo, elimination and points - with riders collecting points in each.

Valente was a beneficiary of the pile-up in the scratch, sailing through unscathed after Italy's Elia Balsamo tangled with Ireland’s Emily Kay, causing several riders, including Kenny, to hit the floor.

Kenny responded by winning seven sprints in the tempo, three more than anyone else, but both she and Wild were dropped early in the elimination, as Valente come fourth ahead of the final points race.

Valente crashed around a bend but recovered, picking herself up to collect 14 sprint points, enough to claim victory ahead of Kajihara, whose two points proved sufficient for silver.

US wins Olympic basketball title

A rampant United States swept past Japan to their seventh straight women's basketball crown Sunday, with Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi collecting their fifth Olympic gold medals to cap remarkable careers.

Brittney Griner scored a game-high 30 points with five rebounds and two assists as the hosts were overpowered 90-75 by a team that stretched their Olympic win streak to 55 games dating back to their last defeat in the 1992 semis.

They went to half-time with a 50-39 lead and there was no stopping them, with a valiant Japan settling for second-place and a best-ever Olympic finish.

Britain's Jason Kenny makes Olympic history

Jason Kenny won the men's keirin at the Izu Velodrome on Sunday to collect his seventh Olympic gold medal, overtaking Chris Hoy as Britain’s most successful Olympian of all time.

Kenny put on a spectacular performance in the final, speeding away from the pack before completing victory ahead of Azizulhasni Awang. Dutchman Harrie Lavreysen had to settle for bronze.

After missing out on golds in the men's team and individual sprints at the 2020 Games, Kenny’s chances looked slim in the keirin but the 33-year-old rolled back the years with a vintage display of explosive speed.

Kenny also pulls clear of Bradley Wiggins as the most-decorated British Olympian ever. He now owns nine medals, including seven golds and two silvers across Beijing, London, Rio and Tokyo.

He is the first athlete from any country to win eight Olympic medals in track cycling.

Kenny, who briefly retired after Rio 2016, is still to confirm whether he will continue beyond Tokyo 2020.

But at the end of a week in which he has been largely outgunned by the emerging Dutch speed merchants, this win could yet encourage him to try to add to his medal haul at the 2024 Games in Paris.

After crossing the line comfortably in front of the rest of the field, Kenny threw his arms into the air before breaking into tears on his victory lap.

His wife, Laura Kenny, could also be on the podium again later on Sunday, although she has an uphill battle to win a medal in the women's omnium.

She has already won gold in the madison and silver in team pursuit in Shizuoka, taking the Kenny couple's total Olympic medal haul to 15, including 12 golds.

Canadian cyclist Kelsey wins women's sprint gold

Canada's Kelsey Mitchell won gold in the women's sprint on the final day of the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday, just four years after taking up the sport.

Mitchell won the first two races in a best-of-three final against Olena Starikova of Ukraine to clinch Canada's first gold medal at the Izu Velodrome.

Hong Kong's Lee Wai-sze took bronze.

It is only Canada’s second Olympic gold medal ever in track cycling and the first since Lori-Ann Muenzer won the same event at Athens 2004.

Mitchell clenched her fists as she performed her victory lap while the Canadian coaches nearby hugged and celebrated the 27-year-old’s remarkable triumph.

She only took up track cycling after attending a Canadian training event in August 2017 and was quickly recruited by Cycling Canada.

Her victory never looked in doubt against Starikova while the favourite for gold, Emma Hinze of Germany, was beaten by Lee in the battle for bronze.

King Kipchoge retains men's marathon title

Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge underlined his credentials as the undisputed king of the marathon with a totally dominant run to retain his Olympic title on the streets of Sapporo on Sunday.

The world record holder clocked 2hr 08min 38sec to win gold, becoming only the third man to win consecutive marathon titles.

Abdi Nageeye of the Netherlands claimed silver in 2:09.58, just ahead of Belgium's Bashir Abdi in the final event of the athletics programme at the Tokyo Games.

Kipchoge's victory margin of 1min 20sec was the biggest since Frank Shorter's win in the 1972 Munich Games.

The 36-year-old's triumph, his 13th win in the 15 marathons he has raced since 2013, came a day after teammate Peres Jepchirchir secured back-to-back women's Olympic marathon titles for Kenya's women.

"I think I have fulfilled the legacy by winning the marathon for the second time, back-to-back. I hope now to help inspire the next generation," Kipchoge said.

"It means a lot for me, especially at this time," he added of winning his second gold medal.

"It was really hard last year, it (Olympic Games) was postponed. I am happy for the local organising committee who made this race happen. It is a sign that shows the world we are heading in the right direction -- we are on the right transition to a normal life."

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe called Kipchoge "a hero", saying his ground-breaking sub-2hr marathon run in 2019 -- in a specially arranged race that does not count for record purposes -- "a massive moment in our sport".

"He's a hero to millions and millions of people," said Coe, who won two 1500m Olympic golds for Britain.

"You only have to see the emotional appeal he has... he thoroughly deserves it."

- Sapporo heat -

Unlike in Tokyo, where stringent Covid-19 restrictions have forced the Games behind closed doors, thousands of spectators lined the streets of Sapporo, the host city of the 1972 Winter Olympics that lies more than 800 kilometres (500 miles) north of the capital.

The organisers' decision to move the race to the city, however, backfired, with unseasonably hot and humid temperatures there making for gruelling conditions for the runners.

Sunday's race saw 106 runners representing 45 countries and the Olympic Refugee Team set off from Odori Park in the heart of Sapporo in temperatures of around 27 degrees Celsius (81 degrees Fahrenheit) and a stamina-sapping 80 percent humidity.

A large lead group of about 50 runners, including Kipchoge, defending world champion Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia and Rio bronze medallist Galen Rupp of the United States went through 10km in 30min 53sec.

Kipchoge had teammates Lawrence Cherono and Amos Kipruto beside him as running partners.

Two early casualties of note were Uganda's Stephen Kiprotich, who was gold medallist at the 2012 London Games, and Ethiopian Shura Kitata Tola, winner of last year's London Marathon, in which Kipchoge finished eighth in just his second blip in his marathon-racing career.

Daniel do Nascimento of Brazil also dropped out with cramp as Kipchoge led an 11-strong group through the 1:30 mark.

The Kenyan then kicked away on a solo breakaway as the pack split further, opening up a 27-second lead through 35 kilometres (1:46.59).

Cherono, Ayad Lamdassem of Spain, Abdi and fellow Somali-born Nageeye were left battling among themselves in the chasing pack, as 30 of the field failed to finish.

"The Olympic dream is a special dream," said Kipchoge. "For every athlete here, it has taken a lifetime of preparation to get to this point.

"Today I lived my Olympic dream. I always say that sport is like life, whereby you can win and lose. But today was a day where I won and get to say I successfully defended my Olympic title."

Categories : Sports