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Next eventOlympic GamesOlympic Stadium, Tokyo 202130 Jul 2021

Previews20 Aug 2016

Expected highlights on day nine – Rio 2016 Olympic Games


Mo Farah wins the 10,000m at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (© Getty Images)

The final day of athletics at the Olympic stadium in Rio will see seven gold medals awarded in two short hours of action. Here’s what to look out for on what could be a momentous day in Brazil.

Favourite Farah’s historic charge

The men’s 5000m final, the last individual race of the Games, will see Mo Farah attempt to write his name into the history books (starts 21:30 local time).

The Briton wrapped up the 10,000m title on Saturday. If he can win his second gold of these Games he will become only the second man in history, after Lasse Viren, to retain both track distance titles.

The complexion of his challenge is altered by the fact that no Kenyans made it to the final. As such, it is the Ethiopian duo of two-time world medallist Hagos Gebrhiwet and 2012 Olympic silver medallist Dejen Gebremeskel that represents Farah’s most stern challenge.

Mo Farah wins the 10,000m at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games

They have the pace to compete – Gebremeskel’s PB is seven seconds better than Farah’s – but when you consider each of those listed accolades was won behind the Briton, it is hard to see either stopping him with such a lofty prize on offer.

Yet as 10,000m champion Almaz Ayana found out on Friday night, racing in both distance finals in a week can sap the legs. Farah’s task is monumental: that’s exactly why if he achieves it, it will be so historic.

Kiprop out to reclaim his title

Asbel Kiprop is the favourite in a deep field for the night’s marquee final, the 1500m, which starts at 21:00.

In all but one race this season (a sixth place in Monaco) the Kenyan has looked a cut above, with wins over the mile in Oslo and Eugene, and in the 1500m in Doha and Birmingham, the latter with a world-leading 3:29.33. The 2008 Olympic champion, who has three world titles and is number three all-time, looked in cruise control as he won both his heat and semi to make the final.

Asbel Kiprop winning his 1500 semi-final in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games

Yet his rivals will take heart from his Monaco loss and the fact that he was dead last at the London 2012 Olympics, a result explained as injury. Taoufik Makhloufi took the gold four years ago. The Algerian showed his speed by winning 800m silver earlier this week and will be on Kiprop’s shoulder, if not in front of it.

Djibouti’s 2014 world indoor champion Ayanleh Souleiman, 2012 bronze medallist Abdalaati Iguider, 2008 silver medallist Nick Willis and USA’s world indoor champion Matt Centrowitz should also be in the finishing scramble.

More than gold available to Semenya

There is also an overwhelming favourite in the women’s 800m final, at 21:15. Caster Semenya is unbeaten this year and warmed up for Rio with the fastest time of the decade, 1:55.33 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco.

Burundi’s world indoor champion Francine Niyonsaba and Kenya’s 2014 world U20 champion Margaret Wambui have looked most able when pitted against Semenya this year, but they’ve not been able to live with the South African’s closing speed.

Caster Semenya winning her semi-final at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games

Great Britain’s Lynsey Sharp and Canada’s Melissa Bishop have both set lifetime bests under 1:58 this season, and could challenge for medals. So could world champion Marina Arzamasova, but the gold simply looks beyond anyone but Semenya.

The South African still hasn’t run a perfectly paced race – she sprinted through the line in Monaco. If she times it right in the final then she could finish with more than just the gold medal.

Experience will count for little in high jump

The women’s high jump final, which starts at 20:30 local time, is not short of seasoned contenders.

Spaniard Ruth Beitia, 37, won her third European title last month and has this year won IAAF Diamond League meetings in Oslo, Stockholm and London.

Then there is mother-of-three Chaunte Lowe, 32, who won the US title in July with a world-leading 2.01m. For both athletes, Rio is their fourth Olympics. Croatian double world champion Blanka Vlasic, 32, would be at her fourth Games had she not missed London with injury.

Blanka Vlasic in the high jump at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games

More than just experience links those three outstanding competitors. Each qualified for the final without a single failure, yet none has won an Olympic title. As 18-year-old Vashti Cunningham of the USA proved when she beat Beitia to the world indoor title earlier this year, past form counts for nothing on the day.

Just seven centimetres separates the best and worst of the season’s bests of the 17-woman field. Any one of them could upset experience and stand atop of the Olympic podium for the first time.

Global appeal in javelin

Until Trinidad and Tobago’s Keshorn Walcott won a surprise gold medal at the 2012 Olympics, the men’s Olympic javelin title has gone to Europe at every Games since 1952. Walcott, along with world champion Julius Yego, will ensure the old continent does not recover its crown easily in the final, which starts at 20:55.

The Trinidadian qualified for the final with his sole throw, a season’s best of 88.68m. Yego needed three efforts and was down on his best, yet the Kenyan’s 92.72m to win world gold proved his absolute, if raw, talent.

Keshorn Walcott at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games

Those two and Germany’s Thomas Rohler are the only 90m+ throwers in the final. Yet since Rohler threw his world-leading personal best of 91.28m in June, he has struggled with a back injury. His teammates Johannes Vetter (85.96m) and Julian Weber (84.46m) were second and third in qualifying and could be Europe’s strongest hopes.

The Czech Republic’s 2013 world champion Vitezslav Vesely and Finland’s 2012 bronze medallist Antti Ruuskanen were down in qualifying, however their championship experience means they too could challenge for gold.

However, they will have their work cut out if they are to halt the shifting axis of this new age of javelin throwing.

Relays to conclude track programme

The men’s and women’s 4x400m relays will wrap up the Olympic action on the track.

The women’s event starts at 22:00, and will see the US and Jamaican teams resume their ongoing rivalry. The Jamaican quartet upset the form book to take gold at last year’s World Championships.

The US team they beat to the gold contained athletes with better season’s bests, just as they do here. Their quartet won their heat in 3:21.42; the second was won by Jamaica in 3:22.38. The stage is set.

The women's 4x400m at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games

In the men’s final, which starts at 22:35, the US quartet is also out for vengeance. A Bahamas’ team led by evergreen Chris Brown secured gold four years ago, breaking up USA’s traditional dominance in the event.

Bahamas are in the final, but the race might be another case of USA vs Jamaica. The Jamaican team beat them in heat two of qualifying in 2:58.29, the fastest time of any team.

Thomas Byrne for the IAAF

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