Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra delivered a first-ever Olympic track and field gold medal for India on Saturday as the athletics competition in Tokyo drew to a close.
A pulsating final night of action at National Stadium saw Dutch distance runner Sifan Hassan complete an incredible double with victory in the 10,000 meters while USA star Allyson Felix brought the curtain down on her 17-year Olympic career with a record-extending relay gold.
Norway celebrated gold in the men’s 1,500 meters with Jakob Ingebrigtsen downing Kenya’s Timothy Cheruiyot in a thrilling duel while Russian athlete Mariya Lasitskene won the women’s high jump.
Chopra, 23, claimed the first athletics gold in India’s history with an 87.58-meter second throw at National Stadium.
It ended India’s 121-year wait for an athletics gold. The previous best had been two silver medals won at the 1900 Paris Games.
“This is our first Olympic medal for a very long time, and in athletics it is the first time we have gold, so it’s a proud moment for me and my country,” Chopra said after his win. “It feels unbelievable.”
On the track meanwhile the Netherland’s brilliant Hassan raced to her second gold of the games after an earlier win in the 5,000 meters.
Twenty-four hours earlier, Hassan, who was born in Ethiopia, had taken bronze in the 1,500-meters final, part of an audacious bid for an Olympic treble.
Hassan was in action on five days of the nine-day schedule of track and field, running more than 61 laps in total en route to her three-medal haul.
“I am just so thankful, and I don’t think I could have done any better than this,” said Hassan. “During the medal ceremony I was thinking: ‘It is over. Now you can sleep!'”
In the 10,000 meters, Hassan clocked 29:55:32 for gold, with Bahrain’s Kalkidan Gezahegne, also born in Ethiopia, claiming silver in 29:56.18.
Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey, after leading for all but 2 kilometers of the 25-lap race, claimed bronze in 30:01.72.
With 150 meters to go, Hassan swept past Gidey and kicked for home to seal gold.
There was another superb tactical performance in the men’s 1,500 meter as Norway’s Ingebrigtsen won in an Olympic record of 3:28.32.
The 20-year-old added Olympic gold to his European title, easing home after passing long-time leader Timothy Cheruiyot of Kenya, who took silver in 3:29.01. Britain’s John Kerr claimed bronze.
“I have been dreaming of this for my whole life,” said Ingebrigtsen. “It feels great.”
In the men’s and women’s 4×400-meter relays the United States ended what has been a difficult campaign at National Stadium with a pair of golds.
A star-studded U.S. women’s quartet featuring Felix, 400-meter hurdles gold and silver medalists Sydney McLaughlin and Dalilah Muhammad, along with 800-meter gold medalist Athing Mu, cruised to victory in 3:16.85, with Poland taking silver and Jamaica bronze.
The win gave the 35-year-old Felix — competing in her fifth and final Games — an 11th Olympic medal, extending her record as the most decorated female track and field Olympian in history. Only legendary Finnish distance runner Paavo Nurmi, with 12 medals, has more.
“Allyson is an amazing athlete,” said U.S. anchor runner Mu. “I’m astonished by everything she does, even coming out here at her last Games.”
The U.S. men’s 4×400 team were similarly emphatic winners in their race, with 400-meter hurdler Rai Benjamin bringing home the gold in 2:55.70, ahead of the Netherlands and Botswana.
It was the first and only track gold of the Olympics for the vaunted U.S. men, who saw several stars fail to live up to their billing in Tokyo.
In the women’s high jump, three-time world champion Mariya Lasitskene finally won her first Olympic title with a best of 2.04 meters.
The 28-year-old, who was barred from competing in the 2016 Rio Olympics due to Russia’s doping scandal, held off a stiff challenge from Australian Nicola McDermott, who took silver in an Oceania record of 2.02 meters.
Ukraine’s Yaroslava Mahuchikh won bronze with a 2.00 meter clearance.
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