The performances in the run up to the Olympics can give us a hint of what we can expect at the main event where athletes, buoyed by the stiff competition and the grandeur of the stage, reach peak performance. As we head to Tokyo, there have been multiple world records that have either been broken or threatened to be.
Sportstar takes a look at some of the world records that could be rewritten in Tokyo.
400m hurdles – Men
Current world record: Karsten Warholm – 46.70 s
If we were to bet on one world record that looks most likely to be beaten at the Tokyo Olympics, it would be this one. It took 29 years for Kevin Young’s world record time of 46.78s to be broken when Norway’s Karsten Warholm ran a 46.70 at the Diamond League meeting in Oslo earlier this month, but the 25-year-old could do it again in Tokyo.
Warholm who races in the 400m hurdles, 300m hurdles, open 300m and open 400m disciplines holds the remarkable achievement of not having lost a race since 2018, which translates to 29 straight victories across disciplines.
One would be wrong in assuming that Warholm will have it easy in Tokyo, because not too far behind him is American hurdler Rai Benjamin. Benjamin recorded the second-fastest time in history when he ran a 46.83 at the US Olympic trials, just a few days before Warholm’s record-breaking run. At the Zurich Diamond League meeting in 2019, Warholm and Benjamin finished with timings of 46.92 and 46.98, respectively, leaving the rest of the field in their wake. Will Benjamin push Warholm even faster or is the American saving his best for Tokyo? Either way, the men’s 400m hurdles will be one of the most anticipated races at Tokyo.
400m hurdles – Women
Current WR: Sydney McLaughlin – 51.90 s
There’s a similar story playing out in the women’s field. American hurdlers Dalilah Muhammad and Sydney McLaughlin keep each other on their toes and are far ahead of the rest of the 400m hurdles field. At the 2019 World Championships final when Muhammad set a world record of 52.16s, McLaughlin finished less than tenth of a second behind her at 52.23s. When the pair faced off at the US Olympic trials in June this year, McLaughlin who is only 21 years old, managed to shatter that world record and become the first woman to run under 52 seconds with a 51.90s run. Muhammad only managed a 52.42s on that day, but we’re likely to see another world record in Tokyo if these two athletes keep pushing each other.
Shot Put – Men
Current WR: Ryan Crouser – 23.37 m
McLaughlin was not the only one who broke a world record at the US Olympic trials. At the trials, American Shot Putter Ryan Crouser shattered Randy Barnes’
31-year-old world record throw of 23.12m by more than 9 inches when he threw a massive 23.37m. Crouser is only the third person to throw over 23 metres. He also broke the indoor world record with a 22.82m throw in March.
The 28-year-old Olympic champion looks poised to defend his crown in Tokyo, but with World Champion Joe Kovacs and New Zealand’s Tom Walsh in the fray, it won’t be an easy quest. Trust the competition to push Crouser to greater lengths.
Javelin Throw – Men
Current WR: Jan Zelezny – 98.48 m
Three-time Olympic and world champion Jan Zelezny’s world record throw of 98.48m from 25 years ago once seemed an unassailable target . But as Zelezny himself would say – records are meant to be broken. And no one has come as close to breaking it as Germany’s Johannes Vetter did in September 2020, when he threw 97.76m – the second longest throw of all time. The 28-year-old also made the third longest throw of all time in May this year, throwing 96.29m.
He could manage only a 85.25m throw on a "super slippery track" at the Gateshead Diamond League, following it up with an 86,48m throw at the 18th Thumer Werfertag in Germany. Although he fell short of what would have been a confidence-boosting 90m throw ahead of the Games in Tokyo - something Vetter has done seven times this season alone - his form is hardly any cause for alarm. With closest rival and Olympic champion Thomas Rohler ruled out with a back injury, Vetter is the clear favourite at the Games. He will surely be eyeing that world record and what sweeter moment to achieve it than the Olympics.
Triple Jump – Women
Current WR: Inessa Kravets – 15.50m
No one has come as close to breaking Inessa Kravtes’ 26-year-old world record as Yulimar Rojas did in May this year. At Andujar, Rojas recorded the second-best jump of all time – 15.43m. She also holds the indoor world record of 15.43m. The World Champion and Olympic silver medallist is the favourite for the title at Tokyo, but she’ll be wanting more. Despite critiques of her technique, many believe the tall and athletic Venezuelan who was crowned the World Athletics Athlete of the Year 2020, is poised to break the record at the Games.
Pole Vault – Men
Current WR: Armand Duplantis - 6.18m (indoor), 6.15m (outdoor)
The other World Athlete of the Year 2020 was Armand “Mondo” Duplantis. The 21-year-old Swede broke the world record twice in seven days in February last year. He began with a 6.17m vault in Poland to break Renaud Lavillenie’s world record (6.16m) from 2014. Seven days later, he followed it up by going a centimetre higher in Glasgow and setting the new world record of 6.18m. While these were indoor, in September 2020, Mondo beat pole vault legend Sergey Bubka’s 26-year-old outdoor record when he vaulted 6.15m in Rome. Mondo has been the only athlete to vault over 6m outdoor this season, managing to do so four times with a best of 6.10m. Overall, Lavillenie is the only other athlete to vault over 6m this season with an indoor best of 6.06. Duplantis could quite literally take the bar a notch higher in Tokyo.
100m – Women
Current WR: Florence Griffith-Joyner – 10.49s
American sprinting legend Florence Griffith-Joyner’s long standing 100m world record from 1988 has never quite looked like it could be beaten. However, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Price will have an outside chance of doing so in Tokyo.
The decorated sprinter and current World champion ran the second-fastest time of all time in Kingston last month. Her 10.63s was only the fifth time a woman ran 100 metres below 10.7 seconds and the first time since Carmelita Jeter in 2009. Only a few days later, American Sha’Carri Richardson managed a 10.64 at the US Olympic trials but it could not be considered for the record as the wind reading was over the legal limit. Richardson missing the Olympics due to a suspension makes the 34-year-old Jamaican the clear favourite. While Fraser-Pryce goes for her seventh Olympic medal, she will have an eye on Griffith-Joyner’s seemingly unbreakable record.
110m hurdles – Men
Current WR: Aries Merritt – 12.80s
American Grant Holloway recorded a 12.81s 110m hurdle run at the US Olympic trials last month, which is only a hundredth of a second away from matching Aries Merritt’s world record of 12.80s. Holloway, who is the current World Champion, believes the world record “is definitely possible”.
10,000m – Women
Current WR: Letensebet Gidey – 29:01.03
Dutch runner Sifan Hassan shattered the 10,000m world record with a 29:06.82s run at Hengelo, Netherlands last month. However, just two days later Ethiopia’s Letensebet Gidey broke Hassan’s world record at the same venue with a time of 29:01.03s. Although they were aided by the controversial wavelight technology which guides runners on their timings, both the women have shown their ability to make these world-beating times. And with the two going up against each other in Tokyo, we might witness the 10,000m world record change yet again.
At only 24 years old, Katie Ledecky who made her Olympic debut at London in 2012, has been one of the most dominant swimmers of all time with five Olympic golds. Breaking multiple world records in the 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle over the years, a quick look at the best timings of all time in these disciplines shows how far ahead of the rest she is.
Ledecky will be vying for more gold medals and world records at Tokyo. Unless, young Australian Ariarne Titmus has something to say about it. The 20-year-old almost broke Ledecky’s 400m freestyle world record (3:56.46) when she swam a 3:56.90 at the Olympic Trials last month. She came close to beating Federica Pellegrini’s 200m freestyle record (1:52.98) as well, finishing in 1:52.09.
Sweden’s Sarah Sjoestroem will be looking to break her own world records in the 50m and 100m freestyle and butterfly disciplines.
American swimmer Caeleb Dressel broke the 100m butterfly world record at the 2019 World Championships and since gone on to be dominant in the discipline, with 4 of the top 5 timings of all time credited to his name. The 24-year-old came close to breaking his own record at the US Olympic trials last month, but he might be saving the best for Tokyo. Dressel, who also participates in the 50m and 100m freestyle events, came close to breaking both the records that belong to Brazil’s Cesar Cielho Filho, at the trials.
Shooting – Men’s 10m air pistol
Current WR: Kim Song Guk – 246.5
In January, India’s shooting sensation Saurabh Chaudhary broke the finals world record with a score of 246.9 at the National Trials in New Delhi. It wasn’t considered an official world record as it was not an international event. The official finals world record of 246.5 belongs to North Korea’s Kim Song Guk. Chaudhury, who is one of India’s medal prospects, had set the previous world record of 246.3 at the Munich World Cup in 2019 and could repeat the feat at Tokyo.
Weightlifting – 49kg (Clean and Jerk) – Women
Current WR: Mirabai Chanu – 119kg
India’s Mirabai Chanu set a new world record of 119kg in clean and jerk on her way to bronze at the Asian Championships in April, among a tough field in the 49kg category. With her 86kg snatch, she lifted an overall of 205kg which is a national record. While this puts her in contention for a medal at Tokyo, she might need to go a little further to make sure. Chanu who says she has been doing up to 120kg clean and jerks in training, could have to break her own world record in the clean and jerk to ensure a medal at Tokyo.
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