Tokyo 2020 Athletics: Barega wins thriller; Sable breaks national record but misses final

Ethiopian Selemon Barega won the men's 10,000m for the first athletics gold at the Tokyo Olympics on Friday.

India's Avinash Sable (right) during men's 3000m steeplechase round 1 (Heat 2) at Tokyo Olympics on Friday.   -  REUTERS

Working his way up brilliantly from the back of the pack, Ethiopian Selemon Barega won the men's 10,000m for the first athletics gold at the Tokyo Olympics on Friday.

The race was wide open till the last two laps in the 25-lapper and the 21-year-old, who grabbed the lead at the bell, staved off a strong challenge from Uganda's world record holder and World champion Joshua Cheptegei to take the title in 27:43.22s. It was Barega's first major title while Uganda finished with a medal double with Jacob Kiplimo taking the bronze in the lone final on athletics' opening day.

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The shock of the day came in the 4x400m mixed relay where the USA, the World champion and world record holder, was disqualified for a faulty baton exchange in the heats. The event was making its Olympic debut in Tokyo.

Sable in Worlds

Meanwhile for the Indians, the only bright spark came from Avinash Sable who bettered his own 3000m steeple chase national record to finish seventh in his heats but that was not enough to carry him to the final.

The first three from each of the three heats and the next six fastest athletes were offered berths for the final and Sable, who came to Tokyo with a personal best of 8:20.20s, improved his national record by more than two seconds, clocking 8:18.12s.

Sable's time – which also saw him make the entry standard for next year's World in the USA – was 13 best overall and three athletes with slower times than the Indian made it to the final.

Ethiopia's 20-year-old Lamecha Girma, the silver medallist at the 2019 Worlds, was the fastest qualifier with 8:09.83s and Japan's 19-year-old Ryuji Miura improved his national record by more than 7 seconds while finishing second in 8:09.92.

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Meanwhile 400m hurdler M.P. Jabir and Dutee Chand, the fastest Indian woman, were far away from their best and crashed out in the first round. Jabir, who has a personal best of 49.13s, finished last in his heat (33 overall) in 50.77s while Dutee, the national record holder with 11.17s, clocked 11.54s for the seventh spot (45 overall) in her 100m heat which was won by Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who is bidding to become the first woman in history to win three 100m titles.

The Tokyo track proved to be a very fast one with six women running below 11s in the 100m heats which Ivory Coast's Marie-Josee Ta Lou topped with 10.78s.

India also finished last in its 4x400m mixed relay heat, and at the bottom of the table overall, with the quartet of Muhammed Anas, V. Revathi, V. Subha and Arokia Rajiv clocking 3:19.93s.

Sreeshankar and Kamalpreet in action today

Long jumper M. Sreeshankar and discus throwers Kamalpreet Kaur and Seema Antil-Punia will be the three Indians in action on the second day.

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