For many observers the Olympic athletics meet is the focal point of any games.
There have been scores of memorable moments played out on the track & field down the years and the first batch of athletes will congregate at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium in the early hours of Friday morning UK & Ireland time as they bid to become Olympic legends in their own right.
The action starts with the heats of the women’s 100m, which has the potential to be one of the events of the entire Tokyo Games as Great Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith bids to become only the second British woman in history to claim a medal in the 100m.
Here are five athletes to keep an eye on over the next ten days of competition.
Team GB’s golden girl became world champion at 200m in 2019 and the longer distance may be where best hopes of Olympic gold lie in Tokyo.
9/2 to win the 100m but faces a stacked field comprising some of the fastest women in history.
Double Olympic champion from Beijing and London, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (
5/6) is now a veteran on the sprinting scene but clocked the second fastest time in history in June, while defending champion Elaine Thompson-Herah (
7/4) also appears to be coming into form at the perfect time.
Both have gone faster than Asher-Smith this year over 100m but the Bromley sprinter invariably saves her best for the big stage and has realistic hopes of winning a medal in both individual sprints and as part of a sensational 4x100m relay quartet.
If the women’s 100m final promises to be a cracker then the women’s 400m could be a battle for the ages as McLaughlin aims to dethrone current champion Dalilah Muhammad.
The USA pair have spurred each other on to extraordinary heights in the last couple of years and were involved in an epic battle at the 2019 World Championships in Doha.
Muhammad came out on top that day but McLaughlin, who is ten years her junior, is the favourite to take come out on top in Tokyo having obliterated the world record at the US Trials in June, becoming the first woman in history to break 52 seconds.
Ugandan sensation Kiplimo was just 15 years old when he lined up at Rio 2016.
He failed to get past the heats of the 5,000m five years ago but he is now one of the pre-eminent distance runners on the world stage and targeting the 5,000m-10,000m double won by Sir Mo Farah in London and Rio.
Kiplimo and compatriot Joshua Cheptegei are well-fancied in both events but it could be 20-year-old Kiplimo who comes of age in Japan, having advertised his form with a world-leading time in the 10,000m in Ostava in May.
If there is to be a successor to Usain Bolt’s mantle of the best sprinter in the world it is likely to be US sensation Lyles, who became 200m world champion in 2019.
Lyles failed to qualify for the 100m in Tokyo having finished seventh at the US trials but he made amends to win the 200m in Oregon.
5/8 to add Olympic gold to his world championship title but faces stiff competition from compatriots Kenneth Bendarek and youngster Erryion Knighton, who broke Bolt’s Under-20 world record for the 200m when finishing behind Lyles at the US Trials.
American-born Swede Duplantis has scaled new heights in pole vault, raising the bar to 6.18m in 2020.
Duplantis set that mark indoors in Glasgow but just for good measure, the 2019 world championship runner-up set an outdoor world’s best of 6.15m in the Rome leg of the Diamond League in September last year.
Coached by his father Greg, himself a former pole vaulter, and mother Helena, who is a former heptathlete, Duplantis is seeking to become the first Swedish track & field athlete since the 2004 Games in Athens to strike gold.
*All odds correct at time of writing