Africa: Special Cocktail of Performance, Supershoes and Track Delivered Olympic Games to Remember


Track and field takes centre stage when the athletics programme at the Olympics finally rolls around. Joel Mason takes a look at the stats and science (as well as at the inevitable controversies) of this year’s Games, which delivered nothing short of spectacular performances.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

Tokyo 2020, strongly anticipated to be hot both on and off the track, was no exception. Sometimes it can be difficult to separate the romance of the moment from the reality of it – were the performances in Tokyo really that good or were we just seduced by the show after being deprived of Olympic action for so long?

Just how good was it?

In Tokyo, 151 national records were set by athletes, a 52% increase on the number of national records set five years ago in Rio.

Even after you remove the cheaper national records set via the newly added mixed 4x400m relay, there remains a 36.4% increase in national records set compared to Rio, a clear lift in standards.

The World Athletics’ points table provides a further reference point, allowing a comparison of performances across disciplines.

According to this table, the best performance of the…



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