Never before has the idea of 'Olympic spirit' been more pertinent as the days close in on a second attempt to stage the 2020 Tokyo Games.

The coronavirus pandemic meant the Olympics had to be postponed for the first time since World War II last year and the ongoing global health crisis has led to continued uncertainty as to whether they can even take place over the rearranged dates of July 23 to August 8.

It is already known that international spectators will not be allowed to travel to Japan, with stadiums to admit only local fans to try to limit the spread of COVID-19.

But, as things stand, it is full steam ahead for Tokyo to finally host the Games of the 32nd Olympiad. As global communities look to match the kind of resolve that makes the Games so special, join us in looking back at 10 of the most memorable moments in Olympics history, with 100 days to go until the action begins.

OWENS DEFIES HITLER AND EARNS LEGENDARY STATUS

It was not just the sensational athletic feats that enshrined Jesse Owens as an all-time great. At the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Owens – an African American – sensationally won four gold medals, in the 100 metres, 200m, 4x100m relay and the long jump, breaking or equalling nine Olympic records and setting three world records along the way. But what was perhaps even more remarkable was the context of his achievements, with Germany under the Nazi rule of Adolf Hitler. Owens' success struck a blow to Hitler's propaganda drive and disproved his theory of Aryan racial superiority. In 1984, Carl Lewis would emulate his idol by winning the same four events in Los Angeles.

BEAMON'S LEAP OF THE CENTURY

The 1968 Games were held amid a tense local political backdrop, with many protesters having been killed by the army 10 days before the Olympics in Mexico City. During the Games, black Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos - the 200m gold and bronze medallists - gave the Black Power salute on the podium, standing alongside Australian Peter Norman who wore a badge in support of Smith and Carlos' Olympic Project for Human Rights. A day later, Bob Beamon pulled his socks high up in support of his compatriots having achieved what would be known as the 'Leap of the Century'. The New Yorker - who had a troubled upbringing - leapt an astonishing 8.90 metres (29 feet, two and a half inches), which was 55 centimetres better than the previous world record. The jump was so remarkable that officials had to measure its distance manually as the optical device being used at the Games did not reach far enough. To this day, it remains an Olympic record, though the world benchmark belongs to Mike Powell, who jumped 8.95m in 1991.

NADIA'S A PERFECT 10

Prior to the 1976 Games in Montreal, the idea of a 'Perfect 10' in gymnastics felt like somewhat of a fable – an impossible quest. And then a 14-year-old from Romania caught the imagination and the hearts of the watching world on the uneven bars. Nadia Comaneci achieved the impossible, becoming the first gymnast in Olympics history to score a 10 … not that it was immediately obvious. Because the scoreboard allowed for only three digits, Comaneci's score showed up as '1.00'. It was only when the announcer confirmed the score that an elated crowd erupted in celebration. Comaneci would go on to achieve the feat six more times at the Games, while becoming the youngest all-round Olympic gold medallist ever.

HEART AND SEOUL AS FLO-JO SETS RECORDS TUMBLING

The remarkable thing about Florence Griffith Joyner's achievements in 1988 is how relatively ordinary she had been prior to dazzling in Seoul. A silver four years earlier in the 200m came with the caveat of Russia, East Germany and most of the Eastern Bloc opting to boycott the Games. 'Flo Jo' had seemingly given up on athletics completely in 1986, working as a bank clerk and hair stylist before returning in 1987, shedding weight and finishing second in the 200m at that year's World Championship. Considered a decent but not elite 100m runner, all of that changed when 'Flo-Jo' smashed the women's 100m world record with a time of 10.49 at the US Olympic trials in July 1988. She said her transformation was based on modelling her training on that of Canadian Ben Johnson. Johnson famously won the men's 100m in Seoul in what was a world-record time of 9.79s, only to hand the gold medal after failing a drugs test, giving sport one of its most shocking moments. Yet at the same Games, 'Flo-Jo' was the flamboyant queen of the track, taking gold in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m – the former in an Olympic-record time of 10.54 that stands to this day, and the 200m in a world record of 21.34 that also remains unsurpassed. She died in 1998 after a seizure, a tragic end to a staggering story.

JOHNSON AWESOME IN ATALANTA

Before Bolt came along, there was another man who held the unofficial moniker of fastest man on the planet. Michael Johnson's achievement in the 1996 Olympic Games led legendary commentator David Coleman to profess: "This man is surely not human." Just three days after claiming the 400m title, Johnson left rivals in his wake with an astonishing performance in the 200m where his time of 19.32 seconds beat his own world record by over three tenths of a second. It was a benchmark that would stand until Bolt came along with a staggering 19.30s in the final of the 2008 Olympics, later going even quicker with a mind-boggling 19.19 at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin.

FREEMAN THE SYMBOL OF UNITY IN SYDNEY SPACESUIT

Cathy Freeman was the poster girl of the 2000 Sydney Olympics – and Australia's only realistic hope of an athletics gold delivered in memorable style. Her face could be seen on billboards, buses and newspaper front pages throughout the country. Freeman represented more than just an athlete of supreme talent, for the Aboriginal superstar became viewed as a figure of unity, a symbol of reconciliation in Australia. Few will forget the sight of Freeman lighting the flame for the Games, which grew around her in front of a waterfall and left the perception she was floating in mid air. A silver medallist four years previously in Atlanta, the noise of over 112,000 fans caused a deafening roar as Freeman's face was shown on the giant television screens prior to the 400m final on September 25. In her now famous 'spacesuit', Freeman trailed Lorraine Graham and Katharine Merry heading into the final bend but left her rivals in her wake down the straight to claim a memorable gold - Australia's 100th in Olympics history.

STEVE'S FIVE GOLD RINGS LEAVE RIVALS IN OAR

"If anyone sees me go near a boat, you've got my permission to shoot me." Those were the famous words uttered by Steve Redgrave as he won a fourth gold medal at Atlanta 1996, in the coxless pair alongside Matthew Pinsent. But the lure of history proved too much and four years later, here he was again in Sydney competing this time as part of the coxless four and, at the age of 38, winning a fifth Olympic gold – at the time the first Briton to do so. He was the first endurance athlete who could claim to have won five golds at consecutive Games – doing so between 1984 and 2000.

HOLMES DOUBLES UP IN ATHENS

A promising career beset by injuries and illness took its toll on Kelly Holmes, who would later open up on her battle with clinical depression. But the countless hours spent in training, and gruelling rehab sessions, would be rewarded in the most magical of ways across six glorious days at Athens in 2004. The Briton had always harboured dreams of being a 1,500m Olympic champion and was in two minds as to whether she would even compete in the 800m. But race she did, and a textbook in tactics paid dividends as Holmes bided her time among a strong pace to take the lead on the final bend and hold off Hasna Benhassi and Jolanda Ceplak on the line. Just five days later, Holmes would again race towards the back of the pack in the 1,500m before hitting the front on the final straight to defeat world champion Tatyana Tomashova. Holmes became only the third woman in history and the first Briton since Albert Hill 84 years earlier to win an 800m and 1,500m Olympic double in a memorable triumph against adversity.

MAGIC 8 FOR RECORD-BREAKING PHELPS

Four years prior to competing in Beijing, swimming sensation Michael Phelps had collected six golds and two bronze medals at the Athens Games. No Greek tragedy by any stretch, but it was in Beijing where Phelps made history – winning eight gold medals, the most in a single Olympics, beating the record of fellow American swimming legend Mark Spitz who won seven in 1972. Having levelled the tally with a narrow triumph over Milorad Cavic in the 100m butterfly, Phelps' moment of history arrived in the 4x100m relay medley as the USA stormed to victory. Phelps competed five Games between 2000 and 2016, and his tally of 28 Olympic medals is a record.

LIGHTNING BOLT A BLUR IN BEIJING

No list of great Olympic moments would be complete without one of the greatest athletes of all time. In 2008, if you had blinked you could almost have missed Usain Bolt tearing to 100 metres glory as he broke his own world record in a time of 9.69 seconds - a time he would beat with an astonishing 9.58 in Berlin a year later. Bolt's remarkable performance set the tone for an unrivalled period of sprinting dominance as he took gold in the 100m and 200m at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Games. Jamaica also won the 4x100m relay in each of the Olympics where Bolt competed, and only a doping test positive for a relay team-mate saw him finish his career with eight Olympic golds instead of nine.

Texas A&M's Tyra Gittens was super excited about her new personal best in the heptathlon this weekend but acknowledged that there is still room for a lot of improvement. This is especially true if he wants to achieve her goal of competing in the multi-event discipline at this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.

The 22-year-old Trinidadian, the 2021 NCAA pentathlon champion competing in her first heptathlon is more than two years scored an NCAA-leading 6274 points after completing the seven events at the Texas A&M Invitational held at Bryan-College Station in Texas on Friday and Saturday.

She won all four disciplines in windy conditions on Friday. She opened up with a time of 13.14 in the 100m hurdles for 1103 points, cleared 1.82m in the high jump, scoring 1003 points and won the shot put with a throw of 12.85m that earned her 717 points. In the final event of the day, she won the 200m sprint in 23.33, scoring 1046 points.

She returned on Saturday morning winning the long jump with a leap of 6.67m that earned her 1062 points. She only managed 631 points for the javelin and then rounded out the competition with a 2:28.52 run in the 800m for 712 points.

“Mood for a huge personal best, new school record, and an NCAA leading 6274 points in my first heptathlon in forever! Still so much to work on and I can’t wait to recover and get back into training” she posted on Instagram afterwards, very much aware of the work that she needs to get done if she is to book a ticket to Tokyo.

The 6247 points she scored is still 173 shy of the Olympic qualifying standard of 6420 points.

 

The youth of the CARIFTA region were treated to an excellent performance by Alex Sobers of Barbados who hit three Tokyo Olympic B times at the ISCA International Senior Cup.

The Jamaican government will provide more than JMD$45 million in direct financial support to athletes preparing for this summer’s Tokyo Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.

Jamaica’s Kemba Nelson has designs on being in Tokyo for the Olympic Games this summer and based on what she has done so far at the University of Oregon she believes she has a good shot at it.

A berth at this year's summer Tokyo Olympic games is undoubtedly on the radar of Jamaica's top table tennis players, Simon Tomlinson and Kane Watson, who both continue to show impressive form at the international camp in Broward, Florida, where they are currently in training for the Olympic qualifiers later this month in Argentina.

Ever since COVID-19 took real effect on the Jamaican landscape around March 2020, the local sporting fraternity has taken a battering, with the vast majority of disciplines forced off the playground and their architects, the sportsmen and sportswomen, unable to parade their skills.

The 2021 Gibson/McCook Relays that was scheduled for March 27, have been cancelled.

The decision to cancel this year’s event was made at a meeting of the Gibson Relays Organizing Committee on Wednesday. They cited the “catastrophic rise” in the number of Covid-19 cases in the country in recent weeks.

Since its inaugural staging in 1973, the Relays were previously cancelled on four occasions - 1983, 1997, 1999 and 2002.

The news will be a blow to Jamaica’s track and field athletes many of whom are preparing for the Olympic Games in July as well as the Carifta Games and World U20 Championships in August as it follows on the heels of the Jamaican government’s decision to withdraw approval for the hosting of the Central Athletics Championships and Eastern Athletics Champions in the past few days.

The organizers said they are optimistic the Relays will resume next year.

“We look forward to hosting this event in 2022. Thanks to our many sponsors and other stakeholders for their continued support of this 48-year-old event which was planning its 45th staging.  Since its inaugural staging in 1973, the Relays were previously cancelled on four occasions (1983, 1997, 1999 and 2002).

“The Gibson McCook Relays Organizing Committee regret this decision but feel certain that fans of track and field in general and GMR fans will understand and support this decision.

“We would like to extend our condolences to the families of those who have lost loved ones and we empathize with those who are suffering from COVID-19. We implore all Jamaicans to follow the necessary protocols in order to stay safe and finally, we encourage the taking of the vaccine which will help to prevent further spread and hasten our return to a level of normality.”

Juan Martin del Potro will undergo knee surgery for the fourth time but retains hope of playing at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Del Potro, who was a career-high world number three in August 2018 and still in the top 10 fewer than two years ago, has not appeared on the ATP Tour since withdrawing from the Queen's Club Championships in 2019.

The 2009 US Open champion had his first procedure after falling at the tournament in London and another followed in January 2020.

The third operation came last August as pain persisted, but the issue still has not been eradicated.

However, Del Potro said in an Instagram post on Monday that the death of his father earlier this year had motivated him to continue pursuing a return to the court.

The 32-year-old, who won bronze for Argentina at the 2012 Olympics and silver four years later, will go under the knife again in Chicago on Tuesday.

"We've tried conservative therapy but the pain is still there," he wrote.

"[Doctor Jorge Chahla] knows I want to play tennis again and be able to play the Olympics, so we agreed that surgery should be done as soon as possible.

"Of course, these last few weeks weren't easy for me. Everything's so hard since my father's passing.

"But also, I feel the strength he sends me from above. I had this day in which I woke up and called the doctor. I knew I had to try again.

"I hope I can overcome this painful situation. I won't stop trying. Of course, your messages and best wishes are always welcomed. Thanks for the love."

Tokyo 2020 organisers have announced spectators will not be allowed to travel from overseas to watch the Olympic Games this year.

The measure has been taken as part of an effort to reduce the risks of COVID-19 spreading at the delayed Games.

The Games will run from July 23 to August 8, having been set back by a year due to the global health crisis.

Also affected will be the Paralympics, which runs from August 24 to September 5, with travelling spectators also barred from attending.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Paralympic Committee (IPC) have been advised of Tokyo's decision and are said by Games chiefs to "respect and accept this conclusion".

In a statement issued on Twitter, Tokyo 2020 said: "Today, on March 20, we reported to the IOC and IPC that we would not accept overseas spectators to Japan in order to realise a safe and secure event.

"We will continue to do our utmost to make this summer's event a safe and secure event so that it will be a light of hope for people all over the world."

In a further statement, Tokyo 2020 organisers said tickets purchased by those planning to travel from abroad would be refunded.

They said the coronavirus situation within and beyond Japan "remains very challenging" and pointed to travel across borders being "severely restricted", meaning entry to Japan could not be guaranteed.

"In order to give clarity to ticket holders living overseas and to enable them to adjust their travel plans at this stage, the parties on the Japanese side have come to the conclusion that they will not be able to enter into Japan at the time of the Olympic and Paralympic Games," said the Tokyo 2020 statement.

"This conclusion will further contribute to ensure safe and secure Games for all participants and the Japanese public."

Texas A&M’s Tyra Gittens wants to wrap up qualification for the Olympic heptathlon as soon as the outdoor season begins, but if she doesn’t, she is confident that there are other ways for her to get to Tokyo.

Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard is planning to represent the United States at the rescheduled Olympic Games in Tokyo this year.

Coronavirus forced the 2020 Games to be postponed, with the Olympics now due to be held in Tokyo from July 23 to August 8 this year.

Despite a potentially congested schedule, with the Clippers contenders in the Western Conference and the NBA season set to finish on July 22 if the Finals go the distance, Leonard is ready to play for Team USA.

"My plan is to go," Leonard said on Sunday, ahead of the All-Star Game in Atlanta.

Gregg Popovich's Team USA are set to play their first game against France on July 25.

"If I feel up to it and feel ready to go around that time, then I'm going to play," Leonard said.

Leonard added: "A lot of people were in for 2020, but just the pandemic pretty much killed everything."

Team USA won the Gold Medal in 2016, defeating Serbia at the Rio De Janeiro Games almost five years ago in Brazil.

Jamaica’s Olympic-bound gymnast Danusia Francis believes her inclusion in Simone Biles’ Gold Over America Tour is another opportunity for her to highlight Jamaica’s gymnastics on an international stage.

Usain Bolt's one-time great rival Yohan Blake has declared he will refuse all COVID-19 vaccines, and would rather miss the Tokyo 2020 Olympics than be immunised.

The Jamaican sprinter won silver in the 100 metres and 200m at London 2012, as Bolt landed gold in both races. Only Bolt has ever run faster than Blake over those distances.

Speaking on Saturday, Blake expressed his opposition to being given a vaccine.

The International Olympic Committee has indicated athletes will not need to be vaccinated before taking part in the Tokyo Games, but vice-president John Coates recently said it was "certainly being encouraged".

The Olympics, postponed from last year due to the coronavirus crisis, is due to run from July 23 to August 8.

Quoted by the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper, Blake said: "My mind still stays strong, I don't want any vaccine, I'd rather miss the Olympics than take the vaccine, I am not taking it.

"I don't really want to get into it now, but I have my reasons."

Blake, who won 100m gold at the 2011 World Championships, is now 31 and Tokyo may be his last chance to shine on the Olympic stage.

He said in a video posted late on Saturday night: "Love me or dislike me, but I am here for a reason, to serve God, and at the same time be a servant for God to help each and every one.

"I am a righteous man, I am a man of God, and I believe that everybody do have a choice in life, no matter what. And I want to tell someone, don't let anyone take away that choice from you.

"At the end of the day if anything should happen, nobody's going to be by your side apart from God. No one is going to be there to hold your hand, it's going to be you.

"Follow your mind, don't follow the crowd. At the same time, be respectful to each and every one. Don't let no one take away your choice."

Jamaica has had 422 confirmed deaths from COVID-19, and 23,263 cases, the country's government announced on Saturday.

The country has yet to receive first shipments of a vaccine, but health minister Dr Christopher Tufton said on Friday they would "soon" arrive.

The Jamaica Olympic Association and the Olympians Association of Jamaica have paid tribute to Olympian Les Laing, who died on the weekend.

Laing, who was born in Linstead, St Catherine on February 19, 1925, represented Jamaica at the 1948 and 1952 Olympics was a member of the famed 4x400m relay team that won gold in Helsinki. He is the third member of the iconic quartet to have died leaving behind George Rhoden as the only surviving member.

Arthur Wint died in 1992 while Herb McKenley passed in 2007.

“The Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) mourns the loss of a member of our household but celebrates the life he lived inspiringly on the track which mirrored the personality of this son of Linstead,” the JOA said in a statement released on Sunday.

“Leslie Alphonso Laing's feats as an Olympian are well documented and we salute him with grateful hands. But more importantly, it is the spirit of the gentlemen which has inspirited generations of athletes and earned the abiding respect of a nation.

“In a world where recorded statistics of sporting achievements are understandably cited in praise of men, the JOA reflects deeply and respectfully on Laing's self-sacrificial service to his country and the soul of his ground-breaking feet.”

Meanwhile, the OAJ described Laing as a hero.

OAJ President Marvin Anderson said he one of the nation's Olympic pioneers.

“Arthur Wint, Laing, Herb McKenley and George Rhoden set a world record 3 minutes 03.9 seconds to defeat a top-class US team at the Games in London,” Anderson said. "His heroic relay run of 47 seconds flat was all the more remarkable because he was a specialist 200-metres man."

Laing, Anderson said, leaves behind a substantial legacy from his days on the track.

“While many Jamaican track stars emerged from the US college circuit, the Linstead-native rose to prominence in Britain as a member of the Polytechnic Harriers Club in London. Fittingly, he made his Olympic debut in that city in 1948, placing sixth in the 200 metres final with McKenley fourth.

 “An injury to Wint in the 4x400 final prompted Laing and his teammates to vow to return and win four years later in Helsinki, Finland. Running faster in every round, Laing became the first Jamaican to reach an Olympic sprint final twice and improved his finish to fifth place. Despite his short stature, he delivered a stout-hearted second leg run to help Jamaica to fulfil the promise made in London.”

 Laing retired after a 1954 season when he narrowly missed taking the sprint double at the CAC Games in Mexico City where he won the 200 and took silver in the 100m.

Laing was recognized by the respected US publication TRACK AND FIELD NEWS, which listed him in its annual world rankings three times - at number 9 in 1948, number 10 in 1949 and at number 9 once more in 1953.

"His accomplishments paved the way for Jamaica in the sprints," Anderson said.

 “In fact, no other Jamaican would reach back-to-back Olympic 200m finals until Don Quarrie did it in 1976 and 1980. Mr Laing was a pioneer who showed us what was possible for us in the 200 and thanks to the start he provided, Jamaica has excelled in that event."

Laing was married to 1948 high jump finalist Carmen Phipps.

 

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