TOKYO — One of the biggest stories for American track and field in the days leading up to these Olympics has been the absence of Sha'Carri Richardson, and how we'll all lose out on seeing the young phenom in a showdown with Jamaica's "mommy rocket," Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, in the women's 100-meter event.
It remains a shame that Richardson won't be here, but if Friday's Round 1 is any indication, track fans are still in for a treat.
Six women ran under 11 seconds, led by Ivory Coast's Marie-Josee Ta Lou, who ran a lifetime best of 10.78 with a slight headwind. The 32-year-old just missed out on a medal in 2016, finishing fourth in both the 100m and 200m, but was the bronze medalist at the 2019 World Championships.
Reigning Olympic gold medalist Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica posted a time of 10.82 seconds, and looked like she was on a warm-up run; her compatriot Fraser-Pryce ran 10.84 and also clearly never reached top gear.
Fraser-Pryce, the gold medalist in 2008 and 2012, is aiming to become the first woman to win three golds in the event. In June, the 34-year-old became the second-fastest woman ever, blazing to 10.63 seconds at a meet in her home country.
The three American women in the event — Javianne Oliver (11.15 seconds), Teahna Daniels (11.04), and Jenna Prandini (11.11) — all moved on to Saturday night's semifinal round.
Two Swiss runners, meanwhile, broke the national record within a matter of minutes. Running with Thompson-Herah in Heat 2, Mujinga Kambundji ran 10.95 seconds, and running with Fraser-Pryce in Heat 6, Ajla del Ponte lowered it to 10.91.
The sixth sub-11 runner was Great Britain's Daryll Neita, who ran 10.96 running in Heat 4 with Ta Lou.
American JuVaughn Harrison's historic quest
American high jumper JuVaughn Harrison began his quest for double gold in the high jump and long jump by clearing 2.28 meters (7 feet, 5.75 inches) in the high jump to move on to the event final on Sunday. Fellow American Shelby McEwen was also among the 13 men who cleared the height.
Harrison won the long jump and high jump at the U.S. Trials, making him the first American man since Jim Thorpe in 1912 to qualify for the Games in both events. The six-time NCAA champion at Louisiana State will be on the long jump runway on Saturday for qualifying there.
Already the only man to win both events in the same year at NCAAs, Harrison currently has the third-best high jump clearance and second-best long jump distance in the world this year.
Men's 400m hurdles
One of the more highly anticipated races will be the men's 400m hurdles, with all three medalists from the 2019 world championships — Norwegian and newly minted world record-holder Karsten Warholm, American Rai Benjamin, and Qatari Abderrahman Samba — all in Tokyo.
Samba posted the fastest opening-round time, 48.38 seconds, though Benjamin (48.60) and Warholm (48.65) were not far behind.
Americans Kenny Selmon (48.61) and David Kendziera (49.23) also moved through to the semifinals.
Athing Mu, the 19-year-old star who comes to Tokyo with the best time in the world in the women's 800m and a slew of NCAA and world under-20 records, looked like she barely broke a sweat in her heat, clocking 2 minutes, 1.10 seconds.
Ajee Wilson, the two-time world bronze medalist who had her four-year streak of national championship wins broken by Mu last month, ran 2:00.02, and 2019 world silver medalist Raevyn Rogers finished in 2:01.42.
Jamaica's Natoya Goule had the fastest time of the heats at 1:59.83.
Elsewhere, Benard Keter (personal best 8:17.31) was the only American to advance to Monday's final in the 3000m steeplechase; and discus thrower Sam Mattis (63.74m, 209-1.5) advanced to his event final.
Friday evening will see the first medals of the meet, in the men's 10,000m. There will also be early-round competitions in women's 5000m, triple jump and shot put, and the 4x400m mixed relay.
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