Tokyo 2020: Time is fast running out for first American man to win gold on the track

Ireland’s Andrew Coscoran finishes 10th in first of two crazy-fast 1,500m semi-finals

God bless America. Another long day and night inside the Olympic Stadium and still no one man can win them a gold medal on the track. Two more nights to go and their chances are fading fast.

It’s beginning to hurt. American women have won twice on the track, they won two more field events on Thursday too, one man and one woman, but at least one American man has won Olympic gold in a running event ever since Baron de Coubertin reprised the old show back in 1896.

They’ve only the 1,500m, 5,000m, marathon and 4 x 400m to come. They’d been fancied in the 4 x 100m relay, given Team USA had four fastest individuals, only they made a balls of the changeovers in the morning session and failed to qualify. And in one of the biggest shocks on the track so far Jamaica’s Hansle Parchment also beat Grant Holloway from the US to win the 110m hurdles title.

An American man named Matthew Centrowitz did win the 1,500m five years ago in Rio, only this time he couldn't make the final, finishing ninth in the second of two crazy-fast semi-finals, that race won by Kenya's Abel Kipsang in a new Olympic record 3:31.65. Phew.


Kipsang isn't even the best Kenyan here, as once again it seems the man to beat is world champion Timothy Cheruiyot, who ran the first lap of his semi-final in 56 seconds, easing up to qualify in third behind Britain's Jake Wightman, who ran 3:33.48, the other American Cole Hocker running a lifetime best of 3:33.87 in second.

Hocker can certainly finish fast, but would prove quite the surprise should he end that wait for a first US men's gold in Tokyo. Then there's the incredible Jakob Ingebrigtsen. No Norwegian has ever won the blue ribbon event, no European has won it since Fermin Cacho in 1992, and none of us here can recall any runner winning this event before his 21st birthday.

It's a stellar final field, and Andrew Coscoran ran himself into the ground to try make it, ending up 10th in that first semi-final in 3:35.84, just a fraction outside his lifetime best. Cheruiyot's front-running meant the entire field was their limit early on, and Coscoran raced exceptionally well to keep himself within distance into the homestretch.

“I put it all out there,” said 25-year-old from north Dublin. “A 56 flat first lap would take the steam out of you fairly quick. The plan was to stay connected to the pack, no matter where it was, just try hold on.

“That was the best race of my life, the standard is just crazy at the moment, I just have to get fitter and come back. I thought I’d be able to claw one or two of them back, I could see [Nick] Willis in front of me, I was like, I can get these guys but they had another gear and I didn’t.

“The one thing I’ve taken from this is I can compete, I’m a little off but if I get fitter, I’m there, I’m a racer at the end of the day. I just need to get a bit more aerobically stronger. I’m absolutely delighted with these championships. If you had said to me I was going to do at the Olympics, would get into the semis, run 3:35, I’d have thought no chance in the semis’ so I’m happy, very happy.”

American men are used to finishing somewhere in the 400m medals: they lost out only once since 1908 (not including the Moscow boycott), only it happened here again, this Tokyo night belonging to Steven Gardiner, who ran a superbly judged race to win in 43.85 seconds, the first man from the Bahamas to win an individual Olympic gold medal in any sport.

Gardiner led home Anthony Zambrano from Colombia, while London 2012 winner Kirani James from Grenada took bronze in 44.19. Then came the two Americans, Michael Cherry fourth in a lifetime best of 44.21 and Michael Norman fading to fifth after pressing so hard in the first half of the race.

Katie Nageotte did win the women's pole vault for the US, much to her considerable delight, and earlier Ryan Crouser dominated the men's shot put, his new Olympic record of 23.30m just 7cm off his world record. The Americans do currently top the athletics medal table, five gold medals so far, only time is fast running out for that first American man to win gold on the track. With the World Championships in American next year too, that is beginning to hurt.

Earlier in the evening, 800km north of Tokyo in Sapporo where conditions were no more favourable, David Kenny finished a respectable 29th in the 20km walk, victory there going to Italy's Massimo Stano ahead of the Japanese duo of Koki Ikeda and Toshikazu Yamanish.