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Olympics-Another record on track, Belarus sprinter heads for Poland

Another athletics world record was obliterated at the Olympics on Wednesday, as athletes coped with the heat of political and diplomatic controversy as well as Tokyo’s broiling summer weather….

TOKYO: Another athletics world record was obliterated at the Olympics on Wednesday, as athletes coped with the heat of political and diplomatic controversy as well as Tokyo’s broiling summer weather

American Sydney McLaughlin shattered her own record in the 400 metres hurdles while a Belarusian athlete left for Poland three days after refusing an order to come home against her wishes and seeking diplomatic protection.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was investigating the case of sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, while querying China over athletes who wore Mao Zedong badges on the medals podium but suspending a probe of American shot-putter Raven Saunders after the death of her mother.

McLaughlin trailed team mate Dalilah Muhammad coming off the last hurdle but sprinted past her to win gold in 51.46 seconds in a thrilling finish that chopped nearly half a second off her own June record.

"I saw Dalilah ahead of me with one to go. I just thought, 'Run your race'," McLaughlin said. "The race doesn't really start until hurdle seven. I just wanted to go out there and give it everything I had."

Muhammad was also ahead of McLaughlin’s previous record time, reminiscent of Tuesday’s stunning men’s final in the same event, when Norway's Karsten Warholm and silver medallist Rai Benjamin both beat Warholm’s previous record.

Tsimanouskaya, who had taken refuge in the Polish embassy, left in the morning, escorted by officials and wearing a mask, blue jeans, a blue blouse and sunglasses with "I RUN CLEAN" written on them.

She left on a flight for Vienna, but a Belarusian opposition politician said she would make her way to Warsaw later in the day, and a Polish official said the athlete was under his country's care.

The IOC said it was investigating the case, which began after the sprinter publicly criticised her coaches.

The IOC also said it was awaiting a formal explanation from Chinese Olympic officials as to why two gold medallists wore badges featuring Mao, the founding leader of the People's Republic of China, when Olympic rules bar political statements on the podium.

At the same time, the IOC expressed condolences to silver medallist Saunders after learning of her mother's death.

"You will understand that given these circumstances the process is fully suspended for the time being," said spokesman Mark Adams.

Saunders had crossed her arms in an “X” over her head on the podium on Sunday, a gesture she has said represented “the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet". She said she hoped to inspire fellow LGBT and Black people, and those struggling with mental health.


Away from politics, the brutal Japanese summer continued to roast outdoor athletes and officials at the Games, which end on Sunday.

With trackside temperatures at the athletics stadium having hit 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) and an archer having collapsed, Sweden and Canada asked organisers to push back the start of Friday’s women's gold medal soccer match, which is now scheduled for 11 a.m. (0200 GMT)

"It is primarily about the players' health," said Marika Domanski Lyfors, the head of Sweden's women's team. "There's a pretty big difference between playing in the afternoon or evening."

More chill were teen Japanese and British skateboarders, who shredded and soared through the preliminaries in a lively Olympic debut of the women's park competition.

In the pool, Ana Marcela Cunha of Brazil won gold in the women's 10km marathon swimming race, edging out the pack, including 2016 Rio winner Sharon van Rouwendaal of the Netherlands.

"I didn't plan it to happen this way, but I'm extremely happy," said Cunha, sporting a shock of fluorescent green and yellow hair perfectly colour coordinated with her Brazilian uniform.

Wednesday was also a day to reflect on the dramatic exit of Simone Biles, considered by many the greatest gymnast ever. The American did not rewrite the Olympic record books as planned, but left an indelible mark, changing the narrative of the Games from winning medals to championing athlete mental health and well-being.

She introduced into the general lexicon the term “twisties", a type of mental block where gymnasts are disoriented during their gravity-defying skills. Biles pulled out of events after her first vault but returned on Tuesday to get the bronze on the balance beam.

Even the coronation of Japan's Daiki Hashimoto, the winner of the men's all-around and high bar gold, plus a silver in the men's team event, as successor to his country's gymnastics great "King" Kohei Uchimura, could not nudge Biles out of the Olympic spotlight.

(Reporting by Amy Tennery and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Additional reporting by Antoni Slodkowski, Karolos Grohmann, Philip O'Connor, Mari Saito, Sakura Murakami and Steve Keating in Tokyo and Alan Charlish in Warsaw; Writing by William Mallard, editing by Ed Osmond)

Source: Reuters


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