“Everything happens for a reason. I’m supposed to be here for the long jump.”
Tyra Gittens had set her sights on competing in the Tokyo 2020 heptathlon. She came very close, missing out on the qualifying standard by a mere two points. The near miss hurt. But the Trinidad and Tobago heptathlete had the consolation of qualifying in the individual Women’s Long Jump.
Yesterday, Gittens made use of her “consolation prize”, leaping 6.72 metres to secure a berth in tonight’s final at the Olympic Stadium here in Tokyo, Japan. The heptathlon heartbreak is now a distant memory.
“I’ve gotten over it,” Gittens told the Express. “The two points away from the standard, and a centimetre away from the high jump standard. Come on, for stuff like that to happen ... And then long jump, that was the last event I would expect to qualify in, and it’s the event that I more than qualified for, so I’m supposed to be here.”
Late on Saturday (T&T time), Gittens opened her first-ever Olympic campaign with a below-par 6.12m effort.
“I was a nervous wreck for the first one. I didn’t hear my name called so once I got to the runway I just went. But by the second one I was able to relax and calm down and put together something.”
That “something”—a 6.72m jump—was good enough for ninth spot in the qualifying competition and the opportunity to do battle with 11 other women for Olympic honours.
Missing out on the Olympic hep is looking more and more like a blessing in disguise for Gittens.
Another T&T Olympic debutante, Portious Warren finished 11th in the Women’s Shot Put final with an 18.32 metres throw. Though Warren was unable to approach the 18.75m personal best she had established in Friday’s qualifying competition, the Toco field athlete left the Olympic Stadium a satisfied thrower.
“It was amazing. I went in there really relaxed because, to be honest, just making it to the final I had already accomplished what I came here to do. It was all about being relaxed and getting the experience so when Paris 2024 comes I would be locked and ready.”
Warren opened the competition at 18.01m, and repeated at that distance in round two. Next time in the circle, she improved to 18.32. The effort, though, was not good enough for a top-eight spot and the opportunity for three more throws.
“Had I opened up with 18.32, that would have given me the momentum to propel further on in the competition. But it’s the start of an era for me. I’m going to go back home, go to my coach, and we’re going to put a plan together to make sure that when Paris comes, I’m on that podium.”
Gong Lijiao dominated the Tokyo 2020 Women’s Shot Put final, the Chinese athlete producing the five best throws in the competition for a well-deserved gold. She capped off the impressive series with a personal best 20.58m heave. American Raven Saunders earned silver with a 19.79m effort, with bronze going to New Zealand’s two-time Olympic champion Valerie Adams (19.62m).
At 7.05 this morning (T&T time), Deon Lendore will run in lane seven in the opening men’s 400 metres semifinal heat. Among his opponents in the race are Grenada’s 2012 Olympic champion Kirani James and Colombian Anthony Zambrano.
In the opening round, Lendore shrugged off steamy hot Tokyo morning conditions to finish second in heat five in 45.14 seconds, progressing automatically to the semifinal round.
“I felt comfortable,” Lendore told the Express. “I’ve been battling with some issues with myself, with confidence, but today’s run boosted my confidence.”
Machel Cedenio also advanced to the semis automatically, the 25-year-old T&T quartermiler finishing third in heat six in 45.56 seconds.
“Felt a bit rusty,” said Cedenio. “I battled a lot of injuries this season, and I’m coming in here not race sharp so I hope to find some sort of form within the rounds.”
At 7.13 this morning, Cedenio faces seven other quartermilers, including in-form American Michael Cherry, in the second semifinal. Eight minutes later, T&T’s Dwight St Hillaire takes on American Michael Norman, Bahamian Steven Gardiner and South Africa’s reigning Olympic champion Wayde van Niekirk in the third semi.
St Hillaire secured his semifinal lane on time after finishing fourth in the third first round heat in 45.41 seconds. “It didn’t go as planned,” he said. “Executed the first part well, but I just didn’t close. I relaxed too much.”
St Hillaire, though, lives to fight another day, the 23-year-old marking his Olympic debut with qualification for the one-lap semis.