Will 2021 be too late for aging stars?

Saturday March 28 2020

 Uganda’s legends Kipsiro (L) and Kiprotich

Uganda’s legends Kipsiro (L) and Kiprotich are in a race against age for rescheduled Tokyo 2021 Games. FILE PHOTOS 

By AFP

With the 2020 Olympics postponed until 2021, there are fears the delay will shatter the gold medal hopes of many ageing athletes, including Uganda’s marathoners Moses Kipsiro and Stephen Kiprotich. Here are the evergreen stars for whom Tokyo 2021 Games might come a step too far for glory.

ROGER FEDERER
The 20-time Grand Slam champion, who will be 40 in August 2021, won Olympic gold when he partnered Stan Wawrinka to the men’s doubles title at the 2008 Beijing Games. Federer was a quarter-finalist in singles in China, silver medallist in 2012 in London before injury forced him skip Rio 2016 Games.

In Sydney 2000, Federer made the semi-finals in singles but he still remembers Australia fondly as it was the place where he first started his romance with Mirka Vavrinec, who is now his wife. Federer was also Switzerland’s flag-bearer in Beijing and in Athens in 2004 where he exited in the second round.

SERENA WILLIAMS
The US tennis great will be 40 in September next year. Williams already has four Olympic gold medals – singles at London 2012 and women’s doubles with sister Venus in Sydney 2000, Beijing 2008, and London four years later.
The sisters lost their opening round match in Rio in 2016 while Serena’s gold medal defence in the singles was ended by Elina Svitolina in the third round.
TIGER WOODS
Woods, who will be 46 in December next year, would have struggled to make the US team for the Games if they had remained in their 2020 slot. He is currently only the sixth-ranked American with just the top four guaranteed to make the squad.
Woods, the winner of 15 majors, has been fighting a recurrence of a back injury so at least the delay to 2021 for the Olympics gives him renewed hope of a golden swansong.

ALLYSON FELIX
The only female track and field athlete in history to win six Olympic gold medals, Felix had spent the last two years preparing for a golden farewell at the Tokyo Olympics.

Felix, who turns 35 at the end of this year, will be racing against time as she attempts to improve her medal tally in what will be her fifth consecutive Olympics appearance.

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The American star can take comfort from the fact she is by no means the oldest woman to chase Olympic glory in sprint events. Merlene Ottey was 40 when she anchored Jamaica’s 4x100m relay team to a bronze medal in 2000.

JUSTIN GATLIN
Gatlin had planned to retire in 2020 after competing in his fourth Olympics at the age of 38. However, the controversial American star has extended his career in order to compete in the rescheduled Games.

Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic champion, though could face a battle to even qualify given the depth of the US men’s sprint squad, with Christian Coleman and Noah Lyles the favourites in the 100m and 200m.

Moses Kipsiro: Kipsiro’s illustrous middle distance career is only incomplete for lacking one thing: an Olympic medal. A medal by any name from the world’s most glorious sporting event would go a long way in cementing his status. Kipsiro’s best finish in Olympics was fourth place at Beijing 2008. He will be 34 in 2021. For an athlete who has only run three marathon races since moving up the field from middle distance in 2016, Tokyo 2021 might be too far a train to even catch as he must first post a sub-2:07:00 to earn one of three available tickets as seven men have already qualified for the Tokyo Games.

Stephen Kiprotich: The first Ugandan to win an Olympic Gold since John Akii-Bua, announced he would retire after Tokyo 2020, but has had to shelve that plan as the Games have been affected. Kiprotich will be 32 and battling against age to relive his London 2012 heroics as well as banish the bitter memories of Rio 2016 when he fell behind and finished 14th.

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