The sporting calendar provides many memorable days throughout the year but rarely do elite events overlap as often as at the Olympics.

At this year's delayed Tokyo Games, there is the prospect of seeing several of the world's top athletes all competing for gold at the same time.

August 1 looks a good bet for the standout day in 2021.

The final round of the men's golf event could see Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm in the mix, with Andy Murray hopeful he will meanwhile be defending consecutive singles gold medals in the tennis.

This comes on the same day that Simone Biles could potentially become the most decorated Olympic gymnast of all time.

As if that were not enough, the men's 100m final is another must-watch event.

Expectations will be high heading into that second Sunday of the Games, with examples from the past three competitions living up to their billing...

AUGUST 16, BEIJING 2008

Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt would be firmly in contention to appear on the Games' own Mount Rushmore and each enjoyed one of the finest moments of their respective careers on the same day.

Phelps had spent the opening week of the Beijing Olympics pursuing Mark Spitz's 1972 record of seven golds and had six as he entered the pool again for the 100m butterfly final, almost 12 hours before Bolt's big moment.

Seventh at the turn, the United States superstar needed a remarkable recovery to triumph over a devastated Milorad Cavic by 0.01 seconds.

Phelps would pass Spitz with his eighth gold of the Games the following day, by which point he was sharing the headlines with Jamaica's own ultimate athlete.

Bolt's blistering 9.69-second final triumph in the 100m stood as a world record until the same man beat it exactly a year later. The new benchmark remains unmatched.

And that Saturday in China also saw the small matter of Roger Federer's only gold medal, claimed alongside Stan Wawrinka in the doubles final after falling to James Blake as the top seed in the singles.

AUGUST 4-5, LONDON 2012

It is actually tough to choose just one day from the 2012 Olympics, where this weekend delivered from start to finish.

On the Saturday evening, at the Aquatics Centre, swimming prepared to say goodbye to its greatest name. Phelps and the United States won the 4x100m medley, clinching his 18th gold medal in what appeared set to be his final race.

Indeed, Phelps confirmed his retirement following the Games, only to return in predictably dominant fashion in 2016.

Across the city that same night, Team GB athletes were capping a stunning run of medals that would see the day dubbed "Super Saturday". There were six home golds in all, including big wins for Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah in quick succession.

The drama only continued the next day, too, as Murray finally sealed a Wimbledon win over Roger Federer in the tennis event, while Bolt lit up London Stadium in the 100m.

AUGUST 14, RIO 2016

Although there will be no Bolt brilliance in Tokyo, Brazil was treated to another show as he became the first three-time winner of the 100m – later doing likewise in the 200m.

The first triumph was almost overshadowed on the track, however, coming shortly after Wayde van Niekerk had broken Michael Johnson's 17-year 400m world record by 0.15 seconds.

Again, the excitement was not reserved for athletics, with Murray in action that evening to claim another gold after coming through a four-hour epic against Juan Martin del Potro.

Murray is the only player – men's or women's – to win consecutive singles golds, while Rafael Nadal's presence added a little more stardust even though he lost the bronze final to Kei Nishikori.

A stunning Sunday also saw Biles add to the reputation she takes with her to Tokyo, a third gold on the vault making her the most decorated American gymnast.

And there was history, too, for Justin Rose, as he edged past Henrik Stenson at the 18th hole of the fourth round to become the first Olympic golf champion in 112 years.

Comaneci, Korbut, Biles, Scherbo. Those names are as engrained into Olympic legend as Bolt, Beamon, Griffith-Joyner and Owens.

Gymnastics might pass under many radars outside Games time, but television chiefs have it down as a ratings-winning banker.

There is no other sport that combines quite the same level of athleticism, artistry and acrobatic magnificence, and pairs those factors with a stack of glamour and more than a hint of danger.

Most viewers of the Olympics will know how it feels to casually sprint 100 metres or swim a length or two, but the parallel bars, the pommel horse and the beam were typically last experienced as dreaded apparatus hauled out of school sports equipment vaults.

Anybody who avoided making a muggins of themselves deserved immediate respect, with these implements of humiliation ripe for dishing out a torturing.

On the Olympic stage, we see the human species at its most agile, yet vulnerable too, and that is why gymnastics has been the most viewed sport in the Games on American networks for many years.

Here, Stats Perform looks at three of the great Olympic gymnasts of the last 50 years, and considers who might emerge as a star at the Ariake venue in Tokyo this year.


GAMES GREATS

Nadia Comaneci: The Perfect 10

When Romanian Comaneci scored the first 'Perfect 10' in Olympic history at the Montreal Games of 1976, famously even the scoreboards were unprepared for her fabulous feat. They showed 1.00, with the Omega technology not built to display top marks. Comaneci was 14 years old, and she had made history on the uneven bars in the team competition. It was incredibly just the start of a run of 10s from Comaneci, who produced six more during her heady time in Canada, winning gold medals in the all-around event, the uneven bars and the balance beam.

 

Olga Korbut: Flipping brilliant

The young Comaneci would have watched Korbut dazzle at the 1972 Munich Olympics, where the 17-year-old brought daring new routines to the Games stage. Her backflip to catch on the uneven bars drew gasps from the crowd and media alike. Television footage from the time shows Korbut produce her mesmerising routine, with one commentator questioning: "Has that been done before by a girl?". His colleague responds: "Never, not by any human I know of!"

The Korbut flip was born, a backward somersault on the beam followed, and millions across the globe watched in astonishment at her audacity and execution. The teenager from the Soviet Union won gold medals in the team, floor and balance beam disciplines, pushing gymnastics to new heights.

Vitaly Scherbo: Barcelona bounty

It has often been the case that women gymnasts have attracted more admiration than the men, but in 1992 it was Scherbo who stole the show. The 20-year-old Belarusian was a colossus, winning six gold medals for the Unified Team of former Soviet states with a revelatory exhibition of physical strength, craft and control.

Scherbo became champion at the parallel bars, vault, rings, pommel horse, team event and the all-around event. His haul of golds has only ever been surpassed in a single Olympics by swimmers: Michael Phelps (eight gold medals at Beijing 2008) and Mark Spitz (seven golds at Munich).


TOKYO CALLING

Simone Biles: Great already, and now back for more

What does Biles have in store for a Tokyo encore to her spectacular Rio performance? It was well known before the 2016 Olympics was that Biles was rather special, and the American delivered on the biggest stage, with four gold medals and a solitary bronze, becoming the first quadruple Olympic gymnastic champion since 1984 when the great Romanian Ecaterina Szabo also achieved success on that scale. Biles, a formidable character and sensational competitor, is stretching the limits of athletic achievement every time she competes, taking her beloved sport to new audiences and inspiring generations of youngsters to try the sport.

Now 24 years old, Biles appears to be in great shape for more success in Japan, but watch out for her team-mate Suni Lee too. The 18-year-old outscored Biles on day two of the US Olympic trials

Tang Xijing: China's great hope

Could Chinese teenager Tang be in the picture to deny Biles the all-around title in Tokyo? The 18-year-old took a surprise silver behind Biles at the 2019 World Championship, and it remains to be seen whether that was a one-off or if she can limit the errors that have at times impeded her success and strike again for a medal.

She seems sure to be somewhere in the frame, but the Olympics demands perfection or at least somewhere close to it. Tang has abundant talent, and how she competes against the world's best again, after being limited lately to domestic competition, will be one of many matters of intrigue under the spotlight in the Ariake gymnastics hall.

Danusia Francis got a good warm-up for the Summer Olympic Games this weekend while competing for Xelska in Spain's Liga Iberdrola in the city of Gironella.

President of the Jamaica Gymnastics Association has described Alana Walker’s historic bronze medal performance in women artistic gymnastics at the Junior Pan Am Gymnastics Championships in Guadalajara, Mexico, on Saturday as a major boost for the sport locally, one that could help the association generate desperately needed funding.

The 14-year-old Walker scored 49.850 to finish third in the All-Around – bars, beam, floor and vault - that was won by the USA’s Katelyn Jong with a score of 54.10.  Her compatriot Madray Johnson scored 53.550 for second place. It was the first time that Jamaica has ever won a medal in gymnastics at a major event.

By winning the bronze medal, Alana, who is coached by Ashley Brooke Umberger at North Stars Gymnastics in Boonton, New Jersey, automatically qualifies for the Junior Pan Am Championships in Colombia later this year.

Grant, who spoke to Sportsmax.TV from Panama said this victory provides the push needed for the sport to continue to grow locally.

“Every appearance at any international competition of this nature is always a boost for the sport, that is what we thrive to be a part of and that is why we are working on our programme to ensure that we can participate and compete effectively as a country, as young as our sport is locally,” Grant told Sportsmax.TV today.

“This major win for us is very important to the growth and development of our local sport because it shows that we have the ability and the capability to do well in gymnastics.

“This is also a major boost for our young gymnasts who are preparing for a youth competition in Colombia later this year, the Pan American Age-Group Hopes Tournament where the age-group levels are from age eight right up to age 14 and she will also be competing in the elite category as well.”

Notwithstanding these achievements, Grant said, the sport continues to face significant obstacles.

“Our setback is equipment, landing equipment, something that we have been campaigning for, for some time now and it’s very important because when someone like Alana comes to Jamaica and trains at the gym, the landing equipment is not good enough at this time because of the kind of skills that she or he has,” Grant said.

“And that is why we are working so hard because when our elite athletes come to Jamaica they are in awe of the gym but as it relates to the landing aspect, it’s just not up to the standard and it’s really dangerous for them to train their high-level skills.”

Grant thanked the Jamaica Olympic Association, which she said, did not hesitate to provide funding for the trip, despite the ‘last-minute request’.  She also thanked Alana’s parents, who “have always been there and have put out a lot of effort to ensure that she got the documentation in order for her to compete at the event.

She also expressed her gratitude to Marlene Hylton-Williams, who was instrumental in helping Alana getting the license that allowed her to be able to compete and Naomi Valenza, who allowed Alana’s late entry to be accepted into the tournament.

  

Jamaican artistic gymnast Danusia Francis has heaped praises on the Institute of Sports (INSPORTS) for providing her with funding as she fine-tunes her preparation for the Olympic Games in Tokyo in July.

There is much hope that the development of Jamaica’s junior gymnastics will spring to another level with the inaugural Mayberry Gymnastics Strength & Skill Testing Series.

More than 100 youngsters, aged five years and older, are participating in the first event in the series, which is scheduled to begin today (Friday, May 14) at 5:00 p.m. and run through to Sunday, May 16, at the National Gymnastics Training Centre, at 1 Slipe Road in Kingston.

The series will take place quarterly for the next four years, courtesy of a joint effort by Mayberry Investments, which have invested one million dollars, the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) and the National Gymnastics Federation of Jamaica.

“This event is the first in a series to aid in the national junior development process and will continuously test the readiness of our athletes, as part of a four-year cycle, for the Olympic programme. In other words, this series is critical to the success and growth of our budding gymnasts,” remarked Gary Peart, CEO, Mayberry Investments.

“Mayberry wants to witness the honing of this sort of talent on the local stage so that we can make a big impact on the world stage. Jamaicans are known for being ‘likkle but tallawah’ and this is just another shining example that we are a force to be reckoned with.”

As the main feature, all participants in the training event will be awarded a medal.

“Mayberry is particularly happy that all the athletes involved will be awarded medals at the end of the testing series, because we believe that all efforts are valid, from the smallest to biggest,” Peart said.

Ryan Foster, Secretary General/CEO of the JOA, expressed his delight at the partnership that will bring yet another sport to the forefront of Jamaican athletics.

“The JOA is pleased to have brokered this deal under our JOA/Mayberry partnership that was established in 2019. The sport of gymnastics will be one of the sport that will be representing Jamaica at this summer’s Olympics and we are pleased with the trendsetting work done by President Grant-Brown and her team.

“The synergies between Mayberry and the Jamaica Gymnastics Federation was seamless and one built on developing the next generation of athletes. The JOA is extremely proud of one of our key partners, Mayberry, who has truly bought into our vision of building now for the future,” Foster shared. “They have demonstrated that they are good corporate citizens whose philanthropy has no bounds. We will continue to find avenues for our athletes and members to develop."

All told there will be five sessions, which includes the first that ended at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, followed by a 30-minute awards ceremony. Sessions two, three and four are slated for 9:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m, 12:15 p.m.-2:30 p.m. and 3:00-5:30 p.m., respectively, on Saturday; while Session five will run from 9:00 a.m.-1:30 p.m. on Sunday. The final half-hour in each session is reserved for awards presentations. 

Former national hockey president and now President of Gymnastics Nicole Grant-Brown praised the effort of their partners and noted the impact of their support.

“Mayberry Investments is shining a light on us that is certainly helping us to have hope. Jamaica Gymnastics is in its growth stage and like any child, we need help to grow and with a good support system we can grow big and strong,” she said.

“We are happy and elated that the vision of the Jamaica Olympic Association is wide enough to recognize that gymnastics, which is seen in Jamaica as a minor sport, requires partnerships of this nature to make it major and will one day be placed in its rightful position as one of Jamaica’s most consistent Olympic sport and most participated by our youth in this country.

“Already we have made two consecutive Olympic Games, 2016 and 2021, and the sport has not yet reached its maturity stage.”

She also noted the strategies involved in carving out this series, which marks the beginning of Jamaica’s junior Olympic programme.

“The skills and strength testing is two to three times per year, which is the base for their development. This program compares to that of the United States’ USA TOPS program, which they use to draft gymnasts as young as six years old in their National Gymnastics program. If we want to be the best, we have to adopt what works from the best while developing our own strategies based on our unique culture and natural athletics abilities,” she said.

Ten-year-old gymnast, Rihanna Williams, endorsed the series, saying: “We are the future of gymnastics. We train 5-6 hours, five days per week and it’s very hard. We do this because we love gymnastics and at the end of the day, we want to make Jamaica proud.

“We hope you will not leave us but stay with us and help us grow as we will be Olympians in the future. Thank you again Mayberry Investments, we will make you proud to be part of our family.”

 Jamaica gymnast Danusia Francis believes the option of allowing full-length bodysuits to be worn in competition will empower the sport’s female athletes.

Last week, German gymnast Sarah Voss grabbed headlines after wearing a full-body suit at the European Gymnastic Championships.  She was later joined in wearing the type of outfit at the event by two teammates.  Voss described a part of the motive as taking a stand against ‘sexualisation in gymnastics’ an issue that has come to the fore in recent years following the conviction of former USA national team doctor, Larry Nassar, who was sentenced to 175 years in prison for several counts of sexual abuse two years ago.

Typically, female athletes compete in leotards, however, the international gymnastics federation (FIG) rules state that competitors are allowed to wear a "one-piece leotard with full-length legs - hip to ankle", provided it is of elegant design.

Francis admitted that she did not know the uniforms were allowed but was pleased with the choice that is offered.

 "I think it's amazing," Francis told BBC.

"I feel empowered that we've got this option where we can choose to cover up," she added.

Francis also believes the ability of female athletes to speak out on issues that affect them is in part due to people staying in the sport for longer.

"I think as people are staying the sport longer, obviously they're not young girls and they've got voices, they are women, so to see them making a statement, and on an international stage... I think it was great to see," Francis said.

Olympics great Mark Spitz believes politically active athletes are unlikely to heed demands for them not to protest during Tokyo 2020.

United States swimming superstar Spitz won seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Games to establish himself as an all-time legend of the pool.

He recalled the Black Power salute from American track athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the Mexico Games four years earlier as a prime example of Olympians using their platform to take a powerful stance in front of the watching world.

On the podium in Mexico City, after Smith won gold in the 200 metres and Carlos took bronze, the American sprinters each stood with a black-gloved hand raised and head bowed, an immortal protest against racism in the United States.

Spitz acknowledged the determined efforts of current sporting superstars such as LeBron James and Lewis Hamilton to draw attention to similar matters of racial prejudice.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach said last year that the Olympics "are not and must never be a platform to advance political or any other divisive ends".

Bach added: "Our political neutrality is undermined whenever organisations or individuals attempt to use the Olympic Games as a stage for their own agendas, as legitimate as they may be."

In an interview with Stats Perform, Spitz said of the IOC's intentions: "I know they have had some campaigns at a political level not to make it a platform for people to speak out against things that are obviously a concern to them, and they use when they stand on the podium and win a medal to voice their opinion.

"I am on the fence in how I feel about it. An example was Tommie Smith and John Carlos who held their hands up in the 1968 Olympic Games in track and field. And that still resonates to this day.

"And the issues they spoke loud and clear about are still happening here in America and worldwide. So I don't think people's rightful opportunity to speak out will be eradicated."

Speaking courtesy of Laureus, Spitz added: "I think there's a proper place and a proper time and in most people's opinion the proper place and time are when the most people in the world are listening to you.

"And certainly that provokes those sort of things to happen at the Olympics, or other events for that matter."

Formula One champion Hamilton and NBA superstar James have used their global fame as a means to call for equality in society and sport.

Spitz stressed he remained "down the middle of the line" on political protests in sport, but he added: "I think morally if they feel they need to speak out then they should. And there's a way to do that in a polite and politically correct and accurate way. I think those two gentlemen [Hamilton and James] have done so."

Spitz, now 71, no longer holds the record for the most gold medals in a single Games after fellow swimming great Michael Phelps won eight at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

He predicted organisers of the delayed Tokyo Olympics - set back a year by the COVID-19 pandemic - will go the extra mile to deliver a standout entertainment experience for the worldwide audience.

International spectators have been banned from travelling to watch the Games, in an effort to control the spread of the virus.

"I suspect and hope they will go off without a hitch, but in keeping with tradition I'm not sure how they'll do an opening ceremony with all those people, or an opening ceremony show," Spitz said.

"It is a big revenue generator for the television networks to have those part of the festivities. It's a shame if it's not done as we're accustomed to seeing, but I think it will be modified and we'll be happy with what the presentation will be I hope."

The Jamaican government will provide more than JMD$45 million in direct financial support to athletes preparing for this summer’s Tokyo Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.

Tokyo 2020 organisers have announced spectators will not be allowed to travel from overseas to watch the Olympic Games this year.

The measure has been taken as part of an effort to reduce the risks of COVID-19 spreading at the delayed Games.

The Games will run from July 23 to August 8, having been set back by a year due to the global health crisis.

Also affected will be the Paralympics, which runs from August 24 to September 5, with travelling spectators also barred from attending.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Paralympic Committee (IPC) have been advised of Tokyo's decision and are said by Games chiefs to "respect and accept this conclusion".

In a statement issued on Twitter, Tokyo 2020 said: "Today, on March 20, we reported to the IOC and IPC that we would not accept overseas spectators to Japan in order to realise a safe and secure event.

"We will continue to do our utmost to make this summer's event a safe and secure event so that it will be a light of hope for people all over the world."

In a further statement, Tokyo 2020 organisers said tickets purchased by those planning to travel from abroad would be refunded.

They said the coronavirus situation within and beyond Japan "remains very challenging" and pointed to travel across borders being "severely restricted", meaning entry to Japan could not be guaranteed.

"In order to give clarity to ticket holders living overseas and to enable them to adjust their travel plans at this stage, the parties on the Japanese side have come to the conclusion that they will not be able to enter into Japan at the time of the Olympic and Paralympic Games," said the Tokyo 2020 statement.

"This conclusion will further contribute to ensure safe and secure Games for all participants and the Japanese public."

Jamaica’s Olympic-bound gymnast Danusia Francis believes her inclusion in Simone Biles’ Gold Over America Tour is another opportunity for her to highlight Jamaica’s gymnastics on an international stage.

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