With Tokyo's stadium completed, European athletes can focus on the track

Karsten Warholm at the World Athletics Championships
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Norway's Karsten Warholm competing on a Mondotrack WS surface in Doha's Khalifa International Stadium at the 2019 World Athletics Championships 

It may have slipped slightly under the radar in Europe but the construction work on Tokyo’s National Stadium was officially announced by the Japan Sports Council as having been completed last week on Tuesday 19 November.

With that confirmation, track testers working on behalf of World Athletics quickly moved in with their equipment and proceeded to give the Mondotrack WS surface – installed across a two-month period between August and October by European Athletics Green Inspiration Partner Mondo, which is the sole track supplier for Tokyo 2020 – a World Athletics Class 1 certificate earlier this week.

Now European athletes have an advance and very clear idea of what they will be competing on should they qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games next summer, with the athletics competitions being held from 31 July to 9 August and the Olympics themselves taking place from 24 July to 9 August 2020.

The surface in the National Stadium is an upgraded version of the Mondotrack WS product which was delivered and installed for the athletics competitions at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Stadium under construction during July 2019
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The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Stadium under construction during July 2019

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Currently there are only two other certified Class 1 stadia in Europe with such a surface: the London Stadium which staged the London 2012 Olympic Games and the Dinamo National Olympic Stadium in Minsk which staged The Match Europe v USA in September.

Consequently, those members of the victorious Team Europe squad that triumphed in the Belarus capital got an important rehearsal the type of track that they can expect to compete on in Japan.

Notably, athletics from both sides of the Atlantic eulogised about the track in Minsk regardless of where they finished in their event.

The overall target for European athletes in Tokyo will be to improve on the 11 gold medals from 47 events in Rio three years ago and the 11 victories from 48 events in the recent World Athletics Championships in Doha.

For all athletes with medal ambitions, not just those from Europe, next year’s Diamond League meeting in London on 4 July will now take on heightened significance as it will be the last time they will have a chance for a serious high-level competitive run out on the same type of surface that will be used in Tokyo.

Among the 12 Diamond Disciplines in London will be the men’s 400m hurdles and it could well be the last competition prior to departing for Tokyo for Norway’s reigning world and European champion Karsten Warholm, recently crowned as the 2019 European Athlete of the Year.

Likewise, the women’s long jump is one of the selected events in London. Germany’s Malaika Mihambo sparkled in similar fashion to Warholm on the Khalifa International Stadium’s Mondotrack WS track at the world championships last month and it’s expected that she will relish the opportunity to compete again on a similar track.

Noting that it was exactly a month between her winning the 2019 Diamond League final in Brussels and her next outing in Doha this summer, it can be speculated that London – with the caveat that nothing derails her plans between now and then – could also be Mihambo’s last competition before Tokyo.

Even though there is eight months until the first event gets underway on the Tokyo National Stadium’s Mondo WS track, the confirmation that all is on schedule for the Games to commence will undoubtably concentrate the minds of Europe’s Olympic hopefuls – whether just making their national team or having long-range medal ambitions – on the horizon that is now starting to draw palpably close.