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Athletes Fight Heat, Humidity at Tokyo Olympics


Runners compete in the women's marathon at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Aug. 7, 2021, in Sapporo, Japan.

Kenya’s Peres Jepchirchir battled high heat and humidity Saturday to win the Olympic gold in the women’s marathon in a time of 2 hours, 27 minutes and 20 seconds.

Taking silver was her teammate, Kenyan Brigid Kosgei, in 2 hours, 27 minutes and 36 seconds. American Molly Seidel placed third in a time of 2 hours, 27 minutes and 46 seconds.

Olympic organizers started the women’s marathon at 6 a.m. local time, an hour earlier than planned, in an effort to avoid extreme heat and humidity.

However, at the start of the race, runners had clear skies and a temperature of 25 degrees Celsius and relative humidity of about 82%. By the end of the race, temperatures had risen to nearly 30 degrees Celsius.

Fifteen of the 88 athletes did not finish the race, which was held in Sopporo, a coastal city about 1,100 kilometers north of Tokyo.

Kosgei, the world record holder, and world champion Ruth Chepngetich, also of Kenya, had been favorites to win gold Saturday. Chepngetich failed to finish the event.

Jepchirchir made her move on Kosgei near the end of the race, at the 40-kilometer mark.

"When I was there I said, wow, I'm going to make it. So I pushed the pace because I knew I was going to win," Jepchirchir said. "I'm so, so happy because we win as Kenya, first and second ... I'm happy, for my family, happy for my country Kenya for supporting us."

Saturday afternoon, the U.S. men’s basketball team captured its fourth straight Olympic gold medal, and its 16th overall, defeating France, 87-82.

American Kevin Durant, who plays for the Brooklyn Nets in the NBA, was the game’s high scorer, with 29 points.

France had beaten the U.S. in the first round of the Olympics.

In late Friday events, Canada’s women soccer team beat Sweden, 3-2 on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw.

The team's victory gave Canada its first gold medal in women’s soccer.

The match was played at 9 p.m. local time in an effort to escape the oppressive heat in Yokohama, where the matches are held. Still, temperatures were 28 degrees Celsius and humidity was 78% when the game started Friday night.

Also Friday night, American Allyson Felix won her 10th Olympic medal in track and field, taking bronze in the women’s 400-meter event.

She also has now won more Olympic track and field medals than any other woman in history. She has a chance to burnish that record late Saturday, as she competes in the finals of the women’s 4x400-meter relay.

Felix, 35, began her career as a U.S. Olympian at the 2004 Athens Games.

“It’s something I felt I could accomplish. I feel like I have come a long way from all the other Games. This one is just different,” Felix said, according to AP. “I’m not too wrapped up in winning more medals. The biggest thing for me was coming back."

Also Friday, protesters gathered in front of the Japanese Olympic Committee building, calling for the Games, which end Sunday, to be suspended, according to The Associated Press.

The protesters said they were concerned about the cost of the event and the rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in Tokyo. On Friday, officials reported 4,515 new coronavirus cases in Tokyo, the AP reported.

Some information for this article came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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