Given the conditions, the favourites are under-odds, writes Jack Houghton, where some big-price fancies can surprise on the tracks and road
"A better bet is the unassuming Jake Wightman (18.0017/1). His personal best - set when third behind Ingrebrigtsen in another fast Monaco race in 2020 - puts him amongst the top two in the market..."
Timothy Cheruiyot (2.608/5) is a class act to watch in the men's 1,500m. The world champion tends to run aggressively, taking things up at the front early, and his assertive style has led to a slew of fast times and race wins: he was unbeaten in ten races over a couple of seasons, and if it wasn't for a slip-up at the Kenyan trials this year, he might have lengthened that record. Since then, though, he has recorded a season-best 3.28 in Monaco, where he had many of his main rivals behind him. He's a worthy favourite.
Cheruiyot is certainly preferred to the second in the market, Jakob Ingrebrigtsen (2.8615/8), who was third in Monaco that day. Ingrebrigtsen's talent is undeniable - his personal best puts him eighth on the all-time list, just behind Cheruiyot - but with a family television show in his native Norway, that streams on YouTube, it can sometimes feel as if he is more a social media star for athletics' geeks than he is a professional athlete. If Cheruiyot underperforms, Ingrebrigtsen could benefit, but the pair could well run each other out of it if the expected fast early pace materialises.
A better bet, then, is the unassuming Jake Wightman (18.0017/1). His personal best - set when third behind Ingrebrigtsen in another fast Monaco race in 2020 - puts him amongst the top two in the market, and he has been impressively no-nonsense in the way he has qualified for the final. Given his solid performances in the last two world championships, he looks value.
If Olympic history has taught us anything, it is that the marathon rarely goes the way we expect, especially when the host nation is hot and humid. All major marathons are run in the climatic perfection of spring and autumn, so the form we rely on to inform our punting in these midsummer anomalies is usually useless.
That's why it's worth opposing the favourite Brigid Kosgei (2.206/5) here. Although dominant in the majors over the last four seasons - including a stunning world-record of 2.14.04 in Chicago - she hasn't been seen much this season. Add to this the fact that Kenya has been wholly underwhelming at these Olympics, and she seems an athlete to avoid.
For similar reasons, I would be against the other favourites: Ruth Chepngetich (4.2016/5), Birhane Dibaba (7.206/1), and Peres Jepchirchir (7.206/1).
More interesting is the Israeli athlete Lonah Chemtai Salpeter (7.6013/2). She won the Tokyo Marathon in 2020 in a stunning 2.17.45 and ran well in a home-based warm-up in March. The recommendation is to also back home athlete Mao Ichiyama (30.0029/1). Her lifetime best of 2.20.29 was run in similar conditions to those that athletes will face here, and the walking events have shown that it's worth supporting Japan in these endurance events.
Appearing for the first time in the Olympics, strong favourites for the women's madison are Dutch pairing Amy Pieters and Kirsten Wild (1.814/5). Winners of the last two world championships, and several other world cup races, the duo are all rounders who stand a solid chance of winning. However, even a cursory glance at their record demonstrates the febrile nature of the format: it's an event where variables are hard to control, making it difficult for any team to dominate, and increasing result volatility. Backing a team at odds-on seems foolish, then.
The Great Britain pairing of Katie Archibald and Laura Kenny (5.509/2) look to have a strong chance. Archibald was the best rider on show in the women's team pursuit - if only she'd had the team to back her up - and will be itching for gold, and Kenny will be able to profit in the sprints that come every 20 laps. However, they are relatively inexperienced in the event and so should not be backed alone.
A better strategy is to split stakes and also back the Belgian pairing of Lotte Kopecky and Jolien d'Hoore (8.007/1). They were a close fourth at the last world championships and both have been in good form this year on the professional road circuit.
*Odds correct at the time of writing
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Jack Houghton’s Tokyo 2020 P&L:
Staked (settled bets): 149.00
5-point back Jake Wightman @ 18.0017/1 in the Men's 1,500m Athletics
1-point back Lonah Chemtai Salpeter @ 7.6013/2 in the Women's Marathon
3-point back Mao Ichiyama @ 30.0029/1 in the Women's Marathon
1-point back Great Britain at 5.509/2 in Women's Madison Track Cycling
1-point back Belgium at 8.007/1 in Women's Madison Track Cycling