Unique twist to medal ceremonies at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Athletes competing at the Tokyo Olympic Games will receive their medals from vending machines in order to minimise the spread of COVID-19.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that specially-designed vending machines will be placed beside the dais at each sporting venue and will dispense the medals before the athletes step onto the podium. The machines replace the IOC officials, politicians and sporting legends who would customarily award the medals.

“Using vending machines to award medals to victorious athletes is yet another world-first strategy the IOC has adopted to conduct a safe and healthy competition for all athletes, officials and other stakeholders at the Tokyo Olympic Games during the current pandemic,” announced an IOC spokesperson.

“The method minimises person-to-person contact as well as acknowledging a long-standing and popular cultural custom of obtaining almost anything from a vending machine in Japan.”

Athletes who finish first, second or third will scan their competition transponder through the vending machine. This will be read, and the appropriate medal will be issued before the athletes step onto the podium. The machines will also dispense the flowers and souvenir that the athletes traditionally receive.

“Tokyo 2020 has embraced technology and this is another practical example of the use of state-of-the-art technology to deliver a world-class event, which will keep athletes safe. Using vending machines also reduces the probability of an elite athlete being exposed to a ‘compromised’ sports official.”

It is also hoped the use of vending machines will eliminate the awkward moments in which medal presenters can’t decide whether it is appropriate to kiss, shake hands, fist bump, hug, bow or do none of the above while awarding a medal.

The IOC and the local organising committee had considered using robots to perform this task, but realised that some robots are so life-like they could catch and transmit COVID-19.

Image: Charles Deluvio

Nancie Akinyi wins a wild stage of the Migration Gravel Race.

Nancie Akinyi sped to her second consecutive victory during stage 3 of the Migration Gravel Race on a day when riders crossed paths with Kenya’s famous wildlife. Akinyi finished ahead of Betsy Welch and may have set herself up for overall victory.

Akinyi and Welch rode together for the first hour before back pain slowed Welch. Akinyi then broke away from the American and the Dutch pair of Dorien Geertsema and Mieke Luten, as ostrich, zebra and wildebeest sprinted across the flat and dusty roads right in front of the riders. The Kenyan took advantage of the tailwind to maintain a consistently high pace and successfully weaved her way through the cattle, goats and sheep which blocked the road throughout the day.

Reflecting on the first 3 stages, Welch said her arms hurt more than her legs, and re-ignited an old debate when she asked:

“Should I have brought a mountain bike?”

Riders were invited to see two goats slaughtered in their honour by their Maasai hosts after the stage. Some accepted, some declined. The fate of the goats reflected the harsh reality of rural Kenya, something riders will again experience on the 4th and final stage.

Who will stand on top of the podium in the inaugural Migration Gravel Race?

Follow the action at http://www.migrationgravelrace.com, and http://www.instagram.com/migrationgravelrace

Who will win the Migration Gravel Race?

The winner of the inaugural Migration Gravel Race will be crowned on today’s fourth and final stage through the Maasai Mara region of Kenya. Laurens Ten Dam and Suleman Kangangi will fight for victory in the men’s category, while the women’s race is a showdown between Nancy Akinyi and Betsy Welch. The fight for bronze will be just as fascinating on the 162km stage with 1600m elevation.

Ten Dam leads Kangangi after the Dutchman won the first two stages and rode strongly in stage 3 to regain contact with the leaders after numerous mechanicals saw him dropped. Kangangi and his Kenyan Riders teammates Geoffrey Langat and John Kariuki attacked Ten Dam, but could not break him.

Akinyi has now won two stages after Welch took stage 1. Akinyi has looked stronger as the race continues and has been too fast for her rivals…when she stays on the course. She got lost on stage 1 and 2, but showed enough strength to catch and then pass the other women in the field. Meanwhile, Welch is battling her own mind as she constantly asks herself whether or not she cares about winning, and whether or not she is competitive. Now is the time to decide.

Ian Boswell and Langat battle for third position. Boswell lost more than one hour to the leaders on a horrid first stage, but has clawed his way back on the subsequent stages to challenge Thomas Dekker and Kenneth Karaya who sat in 3rd and 4th before stage 3.

Langat is looking very strong after powering away to win the flat and fast stage 3, while Boswell is yet to win a stage after taking out the recent Unbound Gravel race in the US. Boswell has ridden in all three grand tours, but Langat employed his local knowledge and inherent toughness to escape from the lead group in the rock garden on stage 3, and leave his rivals in the dust. Jordan Schleck, Edwin Keiya and the Masaka Cycling Club duo of Wasswa Peter and Kato Paul could also fight their way onto the podium.

The Dutch duel.

Dorien Geertsema and Mieke Luten will contest the final podium position in the women’s category. The duo from the Netherlands have ridden together and supported each other during the first three brutal stages and were locked on the same overall time entering stage 3.

Will they cross the line together, or will competitive instincts kick in and prompt one of them to attack?

Follow the final day’s action at http://www.migrationgravelrace.com, and http://www.instagram.com/migrationgravelrace