Gleaner Honour Awards | Elaine Thompson - True Champion
Absolutely brilliant. Two words which accurately describe the performances of Jamaica's new sprint queen, Elaine Thompson, at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
A sprint double at the Games, the first by a woman since American Florence Griffith Joyner's triumphs in 1988 at the Seoul Olympics, left a nation beaming with pride. In addition to winning two gold medals (100m in 10.71 and 200m in 21.78) and a sprint relay silver, Thompson capped off a remarkable record year by capturing the 100m Diamond on the prestigious IAAF Diamond League circuit.
In two years, the 24-year-old from the little-known community of Banana Ground in Manchester moved from being a virtual unknown to one of the greatest-ever Jamaican sprinters. In Rio de Janeiro, at her first Olympic Games, Thompson achieved a feat which a few other great Jamaican female sprinters - Merlene Ottey, Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn, Veronica Campbell-Brown and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce - went close to but did not accomplish.
While many have described her climb to the top as meteoric, the University of Technology/MVP star maintains that she always had it within her to do great things.
"I would not say my rise to the top has come quickly. I just waited patiently," she said.
"I have patience and I have been working very hard. It's quick to some people because I was a nobody, but I knew I was somebody and deep down I was working to be that person one day. Hopefully, it has happened now and I am that sprint queen and superstar," she added.
Thompson began competitive sprinting at Christiana High School before moving to Manchester High. Like many of her MVP Track Club teammates, Thompson had relatively modest results at the annual GraceKennedy-ISSA Boys and Girls' Championships.
Inspired by sprint stars
There was a quick transformation, however, after 2012, when she joined the MVP club and began taking orders from coach Stephen Francis.
Thompson admitted that she has been inspired by current and former national sprint stars. "I always wanted to be a sprinter, so while growing up I admired Merlene Ottey and Veronica Campbell-Brown, and as I got a bit older and joined MVP, I became impressed by Fraser-Pryce (already an Olympic champion) and her approach to training.
"At MVP, I am surrounded by a lot of super-talented female athletes and they motivated and pushed me to train harder, and I began to see my true talent and how good I was going to be," Thompson said.
She said her life has changed dramatically since last year's Olympic triumph.
"The Elaine I was is not the same anymore. I am a role model to everyone now. Everybody is looking at me so I cannot walk and do anything on the street or just post anything on social media. I have to be responsible in my actions," she said.
According to Thompson, her best-executed race in 2016 was not at the Olympics. It came over 200m in Zurich (setting a Diamond League record of 21.85 in defeating arch-rival Dafne Schippers).
An easy-going person, she takes everything in stride ahead of her races. "I have no special preparations for any event. I listen to my music (soca, dancehall), eat regular food, that's just me. I do not do anything out of the norm," she said.