Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Sprint queen Elaine

Published:Sunday | January 8, 2017 | 1:00 AMRyon Jones
Elaine Thompson

Elaine Thompson ended the 2016 season as the most dominant female sprinter in the world, earning her a nomination for the 56th RJR Sports Foundation National Sportswoman of the Year award.

Thompson catapulted to the forefront of female sprinting last year as she embodied the motto of one of her alma maters and allowed her light to shine.

She became the first Caribbean woman to win the sprint double at the Olympic Games.

The 24-year-old Thompson also earned a silver medal as part of Jamaica's Olympic 4x100m relay team, bronze in the 60m at the IAAF World Indoor Championships, and the IAAF Diamond League trophy for the 100m as she ended the season undefeated in 12 finals in that particular event.

She also registered the three fastest times in 2016 in the 100m (10.70, 10.71, and 10.72) and the two fastest times in the 200m (21.78 and 21.85).

"It is a good feeling to be on top now, and I am also a role model to everyone looking up to me, and I just have to maintain that level that I am at right now and just push myself further in the future," Thompson said.

WINNING WOULD BE A PRIVILEGE

But despite the many accolades earned in 2016, including having being one of three females shortlisted for the 2016 IAAF Women's World Athlete of the Year, Thompson said that winning her first National Sportswoman of the Year award would be a privilege.

"Winning this year's RJR [Sports Foundation National] Sportswoman of the Year award would be an honour and also a motivation to push me further, knowing that last season I did well and dominated both in the 100m and 200m, and I accomplished my dream by making the Olympics team for the first time," Thompson said.

To put Thompson's spectacular rise into proper perspective, one has to examine where she is coming from and how quickly she has ascended to the top of female sprinting.

Born in Banana Ground in Manchester, Thompson attended Christiana High School and later, Manchester High, which has as its motto 'Let your light so shine'. But like many of her MVP club mates, Thompson was not a track star in high school. Representing Manchester High at the 2009 Boys and Girls' Championships, she placed fifth in the Class Two 100m final with a modest 12.01 seconds clocking and did not even make the team in her final year.

Just three years (2013) prior to her Olympics triumph, Thompson's 100m personal best (PB) stood at an unremarkable 11.41 seconds, but she continued her improvement in 2014, dropping her 100m PB to 11.17. In 2015, however, she got the world to start taking notice after getting the better of a field including American Allyson Felix and Nigerian Blessing Okagbare inside Jamaica's National Stadium and then improved her PB to 10.84 at the Eugene Classics.

She also took on the 200m in 2015, running four races, registering times of 22.37, 22.31, 22.10, and then 21.66 to win silver behind Dafne Schippers in the final of the half-lap event at the World Championships.

The bit of history was necessary to show how Thompson has progressed as the last two females to have achieved the feat of claiming the sprint double at the Olympics, one, Marion Jones, has since admitted to taking drugs and has been stripped of the titles. As for the other, Griffith-Joyner, there is a negative tension and a feeling of 'too-good-to-be-true' that accompanies any mention of her achievement, with both victories having come in yet-to-be challenged record times.

Thompson, like many others before her, did not even come close to Florence Griffith-Joyner's Olympic records of 10.54 in the 100m and 21.34 for the 200m, but she certainly evoked that same kind of excellence.

Her winning time in the Olympic 100m final of 10.71 was the best at an Olympics since Griffith-Joyner in 1988 and was just 0.01 (10.70) shy of her lifetime best and the Jamaican national record, which she shares with club mate Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and is the joint fourth-fastest time over the distance on the all-time list.

NO FLUKE

In the 200m final, she was just as impressive, winning in 21.78, also a world lead, after handily fending off a late-race challenge by Schippers to reverse their finish from the IAAF World Championships in Beijing.

Thompson proved that her Olympics 200m triumph was no fluke as in the first post-Olympics clash in the 200m, in Laussane, Thompson showed versatility in racing style, timing her surge perfectly to pip Schippers (21.86), winning in 21.85.

The race also included two-time Olympic champion and three-time world champion Allyson Felix, who was third in 22.02 seconds.

Thompson further reaffirmed her title as the fastest woman on the planet when she won the 100m at the final Diamond League meeting of the season to claim the overall Diamond League 100m title. She took the race at the Brussels meet in 10.72, again seeing off Schippers, as she equalled the meet record of her compatriot Fraser-Pryce.

The RJR Sports Foundation is for the 56th year honouring outstanding achievements in sports by professional or amateur Jamaican athletes who have represented the country in an internationally recognised sporting competition between January 1 and December 31.

The 2016 RJR Sports Foundation National Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year Awards will be handed out at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel on January 13.