Sun | Sep 19, 2021

‘I’m the greatest’

Sprinter secures historic Olympic double double

Published:Wednesday | August 4, 2021 | 12:11 AMAndrÈ Lowe/Sports Editor

TOKYO, Japan:

In just over 21 seconds, Elaine Thompson Herah’s unmatchable strides propelled her into orbit on Tuesday to stake an emphatic claim as perhaps the greatest female sprinter in Olympic history.

The 29-year-old will launch her bid for immortality with the triple double in the Paris 2024 Summer Games to seal her place in the pantheon of athletics greats alongside Usain Bolt.

Thompson Herah became the first woman to win the 100m and 200m in back-to-back Olympic Games after another jaw-dropping performance inside the Tokyo Olympic Stadium - this time a national record - on a day that saw Jamaica earn an additional medal, taking its tally to five.

Her winning time of 21.53 seconds eclipsed the record of another iconic figure, Merlene Ottey, whose 21.64 was relieved after its 30-year tour of duty. It also makes her the second-fastest woman ever in the 200m behind American Florence Griffith-Joyner, whose 21.34 remains the world record in the event.

Namibia’s Christine Mboma, who was at the centre of a sexual development controversy along with countrywoman and sixth-place finisher Beatrice Masilingi, was banned under International Olympic Committee and World Athletics rules from competing in any event from 400m to 1,500m because of their naturally occurring but higher-than-usual testosterone levels, finished second in a World Under-20 record of 21.81.

The bronze medal went to USA’s Gabrielle Thomas in 21.87s, while Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce missed out on the podium after finishing fourth in 21.94s.

Thompson Herah, who shared that she had not really slept since winning the 100m title on Sunday, said she is finally fit again and expects to continue her dominance in the coming years.

“This is the best shape that I have been in. There have been other times when I was also in great shape and the Achilles gets the better of me,” said Thompson Herah.

“But this year I was able to keep it together, and for the rest of the season that’s what I have to do. Keep it together and end the season healthy.”

Thompson Herah found redemption in Tokyo after being plagued with World Championships disappointments in 2017 and 2019 during her Olympic interregnums.

Having ticked off three of the four goals on her bucket list - defending her titles, running a personal best, and notching a world lead, she has one bit of unfinished business: breaking the world record. In a screenshot of self-motivation mantras, Thompson Hera wrote: “I will run 10.5. I will run 21.5. I can do it. ... I am the greatest.”

Thompson Herah is the second Jamaican to win consecutive Olympic 200m titles after Veronica Campbell-Brown’s triumphs at the 2004 and 2008 Games.

While congratulating Thompson Herah on her double double coronation, Fraser-Pryce said that she was satisfied with her own performance in what’s expected to be her final individual race at sport’s biggest stage.

“Repeating at any championship is impressive, and to run 21.53 in a final is also impressive, so hats off to Elaine and the team – meaning her coaches for putting together that effort. I am not on the podium but I am excited that Jamaica got to retain that title once more,” Fraser-Pryce said.

The muted mood of her hometown Waterhouse in Kingston on Tuesday contrasted with the pot cover-clanging celebrations of the past, but Fraser-Pryce said that she “ran a good race” despite finishing just outside of the medals.

Fraser-Pryce remains on seven Olympic medals alongside Shirley Strickland and Irena Kirszenstein.

Only Allyson Felix and Merlene Ottey, with nine each, and Veronica Campbell-Brown, with eight, have won more Olympic medals than Fraser-Pryce, who will have a chance to win an eighth in the 4x100m relays.

There was disappointment for Jamaica in the women’s 800m final as Natoya Goule faded badly in the last 120m, after completing the first 400m in second place, to finish last in 1:58.26 as USA’s Athing Mu, as expected, won in a national record 1:55.21.

Second place went to Great Britain’s Keely Hodgkinson, 1:55.88, another national record, while USA’s Raevyn Rogers, 1:56.81, took the bronze.

“I am disappointed. I know a lot of persons are disappointed. They were looking for me to bring back a medal and it just did not happen today. I’m still giving thank, I am grateful for my first Olympic final, I ran dead last, but I still ran 1:58,” said Goule, who said the compactness and pace of the pack at the 400m-600m mark affected her ability to finish strong.

Meanwhile, Rasheed Dwyer produced a strong run in the semi-finals of the men’s 200m, registering a season’s best 20.13s, to book his spot in today’s final, which will face the starter at 9:55 p.m. (7:55 a.m. Jamaica time).

That 20.13s clocking is Dwyer’s best time since June 2017.

All three Jamaicans are through to the semi-finals of the women’s 400m, with Stephenie-Ann McPherson leading the way among the group with the fifth-fastest time in qualifying.

McPherson, 50.89, won her heat quite comfortably, as did Candice McLeod, 51.09s, with Roneisha McGregor also booking her spot to the next round with a 51.14s clocking, which was good enough for second place in her heat.

The women’s 400m semi-finals will take place at 7:30 p.m. today (5:30 a.m. Jamaica time), with the final set for Friday at 9:35 p.m. (7:35 a.m.).

Earlier in the day, Carey McLeod failed to progress to the men’s triple jump final, managing a best of 16.01m, which was only good enough for 24th overall.

National champion Ronald Levy, 13.17, and Hansle Parchment, 113.23, were impressive in qualifying for the men’s 110m hurdles semi-final; Levy winning his heat and Parchment following gold medal favourite Grant Holloway, 13.02, to the line in their first round coming together.

The third Jamaican in the event, Damion Thomas, also made it through safely after finishing third in his heat in a time of 13.54s.

andre.lowe@gleanerjm.com