Sat | Jan 23, 2021

Thompson Herah’s time? - … Sprinter a finalist for Athlete of the Year award, but faces tough challenge from record breakers

Published:Wednesday | November 25, 2020 | 12:21 AMDaniel Wheeler/Staff Reporter
Thompson Herah
Thompson Herah

As Olympic double sprint champion Elaine Thompson Herah celebrates her selection as a finalist for the World Athletics Female World Athlete of the Year award, two of Jamaica’s leading track and field coaches presented differing views on her chances of copping the award.

Thompson Herah, who sped to a world-leading 10.85 seconds on her way to an unbeaten record in her seven 100m starts last season, will go up against Letesenbet Gidey of Ethiopia, Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands, Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya, and Yulimar Rojas of Venezuela, who all broke world records in their respective events during the COVID-19 affected campaign.

Head coach at Swept Track Club Okeile Stewart assessed that the instability of this year’s athletic calendar adds to the closeness of the competition for the award and believes that world records could be the deciding factor in the decision-making process.

“Some consideration should be [given] for those records in a year like this. It’s going to be a challenge because while competing and doing credible times, we still have to give consideration for world records, especially in an off-year,” Stewart told The Gleaner.

Hassan set a new world record of 18,930m in the one-hour run, while Jepchirchir twice broke the half-marathon record for a women-only race. Additionally, Gibey set a new world record in the 5000m on October 7 in Spain, stopping the clock in 14:06:62 minutes, and Rojas broke the world indoor triple jump record in February.

GREAT CHANCE AT AWARD

While agreeing that world records could play a role in the eventual winner, Sprintec head coach Maurice Wilson, a man who has led many a Jamaican coaching panel at the Olympic Games and World Championships level, says that the prestige of the sprint events and Thompson Herah’s performance in the marquee discipline this season give her a great chance of becoming the third Jamaican to win the award.

“I do believe that the sprinting events, the male and female 100m, are two premium events, and anybody that is dominant over those events, I believe stands a very good chance of winning,” Wilson said. “I think she has a good chance of doing well because she did exceptionally well at the back-end of the season, where she ran very consistently, times below 11 seconds. In my opinion, she was the premier sprinter on the track this year.”

Merlene Ottey (1990) and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (2013) are the other Jamaican recipients of the Female World Athlete of the Year award.

Despite racing the majority of her season in Jamaica because of the pandemic, Thompson Herah finished her campaign unbeaten in seven 100m races this season, including setting a world-leading time of 10:85 seconds in Rome on September 17.

Additionally, she has run four of the 10 fastest times in the world this year in the 100m. Her compatriot and four-time 100m world champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce has three.

Thompson Herah was a finalist for the award in 2016 but lost to Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia, who won the Olympic 10,000m title and broke the world record (29:17:45 minutes).

The winner will be revealed on December 5 at the World Athletics Awards, which will be held virtually. Voting closed on November 15. The public vote will count towards 25 per cent of the final result while the votes of the World Athletics Council and the World Athletics Family will contribute 50 per cent and 25 per cent of the total result, respectively.

daniel.wheeler@gleanerjm.com