Being crowned Olympic champion is the pinnacle of success in track & field. Doing it at your first games is something that stays with you forever.
Elaine Thompson moved to the zenith of world sprinting after winning the women’s 200m final to go along with her 100m title secured a few days earlier. The Jamaican engraved her name into the history books by becoming the first woman from her country and indeed the Caribbean to win the sprint double at an Olympic games.
The 2015 world championship silver medallist in the 200m was always desirous of doing better this season and she duly obliged on the biggest stage. It was without doubt the standout performance of the night.
Thompson, running out of lane six, and running into a (-0.1 m/s) headwind blasted out of the blocks and flew around the bend coming into the home straight with a marginal lead. She briefly had company and was thereafter engaged in a three-way battle in the middle of the track with Ivorian Marie-Josee Ta Lou and long-time nemesis Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands.
The action was pulsating in the home straight and the torrid pace took its toll on Ta Lou who was unable to match the staying power and speed required to challenge for the gold medal. It was now left to the Dutchwoman and the Jamaican who have met several times over their promising careers with Schippers having the advantage including her gold medal run last year in Beijing.
However, after Thompson outclassed her rivals including Schippers in the 100m final on Friday night, one could sense a permanent change in proceedings going forward. Thompson was now considerably faster and smarter than last year when she was a 10.8 seconds sprinter over the 100m.
Thompson’s speed was on full display Wednesday night turning back Schippers renowned for her stamina and great top-end speed and who was closing like a windstorm. However, unlike last year when she lost her form in Beijing a few metres from the end, Thompson executed great poise to repel the challenges of the flying Dutchwoman who lost her balance and went flying across the finish line.
Thompson won in 21.78 seconds, a season’s best and the fastest time in the world this year. Thompson, who gave everything in the race, seemed oblivious at first that she had won. Afterwards, when the reality of her achievement had sunk in, she reflected on her season and expressed surprise at the outcome. “My school motto is ‘Let your light shine’ and I let my light shine tonight. It’s a big surprise to me because I have had a hamstring injury.”
She continued, “You must overcome these things and tonight I am standing here with a gold medal. To beat Dafne Schippers is a hard run.”
Schippers, who ran her heart out for silver, also got a season’s best in 21.88 seconds. She was clearly stunned that she lost the race and showed her disgust in no uncertain terms afterwards.
“I came for gold, I was in good form,” she said. “My times were OK but they were not strong enough. I haven’t made my mind up about what happened. I’m not happy with the silver.”
Tori Bowie finished like a freight train to outrun Ta Lou, Michelle Lee-Ahye and Deejay Stevens to grab the bronze medal in 22.15 seconds. Ta Lou once again ran a personal best 22.21 and a national record for the Ivory Coast. Great Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith was fifth in 22.31 just ahead of the fading Lee-Ahye in 22.34.
Thompson’s run (21.78) is the second fastest winning time since the Barcelona Olympics. Only her countrywoman Veronica Campbell-Brown’s 21.74 seconds victory in Beijing in 2008 is faster. Thompson’s victory also represents the 4th time a Caribbean woman has won this event in the last 16 years. Bahamian Pauline Davis won in 2000, Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown won twice in 2004 & 2008 and now Elaine Thompson.
Elaine Thompson is the first woman to complete the sprint double in 28 years. The last time it was done was at the 1988 Seoul Games by American Florence Griffiths-Joyner.