Jamaica’s newest golden girl and Rio Olympics gold-medallist, Elaine Thompson and her major rival, the Netherlands’ Rio silver-medallist Dafne Schippers, are set for the biggest showdown in 200-metre sprinting at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Weltklasse Zurich Diamond League meet on Thursday (September 1).
Thompson was crowned the new “Global Sprint Queen,” when she sensationally achieved a unique double gold in winning both the 100 and 200 metres at the Rio Olympics, where she outsped everyone to cement her place in the annals of Olympic history.
Thompson defeated Schippers twice in Rio and holds a special place among the great Olympians who achieved the distinction of double sprint gold at the world’s quadrennial premier sporting extravaganza, which is considered the highest forum of sporting competitions among all nations.
Thompson raced to international stardom and will rule the world as the brightest female sprinting star and her “Golden Double” maintained Jamaica’s prestigious honour of producing the fastest woman athlete for the last three Olympics.
She followed in the footsteps of legendary ShellyAnn Fraser-Pryce, who started the dynasty and raced to glory at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the iconic “Bird’s Nest” and repeated the astonishing feat at the 2012 London Olympics for back-to-back 100-metre gold and the coveted title as the fastest woman on the planet.
Fraser-Pryce was not up to her best form and despite her heroism, she failed to register an unprecedented triple gold in the 100-metres. While her supporters were disappointed, there was much gladness when her junior MVP clubmate kept the Jamaican flag flying high and the country’s anthem reverberating globally, by not only taking top honours in the 100 metres but sensationally beating Schippers in the 200 metres. MVP’s head coach, Stephen Francis, should be given the special credit and recognition for producing these two “Shining Gems” who have brought much pride and joy for Caribbean people.
The Dutchwoman had relegated Thompson to the silver medal position at the World Championships at the Beijing National Stadium last year August. Schippers arrived at Rio as the new world 200-metre champion, having won the 2015 World Championships race in 21.63 secs. She not only outsprinted Thompson (21.66 secs) but also had the measure of two-time Olympic champion, Veronica Campbell-Brown, who placed third in 21.97 secs., in what was described as the fast women half-lap race in history, when the top three places were below the ‘Sub-22 sec’ mark.
In her maiden global 200m triumph, Schippers not only eclipsed the World Championships record but also lowered the European record of 21.71 secs set by East German, Marita Koch in 1979 (twice) and subsequently equalled by German, Heike Drechsler in 1986 (twice).
Schippers time was the fourth fastest of all-time behind Americans Florence Griffith-Joyner (21.34 secs and 21.56) and Marion Jones (21.62).
She was the hot favourite to repeat at the Rio Olympics but was upstaged by the fleet-footed Thompson who celebrated an historic Olympic double and brought special pride and joy, not only to Jamaicans but the majority in the Caribbean and members of the Diaspora.
In her first post Rio Olympics race, the 24 year-old from Banana Ground in Jamaica, looked in ominous form, when she won the 100-metres at the Lausanne Diamond League meet on Thursday last (August 25). She clocked an amazing 10.78 secs.
Thompson will be seeking to maintain her supremacy with a special victory at Zurich, where the crowd would be buzzing with excitement, when the top two Olympians match strides against each other in another epic face-off for women sprint supremacy.
However, the Zurich 200-metre race will not be a ‘two-athlete’ race between Thompson and Schippers. It will definitely be one of the most hotly-contested races on the programme, that has attracted some of the greatest women athletes of the 21st century.
And although Thompson and Schippers are the two top names listed for action, they will not have things their own way and will have to bring out the A game to prevail over some of the world’s greatest half-lap specialists, who are scheduled to do battle for top honours on Thursday (September 1).
American, London Olympics 200-metre champion, Allyson Felix, is also registered to race alongside Jamaican, Veronica Campbell-Brown plus Trinidadian rising star, Michelle-Lee Ahye and Great Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith, who was fifth at both the Beijing World Championships and Rio Olympics, are also scheduled to start.
Ahye improved her national record and placed sixth in the final at Rio de Janeiro. The 24-year-old clocked 22.34 secs in the grand finale of the Olympics 200 metres but had registered 22.25 in the third semi-finals, a time which bettered her previous national record, set at the NAAA’s Senior Championships held at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on June 26.
At the 2015 World Champs, Asher-Smith set a new Great Britain national record with 22.07 secs, which also put her into the athletics history books as the fastest teenager all-time. She had bettered Great Britain’s Kathy Cook’s 22.10 secs, set at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics on August 9.
At Rio, Asher-Smith clocked her season’s best of 22.31 and finished just ahead of Ahye who clocked 22.34 in the final.
Felix had clocked 21.88 for her London Olympics gold medal performance but was unable to defend her title at Rio because she did not make the United States team for that event.
She competed in the 400-metre final and had to settle for silver to Bahamian Shaunae Miller, whose diving effort at the finishing line, brought her golden glory and denied Felix a special place in Olympics history.
Unfortunately and because of lane infringement, Campbell-Brown did not advance to the semis at Rio, where she missed a golden opportunity to add another precious individual medal to her coveted collection. While Campbell-Brown, with a season best of 22.29 and a personal best of 21.74; will be seeking to redeem herself and find a place among the top three finishers, Felix would be striving to improve on her season’s best of 22.54.
On the other hand, Trinidad and Tobago’s 200-metre national record holder, Michelle-Lee Ahye and Great Britain’s national record holder, Dina Asher-Smith, are among the rising stars and although they have not matched the speedy times of the top-notch performers as yet, they are still capable of providing stiff competition for Thompson, Schippers, Felix and Campbell-Brown.
Jamaica’s Simone Facey with a season best of 22.57 and a personal best of 22.25 and Sweden’s Mujinga Kambundji with a season best of 22.78 and personal best of 22.64, are also listed to compete in the 200m race.
So, while all eyes will be on Olympic champion, Thompson and her challenger Schippers, who will be seeking to avenge her Olympics defeat, experienced campaigners, Felix and Campbell-Brown, as well as youthful Ahye and Asher-Smith, will also be battling for top honours in a race that should be a thrilling spectacle.
The stage is set and the portents are ripe for this race to provide the first four ‘Sub-22 Secs’ for the women 200m race.
History is beckoning and I feel confident that “Queen Elaine” Thompson, once fully fit, will prevail and can threaten Merlene Ottey’s Jamaican national record of 21.64 secs. Some of the other athletes will also register their season and personal best over the “Zurich 200m-Showdown”.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Rio Olympics bronze medallist and national javelin record holder, Keshorn Walcott and German Rio Olympics gold-medallist, Thomas Rohler, are listed to compete in the men’s javelin event, that has attracted former world champion, Tero Pitkamaki and Lausanne Diamond League winner Jakub Vadlejch, who registered a personal and season best of 88.02m last Saturday (August 27).
Walcott recorded his season’s best of 88.68m in the Rio Olympics first round but he just managed 85.38 for the bronze medal effort with his fifth throw, while Rohler won the gold medal with a fifth round throw of 90.30m.
Rohler’s overall season best is 91.28 while his best effort last Saturday at Lausanne was 84.16, which was only good enough for third spot. Walcott placed fifth with a throw of 82.40m.
Both Rohler and Walcott will be attempting to turn the tables on Czechoslovakian Vadlejch and regain some measure of respect for that specialty with something close to their season’s best.
Meanwhile, Jamaica’s former world record holder, Asafa Powell, who is dubbed the “King of Sub-10s” will be striving for his 98th ‘Sub-10 Secs’ recording in the 100 metres.
Powell will be racing against his compatriot and newly-crowned Olympics 110m hurdles gold-medallist, Omar McLeod, who also wants to test his prowess against his established countryman, as well as Netherlands’ European champion, Churandy Martina, Great Britain’s Adam Gemili, Africa’s champion Akani Simbini, American, Michael Rodgers, Ivory Coast’s Ben Youssef Meite and Kittitian veteran sprinter Kim Collins.
Last Saturday, Powell won the Lausanne Diamond League 100-metres in 9.96 secs and is favoured to prevail over his rivals in Zurich, where he had equalled his world record mark of 9.77 on August 18, 2006. He had set the then WR in Athens on June 14, 2005.
Those records were subsequently erased by his legendary compatriot Usain St Leo Bolt who bettered it on three occasions with the standing record being his 9.58 set at the 2009 Berlin World Championships on August 16.
McLeod is bubbling with the Rio high and Olympics glow and should be able to produce his season’s best time in the 100m dash. Earlier, this year, he registered 9.99 secs, his first “sub-10”; in the 100m flat race at Fayetteville (USA) on April 24.
Many other Olympic and world champions will be on show in Zurich and we expect Caribbean stars like “Queen Elaine”, Powell and Walcott to prove their world class ability with outstanding performances.