Elaine Thompson-Herah/Getty Images
While the pandemic delayed the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, it could not stop Jamaican Sprinter Elaine Thompson-Herah from becoming the fastest woman alive and the second fastest in the history of the race behind the late Florence Griffin-Joyner.
The Jamaican sprint queen cemented her status by setting a new Olympic record. She also added Women's World Athlete of the Year to her list of accolades on Wednesday for winning the sprint double for a second consecutive Olympics.
Elaine won back-to-back Olympic 100m and 200m gold – beating her rivals on the Tokyo track including two-time Olympic champion and countryman Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. Not only did she make history as the first woman to successfully defend her 100m and 200m Olympic titles, she is also the second sprinter after track-and-field legend Usain Bolt to win the sprint double at consecutive Olympics.
Blazing A Trail To Olympic Glory
“It’s not how you start, but how you finish.” These words by Jim George accurately describe Elaine Thompson-Herah’s journey to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in 2021. Thompson-Herah was third in June’s Jamaica trials behind rivals Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Shericka Jackson. Little did the world know, when Elaine took to the tracks, history was about to made.
With 15 million plus viewers watching live from their homes, Elaine took off like a bullet, dominating the race alongside her compatriot Fraser-Pryce. They were neck and neck but Elaine left her rival in the dust and sped toward a glorious historical moment. She successfully defended her Olympic title clocking 10.6 for a new Olympic record. She also set a new personal best of 21.53 seconds in the 200 meters race.
Elaine Thompson-Herah celebrates after winning women's 100 m final at the Tokoyo Olympics/ Photo: Martin Meissner/AP
Elated, the 29-year-old hurled out a scream to the empty stadium over her emphatic triumph. After her outstanding performance, the five-time Olympic Gold Medalist expressed to TV viewers how grateful she was to reclaim her title.
Coming out of her Olympic win, the Jamaican sprint sensation closed out her incredible season with the Diamond league 100m victory with a 10.65 run – smashing the 37-year-old record previously set by American Evelyn Ashford in 1984.
Far From An Easy Start
Life in short is great for Elaine Thompson-Herah. She had the best season ever and the breadth of her achievements to date is immensely impressive. However, her journey to the top was not easy.
Hailing from Banana Ground, a small rural Parish in Manchester Jamaica, Elaine was by no means a sports prodigy. In fact, her best performance at the Jamaican High School Championship was fourth place in the 100m race in 2009. She was even left out of the high-school team her final year due to disorderly conduct.
It wasn’t until Thompson-Herah began training with head track and field coach Stephen Francis at the University of Technology in Jamaica, did the young athlete's skills improved. Coach Francis did not mince his words and his tough love was exactly what she needed to elevate her game. "He told me I could do better in training and that I was not producing the times on the track that I should be. He told me not to be scared of people, be less serious, smile more and shake it up," she told Worldathletics.org.
Although she was not born a star, Elaine had the potential for greatness and her hard work paid off. She came on the international scene at the 2015 Olympics – winning silver in the 200 meters race. That outstanding performance was surpassed by her 100m and 200m gold win at the Rio Olympics in 2016. However, her winning streak was short-lived. Calf and achilles injuries derailed Elaine from reaching the podium in 2017 and 2019 at the World Athletic Championships.
The track-and-field Olympian’s failure to perform led to growing doubt about her ability to reclaim gold. While disappointed in her performance, Elaine was determined to prove her naysayers wrong. She did not allow her critics’ opinions to create self-doubt. Instead, it fueled this underdog. She told Olympics.com, “Disappointment makes you better and stronger because I know what I am facing is this one lingering injury. The main thing is putting in the work and you will get the results that you want one day.”
Elaine knew that she had to work her way back to the top and she did. Her determination and relentless work ethic made her unstoppable.
This newly minted Jamaican icon has carved out her own slice of history is an inspiration to young girls in her home country and around the world.
There’s no question who the fastest woman alive is – it’s Elaine Thompson-Herah. Booyah!