Tokyo 2020

Repeat success 'super special'

Thompson-Herah retains 100m title in Games mark, denying fellow Jamaican her hat-trick

Jamaican Elaine Thompson-Herah had started to celebrate back-to-back Olympic 100m wins even before crossing the finishing line ahead of two-time winner Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, bronze medallist Shericka Jackson and fourth-placed Marie-Josee Ta Lou fr
Jamaican Elaine Thompson-Herah had started to celebrate back-to-back Olympic 100m wins even before crossing the finishing line ahead of two-time winner Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, bronze medallist Shericka Jackson and fourth-placed Marie-Josee Ta Lou from Ivory Coast (both not pictured).ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

History came hurtling down Lane 4 on a Tokyo night, pointing her finger at the scoreboard. In a stunning Olympic record of 10.61 seconds, the second-fastest time ever, Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica outclassed a talented field to win her second consecutive gold.

"This is super special," said Thompson-Herah, who stood bare-footed in the mixed zone later, her spikes in her hand. Perhaps her scorched feet just needed to cool down.

Her margin of victory was a decisive .13sec over compatriot Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who won gold in 2008 and 2012 and finished in 10.74. A third runner from the island nation, Shericka Jackson, took bronze in 10.76. One might say the Jamaican national championships were being held in Tokyo.

For the fourth Olympics in a row the champion was a Jamaican. For the second time Jamaica have taken home all three medals. Since the 1992 Olympics, in the women's and men's 100m, they have won 19 medals, seven of them gold. Their national motto is Out of Many One People. Perhaps they should consider inserting the word Fast before People.

As Fraser-Pryce grinned and said: "The legacy we have is incredible. Athletes can draw information and inspiration from everywhere." Asked what the reaction might be back home, she smiled again and said: "I hope they're not defying curfew orders."

The race was supposed to be a renewal of the rivalry between double-barrelled names, but when asked about it later both resisted the bait.

Fraser-Pryce is 34 and 1.52m while Thompson-Herah is 29 and 1.67m but really there was no contest. The latter started slower, finished faster and like that Bolt guy from 2008 was celebrating before she crossed the line.

The late Florence Griffith-Joyner's fantastic timings from 1988 - 10.62 at the Seoul Olympics, 10.49 at Indianapolis - have hung heavily over the women's 100m. There is suspicion over them and yet they stand. Today, finally, 33 years later, the first one fell.

Asked if a world record was possible if she had truly powered through the finish, Thompson-Herah smiled. "If I wasn't celebrating," she said, "most definitely." Somehow runners from Jamaica are capable of being intense and cool all at once. It almost seems unfair.

Once through the finish line, Thompson-Herah kept running till she fell on the floor. Relief and disbelief will do that. The stadium might have been empty but her tank was full of talent. "I have never run this fast," she said. "It's not soaked in yet."

The greats do not require crowds to find a spark and the run was even more astonishing if you consider Thompson-Herah's struggle with an Achilles injury. "Two months ago," she said, "I didn't think I would be here. But I believe in myself and I believe in God."

By 9.50pm on a sultry night the long jumpers had gone home and hefty fellows were done twirling and hurling the discus into distant postcodes. In the bowels of the stadium they must have watched, for in this stadium the sprinters are the accepted gods.

No Olympic race finishes faster than the 100m and yet its explosion briefly stops the planet. In the stadium the lights were turned off in the introduction and the names of finalists projected on the 100m strip. It seemed excessive theatrics for a race that is naturally dramatic.

Fastest Human anyway is the hippest sobriquet on earth and often involves the most entertaining people. In 1968, the eventual winner Wyomia Tyus did a dance behind her blocks but Thompson-Herah offered only a smile and then shot away. Asked later if the fast track and modern spikes had helped, she dryly said: "Training."

Fraser-Pryce has already been honoured with a statue in Jamaica and now Thompson-Herah clearly deserves one. With two Olympic 100m golds her name will forever be mentioned alongside Tyus (1964, 1968), Gail Devers (1992, 1996) and Fraser-Pryce (2008, 2012).

She is not done either and when asked if she might chase Bolt's record of three consecutive 100m golds, she replied: "I have my years. I'm not 30, not 40."

No, just fast.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 01, 2021, with the headline 'Repeat success 'super special''. Subscribe