Column: Elaine Thompson keeps queen of the track title, and 100-meter gold, in Jamaica
The good citizens of Banana Ground, Manchester Parish, Jamaica, might still be partying in honor of their most famous resident, Elaine Thompson, now known as the world’s fastest woman.
Thompson, raised by her grandmother in that remote Jamaican community, ended the Olympic reign of her compatriot, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, with a strong and powerful performance Saturday in the women’s 100-meter dash. Pulling away over the last 30 meters from Fraser-Pryce — who won gold in the two previous Games — and from American Tori Bowie, Thompson won in 10.71 seconds before a joyful crowd at Olympic Stadium.
Bowie, a first-time Olympian, finished second in 10.83 seconds. Fraser-Pryce, she of the green-and-yellow hair dyed to show her Jamaican pride, won bronze with a time of 10.86 seconds.
Thompson, 24, wasn’t sure how to celebrate at the finish line, but she knows the folks back home rejoiced for her. “There is a big screen back home in my community in Jamaica. I can’t imagine what is happening there right now,” she said, smiling.
Fraser-Pryce, who was hampered by a toe injury and was in tears after her semifinal Saturday afternoon, said she was happy the Olympic title stays in the island nation. She didn’t want to discuss the injury other than to call this her greatest medal ever because she had to fight hardest. “I don’t want to take someone’s shine. This is Elaine’s time,” she said.
Bowie wore gold glitter on her eyes but her medal was silver.
“I’m not giving up on me having a chance to win a gold medal too,” said Bowie, who’s also entered in the 200. “I just have to continue to learn how to run this race … This just makes me a little bit more motivated.”
Britain’s Mo Farah won his second straight 10,000-meter gold medal despite falling about 3,000 meters in. He got up and had enough left for a strong finishing kick that brought him to the line in 27:05.17, ahead of Paul Tanui of Kenya (27:05.64) and Tamarit Tola of Ethiopia (27:06.26). Galen Rupp of the U.S., the London silver medalist, faded to fifth. “When I went down I thought, ‘Oh my God, that’s it,’” Farah said. “I just got up and wanted to stick with the guys and stay strong.”
American Jeff Henderson’s final leap of 8.38 meters (27 feet, 6 inches) brought him a surprise long jump gold medal over Luvo Manyonga of South Africa and Greg Rutherford of Britain. American Jarrion Lawson nearly passed Henderson but brushed his hand in the sand on his final attempt and the jump was marked at that shorter point.
Henderson dedicated the medal to his mother, who is bedridden with Alzheimer’s. He also said his coach, Al Joyner, inspired him by giving him the 1984 triple jump gold medal Joyner had won. “And he said, ‘Give me back my gold medal and you keep your gold medal,’” Henderson said.
The dramatic evening events — which also included Belgium’s Nafissatou Thiam upsetting 2012 Olympic heptathlon champion Jessia Ennis-Hill of Britain and Canada’s Brianne Theisen-Eaton pulling up to third place — followed a busy morning that featured world record holder Usain Bolt of Jamaica taking his first step toward an unprecedented third straight gold sweep of the Olympic 100 and 200 sprints and the 400-meter relay.
Bolt was his usual outgoing self in winning his first-round heat in 10.07 seconds and advancing to Sunday afternoon’s semifinals. Greeted by roars, he clapped and smiled as he was introduced, tapped the Jamaica insignia on his singlet and put his index finger to his lips before lifting it to the sky.
He had a slow start but his long legs made up ground quickly and he jogged home with no sign of the hamstring injury he had last month. “I’m feeling good. I’m happy I got through,” he said.
American Justin Gatlin, the 2004 gold medalist in the 100, had the fastest first-round time Saturday, an easy 10.01. “Just control the race at the beginning, stay strong in the middle and stay tall at the end,” he said of his strategy. “This is the best it’s felt so far this whole season. I feel good.”
Canada’s Andre De Grasse, who won NCAA titles in the 100 and 200 while running for USC, ran an effortless 10.04 to advance. “It was a great race for me, a confidence-booster to see where I’m at running into the semifinals [Sunday] and I feel I have a lot left in the tank,” he said. Jamaica’s Yohan Blake, the 2012 silver medalist in the 100 and 200, looked strong in running a 10.11. Americans Trayvon Bromell (10.13) and Marvin Bracy (10.16) would have to step up to reach the final.
Kirani James of Grenada, the London Olympic gold medalist in the 400, had the top semifinal time of 44.02 seconds to advance to Sunday’s final. LaShawn Merritt, in the same heat, advanced at 44.21 and will be the lone American in the final. “It’s going to be a dogfight,” James said.
In the first round of the women’s 400, Allyson Felix of Los Angeles easily won her heat in 51.24 seconds. Phyllis Francis had the top time, 50.58, and Natasha Hastings qualified at 51.31.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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