With a population of just under 3.0 million, Jamaica had produced many great track athletes, including Herb McKenley, Arthur Wint, Donald Quarrie, Merlene Ottey, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Usain Bolt. At the Rio Olympics, a lot was expected of Usain Bolt and he delivered three gold medals in the 100m, 200m and the 4x100m relays.
The trend continued with the emergence of sprinter Elaine Thompson who captured the women’s 100m and 200m titles in 10.71 and 21.78 seconds respectively. Fraser-Pryce and Thompson are both coached by Stephen Francis at MVP Track Club in Kingston, Jamaica. Fraser-Pryce's 2016 season was plagued by a toe injury which significantly hampered her training and preparation for Rio. She did however finish third behind Thompson in a season-best time of 10.86 seconds. What more can you ask of Fraser-Pryce?
Thompson, who ran a lifetime best time of 10.70 seconds (+0.3mps) in the 100m at the 2016 Jamaican National Championship in late June, equaled the national record set by Fraser-Pryce at the 2012 Jamaican championship. Thompson was the favorite heading into Rio and was expected to be challenged by Americans English Gardner and Tori Bowie, who both ran impressive times in the 100m at the 2016 U.S.A. Olympic Trials. But the rest of the field was no match for Thompson who easily won the 100m and claimed her first individual global title.
The women’s 200m final event saw the renewed rivalry between Thompson and Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands. Schippers took the 200m gold at the 2015 Beijing world championship in a personal best time of 21.63 seconds with Thompson taking the silver also in a personal best time of 21.66 seconds. Schippers was favored to take the Rio 200m gold. But Thompson ran a gutsy race by taking the lead and holding on to take the victory in 21.78 seconds (-0.1mps) ahead of Schippers (21.88) with American Tori Bowie (22.15) finishing in third.
Thompson victory continues the trend, where a Jamaican woman has won the last three 100m Olympic titles. Fraser-Pryce took the 100m titles in Beijing 2008 and London 2012.
Edited by Raymond Byfield
Elaine Thompson at the 2015 Penn Relays , picture by O'Neil A. Reid