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Elaine Thompson-Herah leads Jamaica's 100 sweep in record-setting time

·4 min read
-TOKYO,JAPAN July 31, 2021: Jamaica's Elaine Thompson-Herah celebrates the gold medal in the 100m final at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. (Wally Skalij /Los Angeles Times)
Jamaica's Elaine Thompson-Herah celebrates after capturing the gold medal in the 100-meter final. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica had just become the second-fastest woman in history.

But she needed a few seconds Saturday night at the Tokyo Games when asked what it was like to break the Olympic record in the women’s 100-meter race.

“Ahhh,” Thompson-Herah began, “my throat hurts.”

That was the cost of shouting for joy in triumph.

Thompson-Herah shouted several times after crossing the finish line in 10.61 seconds to win her second consecutive Olympic gold medal in the marquee event.

Thompson-Herah broke the Olympic record of 10.62 seconds that was set by Florence Griffith Joyner at the Seoul Games in 1988. Griffith Joyner’s world-record time of 10.49 still stands, but with six of the eight finalists on Saturday finishing in under 11 seconds, it is perhaps within reach, especially for Thompson-Herah.

“Anything is possible,” she said after leading a Jamaican sweep.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce won the silver medal and Shericka Jackson bronze as Jamaicans won every medal in the event for the first time since the 2008 Beijing Games.

“We’re amazing,” Thompson-Herah said.

Teahna Daniels, the only American in the final, said that while she would love to see an American flag during the medal ceremony, the Jamaicans deserved respect for their achievement.

“It’s kind of cool seeing them,” Daniels said, “They’ve worked so hard. … I can’t be mad at the talent and the work they put in.”

Thompson-Herah, who is also seeking a second consecutive gold medal in the 200 meters, overcame an Achilles injury that slowed her during Jamaica’s Olympic trials in June. She finished third in both events.

“Two months ago — a month-and-a-half — I didn’t think I would be here,” she said.

Thompson-Herah showed no weakness Friday while winning a qualifying heat. She also appeared to breeze in a semifinal Saturday afternoon.

Her biggest competition in the final figured to be Fraser-Pryce, a four-time Olympian seeking her third 100-meters gold medal. Marie-Josse Ta Lou of Ivory Coast also was regarded as a top contender.

But no one could catch Thompson-Herah on Saturday.

“Behind this 10.6 there was lot of nerves,” she said, “As in ‘You can do this. You’ve been here before. Just execute.’”

Fraser-Pryce said she had a problematic third step after the start and never recovered.

“I don’t ever find excuses as an athlete,” she said. “You just have to show up and perform regardless.”

One marquee sprinter was absent Saturday. American Sha’Carri Richardson, winner of the 100 meters at the U.S. Olympic trials, was suspended June 30 after testing positive for marijuana.

Thompson-Herah was asked how she thought Richardson would stack up against her.

“No comment,” she said.

If Thompson-Herah qualifies for the Paris Games in 2024, she will have the opportunity to match countryman Usain Bolt, the winner of three consecutive Olympic gold medals in the men’s 100 before he retired.

Thompson-Herah indicated that she has plenty of time for more success.

“I’m not 30, I’m not 40,” she said. “I’m still working.”

Just before the women’s 100-meters final was staged, the United States appeared positioned to win a gold medal in the inaugural 1,600-meter mixed relay.

But the U.S. team finished behind Poland and the Dominican Republic to earn bronze.

On Friday night, the U.S. team of Elijah Godwin, Lynna Irby, Taylor Manson and Bryce Deadmon had combined for an apparent victory in its heat. But officials ruled that the first pass between Godwin and Irby was made outside the exchange zone, and the U.S. team was disqualified. The U.S. team then appealed.

Just before 1 a.m. Saturday, it was announced that the U.S. team had been reinstated and would compete in the final.

Trevor Stewart, Kendall Ellis, Kaylin Whitney and Vernon Norwood competed for the U.S. on Saturday.

“It is really, really exciting to get to be part of history and be part of such a fun event where we get to bring the best in the men's and the women's and showcase the depth of talent that we have on both sides,” Ellis said.

Said Stewart: “It is definitely a new experience, but one for the books.”

Americans Ronnie Baker, Fred Kerley and Trayvon Bromell will compete Sunday in the men’s 100-meters semifinals and, possibly, the finals.

Baker won his qualifying heat Saturday in 10.03 seconds. Kerley finished second in his heat in 9.97 seconds. Bromell finished fourth in his heat but qualified with a time of 10.05 seconds.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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