Sprinter Elaine Thompson-Herah knows how to turn on the boosters on the big stage. The 30-year-old Jamaican is the only woman to record the sprint double in successive Olympics. She won the 100m and 200m in Rio and Tokyo. Her Jamaican compatriot Usain Bolt is the only sprinter to achieve the magnificent feat in three successive Olympics between 2008 and 2016. Now, Elaine has her eyes on her maiden individual World Athletics Championships gold.
Unlike Bolt, Elaine was not a sprinting phenomenon spotted young. Hailing from rural Jamaica, Elaine’s best performance at the Jamaican High School Championships — the iconic tournament that saw the first sparks of Olympic champions Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and Yohan Blake — was fourth place in 100m in 2009. Two years later, she was left out of Manchester High School’s track and field team.
From a shaky start, she has gone on to establish herself as one of Jamaica’s finest athletes, with five Olympic gold medals to her credit.
She is a first-generation athlete in her family. Elaine’s father was never interested in her desire to pursue athletics. He did try to dissuade her, but the determined youngster had her way.
The credit for paving her path in athletics should, perhaps, go to her grandmother Hycenth, who inadvertently awakened Elaine’s love for sprinting by sending her to shops with a promise of allowing her to watch cartoons and movies. She would run back as fast as she could. “As soon as I sat in front of the TV, I did not want to move again,” Elaine told World Athletics .
However, Elaine’s career didn’t take off until 2015 when her coach, legendary Stephen Francis, known for his ability to shape world-class athletes, gave her a reality check.
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Elaine trained at Francis’ MVP (Maximising Velocity & Power) Track & Field Club based at the University of Technology in Kingston, Jamaica, along with two-time 100m Olympic champion Fraser Pryce. The coach felt Elaine was training and performing below her potential.
“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,” Elaine told World Athletics .
And, she did shake up the sprint world.
At the Rio Olympics, she became the Olympic champion with a time of 10.71 seconds. She followed that with the 200m gold, clocking 21.78s. In Tokyo, she repeated the feat, improving her timing, establishing herself as one of the world’s greatest athletes.
While her timing of Tokyo 100m gold timing of 10.61s is an Olympic record, her 200m timing of 21.53s is the second fastest ever.
The lone global title missing from Elaine’s trophy cabinet is an individual World Championships gold. She won 200m silver and 4x100m relay gold in 2015.
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