Elaine Thompson-Herah is now officially the greatest woman sprinter in track history. Fact. No disputing. Of course, there are many legends that spring to mind – even from Jamaica alone. But after completing the Olympic double of 100 and 200 metres again, Thompson-Herah stands alone in the pantheon of sprinters.
No one else has done the double-double. The 29-year-old from Manchester, Jamaica streaked to her record 200m run at the Tokyo Olympic stadium in 21.53 peerless seconds Tuesday.
Thompson-Herah is the first woman to retain both the 100m and 200m gold medals. Only Florence Griffith-Joyner has gone faster, 33 years ago, but Thompson-Herah has those times in her sights.
Compatriot Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce was fourth in the 200m having taken silver in the 100m. In the build up to the Games, Fraser-Pryce, the media darling, garnered most attention. Thompson-Herah kept her powder dry and quietly focused usurping expectations.
Pocket Rocket is 34 and has bowed out now, so Thompson-Herah will be defending her titles at the Paris Games in three years’ time against new rivals.
Flo-Jo peaked just the once before becoming an unconvincing US celebrity. Thompson-Herah may have a new nemesis in Christine Mboma, the Namibian teenager who surged through the field at the death to take a sensational silver medal. America’s Gabby Thomas took bronze.
Post race, the new track queen told the gathered Jamaican media that she had not slept since Saturday’s 100m final. She just closed her eyes and lay there, comfortable in the knowledge that the job was only half completed. Asked about her future plans considering Usain Bolt retired a year older than she is now, she spoke about her focus and belief. “And that’s why I will continue to dominate.”
It was not an idle boast; Elaine looks fully capable. Not many will argue that she won’t.
Amazingly, unlike so many of her contemporaries in elite athletics, Thompson-Herah doesn’t hail from a sporty family, and was anything but a high-school prodigy.
Her best performance at the iconic Jamaican High School Championships was fourth place in 100m in 2009. Her father did not encourage a track career, and the rebellious youngster was once left off her high school team due to unruly behaviour!
Perhaps the credit for first making Elaine run should go to grandmother Hycenth. "I used to memorise what my grandma told me to get, so I sprinted to the shops," she told World Athletics. "I then used to sprint back as fast as I could to watch cartoons and movies. As soon as I was sat in front of the TV, I did not want to move again."
Surprisingly, her coach Stephen Francis, took a gamble on her talent. Before her international breakthrough in 2015, Thompson was training and performing below her potential as he saw it.
"I don’t know what it was but Stephen saw something in me that I did not see,” Thompson-Herah said. “He told me I could do better in training. He told me not to be scared of people, be less serious, smile more and shake it up."
That year she lowered her 100m personal best by 0.24 seconds, made her major championship debut at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, and never looked back.
Thompson-Herah has a degree in Food Service Management and Culinary Arts, and her favourites are Caribbean dishes; yellow yam, jerk chicken, rice’n’peas.
National dish ackee and saltfish is another regular meal, while her doting grandmother makes soursop juice every time she returns to their home in Banana Ground. Elaine married Derron Herah in 2019.