How Elaine Thompson-Herah completed her historic sprint 'double-double'

No woman had succesfully defended the 100m and 200m Olympic titles, until Thompson-Herah blitzed her rivals on the Tokyo track in 2021.

Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Emphatic. Devastating. Magnificent.

Those words accurately described Elaine Thompson-Herah as the Jamaican sprinter made Olympic history with her three track athletics golds at Tokyo 2020 in 2021.

The 29-year-old was only third in June's Jamaican trials over 100m and 200m behind her great rival Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Shericka Jackson.

Fraser-Pryce went second on the all-time women's 100m list behind Florence Griffith-Joyner with her 10.63 in Kingston, but Thompson-Herah defeated her two weeks later in Hungary with a season's best 10.71.

It was all set up for a titanic showdown in Japan between the reigning 100m champion and the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 gold medallist.

Both cruised through the Tokyo heats and the semi-finals with Fraser-Pryce slightly quicker at 10.73 to 10.76.

The pair were level at halfway in the final, but Thompson-Herah appeared to find another gear at 70m and surged clear with Fraser-Pryce just holding off Jackson for silver.

It was an emphatic triumph, with the winner able to point in celebration five metres from home before screaming with delight, clocking 10.61 for a new Olympic record and the second fastest time in history.

Elaine Thompson wins 100m
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Rematch in the women's 200m

Just two days later, they were back for the 200m heats with Thompson-Herah only third in her race but qualifying automatically.

It was a different story for Jackson, who slowed down too quickly at the end of her heat to finish up in fourth place and out of the competition.

That evening, London 2012 silver medallist Fraser-Pryce looked assured in winning her semi-final heat, but Thompson-Herah - running blind in the outside lane - was quite superb as she flew out of the blocks and ran an excellent bend.

She was able to relax in the home straight and eased down to cross the line in 21.66, equalling her personal best.

In the final, Fraser-Pryce was able to stay with her compatriot around the bend, but then Thompson-Herah pulled away once more to become the first woman to retain both the 100m and 200m Olympic titles.

Namibian youngster Christine Mboma came home for second, with USA's Gabby Thomas taking bronze as Fraser-Pryce faded in the closing stages. But they were a long way behind the undisputed sprint queen, whose 21.53 was, like the 100m, the second fastest in history behind the late Griffith-Joyner.

The celebrations were less jubilant this time round, with victory somewhat expected following her 100m demolition.

Thompson-Herah also managed to follow Griffith-Joyner and Usain Bolt in completing an Olympic treble, running alongside Fraser-Pryce and Jackson in Jamaica's victorious women's 4x100m relay team as they went one better than Rio five years ago.

All of this achieved despite a long-term Achilles injury which has affected her on-and-off since before her famous Rio double.

Elaine Thompson 200m gold
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Elaine Thompson-Herah and her road back to the top

It has been far from an easy path to the pinnacle of sprinting for Thompson-Herah, who was only fifth in the 100m at the 2017 World Championships in London.

Her 2018 was also a disappointment, and she finished fourth in the 100m at the 2019 Worlds in Doha - where Fraser-Pryce took gold - before opting not to run the 200m.

Speaking to Jamaica's Loop News at the start of 2019, she said, "Honestly, Achilles injury is a hard one to deal with, and I have dealt with it for a long time. It is like three years I have been dealing with it... it is hard to deal with medical-wise."

The postponement of the Games was a double-edged sword for the Jamaican, who admitted it gave her more time to get in shape.

She told, "I am a top athlete and I just have to work my way back to the top. And I know one day, this Achilles pain, it all goes away.

"Disappointment makes you better and stronger because I know what I'm facing is this one lingering injury. The main thing is putting in the work and you will get the result that you want one day.

"I want to go and retain my titles. My dream is to get three gold medals." - ELAINE THOMPSON-HERAH, September 2020

And that's exactly what she did.

READ: Five things you didn't know about Elaine Thompson-Herah


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