Sprint queens: The race to the women's 100m title

Elaine Thompson-Heran of Jamaica reacts as she wins the gold medal in the Women's 200m Final at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.  (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
Elaine Thompson-Heran of Jamaica reacts as she wins the gold medal in the Women's 200m Final at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

The women’s 100m is set to be one of the most anticipated track events at this year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, featuring a star-studded cast of leading ladies looking to usurp the reigning champion of her crown. 

The build-up to the Games has already dished up dramatic plot twists with young pretenders looking to challenge the status quo. 

We look at some of the top contenders for what is expected to be one of the most fiercely contested titles at Tokyo 2020.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica celebrates winning the Women's 100m final during the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica celebrates winning the Women's 100m final during the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
2019 Getty Images

The Queen without the crown

If anyone needed reminding, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce recently demonstrated why she is considered the greatest female sprinter of her generation.

The Jamaican superstar rolled back the years, becoming the fastest women alive and the second-fastest female 100m sprinter of all time when she clocked an incredible 10.63 seconds (1.3m/s) in Kingston, Jamaica, on 5 June.

The two-time Olympic champion and nine-time world gold medallist sent out the strongest possible warning that she has some unfinished business at the Games.

The 34-year-old chopped 0.07s off the personal best and the Jamaican record she posted in 2012 to launch herself into the top contender list.

Adding to her legend, Fraser-Pryce's time is the fastest in three decades, eclipsed only by Florence Griffith-Joyner's three best times, including the world record of 10.49 from 1988.

Fraser-Pryce has her sights set on becoming the most accomplished women's 100m sprinter at the Olympic Games. The mother of one aims to become the first woman to win three Olympic 100m gold medals.

She won her first Olympic title almost a decade-and-a-half ago at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games when she was just 22 years old.

Fraser-Pryce relinquished her crown to compatriot Elaine Thompson-Herah but highlighted her class in Doha in 2019 to win her fourth 100m world title.

The champion

Elaine Thompson-Herah announced herself as the heir to Fraser-Pryce's throne at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and punctuated Jamaica's dominance in the short sprint events.

She may not have reached the same lofty heights as her compatriot but is etching out an equally impressive career on the track.

Thompson-Herah went into the Rio Games with the world 200m silver medal highlighting her sprint credentials. But her stock shot through the roof, becoming the first female athlete since Griffith-Joyner at Seoul 1988 to win the 100-200m double at the Olympic Games.

To add further credence to her performance, Thompson-Herah had to beat reigning champion and training partner Fraser-Pryce en route to her maiden Olympic 100m title. Thompson-Herah produced a scintillating run bursting over the line in a time of 10.71, which was 0.12 ahead of US sprinter Tori Bowie in second place, giving Jamaica its third consecutive Olympic gold in the women's 100m.

She beat the reigning world champion, Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands, in the 200m, becoming the first Jamaican to win the double at the Games.

Thompson-Herah has been plagued with injury since her Olympic breakthrough missing out on the podium at the 2017 and 2019 world championships.

She reminded the world of her pedigree, clocking the fastest time in 2020, winning the Rome Diamond League in 10.85.

Going into the Tokyo 2020 Games, Thompson-Herah has her sights on defending her titles and adding the 4x100m title for a rare golden treble. She came painstakingly close to achieving that feat in Rio 2016, with the Jamaican quartet finishing as runners-up in the relay final.

WALNUT, CALIFORNIA - MAY 09: Sha'Carri Richardson reacts as she crosses the finish in her win in the Women 100 Meter Dash Prelims during the USATF Golden Games and World Athletics Continental Tour event at the Mt. San Antonio College on May 09, 2021 in Walnut, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
WALNUT, CALIFORNIA - MAY 09: Sha'Carri Richardson reacts as she crosses the finish in her win in the Women 100 Meter Dash Prelims during the USATF Golden Games and World Athletics Continental Tour event at the Mt. San Antonio College on May 09, 2021 in Walnut, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
2021 Getty Images

The young pretender

No US sprinter has won the Olympic 100m gold medal in a quarter of a century. That may soon change with the emergence of Sha'Carri Richardson as a real threat to Jamaica's reign that stretches over three Olympics.

The colourful Richardson first registered on the global track radar at the 2019 NCAA Championships, where she demolished both the world Under-20 100m and 200m records, clocking a sizzling 10.75 and 22.17 in the space of 45 minutes.

Her chameleon-like appearance with nails and hair colour changing as fast as she shifts gears has added an extra layer to her appeal. 

But it is her performances on the track instead of her dress sense that has had tongues wagging in the build-up to this year's Olympic Games. 

The 21-year-old Richardson set the track ablaze at the Miramar Invitational in Florida in April, where she clocked 10.72 to become the sixth-fastest woman in 100m history.

Richardson has now recorded five 100m times under 10.8 seconds since 2019, highlighting her consistency and unmistakable talent.

At the World Athletics Continental Tour Gold meeting in Walnut, California, she posted two sub-10.80 times just two hours apart in May. She blazed to victory with a time of 10.77, but it was her time in the heats that demonstrated what she has hidden in her bag of tricks. She ran 10.74 in the heat, which was the fastest wind-legal time recorded in the first round of a 100m competition.

Dina Asher-Smith of Great Britain competes in the Women's 60m heat during the Indoor Track and Field Meeting Karlsruhe on 29 January 2021 (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
Dina Asher-Smith of Great Britain competes in the Women's 60m heat during the Indoor Track and Field Meeting Karlsruhe on 29 January 2021 (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
2021 Getty Images

Rising in the ranks

Great Britain's Dina Asher-Smith has slowly but surely been working her way up in the global sprinting ranks since winning the 2014 world junior 100m title in Eugene, Oregan.

The 25-year-old has built a strong foundation as a member of Great Britain's 4x100m relay team, winning bronze and silver at the Moscow 2013 and London 2017 World Championships.

She finished in a creditable fifth place in the 200m final on her debut at the Rio Olympic Games and went away with the bronze medal in the 4x100m relay.

Asher-Smith finally found her individual breakthrough in 2018 when she became the first British woman to win the sprint treble at a major championship at the European Championships in Berlin.

For her piece de resistance, she blitzed to victory in the 200m final at the 2019 Doha World Championships setting a new British record of 21.88 seconds. She also demonstrated her abilities over the short-sprint event finishing second behind Fraser-Pryce in the 100m final for an impressive sprint double.

Asher-Smith struck an early psychological blow beating Fraser-Pryce and Richardson at the Diamond League opener at a cold and wet Gatesehead in May.

Conditions in Tokyo should be considerably better and the racing even hotter between the world's fastest women.