Even if any record was to shatter, none expected a long-standing Olympic Games record that too held by one of the all-time greats would be broken.
Tokyo Olympics fastest Woman Elaine Thompson-Herah in action
But those marvellous uncertainties took place last night at the Olympic Stadium under lights when Jamaican Elaine Thompson-Herah defended her Olympic Women’s 100m title she won in Rio de Janeiro five years ago. It was amazing for yours truly to follow her feats in Rio too.
She not only won the Gold Medal to retain her Olympic title but did that in superlative style erasing the 33-year-old Olympic record held by the late Florence Griffith Joyner.
Even then, the quest to become the fastest Women of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics is not an easy one. Especially, when two former double gold medallists battle for that elusive crown – that too from the established brand name of Jamaica!
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce who won Olympic Women’s 100m Gold Medals in 2008 in Beijing and 2012 in London, was eyeing for a record third to retire in style to emulate her countryman Usain Bolt who won Olympic Men’s 100m titles in 2008, 2012 and 2016 before hanging his spikes.
Thompson-Herah too had a point to prove, as the defending 100m Olympic champion, having won in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 with a timing of 10.71s.
The two Jamaicans have dominated the Women’s sprints for more than a decade sharing the world glory.
Thompson-Herah held the upper hand in 2016 though Fraser-Pryce appeared to have taken the ascendancy in the run into Tokyo when she set a personal best time of 10.63s, the fastest in the world for 33 years in Kingston last June.
However, Thompson-Herah was not deterred and she bounced back to defeat Fraser-Pryce a month later in 10.71s to show that she would be a force at the Games.
Fraser-Pryce looked more impressive during the early rounds in Tokyo. However, when it came to the crunch the final, Thompson-Herah unleashed the best race of her life.
For a moment in mid-race the two Jamaicans were locked together but Thompson-Herah began to ease away from her rival in the second half establishing a metre lead at the 90m mark to run like an invisible bullet.
Closing the finish mark, she raised her arm and pointed to the clock, knowing she had shattered a new Olympic mark.
Thompson-Herah finished in 10.61s, equalling the second-fastest 100m time in history. Only the late Joyner’s 33-year-old world record of 10.49s is faster.
“I am really excited to come back and retain my title. My chest hurts, I am so happy. I could have gone faster if I wasn’t pointing and celebrating early. But that shows there is more in store so hopefully one day I can unleash that time,” Thompson-Herah said after her triumph.
Fraser-Pryce claimed the Silver Medal in 10.74s while Rio Olympic 400m medallist Shericka Jackson completed the Jamaican trifecta, finishing third in 10.76s. The Jamaican lasses’ great show was even more creditable considering the fact it went -0.6m/s against the wind and all went under 10.8s.
Thompson-Herah’s mark as the second-fastest time in Women’s 100m history, betters the Olympic record by one hundredth of a second held by world record-holder Griffith-Joyner in Seoul in 1988.
The fast-starting Fraser-Pryce ran 10.74 for her seventh Olympic medal while Jackson clocked a 10.76s, a personal best for a second Olympic Bronze and Ivory Coast’s multiple world medallist Marie-Josee Ta Lou finished fourth in 10.91s.
Ajla Del Ponte, the European indoor 60m champion, continued her breakthrough year with a fifth-place, as she ran 10.97s which came after her Swiss record of 10.91s in the heats.
Her teammate Mujinga Kambundji, the world 200m bronze medallist, ran 10.99s in sixth, while the USA’s Teahna Daniels was seventh (11.02s) and Britain’s Daryll Neita eighth (11.12s).
It was an incredible return to global stage success for Thompson-Herah, who has had a series of injury struggles since winning her sprint double in Rio five years ago.
Throwing her left arm out in jubilation as she raised to the finish, the 29-year-old then let out a series of screams and sank to the track in delight as the magnitude of her achievement hit her.
As the local time approached 9.50 p.m. at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium last night, the lights dimmed before the track was illuminated in turn with the name of each athlete in the final.
Then it was time for the athletes themselves to light up the track, a new experience at Olympic level.
Making a bid to become the first Woman to win a single individual Olympic athletics event three times, Fraser-Pryce got off to a fabulous start but she and Thompson-Herah were neck-and-neck by half way.
Thompson-Herah switched on to top gear in the second 50m to power her way to become only the fourth Woman to successfully defend the Olympic 100m title.
Nevertheless, Fraser-Pryce added another medal to her incredible collection which also features her two 100m Gold Medals from 2008 and 2012 together with 200m and 4x100m Silvers and 100m Bronze collected during the past two Games.
She has also become a nine-time world champion during this period. Having become mother to son Zyon, and the 34-year-old had led the season top list going into Tokyo with her 10.63s – which now sees her sit third in the world all-time list for her feat in Kingston in June.
“The aim of an athlete lining up, of course, is always to win but that didn’t happen tonight. But I am still very grateful to make the final and to be able to stand at the podium at my fourth Olympic Games,” she said.
“Putting it in perspective, I am really grateful for the opportunity that I had tonight. I am really excited that female sprinting is going to another level and that is truly remarkable. It speaks for the depth that we have in terms of females,” Fraser-Pryce concluded.
Prior to the Tokyo Games, only five sub-10.80s times had ever been run at the Olympics. But in the semi-finals alone, four were recorded as Fraser-Pryce eased over the line in 10.73s, Thompson-Herah clocked 10.76s, Ta Lou ran 10.79s after equalling the African record with 10.78s in her heat and Jackson also clocked 10.79s.
Neita had made the final by a thousandth of a second, running 11.00s (.992) to pip Trinidad and Tobago’s Commonwealth champion Michelle-Lee Ahye 11.00s (.993).
But Neita’s British teammate Dina Asher-Smith, the world 200m champion who also claimed 100m Silver in Doha two years ago, was left in tears after injury caused an early end to her Olympics campaign.
Thompson-Herah will now eye for that elusive golden double for the second time with Fraser-Pryce, Jackson, Ta Lou and Kambundji among the athletes all set to join her in a return to the track for the 200m heats tomorrow (2).