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W100m in Rio: Jamaican Duo Could Zoom into another Realm

Elaine Thompson’s game face and large Nubian knots hairstyle made a statement as she lined up for the women’s 100m final at the Jamaica senior trials in Kingston two Friday nights ago (July 1). She was ready to take the Championship title from her MVP club mate Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

During the 2015 season, word got around that Thompson was beating Fraser-Pryce in training and was the imminent queen of sprints in Jamaica. Some fans dismissed that thought as something temporary, speculating that Fraser-Pryce’s training program might have been behind Thompson’s since Thompson was a student athlete and was being prepped for early season competition.

On the surface, their coach Stephen Francis appeared to have kept them apart at 2015 Trials and other competition; Fraser-Fraser ran the 100m and Thompson, the 200m. Francis explained that none of his emerging stars was ever allowed to do the sprint double the first time she competed on the global stage, Fraser-Pryce included. Furthermore, Thompson had to work on her start in the shorter sprint.

Fraser-Pryce went on to defeat the highly touted Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands over 100m at the 2015 Worlds, and Thompson ran a close second to Schippers in the 200m after making what seemed a technical error near the end.

This is 2016, an Olympic year, and Thompson is back faster and fiercer than ever. Shortly after winning the 100m at Morocco’s Diamond League meeting in May, the Jamaica media reported her describing herself as “the new girl on the block” and identifying her compatriots Veronica Campbell-Brown and Fraser-Pryce as her inspiration. Her statement could be taken two ways: either she was new to the game or she was the new star. But since she already announced herself at Worlds, coming away with a 200m silver medal achieved in 21.66secs, the second fastest Jamaican time and the fifth fastest ever, she could hardly be considered this year as new to the game.

While Thompson didn’t run the 200m at this year’s Trials, she ran like a well oiled machine in the 100m to blow away the field that included the injured but gallant Fraser-Pryce, the Jamaican record holder, and another up-and-coming club mate Christania Williams, second and third, respectively, and Campbell-Brown in fourth place. Thompson stopped the clock at a scorching 10.70 world lead that equaled Fraser-Pryce’s record.

And so the thought of a final with a gritty injury-free Fraser-Pryce against a floating Thompson locked in battle down the track conjured up a scenario of both women entering the 10.6 realm ventured only by Marion Jones and Carmelita Jeter.

With Americans English Gardner, Tianna Bartoletta, and Tori Bowie; Ivorian Murielle Ahouré; and Dutchwoman Schippers in the line-up with big-event warrior Fraser-Pryce (if she recovers sufficiently and is race-ready) and Thompson among the final eight in Rio, an even battle is expected to be waged between the two Jamaican aces, something their fans have been wanting to see ever since Thompson emerged a year ago but got only a shadow of it at this year’s Trials as a result of Fraser-Pryce’s bothersome toe that has slowed her this season. With Fraser-Pryce’s catch-me-if-you-can approach and Thompson’s tendency to chase down her rivals and defeat them, the other women would be racing for bronze.

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