Road To The Olympic Games


Elaine Thompson dethrones Jamaican teammate to win women's 100m gold

Jamaica's Elaine Thompson pulled off an Olympic upset Saturday night in Rio, beating compatriot and two-time defending gold medallist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in the women's 100 metres.

Two-time champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce settles for bronze

Jamaica's Elaine Thompson celebrates after winning the women's 100-metre final at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images))

By Eddie Pells, The Associated Press

The new Olympic champion caught her country's flag from out of the stands, unfurled it and fumbled a bit as she tried to drape it over her shoulders.

She knew exactly where to turn for help.

Jamaica's newest sprint champion is Elaine Thompson, and she was more than happy to let Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce place that green-and-yellow Jamaican flag over her shoulders after denying her friend and training partner a record third straight title in the 100 meters on Saturday.

"Jamaica has so many talented sprinters," Thompson said, after she routed the field in 10.71 seconds, with Fraser-Pryce taking bronze. "To be the second champion, I'm really happy."

The nation that produced the once-in-a-lifetime sprinter in Usain Bolt has more of a production line going on the women's side. Thompson joins the likes of Merlene Ottey, Veronica Campbell-Brown and, of course, Fraser-Pryce in the island country's long line of sprinting luminaries.

At 24, more than five years younger than the woman she unseated, Thompson showed a changing of the guard doesn't have to mean a redrawing of the map.

What was billed as one of the most competitive finals in the history of the event turned into something of a non-race. Thompson made it that way.

Running about even halfway through the 100 metres, she pulled away from Tori Bowie for a 0.12-second victory — a gap big enough to scoot a bookcase between her and the American.

Thompson's 10.71 was only one-hundredth of a second off the time she ran at Jamaica's national championships last month. That 10.70 in Kingston was the best of five sub-10.8 women's sprints this year and served notice that things could be changing once the sprinters reached Rio de Janeiro.

Three of those sub-10.8 women were in the final — Bowie and another American, English Gardner, were the others — as was Fraser-Pryce, the 29-year-old former champion who was a brace-faced newcomer when she won her first of two golds at the Bird's Nest in Beijing eight years ago.

"I'm not giving up on getting gold," Bowie said.

But clearly, there's a gap to close.

Fraser-Pryce, the 5-footer nicknamed "Pocket Rocket," was trying to become the first person to win three straight 100-meter titles at the Olympics.

It would've given her one day's worth of bragging rights over Bolt, the oversized sprinter with the outsized personality who has overshadowed her in almost everything despite their dual dominance. Bolt will try to get to three straight all by himself in the men's race Sunday.

Fraser-Pryce had a piece of the lead early in the women's final, but faded, and ended up with a bronze medal to go with the green-and-yellow, Jamaican-flag hairdo she worked up for her turn as her country's flagbearer at the opening ceremony. She held off surprise finalist Marie-Josee Ta Lou of Ivory Coast by a mere seven-one-thousands of a second. 

Anything but a disappointment, according to the two-time champ, who's been dealing with a toe injury most of the year.

"By far, I would say this is my best championship ever," she said. "I knew how hard I worked, I knew the pain, I knew the sacrifice, I knew the tears, I knew everything."

She knows Thompson well, too. They both train with coach Stephen Francis out of the MVP Track and Field Club, which has played a big role in helping Jamaica expand its dominance in track over the years.

Thompson was a late bloomer. Her picture isn't even on the front of the MVP website. Until she finished second in the 200 last year at the world championships, she barely made a splash on the international scene, tucked behind Fraser-Pryce and Campbell-Brown, among others.

Thompson will also have a chance in the 200 metres in Rio, giving her an opportunity to win medals in both events the way Fraser-Pryce did four years ago in London.

"I look up to Shelly-Ann so much," Thompson said. "She had a rough season. It's amazing to be with her."

Thompson was dealing with an injury of her own — a strained hamstring that forced her to bail out of the Jamaican nationals.

She was clearly healed once she got to Brazil. In the final, she got stronger as she approached the line and left what had been billed as an uber-competitive field far behind.

Dafne Schippers, the Dutch heptathlete-turned-sprinter, finished fifth, and Gardner, the champion at the U.S. Olympic Trials last month, was two more spots back with a time of 10.94.

"They are not unbeatable," Gardner insisted, when asked about the Jamaicans' persistent dominance in these races.

When the lights are brightest, though, they really are.