On conquering the demons along route to Tokyo gold, Elaine Thompson-Herah

Image credit: Zordo News

Elaine Thompson Herah’s achilles began ailing again two weeks before the jamaican Olympic trials last summer.

Since she won the 100m-200m double in Rio 2016, the injury had flared up on and off for over five years. The most recent round of discomfort was excruciating. And the doubts arose quickly. She was afraid that if the tendon remained sore, she would miss the trials, therefore terminating her title defence before it had even began.

She realised she needed to mend something else while she rested and iced her heel. Thompson-Herah would get up every morning and pray before reading the Bible. She began repeating a spiritual by Nigerian gospel artist Mercy Chinwo called “Anywhere You Lead Me I Will Go.”

Her faith in God strengthened her self-confidence. A bit more confidence helps an Olympic title defence if the meek inherit the planet. But there were plenty of others who required persuasion as well. Thompson-Herah had finished fourth in the 100m at the World Championships in London in 2017 and Doha in 2019. She had failed to qualify for either of the 200m finals.

She narrowly missed out on the Tokyo Olympic team in the Jamaican trials. In the 100m, Thompson-Herah finished third. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the world champion and fastest woman alive, was well ahead of the pack. Shericka Jackson, a 400m specialist, also beat Thompson-Herah to the finish line.

 However, the scenario had changed a month later. Thompson-Herah recorded a 10.71 in her final event before Tokyo, which was her quickest time in four years. In her first 100m heat, she trotted to 10.82 seconds. In the semi-final, she finished with a time of 10.76.

Thompson-Herah has high ambitions for herself, claiming that she hasn’t yet reached her full potential. She wants more medals after competing in the World Championships in Eugene and Budapest in the same summer. Those world records are tantalisingly close if her ailments improve and she has a clear shot at them. She is, nonetheless, aspirational for her sport and event. Talent, personality, and sub-plots abound in the women’s sprints. The men’s equivalents are left in the dust by the start-lists.

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