Deji Ogeyingbo wrote this piece on the fantastic Elaine Thompson-Herah and where she will go from here? Elaine is double gold medalist from Rio 2016, Tokyo 2021, and now, she is looking to Paris 2024. 

Can Elaine Thompson-Herah find form amid chaos as she looks to do the three-peat at the Paris Olympics?

How much is too late for an athlete to get into form in a season? What is the realistic ceiling for a multiple Olympic Gold medalist in a track season? Certainly, the bar can’t be as low as not qualifying for the world championships. But athletics can be unscripted, and injuries/loss of form happen. Still, there are expectations from fans who have watched you dominate over a given period and will most often pay top dollar to see you compete.

If you are wondering what this tale is all about, you don’t have to think too far to realize it’s about Jamaica’s sprint sensation, Elaine Thompson-Herah. Although she closed out the season with a 10.79s to finish third, this was a year, she will look back and take many lessons from as she builds up towards the 2024 season.

Elaine Thompson wins 100m at Nike Pre Classic, photo by Kevin Morris.

Through all the Sulphur and Chaos, Thompson-Herah knows deep down that it’s always great to look at things from perspective. Many have wondered how she was going to react to missing out on the Jamaican team at this year’s world championships, and although she made the relay squad, which eventually won Silver behind the Americans, it felt strange not seeing her compete stride for stride against her rivals, most of whom she decimated on her way to double Olympic Gold in at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021.

Surely, it must have felt strange seeing the likes of Shericka Jackson, Sha’Carri Richardson, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and Marie Josee Ta Lou all ruffle feathers against each other during the season without being a part of the conversation. After all, these are sprinters she has gotten the better of at some point in her career.

The Prefontaine Classic
Wanda Diamond League track & field meet
Eugene, Oregon, USA

Of course, her numbers in the 100m and 200m don’t make for terrible reading, but if you are the fastest woman alive, having clocked 10.54s two years ago, there will be a minimum expectation from you when she goes on the blocks to run. And when you are from Jamaica, a country that prides itself as the sprint factory of the world, the pressure goes a notch higher. Thompson-Herah has found out the hard way this year, but she continues to stay positive.

 

“Honestly, it was really hard missing out on the World Championships in Budapest. I cried for two weeks, but my husband pushed me to continue for the rest of the season and put up a strong mindset. I have brushed it up, and a champion always finds a way to return.”

Thompson-Herah isn’t immune to this situation. There was a period between 2017 and 2020 in which she struggled to replicate her performances at the Rio Olympics. Then, she could only manage fifth place in the 100m at the 2017 World Championships in London. Her 2018 was also disappointing, and she finished fourth in the 100m at the 2019 Worlds in Doha – where Fraser-Pryce took gold – before opting not to run the 200m.

Elaine Thompson-Herah takes her first individual WC medal,
World Athletics Championships
Eugene, Oregon, USA
July15-26, 2022, photo by Kevin Morris

As the 2023 season drew to a close, Thompson-Herah began to see results in her performances, similar to what saw her dominate the world in 2021. Victories at the Brussels Diamond League, hard-earned and well-deserved, elevated her confidence to a new level. More than ever, she was ready to face the ultimate challenge – defending her Olympic titles in Paris 2024.

Towards the tail end of last year, there was a bit of a snag in the road, one that caused a stir in the track world. Thompson-Herah split from her coach Shanikie Osbourne as she blamed “a breakdown in negotiations” and said her demands were “extremely excessive.” It was under the guidance of Osbourne that she recovered from injury. Thompson-Herah ran 10.92 seconds and 10.84 seconds in early September before ending her season with a 10.79 seconds run at the Diamond League final in Eugene.

Elaine Thompson-Herah, Daryll Neita, 60m indoors, photo by Getty Images for British Athletics

A week after the split, her management announced that she would now be coached by Reynaldo Walcott, who began coaching Fraser-Pryce before the Tokyo Olympics. It remains to be seen how much of an impact Walcott would have on her. Who does he put on the front burner- she or Fraser-Pryce? As much as they are teammates, they are also rivals. For Thompson-Herah, though, the chance to get back to reckoning will spur her on.

It was not just about reclaiming glory but also about inspiring others with her resilience. In interviews, she spoke eloquently about her renewed sense of purpose, emphasizing the importance of belief, hard work, and adaptability in pursuing excellence.

Elaine Thompson-Herah won the 100m and 200m in CG2022, photo by Commonwealth Games

“I’ve learned that change is not the enemy; it’s an opportunity. Embracing change, with the right mindset and support, can lead to extraordinary results,” she shared, her words resonating with aspiring athletes worldwide.

Thompson-Herah’s story is far from over; in fact, it’s entering an exciting new chapter this year. With a changed coach, renewed determination, and an unyielding spirit, she stands on the cusp of greatness.

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