Back in 2016, Elaine Thompson-Herah announced herself to the world with an emphatic performance at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
At 24 years old, she won gold in the 100m and 200m races. She started being mentioned in the same conversations as the last double winner, the late Florence Griffith-Joyner – who won it in the 1988 games in Seoul. Her 100m triumph also meant that she was able to ensure that the 100m women’s title remained in her home country of Jamaica – taking over from the previous holder, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.
The Jamaican athlete was able to do one better at the Tokyo Games in 2020 – where she successfully defended her double. She set a new Olympic record for the 100m race by clocking in at 10.61. She also achieved a new personal best time of 21.53 for the 200m race. Lastly, Thompson-Herah also helped her nation’s 4X100m relay team clinch gold.
Who Is Elaine Thomas-Herah?
Elaine Thompson-Herah is a Jamaica native who traces her roots to Manchester Parish’s Banana Ground – one of the country’s poorer settlements. She came under the care of her grandmother at the tender age of 7 months. While it is often said that she was born to run, she wasn’t making any waves growing up. In the 2009 Jamaican Boys and Girls Championships, she came in at a disappointing fourth. A couple of years later, she was dropped from her school’s track and field teams.
However, things took a positive turn when she was discovered by the man behind Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce’s success, Stephen Francis. She went on to become a top athlete after securing a scholarship to the University of Technology in Kingston.
Pushing for Greater Participation and Recognition
Thompson-Herah is passionate about pushing for greater participation and recognition of women athletes. The highly accomplished sprinter does not believe that women athletes receive the recognition they deserve. She mentioned an Olympics interview, "I observed that we women don't get the respect that we deserve.” She continued by stating that women were rarely talked about – even on the internet – despite their hard work and exceptional performances.
The sentiments were echoed by Michael Johnson – a former 100m and 200m record holder. He said that women sprinters rarely get the recognition they deserve because everyone is focused on the clock. He was alluding to the 100m women’s record, which has not been broken in 35 years.
However, Thompson-Herah is determined to keep working hard and pushing for greater participation and recognition of women’s contributions in track and field. Speaking on being part of the generation of female sprinters inspiring girls worldwide to join the sport, she stated, “Those younger girls are looking at us and seeing what we are doing.” The quote was posted on the Olympic Games handle on X (formerly Twitter).
Encouraging the Next Jamaican Stars
Together with Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the two Jamaican sprinters have won the women’s Olympic titles since the 2008 games held in Beijing. Thompson-Herah wants to inspire the next generation of athletes from Jamaica.