Minutes before the start of the women’s 100-meter final, the most anticipated race of these Games, the lights went out and that familiar silence took over the stadium. A helicopter buzzed over
ead, a laser show was played on the home straight, but everything else was still. The atmosphere was charged with anticipation.
When the lights came back on, so bright they almost hurt your eyes, the eight sprinters were on the starting line, four of them in the center lanes, among the fastest women in history, Shelly’s Jamaican trio- Ann Fraser-Pryce, Elaine Thompson-Herah and Shericka Jackson, and Marie-Josee Ta Lou, from Ivory Coast.
Ahead of them was the finish line, and beyond that, the digital clock, showing “0.0” on the top line, and underneath “WR: 10.49”, just as it has in every major championship since the record. World Cup was set by Florence Griffith Joyner at the 1988 United States Olympic Trials. The big screen above and behind also showed her Olympic record, 10.62 seconds, set at the Seoul Games that year. For the past 33 years, through seven Games, these times have been out of reach for the best female sprinters. They could well have been etched on a stone tablet as displayed on a digital screen.
These women on the starting line weren’t just running between them. They were racing brands that have become a millstone for their sport, established before many of them were even born to a sprinter that many people, including their own former training partners, rivals, and teammates, believe was. cheating, even though his family and friends have. always denied it.
Either way, the men’s 100-meter record has been broken 12 times and the men’s Olympic record three times, while Griffith-Joyner’s has remained unchanged until now. Before this final, Fraser-Pryce had already run 10.63 in June, making her the second fastest woman in history, Thompson-Herah did a 10.71 in July, Jackson a 10.77.
As the sport tries to find the best way out of the Usain Bolt era, these records have been returned to its grasp thanks to faster tracks such as the Mondo WS surface they are using here, and new running shoe technology. , which, according to some coaches. Say, it could be worth up to an additional tenth of a second. For one of the contenders, it also helps illegal. Nigeria’s Blessing Okagbare ran 10.89 in July and likely would have been on that starting line had the Athletics Integrity Unit not announced earlier in the day that he tested positive for human growth hormone.
Okagbare wasn’t the only one missing; American champion Sha’Carri Richardson would surely have been in the final if she had not tested positive for marijuana after the American trials and so would Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith if she had not injured her hamstring.
His absence meant the race was reduced to a head-to-head between the two great Jamaican champions, Fraser-Pryce, 34, in her penultimate year in the sport, and Thompson-Herah, 29, the defending champion. Everything about the way this season and these Olympic qualifiers had played out suggested that something special was coming. The question was which of them would do it.
At 60m, we had a response, Thompson-Herah responded so strongly to Fraser-Pryce’s quick exit that he gained the lead, Fraser-Pryce, who suddenly felt all the pressure of chasing the race, couldn’t come back. As Thompson-Herah approached the finish line, she felt comfortable enough to be able to lift one arm into the air to take the final steps.
It didn’t exactly say it this way, but it was pointing at that big screen, where the clock had stopped at 10.61 seconds. Griffith Joyner’s Olympic record had disappeared and was finally replaced by a new brand.
All records matter, but that one is more important than most. These women, and the women who preceded them, have spent their careers on an impossible level. More than a decade ago, fellow Jamaican Veronica Campbell-Brown, who had some memorable duels with Fraser-Pryce in the early years of her career, said she felt the fact that the records were so far away meant that female athletes did not. they did. “Get the respect that males do because they are capable of breaking the record and people are excited to see them run because they know that the possibility of breaking the record is close.”
Now Thompson-Herah had. “Coming to the final I didn’t have a time in mind, I was just trying to run my best race,” he said. “I wasn’t looking at any records, but eventually those times will be erased, even if it takes five years, because a lot of women are going up, going up. For me, running this Olympic record sends a signal that anything is possible. “
His winning time was only (unique!) The second fastest ever. That world record is still there, another jump again. Whether Flo-Jo was getting high or not, that one put on an illegal tailwind that wasn’t timed because the anemometer was faulty.
Someday, however, that will disappear. Step by step, fraction of a second by fraction of a second, the sport finally begins to advance.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism