Rio de Janeiro: Elaine Thompson stormed to victory in the women’s 100m to usher in a new era for Jamaican sprinting as the eight-year Olympic reign of compatriot Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce came to an end.
Thompson, 24, got off to a flying start and quickly surged to the front to cross in 10.71 seconds, punching the air before embracing training partner Fraser-Pryce.
Tori Bowie of the US took silver with 10.83 seconds while Fraser-Pryce claimed bronze in 10.86.
Afterwards Saturday’s race, Thompson revealed she could never have dreamed of upstaging Fraser-Pryce when the Jamaican star landed her first Olympic 100m title in 2008.
“I look up to her so much but I never thought I’d be sitting here today,” said Thompson. “When I crossed the line and glanced across to see I was clear (I) didn’t quite know how to celebrate,” she added.
“There is a big screen back home in my community in Jamaica. I can’t imagine what is happening there right now.”
Fraser-Pryce, 29, had been hoping for a hat-trick of 100m titles after gold medals in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games.
But it was Thompson who confirmed herself as the standard-bearer of Jamaican women’s sprinting with an imperious display.
“What I’m most happy about is that the 100m title is staying in Jamaica,” said Fraser-Pryce, who raced with her hair dyed in Jamaica’s national colours. “I’m on the podium with my training partner. I’m proud of Jamaica—just look at my hair,” she added, paying tribute to Thompson.
“I am really happy for her. I’ve seen her work hard and it was her time. In 2008 it was my time, 2016 it is her time.”
Fraser-Pryce revealed she had also been struggling with an injury. She finished her semi-final grimacing as she crossed the line. “It was really difficult. I cried, because it was unbearable. I knew I had one more race to go and I just prayed to God,” she said.
It has been a challenging season for Fraser-Pryce, who has struggled to shake off a toe injury which has troubled her throughout the year.
“By far, I would definitely say that this is my best championship ever, because I knew how hard I worked, I knew the pain and the sacrifices and the tears. I knew everything and despite everything I stuck to it. I kept my head in the game. I am really happy that I persevered.”
Exploding out of the blocks, Thompson quickly edged clear of the field and the powerfully built runner never looked like relinquishing her grip on the contest.
Marie-Josee Ta Lou of Ivory Coast finished fourth while flying Dutchwoman Dafne Schippers, a strong favourite for the 200m, was fifth in 10.90sec.
Michelle-Lee Ahye of Trinidad and Tobago and English Gardner of the US also dipped under 11 seconds with times of 10.92sec and 10.94, respectively.
It was the first time in track and field history that seven women have gone under 11 seconds in a single race.
Fraser-Pryce meanwhile refused to be drawn on her future beyond Rio. “I will be 33 in 2020 for Tokyo. Let’s wait and see,” she said.