Elaine Thompson wins the 200m at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (© Getty Images)
Elaine Thompson became the first woman for 28 years to complete the Olympic sprint double to break the heart of world champion Dafne Schippers in a superlative demonstration of half-lap excellence.
The latest Jamaican sprint superstar from their seemingly never-ending speed factory destroyed the eight-strong field in the first 100m before proving too strong for the opposition in the second half of the race. She sped to a world-leading time of 21.78, reversing the positions from the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015.
While Schippers could not emulate her countrywoman Fanny Blankers-Koen, who famously landed gold in this event back at the 1948 Olympics, the 24-year-old recorded a time of 21.88 and at least had the satisfaction of picking up a spot on the podium after finishing fifth in the 100m here in Rio.
In the battle for bronze, USA’s Tori Bowie overhauled Marie-Josee Ta Lou of Ivory Coast in the final five metres to stop the clock in 22.15 and claim her second bronze medal of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Thompson emerged almost from nowhere last year as a world-class athlete. She improved her 200m best by more than one-and-a-half seconds and climbed to fifth on the world all-time list when running 21.66 to take silver in Beijing.
Yet even the woman from Banana Ground in Manchester Parish has been taken aback by the level of her accomplishments in Rio and joins a select group of just six other women to complete the Olympic sprint double.
“My school motto was ‘let the light shine’ and I let me light shine tonight,” said Thompson. “It’s a big surprise to me because I have had a hamstring injury. You must overcome these things and tonight I am standing here with a gold. To beat Dafne Schippers is a hard run.”
In the wake of defeat, Schippers offered a blunt assessment of her immediate emotions to reporters.
“I came here for gold,” she said, disappointment etched over her face. “I’m not happy with the silver.”
Thompson from the gun
On a hot sticky night which was perfect for sprinting, the eight finalists got away at the first time of asking with Thompson the first to make a significant move.
The long-striding Jamaican quickly opened up a clear gap on the field with Schippers, as usual, taking longer for her imposing frame to reach top speed.
The diminutive Ta Lou was also firmly among the medal contenders entering the home straight with Great Britain’s European champion Dina-Asher Smith also prominent.
Midway down the home stretch, Schippers slowly started to haul in Thompson but, as the finishing line approached, it was clear the flying Dutchwoman would not surpass her Jamaican rival.
In the final strides, Schippers started to lose her form and balance and took a painful-looking tumble to the floor after she flashed by the line.
Despite the relatively significant margin of victory, Thompson was unaware she had secured double gold for what seemed an eternity. It was only when confirmation came up on the scoreboard did she smile and the celebrations truly began.
Bowie finished strongly to take bronze with Ta Lou in fourth, who at least had the satisfaction of shaving 0.03 from Murielle Ahoure’s Ivorian record in a time of 22.21.
Ta Lou, who also finished fourth in the 100m, may be frustrated with just missing out on a medal twice in Rio, but can take enormous pride in her performances which have seen her set five PBs in her six sprint outings in the Olympic Stadium.
Asher-Smith repeated her finishing position from the 2015 World Championships by crossing the line fifth in a season’s best of 22.31 while 0.02 further back was Michelle-Lee Ahye of Trinidad and Tobago, who matched her performance in the 100m by placing sixth.
Completing the top eight were USA’s Deajah Stevens in 22.65 and Ivet Lalova-Collio in 22.69.
Steve Landells for the IAAF