Elaine Thompson won her first gold medal in the women’s 100m Saturday night and, if her performance this season and throughout the Olympics thus far provide any indication, this will not be her last.
Thompson blew away from the field over the middle 50 meters of the race in a style that, dare I say, was reminiscent of the dominance of her fellow Jamaican Usain Bolt. She finished with a time of 10.71 that beat second place by .12 seconds. At only 24-years old, Thompson figures to remain a fixture on the springing scene. She finished second in the 200m at last summer’s world championships and will go for gold in that event starting Monday with preliminary heats.
Thompson beat the deepest field in history in the 100m as seven women in the field broke 11 seconds—the first time in history that has happened. Out of that field, Tori Bowie overcame yet another weak start with her closing speed to get silver in 10.83. She’ll be a force in the 200m, where the the start carries less weight. To get silver, Bowie had to out-lean two-time gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce picked up her 4th career Olympic individual medal with a third place finish.
It feels crazy to type that Dafne Schippers and English Gardner are not Olympic medalists in the 100m, but it would have felt just as insane to type Thompson, Bowie, or Fraser-Pryce as non-medalists had Schippers or Gardner finished differently. In reality, the women’s 100m is deeper and stronger than it has ever been and some historically great runners are going to be shut out of medals due to that depth.
The gold medal came down to the final event of competition—the 800m. In order to repeat as a gold medalist, Jessica Ennis-Hill needed to beat Belgium's Nafissatou Thiam by about 10 seconds. After opening up an early lead that showed some promise of extending to the needed margin, Thiam found a way to latch on and run a PR of 2:16 in the event to stay close enough to Ennis-Hill’s 2:09 effort to win gold.
Canadian Brianne Theisen--Eaton won Bronze.
American Wins Gold in Long Jump
Jeff Henderson waited until his final jump to take the lead in the men’s long jump final, but made good on his last effort with a jump of 8.38m. The lead went back and forth between Henderson, Jarrion Lawson, and Great Britain’s Greg Rutherford throughout. Rutherford had to settle for bronze, while South Africa’s Luvo Manyonga snuck in for silver.
There was a threat of controversy when American Jarrion Lawson launched a final jump that looked good enough to claim gold on first blush. However, the officials marked a spot short of 8m, recorded the distance, and quickly raked the pit. Lawson and his coach were, justifiably, up in arms as the quick raking limited the possibility of protesting the mark. However, replay revealed that Lawson’s hand grazed the sand a bit behind where his body landed.
Berian and Murphy Advance in 800m
With Charles Jock already eliminated from competition, the American hopes at a medal in the 800m sat exclusively with Boris Berian and Clayton Murphy. Both advanced to the finals with second-place finishes in their heats of the semifinals.
In addition to the Americans, all the favorites in the event advanced to the final with Pierre-Ambroise Bosse, David Rudisha, and Taoufik Makhloufi advancing automatically with sub-1:44 performances.
The men’s 800m final will be contested at 9:25pm EST Monday night.
LaShawn Merritt Only American in the 400m Final
The last three World/Olympic champions have all made it through to the final of the 400m and, based on their performance in the heats and semifinals, they appear to be the favorites to populate the podium. Kirani James (2012 Olympic Gold) beat LaShawn Merritt (2013 World Champion) in the first heat, though both looked strong enough to win gold on the right day. Defending World Champion Wayde Van Niekerk got second in the second heat, but only after taking his foot off the pedal to an almost comical degree.
The men’s 400m final will take the track at 9pm Sunday night.