As the greatest women’s 100m race reached its denouement, Elaine Thompson-Herah burned past her greatest rival and then raised her left arm in victory salute. There were hints of Ben Johnson in Seoul, but then the clock flashed up the winning time, 10.61sec, and another name from the 1988 Olympics came to mind: Florence Griffith Joyner.
Incredibly, Thompson-Herah had, after 33 years, broken the American’s Olympic record. And when she talked about potentially downing Griffith Joyner’s world record of 10.49, such talk did not appear quite as fanciful as it would have done a few moments before.
“I could have gone faster if I wasn’t pointing and celebrating early,” she said. “But that shows there is more in store, so hopefully one day I can unleash that time.
“Behind this 10.6 was a lot of nerves and I said: ‘You can do this, you’ve been here before, just execute.’ I have more years. I’m just 29; I’m not 30, I’m not 40. I’m still working.”
Behind her was the great Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the 2008 and 2012 champion, in 10.74 and Shericka Jackson, whose time of 10.76 was the fastest for third place in a women’s 100m.
It meant that once again Jamaican women occupied the top three spots on the podium, just as they did at Beijing in 2008.
“Of course you are disappointed,” said Fraser-Pryce. “The aim of an athlete lining up is always to win but that didn’t happen tonight.
“But I am still very grateful to make the finals and to be able to stand at the podium at my fourth Olympic Games. Putting it in perspective, I am really excited that female sprinting is going to another level and that is truly remarkable. It speaks to the depth that we have in terms of females.”
There was a notable frostiness between Thompson-Herah and Fraser-Pryce, who used to be close but have fallen out twice in recent years. But when asked about the celebrations in Jamaica, Fraser-Pryce smiled. “I’m hoping they’re not defying the curfew orders, but I’m sure it’s going to be remarkable to have three of our ladies stand on the podium like we did in 2008.
“I’m hoping that they’re celebrating with a lot of positive energy, and they’re celebrating each and every one of the athletes and just continue to support us. There’s a long way to go – we have the 200m and 4x100m.”
It was the way Thompson-Herah powered to victory, defending her title from Rio, that was the most striking.
As usual, Fraser-Pryce detonated that controlled explosion from the blocks, and accelerated into her drive phase, to take a significant lead. But her great rival was always close and at 70 metres powered clear. It was a stunning moment in a breathtaking race.
Six women went sub-11 seconds in the final but Britain’s Daryll Neita not one of them as she finished last in 11.12.
The fast Mondo track, the new wave of spike technology and the heat are all factors.
It was just a shame the race was missing two of its biggest contenders, the US’s Sha’Carri Richardson, who was given a one-month ban for marijuana use last month, and Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith.
Asher-Smith could only manage 11.05 in her semi-final and revealed she had been hiding a hamstring injury. “It’s been a crazy, intense and heart-breaking period,” she said. “I was in the shape of my life. Without a doubt. I’m not trying to sound arrogant, but that is where I was.”
Elsewhere, on the second night of track action, Poland won the mixed relay in 3min 09.87sec, an Olympic record, with the Dominican Republic coming second, the US third and Britain sixth.
There was better news for Britain as all three women qualified for the 800m final – Jemma Reekie, Keely Hodgkinson and Alex Bell, who came in after Laura Muir decided to just do the 1500m.
“I can honestly say we’re going to give them all hell in two days’ time,” said Bell. “It’s going to be unbelievable.
“Clean slate now, two days’ recovery, rest and recoup and anything can happen in the final.
“A week prior to flying out I can’t tell you the lows I was facing and feeling. My world flipped round with one phone call and I was happy to grab the opportunity with both hands and just enjoy it,” she said.
“I cried on the phone to the team leader – he said it was the best phone call he ever had. The world was turned upside down”
Hodgkinson, who looked particularly impressive in winning her heat, said:“I’m happy – I’m really happy, happy for the girls as well. Three out of three, definitely history being made here right now, so a big thumbs up from me.
“I’ve learned a lot in my races in the past six months and I definitely learned to be patient and trust my training and that’s what I did. I moved on the back straight, but I knew in the last 60m it would happen so I trusted in my kick.”
The only pity was that there were not 68,000 fans in the Olympic Stadium, bellowing and cheering along during four hours of compelling action. But at least on this occasion, like so many others, Thompson-Herah created her own noise.