Image: Wikimedia Commons / StockSnap
Image: Wikimedia Commons / StockSnap

Elanie Thompson-Herah’s hunt for the world record

Track sprinter Elaine Thompson-Herah is in the form of her life. On 21 August she improved on her time as second fastest women ever over 100 metres, running 10.54 seconds at the Prefontaine Classic. In doing so, she became the first woman to run sub-10.6 since Florence Griffith Joyner set her world record of 10.49 in 1988. This form has many questioning whether a record which has seemed unattainable for decades is now in reach.

The 2021 track season for the Women’s 100 metres has been ground-breaking. Prior to the Prefontaine Classic, Thompson-Herah had broken Flo-Jo’s Olympic record, running 10.61 to defend her Olympic title. Her Jamaican Counterpart and silver medallist Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce ran a 10.63 in the Jamaican Olympic trials, making her the third-fastest women of all time.

The two Jamaicans have seemingly pushed each other to further heights following the Olympics. With Thompson-Herah running 10.54 in Eugene and Fraser-Pryce beating Thompson-Herah later that week in Lausanne with a personal best of 10.60.

Sprinting with a +1.9 tailwind (legal limit is +2.0), a 10.60 for Shelly Ann is possibly her limit. However, for Thompson-Herah her personal best time came only in a +0.9 tailwind, putting Flo Jo’s legendary and heavily disputed 1988 record at risk.

Both Thompson-Herah and Shelly Ann possess elite running mechanics. Shelly Ann is renowned as an explosive starter, while her maintenance of her top speed in the final phases of a race is unseen for an athlete her size.

With the world championships approaching, there is a clear target for Thompson-Herah to make history

Thompson-Herah on the other hand excels in the final phases of a race. Her 40kph top speed recorded at the Prefontaine Classic is the fastest ever achieved by a female sprinter. If she is to marginally improve her drive and acceleration phase, enabling her to reach top speed sooner, Thompson-Herah is truly capable of running sub 10.5.

At the age of 34, Fraser-Pryce’s form is astonishing. Usain Bolt was also born in 1986 and ran his last competitive race in 2018, achieving his personal best and world record of 9.58 in 2009 at the age of 22. Highlighting that progression in sprinting is not linear. 

What makes Shelly Ann’s current improving form so impressive is the fact that this the second stage of her career, after she took a break in 2017-18 following the birth of her son. With her continued improving times throughout this 2021 season, she has hinted at rethinking her previous 2022 retirement with another crack at the Olympics on the cards for the eight time medallist.

Thompson-Herah ran another impressive 10.65 in Zurich, but we will have to wait for next year’s packed schedule to see if she can finally beat the world record. With the world championships in Eugene approaching in the Summer of 2022, there is a clear target for Thompson-Herah and Shelly Ann to peak at to possibly make history.

With the return of Dina Asher-Smith, the continued improvement of Shericka Jackson and US sensation Sha’Carri Richardson, the 2022 women’s track season promises to be one to savour.

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