Bengaluru/Tokyo: July 31: History is replete with sporting rivalries and the one between Elaine Thompson-Herah and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce which was on show at the 100M womens final of Tokyo 2020 Games is the latest in the series.
Five years ago in Rio, Thompson-Herah had toppled the great Fraser-Pryce, the two-time defending 100M women's champion at that point, who had struggled for form having contended with a painful toe injury.
When she followed up with 200M glory she became the first Jamaican to do the sprint double at the same Games. .
Just a year later, while Fraser-Pryce was absent having gone into labour with her first child, she placed fifth in the 100M final at the 2017 London World Championships and did not even compete in the 200M.
Two years later, at the 2019 Doha World Championships, disappointment struck again. Fraser-Pryce had returned to the top of the 100M food chain to reclaim gold. Thompson-Herah placed outside the medals in fourth.
In the 200M, she was forced to pull out prior to the semifinals with a nagging Achilles injury that had plagued her since 2018.
Those injuries were never used as an excuse. Instead it only fuelled a fire inside to return to the top.
"Disappointments do come, but I've to continue to work hard because no athlete goes into a championship to lose. I didn't go to a championship to lose. It was beyond my control," she had told Olympics Channel in an interview.
Then, as it did for every athlete whether for better or worse, fate intervened. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic forced the postponement of the Games. For some, opportunity was denied. For others, there was a chance to hit the reset button.
Thompson-Herah was frustrated that the chance to defend her titles had been delayed but, having started training late in 2020, the extra time proved a blessing.
Eight women had clocked a time under 10.90sec this season prior to these Games.
Jamaicans Fraser-Pryce, Thompson-Herah and Shericka Jackson, the trio who ultimately occupied the podium in the Japanese capital, had gone below 10.80, reports Peter Hanson for OPTA from the Olympic Stadium.
The injury niggles continued to trouble Thompson-Herah and forced her to miss a Diamond League Meeting in Gateshead. It also left her fearing she may not be able to compete at the Jamaican trials in June, where she placed third behind Fraser-Pryce and Jackson.
But just earlier this month she ran a 10.71 in Hungary, her fastest since 2017 and just outside her previous personal best of 10.70.
The confidence was growing and yet the spotlight was largely still on Fraser-Pryce, who was attempting to make history as the first woman to win a single athletics event three times.
But Thompson-Herah has now emulated her great compatriot by going back-to-back in the 100M – something Fraser-Pryce achieved at Beijing in 2008 and London 2012.
What is even more impressive is the way she did it. A final tipped to thrill lived up to its billing at a time when Tokyo 2020 needs its marquee events to deliver the goods.