With the World Athletics Championships a little over two weeks away, Jamaican track and field fans have a serious problem, and it is creating a division among the people of a nation considered the sprint factory of the world. And while the problem is a good one to have from a national perspective, individually, it has the potential to sew bitterness among supporters, especially Jamaicans.
Most countries would sacrifice almost anything to have one athlete in the sprints of the Word Championships, due to start on July 15th in Oregon, USA. Jamaica doesn’t only have three top-ranked athletes; it has the two fastest women alive and the three fastest of 2022 in 100 m, the third-fastest 200 m runner in history, and the fastest at the same distance this year.
In Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Jamaica has the second most decorated World Championships athlete alive. She is the defending champion in the 100 m and has won 11 medals, including nine gold and two silvers. She has more 100 m gold medals than any athlete at the World Championships. Not even her countryman, the great Usain Bolt (3 golds), has won that many. As the 100 m defending world champion, she got a bye to defend her title in Oregon and did not compete past the heats at the Jamaica trials from June 23 to 24th (100 m). Twice this year, the “Mommy Rocket” has run the fastest time for the season. She clocked the best time of 10.67 on May 7th this year in Nairobi, Kenya, and repeated the feat on June 18th.
Until the Jamaica trials 100 m finals on June 24th, Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah was the second-fastest woman for 2022. The double Olympic champion in 100 and 200 meters came into 2022 on a high. Apart from her historic Olympic achievements, Thompson-Herah became the fastest woman alive when she ran a blistering 10.54 seconds at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene on August 21st. She is a six-time Olympic medalist, including five golds and a silver. She is the first woman in history and the second sprinter to win the “sprint double” at consecutive Olympics in 2016 and 2020.
You would think that Jamaica’s appetite for sprint domination would end there. But nothing could be farther from the truth for this nation of only 2.75 million with a sprinting record that only the United States matches with a population of almost 330 million people.
Shericka Jackson entered the international track and field arena in 2008. She is an accomplished 400 m athlete, and until 2021 she had never participated in the 100 m at the international level. At the Jamaica trials in 2021, she clocked an incredible 10.77 seconds in her 100 m semi-final and placed second in the finals with 10.82 for a guaranteed spot on Jamaica’s 100 m team. Her 200 m time of 21.82 was also good enough for second place, and she got her first chase of Olympic glory in both sprints. Those times ranked Jackson as the third fastest in 100 and 200 in 2021. At the Olympics, Jackson bettered her personal best to win bronze in 10.76 seconds. However, she miscalculated in her 200 m heats and failed to qualify past the heats. But she redeemed herself from that disappointment and anchored Jamaica to the 4×100 gold.
So far, in 2022, Jackson has won three of her seven 100 m races and three of four 200 meters. But two of those wins were jaw-dropping performances at the Jamaica championships trials from June 23rd to 26th. The same 10.77 personal best that gave her second place at the trials in 2021 was good enough to avenge her loss and make her the national champion.
The 200 m was even more sensational. Coming off a record-breaking 21.91 run in Rome on June 9th at the Wanda Diamond League meet, Jackson blew away her teammates Thompson-Herah and Fraser-Pryce to run a blistering 21.55 seconds. This is the fastest time this year and the third fastest in history. She is only bettered by Thompson-Herah’s 21.53 and Florence Griffith-Joyner’s 21.34. She is now the national champion in the 100 m and 200m.
When Jamaica swept the Olympic 100 m gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, perhaps only Fraser-Pryce was expected to be on the podium. At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Jackson and Thompson Herah surprised the Jamaican supporters.
This time around, all three are expected to win. The only problem is that only one of these phenomenal women can stand on the center podium. All three have their support base that is oozing with the confidence of victory. Frazer-Pryce has 1.3 million followers on Facebook and 681 000 on Instagram. Thompson-Herah is followed by 485,000 persons on Instagram and almost 459 000 on Facebook. Jackson, the baby of the three, is watched by 153,000 on Facebook and 105 000 on Instagram.
In a recent poll conducted by CNW that asked whether fans wanted Fraser-Pryce or Thompson-Herah to break Flo Jo’s 100 m record, 66.29% chose Fraser-Pryce. Former Jamaican Olympian and teammate of Fraser-Pryce, Keron Stewart, told CNW earlier this month that she wants both to break the record. And retired Jamaican sprinter Veronica Campbell-Brown believes that “Shelly-Ann and Elaine are motivated to get the record.”
Before fans salivate about the record, however, they must contend with the dilemma of who to support for the women’s sprint championships in Eugene, Oregon. Heats for the 100 m start on July 16th, with the final on the 17th. The 200 m heats will kick off on July 18th and the finals on July 21st.
There is little doubt that the sprint section of this year’s World Championships will be a mouth-watering, nail-biting, and nerve-racking affair. Based on the top ten fastest times this year, the 100 m will be a battle between the USA and Jamaica. Six of the fastest 100 m athletes are Americans but Sha’Carri Richardson did not make the US team. Jamaica occupies the top three rankings with Fraser-Pryce, Jackson, and Herah-Thompson. Kemba Nelson of Jamaica is at number 10 while St Lucian Julien Alfred sits at number four.
The national battle in the 200 m is similar to the 100. Jackson is ranked first to lead a field of six Americans. Christine Mboma is at three, Favour Ofili of Nigeria is at five, and Elaine Thompson-Herah, at nine, completes the top ten. Fraser-Pryce is ranked eleventh in the 200 m.
Barring a surprise, Jamaica is expected to do well. It may even take a world record to separate the winner from the pack in the 100 and 200 meters, and for the first time in history, we may see one country sweep the women’s sprint double. Whichever Jamaican wins, there will be celebration and disappointment, but regardless, the “Jamination” by the black, green, and gold is highly expected and anticipated.