When the starter’s gun goes off at Hayward Field at 1:51 pm on Friday, the world will likely see the most anticipated 100m race for women in a long time at the Prefontaine Classic. Nine women including US champion Sha’ Carri Richardson, six Olympics finalists and the three medalists will line up in a thriller for the times. The fastest woman will cross the finish line before the starter’s gun smoke disappear. Who that person will be, is not a bet for the faint-hearted?
This highly-charged and anticipated race was heating up before the Olympics. Tokyo was supposed to be the stage for the drama, but Sha’Carri Richardson tested positive for marijuana and was booted from the US Olympics team.
Three of Jamaica’s stars from the Olympics, Elaine Thompson-Herah, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and Shericka Jackson will try to prove that Jamaica’s dominance in Tokyo where they won gold, silver and bronze was no fluke. Among the Jamaicans there is rivalry as well. Shelly-Ann Fraser arrived in Tokyo with the fastest 100m time of 10.63 and was expected to win based on her form. She will want to prove that missing the gold in Tokyo was just a bad race day.
Elaine Thompson-Herah knows how to win when it matters most. Winning her second straight Olympics 100 with the second fastest time in history has to be a concern for her rivals. She will certainly want to continue her dominance, even though the stakes aren’t as high in Oregon. And Shericka Jackson who moved up to the shorter distance from her usual 400m to get bronze at the Olympics, must be motivated to see how far she can push her sprinting skills.
Richardson is the fastest woman in the United States. She knows for sure what is at stake. Missing her first Olympics and a chance to show her mettle on the world’s biggest stage must still be haunting her. Even though her 10.86 at the US trial would not have given her the bronze in Tokyo, she would have gotten silver, if she did her best time of 10.72. But we are not living in the world of “what ifs.” She now has a chance to show her talent and why she is the best US sprinter. A win for her would certainly bolster her supporters’ claim that her positive marijuana test should have been overlooked to give the United States a chance at the Olympics.
But what if Sha’ Carri wins? What will it prove? Satisfying her fans would certainly be nice but showing that she belongs among, and can beat the best, will do much more for her profile. The three Jamaicans and the other Olympic finalists: Teahna Daniels, (USA), Mujinga Kambundji (Switzerland), and Maria-Josee Ta Lou Côte d’Ivoire) are certainly more vulnerable now. They just completed a grueling experience at the Olympics. The medalists and Mujinga did eight races, Maria did six while Teahna competed in five. Add traveling, time to recover and training to the mix and you get a set of women whose bodies may not be in the best of shapes.
Richardson is certainly at an advantage. Not traveling to Tokyo meant that she would have gotten rest, relaxation, and training. Her camp doesn’t seem too concerned about the competition, however. Her agent Renaldo Nehemiah told the Wall Street Journal via email that: “Sha’ Carri is focused on running a good race since she last competed at the US Olympic Trials. She will be focused on executing her race to the best of her ability regardless of who is in the race.” Regardless, there must be some pressure on her to win. How well she deals with it could make the difference between her and the others who want to keep her off the podium.
Maria-Josee Ta Lou is the defending 100m champion of Prefontaine. Her time of 11.02 gave her the gold in 2019, the last time we had the races, due to covid. She will certainly need more than that this time to put her feet on the podium, and not even her 10.91 at the Olympics is likely to give her a bite of the metal.
Interestingly, the last running of the race in 2019, Fraser-Pryce placed 8th, Richardson was 4th and Daniels took bronze. Who will it be for 2021?
This will not be the last race among these female stars. This one however is just a mouthwatering classic to see.