Tokyo Olympics: Fraser-Pryce dazzles but Ta Lou sets the standard in stunning women's sprint heats

By Sports Desk July 30, 2021

Marie-Josee Ta Lou produced one of the fastest women's 100 metres in Olympic Games history as the sprint heats showcased a string of stunning displays on day one of the athletics.

The 32-year-old from Ivory Coast posted a personal best of 10.78 seconds, the joint fourth quickest legal 100m ever seen at the Games, excluding those that have exceeded wind assistance limits or been wiped from the record books because of doping.

Two-time World Championship silver medallist Ta Lou delivered her standout display in the fourth heat and said: "Surprise, surprise. I'm in shock actually. I know I'm ready. I will be re-focusing on my run because I really didn't expect to run as fast as I just did. And 10.78, it's great."

Asked whether advancing spike technology had helped, Ta Lou said: "No, I don't think so because I feel the same way when I wear other shoes. This one was not making me run really fast. It's only the colours."

She was joined in producing an early statement of intent by Jamaicans Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson-Herah – the defending champion – with the women's 100m shaping up to be more tantalising a race than the men's equivalent.

 

Fraser-Pryce is the fastest woman in the world this year, having run a 10.63 in June – the quickest legal 100m since Florence Griffith-Joyner's still-startling 1988 hot streak.

The 34-year-old ran 10.84 to win heat five, and when asked if there was rivalry in the Jamaican ranks she said: "Oh, there's rivalry with everybody. All female athletes are showing up and you're competing so I don't focus on just one individual.

"If you notice the heat, that's some really quick running, so you just have to make sure that you're ready. And I think it's good for females sprinting. It's long overdue and I'm hoping that it definitely is up to the expectation."

Thompson-Herah did the 100m and 200m sprint double in Rio five years ago and is chasing more gold medal success in Japan, with her first outing showing she is in great shape to contend, the 28-year-old closing 10.82 in the second heat.

"These are some of the quickest fields in the history of the event," she said.

Britain's Dina Asher-Smith was a comfortable second in the first heat, clocking 11.07 as Teahna Daniels crossed first in 11.04, and was asked whether this might be a fast track.

"I think so, but I really wasn't thinking about things like that. It might be," Asher-Smith said. "But today was just about making it through to the next round safely at the same time as knowing I've got another level to give tomorrow. And I do have another level, of course I do. It's an Olympics."

Related items

  • Michael Johnson launches groundbreaking Grand Slam Track League Michael Johnson launches groundbreaking Grand Slam Track League

    Michael Johnson, the Olympic champion and former world record holder in the 200m and 400m, has unveiled his latest venture: a lucrative new athletics league called Grand Slam Track (GST). Aimed at revolutionizing the track and field landscape, GST promises to bring together the world's elite runners with a significant financial incentive, offering USD$100,000 as the top prize.

    Set to kick off in April 2025, the league will feature a prize fund of USD$12.6 million spread over four events annually. Two of these events will be hosted in the United States. Each year, 48 athletes will be contracted to the league, competing in two events per meet across the four meetings, dubbed "Slams."

    "We're revolutionizing the track landscape," said Johnson. "They deserve to be compensated. The structure of the sport in the past has not compensated those athletes to take that risk to go and compete against the best athletes in the sport."

    The league has already attracted top-tier talent, with American Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the Olympic and World Champion, and world record holder in the 400m hurdles, being the first athlete to join. "I firmly believe that this is the step forward that track needs to take it to another level," McLaughlin-Levrone stated.

    Grand Slam Track will feature a unique format where each meet hosts 96 athletes, split into two categories: GST Racers and GST Challengers. The 48 core GST Racers, divided equally among six event groups for both men and women, will compete in all four Slams each year. They will receive an annual base compensation and can earn additional prize money. The GST Racing Committee, which selects these athletes, focuses on global championship titles, top rankings, global following, and existing rivalries.

    The other 48 athletes at each Slam, known as GST Challengers, will be selected based on recent performances and intriguing matchups. They will be paid appearance fees per event and are also eligible for full prize money. Both Racers and Challengers will compete in two events over three days during each Slam.

    The event categories are designed to showcase the versatility and skills of the world's best athletes, including short sprints (100m and 200m), short hurdles (100m hurdles for women or 110m hurdles for men, and 100m), long sprints (200m and 400m), long hurdles (400m hurdles and 400m), short distance (800m and 1500m), and long-distance (3000m and 5000m). Athletes' placements in each event are critical as their scores across two events will determine their final ranking for that Slam. The scoring system awards ten points for first place, eight points for second, six points for third, five points for fourth, four points for fifth, three points for sixth, two points for seventh, and one point for eighth place. In the event of a tie, the quickest combined time across the two events will decide the Slam winner.

    Johnson's Grand Slam Track is poised to create a significant shift in the track and field world, providing athletes with better financial rewards and a platform to showcase their talents against the best in the world. With substantial backing and a well-thought-out structure, GST is set to become a premier destination for elite runners globally, promising thrilling competitions and redefining the sport's financial landscape.

     

     

     

     

  • Stephen Francis criticizes JAAA for men’s 4x400m relay qualification failure; offers suggestion to possibly beat June 30 deadline Stephen Francis criticizes JAAA for men’s 4x400m relay qualification failure; offers suggestion to possibly beat June 30 deadline

    Renowned athletics coach Stephen Francis has publicly criticized the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) for what he described as gross incompetence, which has placed the country on the cusp of failing to qualify for the men’s 4x400m relay at this summer’s Paris Olympic Games.

    Francis, known for his no-nonsense approach, did not mince words as he laid bare his frustrations with the governing body’s handling of the situation, as the country’s recent bid to make it into the top 16 in the world, again ended in disappointment.

    The team of Reheem Hayles, JeVaughn Powell, Kimar Farquharson and Tarees Rhoden, gallantly clocked 2:59.75 against a Barbados team, and an international quartet at the NACAC New Life Invitational in Bahamas on Sunday, but failed to run faster than the 2:59.12 seconds set by Zambia in March.

    That was Jamaica’s third attempt at qualification, following two failures at the World Athletics Relays, also held in the Bahamas, in May. Fourteen teams qualified from the World Relays with the next best two teams, based on times run during the qualifying window, being added.

    France (2:58.46) and Zambia, currently occupy those slots, with Jamaica now in a race against time to surpass one of the two before the close of the qualification window on June 30.

    Should the Jamaicans fail to do so, it would be the first time in decades that the country would be absent from the men’s 4x400m at any major championship.

    Francis believes all this could have been avoided had JAAA’s president Garth Gayle appointed competent individuals with immense knowledge of how to manage the situation accordingly.

    “Garth Gayle is a trying man, but he consistently gets letdown by the appointments he makes. Jamaica historically has treated senior athletics as an adjunct to junior athletics, so the same people are there, school principals and their technical committees, making these decisions on issues they know absolutely nothing about,” Francis told SportsMax.TV in an exclusive interview.

    “They know nothing about senior athletics. They might have some kind of resume in (managing) juniors, being a high school principal or a coach at a high school, so (the country suffers) as a result of these personnel, because they keep making stupid decisions when it comes to seniors,” he added.

    To drive home his point, Francis, a highly decorated coach, explained that the country’s teams to the World Athletics Relays were chosen based on early season times.

    “That is rubbish…unheard of, and only people who know nothing about senior athletics would ever even suggest that. (Those with proper knowledge) know that in April, nobody starts to run because people are more peaking for the summer, so what they should have done for the World relays is to run the teams you expect to run down in June. You make them aware early enough that, ‘we're going to select so try and get in shape because we need to qualify, we need to get to the final,” Francis reasoned.