Sprinters from across the world, led by Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson-Herah and Canada’s Andre De Grasse, ruled the Olympic Stadium track Saturday in Tokyo.
Thompson-Herah successfully defended her Olympic title in the women’s 100 metres, crossing the line in 10.61 seconds to lower Florence Griffith Joyner’s Summer Games record by 1-100th of a second.
The 29-year-old led a Jamaican sweep, with Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (10.74) and Shericka Jackson — in a personal-best 10.76 — rounding out the medal podium.
Canada’s Crystal Emmanuel and Khamica Bingham failed to qualify for their first Olympic final in the event, placing 16th and 18th in the semifinals, respectively.
Emmanuel, an eight-time national champion in the 100, crossed the line in 11.21 seconds while Bingham went 11.22 in a separate semifinal.
British medal hope Dina Asher-Smith, who was second to Fraser-Pryce in the 2019 world championship final, didn’t advance with her 11.05 effort and later withdrew from the 200, an event she won at worlds two years ago.
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An emotional interview by Great Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith saying she’ll pull out of the women’s 200 meters at the <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/TokyoOlympics?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#TokyoOlympics</a> due to a hamstring injury. She is the reigning world champion at 200 meters.<a href=”https://t.co/e4aKaPNUFz”>pic.twitter.com/e4aKaPNUFz</a>
De Grasse was the story of the men’s 100 heats, parlaying a strong start out of the blocks to a season-best 9.91, just 1-100th of a second off his PB from a bronze medal performance at the 2019 world championships in Doha, Qatar.
As impressive as his time was the 26-year-old’s ability to stay mentally focused after enduring false starts by Great Britain’s Reese Prescod and Divine Oduduru of Nigeria. Oduduru, the 2019 NCAA champion in the 100, was disqualified for his infraction while Prescod advanced to the semifinals in 10.12.
“My coach [Rana Reider] just told me, ‘React, listen to the [start] gun and your top end [speed] is there. If you get out [of the starting blocks] with everyone, the race is yours,'” De Grasse told CBC Sports’ Devin Heroux in Japan, minutes after his race.
WATCH | De Grasse runs blistering 9.91 on Saturday:
‘Not at all concerned what times he has run’
CBC Sports analyst Donovan Bailey, who won Olympic 100 gold 25 years ago in world record time, wondered recently if De Grasse was “playing possum” in the leadup to the Summer Games and could win gold in the 100 and 200.
De Grasse’s previous best of 9.99 in the 100 this year dated to his season opener on April 17 at the Tom Jones Memorial Invitational in Gainesville, Fla., and only once in seven races had the native of Markham, Ont., dipped under 10 seconds in a legal wind.
“I’m really not worried about [his recent] results and not at all concerned what times he has run,” Bailey said in a recent phone interview with CBC Sports. “It is crazy for anyone to believe that anytime you step on the track you’re going to break a world record.
“I’m more concerned he’s injury-free and been consistent.”
It was a tough Saturday for the Nigerian team, which also learned of the provisional doping ban handed sprinter Blessing Okagbare, who holds the Commonwealth Games record of 10.85 in the women’s 100.
According to track and field’s Athletics Integrity Unit, she “tested positive for human growth hormone” in an out-of-competition test on July 19.
Meanwhile, Lamont Jacobs of Italy set a national record with a 9.94 clocking — second only to De Grasse across seven semifinal heats — while Daryll Neita of Great Britain ran an 11-flat PB to advance to the final by 1-1000th of a second over Michelle-Lee Ahye of Trinidad and Tobago. Neita was last of eight runners in the final in 11.12.
Kokoutse Fabrice Dabla of Togo was also DQ’d in the heat following Prescod and Oduduru.
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