The world of women’s sprinting

Elaine Thompson-Herah after winning one of her three medals in Tokyo.

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Elaine Thompson-Herah after winning one of her three medals in Tokyo.

Jamison Joyce, Staff Writer

In the past decade the track and field scene has been dominated by male sprinters in popularity. Usain Bolt, Justin Gatlin and Wayde Van Niekerk are just a few of the athletic powerhouses that have captivated the minds of sports fans worldwide. However, in 2021 the women’s sprinting stage has been one of the most entertaining spectacles in the current sports world. Female sprinters are earning accolades left and right. Additionally, some interesting controversies have also hit the mainstream media making for a more entertaining spectator experience. This is likely the reason track and field was the second most viewed sport in the 2020 olympics.

Early this summer Team USA sprinter Sha’carri Richardson took the world by storm with her performance at the Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon. With a time of 10.86 seconds in the 100m sprint, she had run the fastest time of any woman in the U.S. this year and was determined to make her presence known in Tokyo at the Olympics. Shortly after the trials, Richardson tested positive for marijuana usage and the news published that she had been banned by the Olympic committee from running in the 100m race in Tokyo. This announcement sent fans, celebrities and other athletes into a social media uproar that questioned whether this was a fair decision. It was no mistake that Richardson had broken the rules, but the question was, is this rule actually necessary? To the dismay of fans, the Olympic committee wouldn’t budge and prevented Richardson from representing the United States at the Olympics. Many fans, analysts, and professionals believed that the ban on marijuana was not fair because it is considered medicinal and doesn’t actually enhance athletic performance. Dr. Mark Wallace is a professor at UC San Diego who specializes in therapeutic and pain management drugs and does not believe THC gives an unfair advantage to athletes.

I’m surprised they’re even checking for cannabis anymore,” said Wallace to the LA Times. “I guess they are looking for performance-enhancing drugs, which THC is not.”

Although Richardson missed the Olympics, there were still a plethora of jaw dropping performances from different female runners in the games. The most notable race was the head to head battle between Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraiser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson-Herah in the 100m and 200m final. Both women were considered major contenders for gold medals in Tokyo, and neither of them disappointed. Thompson-Herah broke the Olympic world record in 100m, and Fraser-Pryce was only a little over a tenth of a second behind her. Jamaican sprinter Sharicka Jackson finished third behind them as well. Thompson-Herah also dominated the 200m winning gold by a landslide. To close out, the Jamaican Women’s sprinting team dominated with another gold medal in the 4×100 relay. 

“I was just excited for the team to come out here and put on a show,” said Thompson-Herah to Reuters sports. “The feeling is surreal to capture three golds, and we got a national record.”

The astonishment didn’t stop there though. Team USA sprinting legend Allyson Felix became the most decorated American track and field athlete of all time with 11 medals. This summer in Tokyo, Felix took home two medals for Team USA, a gold in the 4×400 relay, and bronze in the 400m. Felix announced that Tokyo would be her final Olympics, but she couldn’t leave without winning her 10th and 11th medal.

“I think I had to go through the challenges and the fights, and I’m absolutely where I’m supposed to be,” Felix said to The New York Times.

It’s no secret that women are taking over track and field and doing things many thought weren’t possible. Although many have not yet tuned in, soon these athletes will be acknowledged and respected for their hard work.

Contact Jamison Joyce at [email protected]