Could Richardson rain on Fraser-Pryce's Olympic parade?

By August 17, 2020

Had it not been for the pandemic, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics would have been done and dusted 10 days ago and sports fans across the world would still be gathering around water coolers and office enclosures buzzing about the spectacular show put on by the world’s greatest athletes.

Closer to home, many of us in the Caribbean would still be basking in the performances of some of our own people. Shaunae Miller-Uibo would probably have been the Olympic 200m champion, Tahjay Gayle would probably have followed up his impressive gold-medal performance in Doha with another spectacular showing.

The men’s 100m would have been a bust for the Caribbean with the USA’s Trayvon Brommell upgrading his 2015 bronze to a gold medal. I say this because Cristian Coleman would likely have missed the games due to his whereabouts violations and Justin Gatlin can only outrun time for so long.

The women’s 100m? Well, that would perhaps be the race of the Games. Just thinking about what could have been, whets the appetite for what could be in the summer of 2021.

Right off the bat, we know that Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce would be the favourite. Even though she will be 34 and a half by then, we all know that when the Pocket Rocket is healthy, she is hard to beat in a final.

In six Olympics and World Championships 100 finals that she has won over the years, Fraser-Pryce has run times of 10.78, 10.73, 10.75, 10.71, 10.76 and 10.71.

In the finals she did not win, she was always in the mix. At the World Championships in Daegu in 2011, she was coming off an injury and minor surgery, which hampered her preparation, and even then, she led until the final third before fading to fourth in 10.99s running into a -1.4m/s wind.

Five years later, running with an injured big toe at the Olympic Games in Rio, she held off Marie Jose-Ta Lou for the bronze in 10.86.

In short, Fraser-Pryce is a warrior who does not know when she is beaten.

However, in 2021, she will likely have the toughest fight of her life if she is to win an unprecedented third Olympic 100m title.

Of course, she will have to go through the reigning Olympic champion Elaine Thompson, who is still capable of times like the 10.71 she ran to win the first half of her sprint double in Rio four years ago.

Thompson, when healthy, also has a winning record in a head-to-head with Fraser-Pryce.

Then there is the loveable British speedster Dina Asher-Smith, who told me earlier this year she wanted to break that 10.8-barrier in time for Tokyo 2020. She now has an extra year to achieve that goal.

However, notwithstanding the pedigree of these two women, potentially, the biggest threat to the veteran Jamaican is a youngster from Dallas, Texas, who goes by the name of Sha’carri Richardson.

Last year, Richardson, then 19, ran a very fast 10.75 to win the NCAA Division I title. It was a U20 world record that thrust the youngster into the global spotlight. Then just last week, she ran a personal best 22.00 over the 200m at the Montverde Academy in Florida.

In between, she has wind-aided 100m times of 10.94, 10.79, and 10.83 plus a wind-legal time of 10.95. The thing with Richardson is that she is already one of the fastest women ever.

She is faster than Asher-Smith whose PB is 10.83 and is already almost as fast as the 10.70, the personal bests of both Fraser-Pryce and Thompson.

Had the Olympics been held this year, maybe winning the 100m title would have been just out of her reach. However, with an extra year to prepare, an extra year when Justin Gatlin can boost her confidence and Dennis Mitchell will hone her technique, you know she is going to be faster than ever.

How much, we will not know until they line up in Tokyo next year, but you have to believe that if she was capable of 10.75 at 19, she is likely to be even quicker two years later.

What we also don’t know is how she will respond to the pressure of taking on the fastest women in the world over two rounds and still bring her ‘A’ game in the finals against someone who has been won six of 8 major finals and others who have already been there and done that. Athletes like Ta-Lou, Ahoure, Okagbare, Schippers, Lalova and Briana Williams will make her work harder than she has ever had to in order to get to the finals.

Will those stacked heats be enough to deplete her reserves before she gets to the final?

Then, there is the occasion itself. The NCAA’s is one thing but the Olympic finals against more experienced opponents can be extremely daunting.

Will she be able to handle all that pressure and bring her best race against women, who are all more experienced at doing that, especially the woman trying to create history?

It depends.

Shelly has changed coaches. I asked Stephen Francis late last week if she was still with MVP. He was unable to comment but admits that she has not been training with the club for some time now.

Stephen Francis has prepared Fraser-Pryce for more than a decade, transforming her into what many believe to be the greatest female 100m sprinter in history.

Can Renaldo Walcott do the same? On the evidence of what we have seen in these past few weeks maybe he can. The thing is the Olympics are a different animal to some local meets.

Francis knows his charge inside out. He knows what works and what won’t. His intimate knowledge of her physicality and how to bring her to a peak in time for the finals gives her a distinct advantage over her rivals.

A ‘new’ coach might struggle to do that.

These unknowns are what makes this potential battle so intriguing and along with the other women vying for a title, makes the women’s 100m finals in Tokyo 2021, such a mouth-watering prospect.

As it stands, for me, Richardson is a clear and present danger to Fraser-Pryce’s bid to once more create Olympic history.

 

 

 

 

Leighton Levy

Leighton Levy is a journalist with 28 years’ experience covering crime, entertainment, and sports. He joined the staff at SportsMax.TV as a content editor two years ago and is enjoying the experience of developing sports content and new ideas. At SportsMax.tv he is pursuing his true passion - sports.

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