Thompson-Herah sparks Nike doubt ahead of World Champs
Double Olympic sprint champion Elaine Thompson-Herah is spotted at the Norman Manley International Airport ahead of her departure for the World Championships on Monday. (Photo: Joseph Wellington)

Double Olympic sprint champion Elaine Thompson-Herah is reportedly close to confirming a deal with German sportswear company Puma, a move which would signal the end of her long association with American brand Nike.

Thompson-Herah, who is scheduled to depart the island Monday for the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, was spotted at the Norman Manley International Airport sporting full Puma lifestyle gear, which importantly, included footwear, sparking questions over her status with Nike.

Athletes are required to wear gear from the team’s sponsor while on national duty, but this does not include footwear, which is exclusively reserved for individual sponsors.

It is understood that Thompson-Herah’s contract with Nike ended a few months ago and that discussions with Puma, who is also a long-time supporter of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association, the Jamaica Olympic Association, and several past and present Jamaican athletes such as Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell, Hansle Parchment, Shericka Jackson, Megan Tapper, and Rushell Clayton, commenced at the expiration of a 180-day Nike clause.

The clause afforded the American supplier, which has sponsored the Jamaican since she turned pro, the first right to refusal of any competing proposals, meaning the sprinter would have to resign with Nike once they decide to match her offers. It is not clear whether Nike offered an extension or the value of the reported Puma deal.

When contacted, several Puma officials declined to comment on the matter.

Thompson-Herah has had a frosty relationship with Nike in recent months and removed the company as a sponsor from her social media bio after the Tokyo Olympic Games.

The omission took place during a period when fans of the Jamaican were complaining about the brand’s limited promotion of the 10.54-second sprinter compared to less-successful American athletes.

It has been a year of change for the 30-year-old, who also left the MVP Track Club and coach Stephen Francis ahead of the new season and is now being coached by her husband Derron Herah.

Thompson-Herah has so far posted a season-best of 10.79 seconds in the 100m and 22.05 in the 200m.

The 2015 world 200m silver medal winner is looking to win her first individual gold medal at the World Championships after dominating at the last two installments of the Olympic Games, winning 100m and 200m gold in Rio and Tokyo respectively.

She is also the fastest woman alive, with her 10.54 seconds clocking, which was recorded last season at the Prefontaine Classic at Hayward Field – the site of the World Championships, being bettered only by the world record-holder Florence Griffith-Joyner’s 10.46 seconds mark.

Puma is also believed to have signed up-and-coming Jamaican sprinter Kemba Nelson, the second-place finisher in the 100m at the National Senior Championships, ,to a lucrative deal recently.

Both Thompson-Herah and Nelson are managed by Andi Sports, which is led by former Jamaican sprinter Marvin Anderson.

ANDRE LOWE , Sports content manager, lowea@jamaicaobserver.com

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