Mixed reactions as Thompson-Herah picks Elite Coach Walcott ahead of Olympic campaign
Five-time Olympic gold medallist, Jamaican Elaine Thompson-Herah. (Photo: Collin Reid)

News that Elaine Thompson-Herah will now be conditioned by hot-shot Coach Reynaldo Walcott at his Elite Performance camp was met with both optimism and curiosity by local and international figures inside the track and field world.

Thompson-Herah, 31, who was coached for the last two-and-a-half months of the just-concluded season by Shanieke Osbourne, will again be training alongside rival and fellow MVP Track and Field Club alumna Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

According to information from sources close to the situation, Thompson-Herah's shoe sponsor Puma — which is also the main sponsor of Walcott and the Elite Performance Track Club — played a major role in the sprinter's move to the Jamaica College-based club, after a bitter end to her relationship with her previous coach Osbourne, and considering the importance of the Olympic Games in 2024.

The move was confirmed Monday by Thompson-Herah's Manager Marvin Anderson, who expressed the sprinter's gratitude for the support she received from her fans during her challenges, and her commitment to regaining her hold on the international sprinting reins.

THOMPSON-HERAH...recently parted ways with Coach Shanieke Osbourne (Photo: Observer file)

"Going forward, Mrs Thompson-Herah will be under the guidance of Coach Reynaldo Walcott of Elite Performance Track Club," read a release from Anderson's Andi Sports Management group.

"In expressing her gratitude, Elaine Thompson-Herah extends heartfelt thanks to her fans and well-wishers for the overwhelming love and support they have showered upon her during this transitional period. The outpouring of encouragement has been a source of inspiration for Elaine, reinforcing the profound connection she shares with her global fan base," the release continued.

"Amidst this transition Mrs Thompson-Herah remains as dedicated as ever to her craft, demonstrating an unequivocal focus on the path ahead. Her commitment to excellence is unwavering, and she is resolute in her pursuit of defending the double Olympic titles she so triumphantly earned."

The news comes as a relief for fans of the back-to-back Olympic sprint double champion after the struggles of last season and the uncertainties around her coaching situation heading into the new season.

Elite Performance Head Coach Reynaldo Walcott

Thompson-Herah, the fastest woman alive in the 100m (10.54 seconds), suffered an injury setback during the last campaign that resulted in her failing to make the 100m team for the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, finishing fifth at Trials, and only competing in the heats of the 4x100m relays in Hungary.

Under Osbourne's guidance she ended the season on a high with top three finishes in her next four races, including two wins and a season's best of 10.79 seconds.

Thompson-Herah and her team, which also includes her husband Derron Herah who was conditioning her for the better part of the last two seasons, could not agree on an extension with Osbourne and it was announced last week that both parties had parted ways.

However, it is understood that Puma, which signed Thompson-Herah to a multi-year deal in July 2022, played a part in connecting the sprinter with the well-respected coach, who himself is a former member of the MVP track club.

Besides Fraser-Pryce, Walcott also coaches World Championships 400m hurdles silver medal winner Rushell Clayton, sprint hurdling star Rasheed Broadbell, Olympic bronze medallist Megan Tapper, among others.

Still, the move has raised the curiosity of many in the athletics world, with Sean Ingle, chief sports reporter and columnist at British publication The Guardian, telling the Jamaica Observer that the pairing with Fraser-Pryce, especially given previous frostiness between the two, can either be a positive or negative going forward.

"Top coaches will usually tell you that when it comes to elite sprinters, there almost has to always be a king or queen bee in a group, someone who everyone else knows is the best. Sure, there will still sometimes be competitive tensions, rows and awkwardness, but usually that is how it works — and it is usually better when that is the case," said Ingle.

"But having two of the very best of all time in the same group, both going for Olympic glory? That is very interesting and potentially explosive. There are probably two ways it can go. Either they both spur each other on, at the end of their careers, to one more career-defining performance at Paris 2024, or the tensions build and simmer and erupt — to the detriment of them both."

Trinidad and Tobago sprinting great Ato Boldon was also surprised with the coaching update.

"That's the last place I thought she'd end up but it's a pleasant surprise. That's a good look for more than one reason. I think it shows some unity and grace from one icon to another, and she's also with someone who people can rest assured is capable," Boldon said.

Thompson-Herah has personal best times of 10.54 seconds in the 100m and 21.53 in the 200m.

BY ANDRE LOWE Sports content manager lowea@jamaicaobserver.com

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