Sprint world record holders Usain Bolt of Jamaica and the late Florence Griffith Joyner of the USA, known universally as 'Flo-Jo', could have unwittingly played parts in Elaine Thompson-Herah's unprecedented defence of her Olympic Games 100m/200m double in Tokyo, Japan.
Thompson-Herah's husband Deron Herah, a former 400m hurdler with St Jago High and Texas Tech University, said she used the down time during the novel coronavirus pandemic to brush up on her knowledge of the events and studied videos of both athletes, hoping to learn things that might have helped her to unlock her potential.
“During the pandemic, she started studying Usain Bolt and Flo-Jo's record-breaking performances, bit by bit. She used that to become an even better student of her events,” he said in an interview.
“She told me she was confident some of those records can be broken, so to get the Olympic record and to be that fast over the 200m has given her a lot of confidence,” said Herah, who himself ran the 400m hurdles and was good enough to have qualified for the then NCAA Midwest Regionals in the 2005 season. He has a personal best of 51.01 seconds, according to the World Athletics website.
Bolt holds the men's records with times of 9.58 seconds and 19.19 seconds, respectively, both set in 2009 at the World Championships in Berlin, Germany.
Griffith Joyner still owns the controversial women's 100m world record 10.49 seconds set at the US Trials in Indianapolis in 1988 and the 21.34 seconds in the 200m, set later that year at the Olympic Games.
Thompson-Herah shook off a five-year drought between global titles by winning both in record-breaking fashion, first lowering the 33-year-old Olympic record in the 100m, then smashing the Jamaican 200m record set 30 years ago by legendary Merlene Ottey.
On Saturday, she ran 10.61 seconds to erase Flo-Jo's 10.62 seconds set in 1988 at the Games in Seoul, South Korea, and also the months-old Jamaican record 10.63 seconds set in June by Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.
On Tuesday, it was the turn of the Jamaican record 21.64 seconds set in 1991 by Ottey in Brussels, Belgium, Thompson-Herah bettered her own previous best of 21.66 seconds set in 2015 at the World Championships in Beijing, China, and is now the second-fastest-ever over the distance.
Herah says while Bolt “isn't typically a great starter”, Thompson-Herah paid close attention to “how he maintains his composure to finish his races”.
“Elaine also noticed that Usain does a lot of self-talk to calm his nerves and so she channels that as well,” he said.
Herah is a big admirer of his wife's attention to the small details of the sport. “To me, her level of focus and passion is unmatched. She has always been great at running the event, but with continuous rehabilitative work on her Achilles and her sights set on even more records, the sky's the limit for her,” he said.
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