Olympics preview: Six Jamaican athletes to watch

Sports Friday 23/July/2021 11:01 AM
By: xinhua
Olympics preview: Six Jamaican athletes to watch
Fraser-Pryce remains a firm favourite to win both the 100m and 200m women's sprints

Tokyo: Eight-time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt has retired but Jamaica's rich tradition of track success is expected to continue at the Tokyo Games, especially in the women's sprints. Xinhua looks at six of the country's leading gold medal candidates here.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce

Despite a disappointing showing at the Rio 2016 Olympics, Fraser-Pryce remains a firm favourite to win both the 100m and 200m women's sprints. In 2019, the 34-year-old came back from giving birth to win two gold medals at the world championships.

She clocked 10.63 seconds over 100m in June, making her the second-fastest woman in history behind Florence Griffith-Joyner. Her biggest rivals in the 100m are likely to be compatriot Elaine Thompson-Herah and Britain's Dina Asher-Smith while in the 200m Gabrielle Thomas of the United States and Bahamas sprinter Shaunae Miller-Uibo appear to be the strongest challengers.

Elaine Thompson-Herah

Thompson-Herah emerged from Fraser-Pryce's shadow to clinch gold in the 100m and 200m in Rio. But the 29-year-old has mostly struggled at major events since then, failing to finish on the podium at both the 2017 and 2019 world championships.

Her form has improved markedly in 2021 and earlier this month she recorded 10.71 seconds - her fastest 100m time since 2017 - at an Olympic warm-up event in Hungary. Both Thompson-Herah and Fraser-Pryce are expected to put their rivalry aside to lead Jamaica to the gold medal in the 4x100m relay.

Stephenie Ann Mcpherson

Having taken silver in the 4x400m at the Rio Games, McPherson is on track to go one better in Tokyo. The 32-year-old broke the 50-second barrier for the first time since 2013 last month, upstaging rivals Wadeline Jonathas, Lieke Klaver and Kaylin Whitney in Hungary.

Her challengers for the gold medal here will also include national teammate Shericka Jackson and American Allyson Felix. McPherson and Jackson will join forces in the 4x400m relay and, most likely, in the 4x400m mixed relay - both events in which Jamaica will be gold medal contenders.

Natoya Goule

Goule secured her eighth successive Jamaican 800m title in April with a time of 1 minute 57.84 seconds. Her challengers for the gold medal in Tokyo include Cuban Rose Mary Almanza and American Athing Mu.

At the Diamond League event in Stockholm earlier this month, Goule ran a season's best 1:56.44, only to be pipped for the gold medal by Almanza, who recorded a personal best time of 1:56.28.

Tajay Gayle

World champion Gayle leapt a season's best 8.55m to win the Stockholm Diamond League long jump event earlier this month. The performance is expected to provide a major boost for the 24-year-old, who only qualified for the Tokyo Games with his final two attempts at the Jamaican national trials in June.

Gayle told reporters he is nearing peak condition after struggling for much of 2021 with a knee injury. His principal rivals for the Olympic gold medal include JuVaughn Harrison of the United States and Greece's Miltiadis Tentoglou.

Shanieka Ricketts

The 29-year-old triple jumper qualified for the Olympics with a leap of 14.75m en route to victory at the Diamond League meeting in Monaco this month.

"There are always things to improve on but we will be focusing on the last phase in order to see bigger jumps in Tokyo," she told reporters after the competition. "I am not putting any pressure on myself but I would be disappointed if I was leaving without a medal."

Other gold medal contenders in the triple jump include Venezuela's Yulimar Rojas and Cuban Liadagmis Povea.