Elaine Sandra-Lee Thompson-Herah OD (née Thompson; born 28 June 1992) is a Jamaican sprinter who competes in the 100 metres and 200 metres. One of the greatest female sprinters of all time, she is a five-time Olympic champion, the fastest woman alive, and the second-fastest in history over both distances. Thompson-Herah is also the first woman in history, and the second sprinter after her compatriot Usain Bolt, to win the 'sprint double' at consecutive Olympics, capturing gold medal in both the 100 metres and 200 metres at the 2016 Rio Olympics and again at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
A six-time Olympic medallist, Thompson-Herah rose to prominence at the 2015 World Athletics Championships, winning a silver in the 200 m. At the Rio Olympics, she became the first woman since Florence Griffith-Joyner in 1988 to take a gold in both her disciplines. After the Games, she was plagued by injury, which affected her performances at the 2017 and 2019 World Athletics Championships. However, she returned to the top of athletics at the Tokyo Games, retaining both her titles with new personal bests, Jamaican records and second-fastest times in history. In the 100 m Thompson-Herah set a new Olympic record of 10.61 seconds, and then ran national record of 21.53 seconds for the 200 m. After securing also a gold in the 4 × 100 m relay, she became the third sprinter after Griffith-Joyner and Bolt to complete an Olympic sprinting triple.
In her first post-Tokyo Olympic race, she set a 100 m Jamaican and Diamond League record of 10.54 s and then ran times of 10.64 s and 10.65 s. She was voted by the World Athletics World Female Athlete of the Year.
One of the most dominant sprinters in the world, Thompson-Herah holds four of the top 10 times ever run in the 100 m, and is the only woman to run four legal times under 10.70 seconds. She is the 100 m 2019 Pan American Games champion and a three-time Diamond League winner.
Thompson is a native of Banana Ground in Manchester Parish, Jamaica. Running for Christiana High School and later Manchester High School, she was a good but not outstanding scholastic sprinter; her best result at the Jamaican ISSA Grace Kennedy Boys and Girls Championships came in 2009, when she placed fourth in the Class Two 100 metres in 12.01 seconds. In 2011, her final year at Manchester High, she was left off the track team for disciplinary reasons.
After high school, Thompson was recruited to the University of Technology, Jamaica by Paul Francis, brother of MVP Track Club head coach Stephen Francis. With MVP coaching, her times started improving steadily.
In 2013, she clocked a seasonal best of 11.41s at the Gibson Replays and placed second behind Carrie Russell at the Jamaican Intercollegiate Championships. At the Central American and Caribbean Championships in Morelia, she won gold in the 4 × 100 metres relay, running the first leg on the Jamaican team as it won in 43.58s.
In 2014, Thompson won her first intercollegiate title, placed fifth in 11.26 s at the national championships, and had a seasonal best of 11.17 s. She represented Jamaica at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, running in the 4 × 100 metres relay heats; Jamaica won their heat in 42.44 s, and went on to win gold in the final with Thompson-Herah not in the line-up.
Thompson made her international breakthrough in 2015. She repeated as Jamaican intercollegiate champion in March and broke 11 seconds for the first time at the UTech Classic on 11 April, running a world-leading 10.92 s. Thompson then ran 10.97 s at the Jamaica International Invitational in Kingston, defeating a field that included Blessing Okagbare and Allyson Felix. At the Pre Classic in Eugene, she was narrowly beaten by English Gardner in the B-race as both were timed in 10.84 s; as of 27 July 2015, this was Thompson's personal best in the 100m and ranked her 30th on the world all-time list.
She was expected to run the 100 metres at the Jamaican National Championships, which doubled as trials for the 2015 World Championships in Beijing; however, her coach Stephen Francis pulled her from that event and instead had her concentrate on the 200 metres, in which she had set a personal best of 22.37 s in May. The move generated controversy in Jamaica; Francis stated that Thompson was not ready to double and that she had been prepared for the 200 m in which her main weakness, the start, would not play as large a role. She won the national 200m title in 22.51s, qualifying for the World Championships.
At the London Grand Prix on 25 July, Thompson won a non-scoring Diamond League 200 m race in 22.10 s, defeating Americans Tori Bowie and Candyce McGrone; the time was her new personal best and broke Merlene Ottey's meeting record from 1991.
At the Beijing World Championships, she won a silver medal, just 0.03 s behind Dafne Schippers of Netherlands. Thompson's time of 21.66 s was faster than the previous championships record but 0.03s slower than Schippers. Fellow Jamaican Veronica Campbell Brown was third in 21.97 s.
Thompson (left) at the 2016 Rio Olympics
On 1 July, she set a personal best in the 100 m with a time of 10.70 s, winning the event at the Jamaican Championships. She did not advance to the semifinals in the 200 m running only a 23.34 s.
In the 100m final of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Thompson won the gold medal with a time of 10.71 s, ahead of Tori Bowie (10.83 s), and the 2012 London Olympics winner and countrywoman Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (10.86 s).
In the 200m final, she won her second gold, clocking 21.78 s; Dafne Schippers placed second in 21.88 s and Tori Bowie third in 22.15 s.
She was the first female Jamaican sprinter to win the 100 m and 200 m at one Olympic Games and the seventh overall. She also ran in the national 4 × 100 m relay team which placed second, thus leaving Rio de Janeiro with three medals.
In this season, Thompson took her first Diamond League title (100 m) winning four 100 m races, one 200 m race and also a relay race.
In April, Thompson was in the team which won a gold medal in the 4 × 200 metres relay at the World Relays, setting competition and national record with a time of 1m 29.04s.
She competed in the 100 m at the 2017 London World Championships, placing fifth with at time of 10.98 s.
In 2017, Thompson-Herah became for the second time 100 m Diamond League champion winning six 100 m races, one 200 m race, and also a relay race.
At the 2019 World Championships in Doha, she finished fourth in the 100 m running 10.93 s. Thompson-Herah achieved a time of 22.61 s in the 200 m heats, qualifying for the semifinals, but she did not start due to an Achilles tendon injury.
In 2020, Thompson-Herah ran seven 100m races and achieved times under 11 seconds in five of them, with a season-best of 10.85 s (10.73s with illegal wind). She won two Diamond League meets which were staged as one-off events due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the 200m, her season best was 22.19 s.
In June, at the Jamaican Championships, she placed third in her two signature events with times of 10.84 s and 22.02 s, respectively, qualifying in both events for the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics. On 6 July, she achieved a time of 10.71 s in the 100 m to defeat Fraser-Pryce and win the World Athletics Continental Tour's Székesfehérvár Memorial in Hungary with a meet record. It was her fastest time since 2017 just 0.01 s off her personal best.
At the Tokyo Games, the 29-year-old Thompson-Herah placed first in the women's 100 metres final, winning a gold medal as fellow Jamaican athletes Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Shericka Jackson received a silver and bronze medals, respectively. Running into an 0.6 m/s headwind, she achieved the second-equal fastest time in history, setting both the Jamaican record as well as the Olympic record of 10.61 seconds, breaking Florence Griffith-Joyner's time of 10.62 s set at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Competing in the 200 metres, she first equalled her personal best of 21.66 s in the semifinals. In the final, Thompson-Herah won a gold medal with a new lifetime best of 21.53 seconds, also second-fastest result in history. She was also a part of 4 x 100 m relay team which won the competition in the third-fastest ever time and a new national record to regain a title last won by Jamaica at the 2004 Athens Games.
In her first post-Olympic race on 21 August, competing in the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon, Thompson-Herah stormed to the 100 m victory with a new career best of 10.54 seconds, the second-fastest time in women's history and only 0.05 s off a world record. At the Lausanne Athletissima meet, she took second in the event in 10.64 s, behind Fraser-Pryce who powered to her new lifetime best of 10.60 s, recording, however, the fastest runner-up time in history. She concluded her very successful season with wins, refreshing meet records at both the Meeting de Paris and Weltklasse Zürich Diamond League's final with times of 10.72 s and 10.65 s respectively to take her third Diamond Trophy.
As of the end of the season, Thompson-Herah held four records in the all-time top 10 marks women's statistics. She was the only woman to hold more than three marks in the 100 m (four), and the only woman to hold more than two marks in the 200 m (three). She was also the only woman to run more than three legal times under 10.70 seconds (four), and the only woman to achieve more than two legal times under 22.70 seconds (three), respectively.
For her history-making season, Thompson-Herah received World Athletics' World Female Athlete of the Year award, was named Best Female Athlete of the Year by the International Sports Press Association (529 journalists from 114 countries), Female Athlete of the Year by the North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletic Association and Athlete of the Year by the Track & Field News, among many other accolades.