Elaine Thompson had just posted the fastest time ever in an Olympic Games women’s 100m heats clocking a time of 10.82s, and just when the outstanding feat was still being absorbed, Ivory Coast’s Marie Josee Ta Lou came and raised the bar, running an equal African Record of 10.78s (-0.3).
Ta Lou looked over her right shoulder at least twice in the race, and while she was in firm control securing the needed win to progress to the semifinals, it didn’t look like she had exerted much crossing the line to equal the record set by her compatriot Murielle Ahoure five years ago in Paris.
A gobsmacked Ta Lou could only utter: “African Record” in astonishment after seeing the staggering time she had returned, and although she initially tried not to appear like giving out so much trying to put on a poker face of job’s not done yet, she could hardly conceal the emotions that welled up.
Ta Lou had gotten the start she had wanted, pulled away from the rest of the field, and when she had accelerated into the lead after 60m, she started looking sideways just to ensure she had it in her locker. Great Britain’s Daryll Neita finished 2nd in the race with a new Personal Best (PB) of 10.96s and Canada’s Crystal Emmanuel 3rd in 11.18s.
Prior to this race, only two African women: Blessing Okagbare (10.79s) and Ahoure (10.78s) had ever run a time below 10.80s. Ta Lou was on the fringes and had hovered over the 10.8s region in the last four years, since she finished 4th at Rio 2016 Olympics.
Now, she looks poised and in great shape to upgrade to a podium placement this time around, with the Jamaicans also going to have a say on the final outcome of this women’s 100m, a build-up that has been living up to the hype sine pre-Olympics.
Thompson finished as the second fastest overall, clocking one of the easiest 10.82s in the women’s 100m, making lightwork of a time that could win a final on another day in another Championships. Her compatriot Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce was unruffled in her own race, locking in her fourth consecutive semis in 10.84s to win heat 5.
These heats were one of the fastest in Olympics history: as much as six women all dipped in under 11s, a performance that accounted for multiple Personal Bests and new National Records. Switzerland for example had NRs on the day, first was Mujinga Kambundji who equalled her 100m PB of 10.95s in finish 2nd in heat 2 and qualifying for the semis, however it didn’t last long as her national teammate Ajla Del Ponte surpassed it some minutes later running a new Lifetime’s Best of 10.91s.
It’s still hard to call who would end up as the Olympic Champion in what is a stacked field that a sub 11s might not even be enough to get you into the final. Whatever will be the outcome in Tokyo, Ta Lou has already gotten herself into the conversation of a potential winner