Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce did not beat Usain Bolt to his hat trick, but her teammate Elaine Thompson kept the women’s Olympic 100-meter gold medal in Jamaican hands by winning the fastest dash in history in 10.71 seconds Saturday at the Rio Olympics.
Mississippi’s Tori Bowie was second in 10.83, out-leaning Fraser-Pryce, who took the bronze in 10.86.
Seven women finished under 11 seconds to complete the fastest 100 ever.
Thompson, 24, kept Jamaica’s streak alive in the event. Fraser-Pryce was hoping to win her record third consecutive 100 gold, which is exactly what Bolt wants to do Sunday in the men’s 100 final.
Jamaican women have now won two or more medals in the 100 in four Olympics and at least one medal for seven consecutive Olympics. The U.S. has not won the event since Gail Devers’ victory in 1996.
Fraser-Pryce, the 5-foot-tall “Pocket Rocket” who dyed her hair green and yellow for the Olympics, was the sentimental favorite but Thompson has been faster all season, and won Jamaica’s national meet in 10.70 seven weeks ago to tie her with Fraser-Pryce as the fourth-fastest woman ever behind Florence Griffith-Joyner, Marion Jones and Carmelita Jeter.
Thompson started cleanly and powered to a comfortable lead. No one could catch her, and she knew it, opening her mouth wide for a cathartic scream as she crossed the line. She took her victory lap with a Jamaican flag wrapped around her shoulders.
Before the race Fraser-Pryce gave Thompson a pep talk and told her not to be intimidated.
“I said, ‘Don’t worry about me, I’ll be happy however it turns out,’ ” said Fraser-Pryce, who has been hampered by a painful toe injury. “I was excited to have the opportunity to defend my title and I’m equally excited that the woman who won it will be going home to Jamaica.”
Thompson seemed a little sheepish about beating her idol and joining the list of sprinting greats from the island that adores its track and field stars.
“I mean, she’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce,” Thompson said. “I always looked up to her.”
All three medalists grew up in impoverished communities.
Thompson is from the village of Banana Ground in Manchester Parish, where she was raised by her grandmother. She was kicked off her high school track team “because she is kind of saucy,” said coach Paul Francis, who gave her a college scholarship.
“To represent the people, I’m really proud and I’m sure they’re celebrating,” she said.
Fraser-Pryce was raised by a single mother in the Waterhouse section of inner-city Kingston, known as much for its crime gangs as its musicians. She describes it as “a violent place, overpopulated, children having children.” She often went hungry and her mother, a street vendor, kept her kids inside so they wouldn’t get hit by stray bullets.
“I rose from the circumstances I was in and persevered even when it didn’t make sense,” said Fraser-Pryce, who runs a charitable foundation for youths. “I tell young girls in Jamaica that it doesn’t matter where you’re from. What matters is to work hard and be humble.”
Bowie grew up in rural Sandhill, Mississippi. After she and her sister were sent to foster care as toddlers, their grandmother won custody and raised them.
“We didn’t have much but one thing she did give us was character,” Bowie said. “One day I hope I can come back and there’s a huge sign that says, ‘Welcome to Sandhill, home to Tori Bowie.’
“We all have a story and I wouldn’t trade my story for anything.”
The first full day of competition at Olympic Stadium was an eventful one. Bolt and Orlando’s Justin Gatlin both won their heats of the 100 to advance to Sunday’s expected showdown.
Mo Farah of Great Britain overcame a fall to repeat as Olympic champion in the 10,000 meters with a time of 27:05.17. Farah, who also won the 5,000 meters in 2012, got tangled up on the eighth lap with Nike Oregon Training Project partner Galen Rupp. Farah hopped back up, caught the pack and responded to every surge the rest of the way. Rupp was hoping to at least duplicate the pair’s one-two finish from London 2012 but he faded in the final lap and finished fifth. He’s also running the marathon. The two train together in Portland, Oregon, under former marathon great Alberto Salazar.
“When I fell down I thought, ‘Well, my dream is over,’ but I decided to dig deep because I promised my daughter I’d get her a medal,” Farah said of stepdaughter Rihanna. “I said, ‘Don’t panic, you can’t let her down, you can’t let her down.’ My twins got one gold medal each in 2012, so I wanted one for her and that’s why I got emotional at the end.”
Jeff Henderson won the first U.S. men’s long jump gold medal since 2004 and teammate Jarrion Lawson was fourth in a controversial finish. Henderson sailed 8.38 meters on his last jump to win by one centimeter. Lawson appeared to have landed his final jump at a mark that would have given him the gold but officials ruled his left hand was the first part of his body to touch the sand, reducing the jump to 7.78 meters.
In a thrilling finish, long-shot Nafissatou Thiam of Belgium upset defending gold medalist Jessica Ennis-Hill to win the heptathlon. Ennis-Hill needed to win the final event, the 800 meters, by nine seconds to retain her Olympic title, but she won by only seven seconds and Thiam edged her by 35 points. Canada’s Brianne Theisen-Eaton, wife of American decathlete Ashton Eaton, won bronze. At the end of the 800, most of the athletes collapsed on the track, illustrating how grueling the seven-event, two-day competition is.
Germany’s Christoph Harding won gold in the men’s discus with a throw of 68.37 meters.