TOKYO (AP) — Usain Bolt might be long gone from the sprint scene. It doesn’t mean Jamaica has slowed down one bit.
Nobody has, at least not on the women’s side of the sport.
An opening day at the Olympics that’s supposed to produce little more than a brisk jog for the world’s best at 100 meters turned into something very different Friday.
Reigning world champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce ran her heat in the nearly empty Olympic Stadium in 10.84 seconds. Her Jamaican rival, defending Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah, finished in 10.82. And Marie-Josee Ta Lou, the Ivory Coast sprinter who finished an excruciating fourth in Rio de Janeiro, kept saying “Wow! Wow!” after she crossed the finish line in a blistering personal best of 10.78.
They were the fifth, sixth and seventh-fastest times of the year, produced on a day when seven of 54 sprinters hit a personal best — all in an opening round designed more for shaking out cobwebs than watching the clock.
All that even though the field was missing this season’s third-fastest runner, Sha’Carri Richardson, who is back home in the United States following a doping ban.
By comparison, only one runner, Fraser-Pryce, cracked 11 seconds in the opening round five years ago in Rio de Janeiro. She went on to win the bronze, behind Thompson and American sprinter Tori Bowie.
Fraser-Pryce is the favorite for Saturday’s final, which is already living up to the hype. Fraser-Pryce ran a 10.63 back in June that has some thinking even Florence Griffith Joyner’s 33-year-old world record could finally be at risk this year.
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