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A credit to Jamaica - ... Return of local athletics key in Thompson Herah’s Athlete of the Year nomination

Published:Wednesday | November 4, 2020 | 12:13 AMDaniel Wheeler/Staff Reporter
Elaine Thompson Herah competing in the women’s 100m at the Velocity Fest meet at the National Stadium earlier this year.
Elaine Thompson Herah competing in the women’s 100m at the Velocity Fest meet at the National Stadium earlier this year.

In the aftermath of an unprecedented athletics season, Swept Track Club head coach Okeil Stewart and MVP track club president Bruce James have credited the restart of local track and field for the nomination of double Olympic sprint champion Elaine Thompson Herah for World Female Athlete of the Year award.

The 28-year-old Thompson Herah is among the 10 athletes shortlisted by World Athletics for the accolade, which will be presented during a virtual ceremony next month.

The 2020 campaign was severely impacted because of the coronavirus pandemic, leading to the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics to next July and the delay of this year’s Diamond League season. Furthermore, local athletes were inactive from March to July due to the local shutdown of sports.

Stewart says that Thompson Herah is deserving of the nomination, given her performances under the extraordinary circumstances that were created.

“With a year such like this, she being able to execute as good as she did, I believe that she is deserving of the consideration and should go on to win.” Stewart told The Gleaner.

Thompson Herah is the only Jamaican athlete to be nominated for either the male or female Athlete of the Year award for 2020.

The local season restarted in July, which allowed her to compete in eight events before travelling to Europe for two meets in September. She finished her season undefeated in seven 100m races, setting a new world-leading time of 10.85 seconds in the Diamond League meet in Rome on September 17.

INCREASE SHARPNESS

Stewart noted that the restart of the local track and field campaign played a critical role in increasing her race sharpness and gave her the necessary push to perform.

“The importance of the local competitions was second to none [because] they pretty much set her up to travel, to compete overseas,” he said.

James , who was a member of the organising team of the Velocity Fest series of meet, which facilitated the return of the sport in Jamaica, added that Thompson Herah’s nomination was a credit to the local officials who were able to execute the local track and field season despite the unique challenges.

“It’s a big compliment to the Jamaican officials who were able to put on the Velocity Fest meets. It legitimatises the excellent role that Jamaican officials and athletics play,” James said. “Of course, big congratulations to Elaine herself because she had to go and deliver those times both locally and internationally, and to her coaching staff and support team around her, who also had to prepare her to make sure that she could be the fastest women in the world this year.”

Among the nominees are distance runner Ababel Yeshaneh of Ethiopia, who broke the half marathon record this year, Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya, who won the half marathon world title and was twice the previous world record holder, as well as world champion triple jumper Yulimar Rojas of Venezuela, who broke the world indoor triple jump record in February.

Voting has already opened and will close on November 15 with the final five men and women finalists being announced by World Athletics. The winners will be announced at the World Athletics Awards on Saturday, December 5.

daniel.wheeler@gleanerjm.com