Sat | Dec 4, 2021

Herah to coach Herah?

Sprinter’s husband in line for conditioning job as MVP split looms

Published:Friday | September 24, 2021 | 12:09 AMAndre Lowe and Kayon Raynor/Gleaner Writers
Derron Herah, husband of multiple Olympic sprint champion Elaine Thompson Herah.
Derron Herah, husband of multiple Olympic sprint champion Elaine Thompson Herah.
MVP Track Club head coach Stephen Francis.
MVP Track Club head coach Stephen Francis.
THOMPSON HERAH
THOMPSON HERAH
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THE STORY of Elaine Thompson Herah and the MVP Track Club looks likely to come to an end in a long divorce characterised by a deteriorating relationship, which led to several attempts by the fastest woman alive to sever ties with the club and long-...

THE STORY of Elaine Thompson Herah and the MVP Track Club looks likely to come to an end in a long divorce characterised by a deteriorating relationship, which led to several attempts by the fastest woman alive to sever ties with the club and long-time coach, Stephen Francis.

Derron Herah, the husband of the two-time double Olympic sprint champion, is lining up to take over as coach of the 29-year-old sprinter who, in a shocking development, signalled her intention to leave MVP Track Club, in a letter to the organisation’s hierarchy.

Thompson Herah herself has so far denied the reports, while speaking to Michael Holley and Michael Smith on NBC Sports’ Brother from Another sports discussion programme, saying: “I am the fastest woman alive so they are going to create some sort of news to distract the world so it’s rumours of course.

“I have seen articles in the media that I have died before, more than once. There are always rumours in the media, they are always targeting me, I don’t know why,” she added. “It’s probably because I didn’t show up at practice (but) I am still on my rest period, so maybe they are just speculating why I am not at practice, but I just came back from international circuit and we normally get like a month’s rest and I am in my second week.”

The relationship between athlete and club has been strained for some time, but Francis, when contacted yesterday by the RJRGLEANER Group, was coy in his response to the question of Thompson Herah’s possible departure.

WAIT AND SEE

Hinting at the less-than-straightforward nature of the situation, Francis pointed out that he prefers to wait to see if Thompson Herah turns up for her scheduled return to training in the middle of October, while hinting at the influence of individuals external to the club.

“In short, I would not be surprised if she (Thompson Herah) is not here. I don’t know if she is going to be here, but neither do I nor anybody else in her situation,” Francis stated.

“I am never confident about that (athletes returning) because what my experience tells me is that athletes in general, especially those that come from a low expectancy level, in other words, not much was expected of them, they are usually unable to separate themselves from the people who hop on to their various bandwagons,” added Francis.

“They tend to have short memories and they tend to listen to people they just meet or who have been around them since they became successful. It takes a smart and strong athlete to sit back and say ‘you guys weren’t around, so leave me let me make my decision’,” Francis stated.

NORMAL PROCEDURE

Meanwhile, MVP Track Club president, Bruce James, who was referred to in media reports to have stated that the club was in talks with Thompson Herah, sought to clarify that this was a normal procedure for all athletes.

“We are constantly in discussion with our athletes as we review 2021 and look forward to 2022, and this is a process that we go through with all of our athletes. We are having discussions with all our athletes in terms of how they view their 2021 season and how they plan for their 2022 season,” James told the RJRGLEANER Group.

Thompson Herah, who joined the club in 2014, is coming off her best season in women’s sprinting history, winning gold in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m at the Tokyo Olympic Games, while registering the second-fastest times in history in the 100m, 10.54 seconds, and 200m, 21.53 seconds.

Both are only bettered by Florence Griffith Joyner’s world record marks of 10.49 (100m) and 21.34 (200m), respectively.

Thompson Herah has only been beaten twice in 17 starts in the 100m event and has recorded an unmatched four sub-10.70-second clockings in the event this season alone.

No athlete has registered as many in their entire career.

SIMILAR SITUATION

With the Thompson Herah-MVP marriage approaching the finish line, one would remember a similar situation in 2016, when Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce attempted to leave the club, but eventually remained, after the intervention of shoe sponsor, Nike, which also sponsors Francis’ MVP club.

Fraser-Pryce did manage to leave the club three years later and is now being conditioned by Reynaldo Walcott, a former protégé of Francis.

Interestingly, Thompson Herah is also sponsored by Nike which, according to our information, has a ‘first right to refusal’ clause in its contract with the sprinter. This means if she receives an offer from a competing brand, she will have to remain with the American company, once that offer is matched.

PUMA OFFER

There have been reports that Thompson Herah has been offered a contract from German sports goods manufacturers PUMA, but this has been denied by the company’s Head of Sports Marketing Pascal Rolling, who, when asked, stated via text: “Not that I know … Sorry but I have no idea.”

Of note, persons close to the situation have revealed that Thompson Herah’s issues are long-standing and stem from what she considers to be a lack of adequate attention from Francis, with information also surfacing that she was disappointed that she was not allowed to feature in any 200m events after the Olympic Games, with clubmate Shericka Jackson given the priority in that event.

A recent altercation involving Derron Herah and a masseur at the MVP Track Club has also added further stress to the relationship, according to people in the know.

HARMONY

Francis, however, does not feel that the harmony is overly strained, stating nonetheless, without making particular reference to Thompson Herah, that there is an issue with athletes needing more attention and avoiding in-camp competition.

“I don’t think the relationship has been any different, any better or any worse than usual. One of the problems that usually happens in MVP, our approach to training, to coaching and to the development of athletes, is far different to what persons are accustomed to,” explained Francis.

“We have a large number of top-class athletes and we usually have a large number of developing athletes, and sometimes an athlete finds it hard to reconcile when they hear of their fellow competitors talking about their coaches calling them and their coaches doing this and that,” Francis reasoned.

“Being successful, you tend to want to see those type of things happen to you, and again the athletes lose focus on what their accomplishments are and focus on things that I would call, at best, frills. So we do have problems with those people, who do not like to be around competition in their camp,” Francis said.

Efforts to contact Derron Herah and Thompson Herah were unsuccessful.

Herah is the sprint coach of St Jago High School’s boys’ team and was a member of the Cameron Blazers coaching set-up, which was headed by 1983 World 400m champion, Bertland Cameron.

It is understood that if she manages to wriggle free from MVP, Thompson Herah will remain based in Kingston.

andre.lowe@gleanerjm.com