2015 was a pretty remarkable year for women’s sprinting. There were record numbers of athletes running under 11 seconds in the 100m and there were some very quick times over the 200m, none more so than at Beijing.
While for the men, the majority of the attention was for Bolt and Gatlin, there were a number of female sprinters who were performing impressively. From the experienced greats such as Shelly Anne Fraser Pryce, Veronica Campbell-Brown and Blessing Okagbare, to those breaking through to the top level such as Dafne Schippers and Elaine Thompson as well as exciting young talents like Dina Asher-Smith and Kailyn Whitney. There’s even a 16 year old running under 11 seconds! (both crazy and scary at the same time!)
20 women went under 11 seconds last season, compared to just 6 in 2014, 12 in 2013 and 10 in the last Olympic year. With the Rio Olympics coming up next year, it is quite likely that the Women’s 100m and 200m events could be amongst the most competitive events at those games.
STILL THE QUEEN
Like Usain Bolt for the men, Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce is still the dominant athlete. Indeed her record in terms of Gold Medals is extremely Bolt-esque. 2 Olympic Titles at 100m, 3 World 100m titles and 1 World 200m title. The only one she is missing is an Olympic 200m title. Fraser-Pryce was a class above once again in 2015 as she won all the Diamond League events she was in and was the World Leader going into Beijing (10.74). With her focusing on the 100m this year, the 200m would give the opportunity for someone to step up and that is what precisely Dafne Schippers did!
THE NEW KID ON THE BLOCK
Having been considered a multi-eventer up until last year, you would probably not have predicted her rise as a sprinting star. However, having run impressively in some Diamond League events, she went to the European Championships as the clear favourite in both the 100 and the 200. She won both as expected but no one thought she could run as fast as 22.04 seconds though! It was no surprise then when she eventually decided that sprinting was where her future lied, at least in the short term. She showed her potential in the shorter sprint as well setting 2 new Dutch national records and winning the London Anniversary Games in 10.92 seconds.
THE NEXT GENERATION
Elaine Thompson meanwhile made huge strides over the last year. Just 23 years old, she went from a 11.41 runner two years ago to recording 10.84 in Eugene earlier this year. In the 200m her best time last year was 23.23 seconds and ran 22.10 in the London Diamond League event this year. A quite remarkable improvement. As well as those two, you had the usual American contingent including Candyce Mcgrone (who beat Schippers in Monaco with 22.08) plus Jenna Prandini, the experienced Jeneba Tarmoh, the ultra-experienced Veronica Campbell-Brown and the 19 year old Brit Dina Asher-Smith (22.30 going into Beijing).
At the World Championships, Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce looked like the woman to beat. Her closest challengers appeared to Torie Bowie of the US (10.81 in Eugene) and Dafne Schippers who ran another national record in the semi-final of 10.83. Unsurprisingly the slowest qualifier for the final had to go under 11 seconds to make the final (similar to the men where sub 10 was necessary for the final). Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce wasn’t at her absolute best but still won in a super quick 10.76 (still looking for her first 10.6x clocking) with Schippers roaring back in the second half of the race to take the silver in yet another national record of 10.81 with Torie Bowie getting her first individual global medal with 10.86.
For the 200 metres, there were some big names still missing as the Heats began, including Fraser Pryce, Torie Bowie, Allyson Felix (going in the 400 this time), Okagbare and Ahoure of the Ivory Coast. Early on, it seemed it was going to Schippers and Thompson who were going to contesting the gold medal making very easy work of their heats and semi-finals. The surprise may have been the 19 year old Dina Asher-Smith who set PB’s in winning both her heat and her semi-final and was a contender for a medal come the final. Mcgrone was also running very well, while Campbell-Brown (who had been struggling for her best form most of the season) found herself running into another athlete’s lane in her heat which on another day could have been costly. She came third in her semi-final so there weren’t too many expectations for her.
The final was a classic race that saw times that haven’t been seen in years. Schippers came through in the final 50 metres to take Gold in a new European record of 21.63 (now third fastest of all time) and edged Thompson into second in 21.66 (5th fastest all time). Veronica Campbell-Brown showed that form is temporary and class in permanent as she found a sub 22 second run on the same track where she became Olympic Champion at this distance 7 years prior. Mcgrone was fourth in a new PB of 22.01 while Asher-Smith was 5th in a new national record of 22.07 which is also the fastest time by a teenager in history going past a certain Allyson Felix. Some incredible times on admittedly a track where there were some super fast times in some events (the men’s 400 comes to mind!) to cap a wonderful event. In fact, here is the final for you to enjoy again!
Imagine that line up along with Felix, Fraser Pryce, Bowie, Okagbare, Ahoure and you have the potential for one of the greatest races in the history of the sport. Look no further than the women’s sprints next year, as it should be pretty amazing! Who do you think will win the 100m and 200m Olympic Gold medals in Rio next year? Will any of the new talent step up to challenge? Let me know in the comments section below.
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