When Elaine Thompson-Herah completed the double double in retaining her Olympic 100m and 200m titles, and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce became the most decorated Olympian in the 100m as part of an impressive sweep of sprint medals, it was proof that the pendulum has swung in favour of our female sprinters over their male counterparts. There may be another wave of change upon us as well. A supremely talented Britany Anderson made the finals of the 100m hurdles and despite clipping a hurdle or two, which effectively ruled her out of the race, Jamaica still medalled through our national champion, Megan Tapper. She became the first Jamaican woman to medal in the event at the Olympics. Similarly our men, Hansle Parchment and Ronald Levy came through in the men’s equivalent copping gold and bronze respectively. Parchment was already our first ever Olympic medalist in the event, and with his and Levy’s exploits in the final, Jamaica’s medal tally in the event doubled. That we earned medals in both the sprint hurdles; juxtaposed with limp showing in men’s sprints, may be indicative of an emerging trend. Should Jamaicans be looking at the sprint hurdles for the next area of dominance?
As mentioned, four of the six athletes that represented Jamaica in the sprint hurdles made the finals of their respective event – three of them got medals. The other two, Yanique Thompson and Damion Thomas both made the semifinal round. Thompson crashed out of her race after hitting a few hurdles; her disappointment was almost palpable, meanwhile Thomas is still very young and had a long season in which he had already become NCAA Indoor Champion in the 60m hurdles event. Adding to those six is the last Olympic champion Omar Mcleod who wasn’t at this Olympics, Rasheed Broadbell who was one of the fastest men in 2021 prior to injury while youngsters Phillip Lemonious and Orlando Bennett are still waiting in the wings.
We can’t leave the new school out either. Dejour Russell and Vashaun Vascianna are still to arrive on the big stage. That’s depth we’re more accustomed to seeing in the flat sprints. The women’s pool is likewise quite deep, athletes like Danielle Williams and Ackera Nugent, among others, can be added to the current Olympics list. What’s more, Parchment, Williams, Levy and Tapper are all above the age of 27 and could be referred to as the older heads. As for all the other athletes listed above, they still have most of their career ahead of them, with at least two Olympics in their legs if they can stay healthy. The shift in the dynamics may actually be some sort of post-Usain Bolt bubble. This reactionary phenomenon can be a direct result of the bar set by the great man and the looming reality that Bolt’s protégés will probably never quite reach that height. A shadow cast over the likes of Nickel Ashmeade, Jazeel Murphy, Kemar Bailey-Cole and Jevaughn Minzie would not have gone unnoticed. They would have no doubt enjoyed the experience of, while in high school, being the cream of the crop among sprinters. But once they had begun to consider a serious professional career, distractions or just a poor transition to the senior level would hinder that growth.
Ultimately, there are faster athletes transitioning into the hurdles and not just factory rejects from the 100m or 200m conveyor belt. Omar Mcleod for example is a competent 100m runner, in fact he is the first man to run the 100m under 10 seconds and the 110m hurdles under 13 seconds. Those are the kinds of athletes coming through now in droves; this suggests that while the interest in the hurdles continues to go up, the times may continue to go down. We’ve already cemented ourselves as the sprint factory of the world over the last decade; now, we are on the verge of establishing ourselves as the dominant force in the sprint hurdles.