Update (May 19): Elaine Thompson-Herah withdrew before Saturday’s Diamond League meet.
Last year, Elaine Thompson-Herah staked her claim as the greatest female sprinter in history by sweeping the Olympic 100m and 200m for a second time. This year, many are wondering whether she will break Florence Griffith-Joyner‘s 100m world record, though the Jamaican has made it clear it is not her focus.
Thompson-Herah races her first Diamond League meet of the year in Birmingham, Great Britain on Saturday (9 a.m. ET, CNBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock).
Maybe it’s too early in the season for Thompson-Herah to target Griffith-Joyner’s world record from the 1988 U.S. Olympic Trials of 10.49 seconds, which has been scrutinized over a potentially faulty wind reading of 0.0 on an otherwise blustery day in Indianapolis.
But the talk has been there since last summer, when Thompson-Herah ran consecutive personal bests in the Olympic final (10.61 seconds into a headwind) and then at the Pre Classic in Eugene, Oregon (10.54, the second-best time in history).
On her arm is a tattoo that reads in cursive, “Nothing is impossible. Even the word impossible says, ‘I’m Possible.'”
In an interview published last month, Thompson-Herah told World Athletics that she believes the world championships this summer, also in Eugene, are an opportunity to break the 34-year-old record.
“I have run two PBs on that track,” she said then, noting a 10.84 in 2015, though that was at the old Hayward Field.
Later in the same answer, Thompson-Herah braked.
“I will not put the world championship on the spot and say I’m going to break the record on the world championship day,” she said. “If it takes two years, five years, I will still try to break it, but I will not apply any pressure to myself because the work has to continue. I think, last year I ran everything relaxing, not thinking about world titles or world records. And if I can repeat that, not putting any pressure on myself, and repeat what I have done last year, doing even better, I think it’s reachable.”
Here are the Birmingham entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):
8:21 — Women’s Discus
8:24 — Men’s High Jump
8:47 — Women’s Pole Vault
9:04 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
9:17 — Women’s 1500m
9:25 — Women’s Long Jump
9:29 — Men’s 100m
9:37 — Men’s 800m
9:46 — Women’s 100m
9:53 — Men’s Discus
9:55 — Men’s 400m
10:03 — Women’s 5000m
10:28 — Men’s 1500m
10:41 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
10:51 — Women’s 800m
Here are five events to watch:
Women’s Pole Vault — 8:47 a.m. ET
The world’s top four eligible women gather: 2021 Olympic champion Katie Nageotte of the U.S., 2016 Olympic champion Katerina Stefanidi of Greece, three-time Olympic or world silver medalist Sandi Morris of the U.S. and Brit Holly Bradshaw, who took bronze in Tokyo. With Russian Anzhelika Sidorova out due to that nation’s ban, the Birmingham winner will likely become the favorite for worlds.
Women’s Long Jump — 9:25 a.m. ET
Malaika Mihambo of Germany is the Olympic gold medalist, but she will not be the main attraction at this meet. Katarina Johnson-Thompson competes in her home nation for the first time since withdrawing during the Olympic heptathlon with a leg injury, two years after winning the world title, and then withdrawing during the world indoor championships pentathlon in March as she works her way back into form. A healthy KJT is an exceptional long jumper, having won a world junior title and a senior world indoor silver medal.
Men’s 100m — 9:29 a.m. ET
American Trayvon Bromell and Canadian Andre De Grasse, two of the many men with legit world championships medal chances, go head-to-head here. Bromell entered the Olympics as the world’s fastest man for the year, then was eliminated in the semifinals. A month later, he ran 9.76 to finish the year with world’s top time. He could be targeting 9.85 seconds, the world’s top time this year turned in by Kenyan Ferdinand Omanyala on May 7. De Grasse took 100m bronze and 200m gold in Tokyo. He has yet to break 10 seconds in the 100m or 20 seconds in the 200m in three races this season, but is known for turning it on come championship meets.
Women’s 100m — 9:46 a.m. ET
One of the variables that can produce fast times is strong competition. Thompson-Herah should get it in Birmingham. The field also includes Olympic bronze medalist Shericka Jackson of Jamaica, world silver medalist Dina Asher-Smith of Great Britain and Americans Gabby Thomas (Olympic 200m bronze medalist) and Cambrea Sturgis, who ranks third in the world this year at 10.87. The time to keep in mind: 10.67, which two-time Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce ran (into a headwind) at altitude in Kenya two weeks ago. It’s the fastest 100m ever run before June.
Men’s Discus — 9:53 a.m. ET
The deepest field of the meet featuring the top six from the Olympics, led by Swede Daniel Ståhl, the reigning Olympic and world champion whose last Diamond League defeat was in June 2019. Ståhl may soon face a challenge from 19-year-old Cal freshman Mykolas Alekna, the son of 2000 Olympic champion Virgilijus Alekna of Lithuania. Alekna is not entered in Birmingham, but on Sunday threw 68.73 meters, ranking him second in the world this year behind the 29-year-old Swede.
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