One of the biggest shocks to come from the Jamaica National Athletics Trials was the failure of double/double Olympic Champion Elaine Thompson-Herah (ETH) to win an individual spot on the Jamaican track team for the upcoming World Championships scheduled for Budapest, Hungary this August. That apart, her failure caused much consternation among many Jamaican track & field fans. Elaine has been a “standout” as a track athlete with five Olympic Gold Medals and one Silver Medal and is regarded as one of the sport’s greatest female athletes even though her results at the IAAF World Championships are not as impressive with one Gold, two silvers, and one bronze.
It was on the culmination of the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan that ETH announced her departure from the MVP track club, very soon after signing a major shoe contract with Puma. According to the twice-crowned double-Olympic Champion in an interview with Nationwide News’ Miss Kitty, “I’ve outgrown the environment at MVP. What I want for myself, and to better myself, that was not provided, so I have to find ways to get it”.
MVP departure and performance fall-off
In the period after her departure from MVP, her performances slowly started to fall-off and since the Oregon World Championships she has not registered a single time below 11 seconds or under 22 seconds in the 200 meters. Dogged by recurring injuries, her 2023 season opened in fits and starts, posting a best of 11.24 at the JAAA All Comers meet last month. This increased the calls from members of the public to suggest that she mend fences with MVP and return to that camp. After all, she would not be the first to have done that as both Shericka Jackson, and Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce had their individual roller-coaster relationship with the mercurial but proven MVP magician, Stephen Francis. Shelly Ann, it must be remembered, departed a second time but only after putting in the necessary investment to establish the support infrastructure that was required to maintain the standard of performance necessary to support her contractual obligations. It appeared that Elaine’s New Era setup may not have followed this approach, and from all accounts, the rest is history, and in the turbulent world of track and field, fans of the sport have been left with multiple unanswered questions. Many have begun to question Elaine’s once-formidable prowess, with a majority pinning the blame for her decline in performance to not only on her decision to leave MVP, but also on not having in place a substantially equipped coaching setup. For the record, MVP has openly declared that there is no opportunity for her to return.
Elaine’s departure from MVP and her former coach marked the beginning of a tumultuous period in her career. Since then, her performances have veered away from her personal bests, leading to disappointment and a barrage of criticism from fans. The public admission from her former coach, stating that he would not take her back, added salt to the wound. This rejection could have dealt a devastating blow to Elaine’s self-belief, leaving her searching for answers and a way to rekindle the fire within.
For Elaine to rise again, she must start by reflecting on the choices she has made. Assigning her husband as her coach may have seemed like a logical decision at the time, but it wasn’t the game-changer she anticipated and to advance, she needs to correct this.
It is my view that Elaine is still a formidable sprinter. After all, a bad season does not cancel out an athlete’s body of work. That notwithstanding, for Elaine to regain that prowess, she must start by reflecting on the choices she has made. This involves an assessment of the choice of her husband as her coach, a decision which may have appeared to be correct at the time but has now proven to have been not the best choice. Making a bad judgement call is no shame. What is unacceptable is failing to correct that call when the error shows itself. Such an acknowledgement is crucial for Elaine to embrace if she wishes to correct her missteps and humbly embrace the lessons provided by the experiences. When that happens, it is then that she will again begin to soar.
A change of thinking is needed
It is important that her team recognize that in the pursuit of growth, we must admit where we made missteps and address them with humility, as the Jamaican adage states that the humblest calf sucks the most milk. Jamaicans admire Elaine but that love needs to be reciprocated. Critical to this transformation, though, is the need for Elaine to seek experienced coaching guidance that will reignite her potential. By engaging fresh perspectives and proven expertise she will be able to unlock hidden facets of her talent which will help her regain her focus and to return to peak performance. At the same time, it may be useful for her to find a mentor who can guide her back to the pinnacle of success.
Rise like the Phoenix
Elaine Thompson Herah’s journey may have run into some unforeseen twists and turns, but I am comfortable that by virtue of her past performances that her story is far from over. I genuinely believe that with the right mindset, guidance, and determination, she can dismiss the doubts and criticisms that have plagued her and rise like a phoenix, using the lessons she has learned to shape a future filled with success and achievement. Let the echoes of her comeback reverberate through the athletics world, inspiring others to overcome adversity and reclaim their own dreams.
Richard Hugh Blackford B.Sc., M.S (Ed). Managing Director YARDABRAAWD lNTERNATIONAL LLC.