Elaine Thompson-Herah, photo from Elaine’s Twitter site
This is Deji Doodles #7, and Deji has a lot to write about this week! The season is getting hotter and hotter.
Elaine Thompson-Herah wins the Laureus award, Steiner drops another mind-boggling time over the 200m and Matthew Boling finally dips inside 20 seconds
The last week of athletics proved once again the immense talent that keeps on popping up can match up to the old guard. University of Kentucky’s Abby Steiner finally ran a legal mind-blowing 200m time to go third on the collegiate record. Matthew Boling became the second athlete in history to have a sub 10/20 and 8 meters plus jump in the Long Jump after his latest showing in Georgia and Elaine Thompson became the eighth woman in athletics to win the Laureus award.
Elaine Thompson -Herah’s global appeal continues to rise after her latest win at the Laureus awards
The hallmark of a great athlete is not what he/she accomplishes in his/her sport but mostly how they transcend their achievements in the minds of people. Over seven billion people on the planet, with a large chunk of them avid sports followers, the thinking is at least a third of that population must have heard of your exploits.
Elaine Thompson-Herah, photo via Twitter
So, it felt fitting that Elaine Thompson-Herah won the Laureus award for the sportswoman of the year after her triple gold-winning feat at the Tokyo Olympics over the 100m/200m/4x100m. Simply put, no one comes close to what she did at the Olympic Arena…heck the entire game. It was a display of sporting artistry and talent that defied her frame. Special was how a whole lot of publications put it after Tokyo.
Thompson-Herah was up against the might of her fellow sprinter, Allyson Felix, Alexa Putellas (Football), Katie Ledecky (swimming), Ashleigh Barty (Tennis) and Emma Mckeon (swimming). These athletes put up more than decent showings in their respective sports in 2021 but did not come to the Jamaican. The Laureus Awards which a lot of people liken to the Oscars of the sports is a tag that gives it credence and many sports stars aspire to attain.
Sportswomen from athletics are the most successful overall, with eight wins and thirty-one nominations (excluding Marion Jones’ rescissions after she was found to have used performance-enhancing drugs). Aside from that, Thompson-Herah now falls on the revered list of athletics greats like Cathy Freeman, Kelly Holmes, Yelena Isinbayeva, Vivian Cheruiyot, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Genzebe Dibaba. To think there’s a likelihood that she might add another one to the bag won’t be far-fetched.
Ofili and Steiner are set for another round of matchups at the NCAA Championships in June
A look at this year’s top list in the women’s 200m reveals two collegiate athletes in the top 3. Favour Ofili (21.96) of Louisiana State University and Abby Steiner (22.05) of the University of Kentucky. Granted it might still be early in the season to put a mark on their achievements, it rather gives us an indicator of what to expect from them at the NCAA outdoor champs in June.
Steiner’s recent clocking in Lexington, Kentucky just shows us what many expected of this great talent. Injuries in 2021 hobbled her season, but she has bounced back this year with so much aplomb, and with her latest display, be the favourite for the US title.
Abby Steiner, photo by University of Kentucky athletics
Before that, though, she has Ofili to contend with. The Nigerian is the current World leader over the distance, and despite them not coming head-to-head over the 200m before in their collegiate careers, the NCAA Champs in June is delicately poised for something special.
Favour Ofili, photo by LSU Track & Field
However, over the last two years, they had met eight times over the 60m, 100m and 200m Indoors, with Steiner winning all of their duels. On the surface, that might look like an outright Steiner victory in June until you realize, Favour was primarily a 400m runner until 2021, when Coach Dennis Shaver began to focus her towards the 200m and now the 100m.
The die is cast for both sprinters, and it will be shocking to not see either of the athletes break the collegiate record in June.
Steven Gardiner seems primed to take yet another World title
It seems rather strange that Bahamian quarter-miler, Steven Gardiner doesn’t get the recognition he deserves for his exploits over the 400m in the last three years. Despite being under the shadows of South Africa’s Wayde Van Niekerk at the 2017 World Championships, Gardiner has come into his full stride and has taken the event by storm since 2018.
Granted the injury to Van Niekerk (wrote a piece on it last weekend) might have played its part in Gardiner’s long stretch of dominance, it is worth noting that the likes of Fred Kerley, Michael Cherry and Kirani James have all given him a run for his money. Regardless, he has gone about his business with so much guts and vigour.
Steven Gardiner, 300m world indoor best, photo by World Athletics
His latest showing at the Baton Rouge in Los Angeles in which he took the World lead by running 44.22 still leaves a lot to be desired. Beyond that, his numbers are startling. He has not lost a 400m race since 2017. In that period, he has run four times inside 44s, excluding his 43.89 in the semis of the World Champs in 2017.
At his best, Gardiner’s long, smooth and powerful drive makes him one of the most dominant athletes on the circuit, and he is well primed to add another World title to his laurels this summer. Who knows, it might even take him breaking the world record (43.03) for people to give him the proper recognition he deserves. The thing is, he’s the only one capable of achieving both feats this year. The world waits.
How much better can Matthew Boling get?
Over the weekend, Matthew Boling finally ran inside 20 seconds for the first time in his career when he clocked 19.92s at the Georgia Tech Invitational. If you are a fan of numbers, let’s have a bite at a few. It took him 21 outdoor races since he started competing in the half-lap race in 2019 to reach finally achieve the feat. He has only run once inside 20.10s, while also not being able to make the cut at the US trials for the Olympics in Toyo and coming unstuck at the NCAA Div 1 Indoor 60m final.
All these are sombre moments for the talented athlete, and it will be totally unjust to look at his entire career only from such a spectrum. His latest feat in Georgia makes him one of the 45 athletes to have run sub 10 and 20 over the 100m and 200m in history. That’s some nice company to be in.
Matthew Boling, photo by University of Georgia Track & Field
Narrowing it down, only the great Carl Lewis has ever achieved that feat while also boasting a Long Jump best of 8m plus. Boling now stands on the same pedestal as his fellow countryman. To think that it was just in April he also clocked a sub-10, there are indications that he can still go on to break grounds later in the season.
However, that’s just one part. It is one thing for an athlete to run great times, and it’s another to ensure you accompany them with titles. At 21, the pressure might just begin to mount for Boling. The likes of Erriyon Knighton, Athing Mu, Noah Lyles, and Sydney McLaughlin have all been to a global Championships in recent times while dominating in college too at the age Boling is now. He can’t live forever in the shadow of what he can do, the moment is now. The world will be watching.