Elaine Thompson is ready to take the torch as Jamaica’s next superstar sprinter.
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the two-time defending Olympic gold medalist in the 100m, may have something to say about that, but it also may not matter if her compatriot continues her recent run of dominance.
Here’s everything you need to know about the 24-year-old:
1. She Was Born in Manchester, Jamaica
Born June 28, 1992, Thompson hails from Banana Ground in Manchester Parish, Jamaica. An only child to parents in a poverty-stricken area, she was cared for by her grandmother since she was seven years old.
“There is nothing too great for Elaine. I would give her the world,” says her grandmother. “When she was young and she went to school, she come home and get her nice dinner even if I had to borrow the money.”
2. She Wasn’t a Star in High School
With some athletes, greatness is obvious even from a young age. That wasn’t the case for Thompson, whose best achievement prior to college came when she finished fourth in the Class Two 100m at the 2009 Jamaican High School Championships. Two years later, she was kicked off the team.
“She competed in the 4×100 in Class One and her second year in Class One, she got booted off the track team because she is kind of saucy,” explained her college coach, Paul Francis. “So she didn’t run in her final year in 2011.”
Despite the lack of success, Thompson was recruited by Francis and given a scholarship to the University of Technology in Kingston, where she would soon begin her ascent to from merely good to one of the world’s best.
3. She’s Coached by Stephen Francis
Much of Thompson’s rise can be attributed to coaching. While she was discovered and coached in college by Paul Francis, she also hugely benefited from the tutelage of his brother, Stephen, the head coach of MVP Track & Field Club who is often credited with putting Jamaican athletics on the map.
“She is with the best coach available in the conditioning and developing of athletes, Stephen Francis,” said Paul, who is also an assistant at MVP. “She is bright and brilliant and she applies that dedication to his training,”
Thompson credits a particular talk with Francis early in her collegiate career that ultimately changed her life:
I went to a track meet and didn’t do too well and he basically took me to the side and gave me a speech that really motivated me and changed my life. “I can’t say (exactly what he said), but he basically said that I was not in high school anymore and I needed to take things more seriously; that I needed to realize that I am running with the big girls now, so it pushed me to take it seriously.
Since 2013, Thompson has improved her personal best in the 100m every year.
4. She Won Silver at the 2015 World Championships
Thompson had been showing signs of greatness leading up to the 2015 Outdoor World Championships in Beijing, but that’s when she officially announced herself to the world as not only a legitimate contender, but someone with the talent to make history.
While she didn’t compete in the 100m–a decision by Francis that drew criticism–she clocked a blazing 21.66 in the 200m final, a time that made her the fifth-fastest woman ever in that event.
The only problem? Netherlands’ Dafne Schippers became the third-fastest woman in the same race, beating Thompson by .03 seconds to capture gold.
5. She’s the 4th Fastest Woman Ever in the 100m
Already one of the fastest ever in the 200m, Thompson one-upped herself in the 100m at the Jamaica Olympic Trials in July, looking near Bolt-ian as she stormed away from the competition on her way to a remarkable 10.70:
The only women to ever to record a faster 100 time: Florence Griffith-Joyner (10.49, 10.61, 10.62), Carmelita Jeter (10.64, 10.67) and Marion Jones (10.65). Compatriot Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce also recorded a 10.70, which interestingly enough, came at the 2012 Jamaica Olympic Trials.