Thompson bolts to silver
Olympic Medal Men—an 8-part series
OLYMPIAN, written by Dr Basil Ince, was published in 2011. The book examines, in detail, the history of Trinidad and Tobago's Olympic
participation. Included in OLYMPIAN are profiles of the country's eight individual Olympic medallists, between 1948 and 2008. Between July 17 and August 9, excerpts from those eight profiles are being featured in the pages of the Trinidad Express. The
profiles, in their entirety, are being published on the
Express website (http://www.trinidadexpress.
Today, we feature sprinter Richard Thompson. He seized silver in the 100 metres dash at the 2008 Games, in Beijing, China.
Before Richard Thompson burst forth on the athletic scene, he had done a couple of international outings but did not advance to the final at the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2007. He also ran at the World Championships in Osaka, Japan, and finished eighth in the semi-final of the 100m.
In 2008, however, after a sterling year at Louisiana State University in which he raced unbeaten in the 100m, Richard was ready to take on the best in the world at the Olympics.
In his first heat at the Games in Beijing, Thompson clocked 10.24 seconds and that was the last time that he would run above the 10-second mark at the Olympics. In all his other races he ran sub 10 times, running faster on each occasion.
Champions improve their times on each successive run. In his second heat, Thompson who is blessed with the ability to start fast, ran 9.99 seconds to beat the American, Tyson Gay. Gay had won the 100m at the US trials but had pulled a muscle in the 200m and never regained his earlier zip.
Both semi-finals were hot. In the first, the Jamaican Usain Bolt ran 9.85 seconds, with Dix following in 9.95, and the other Trinidad and Tobago entrant, Marc Burns, recording a swift 9.97 seconds. In the second semi-final, the other Jamaican, Asafa Powell, hurtled to a 9.91 seconds 100m, with Thompson on his heels in 9.93, and Churanda Martina of the Netherlands Antilles third in 9.94 seconds.
This was a fantastic final in which six of the eight finalists had run sub 10 seconds in the semi-finals. It was also historic because six of the eight finalists were from the Caribbean. Michael Frater of Jamaica had joined his Caribbean colleagues in the final.
At the crack of the gun, only Dix could match Thompson coming out of the blocks with a reaction time of .133 seconds. Powell was on their heels with .134, with Bolt having the second slowest reaction time of .165. The eventual fourth place finisher, Martina, had come out of the blocks in .169.
Although Thompson was out before Bolt at the start, Bolt soon caught up with Thompson. Richard confirms: "I had a pretty good start. I thought I was with Usain up to about 15m and I just felt him pulling away after that."
During the race as Bolt accelerated, Thompson knew that he could not match the "phenomenal" Bolt. Usain was about his own business. He covered the distance in a new world and Olympic record of 9.69 seconds despite slowing down in the last 20 metres. Had Bolt not purposely decelerated, University of Oslo physicist, Hans Kristian Eriksen, opined that he could have recorded 9.55 seconds.
Thompson was ecstatic to have won the silver in 9.89 seconds and described his second place after Bolt as a "great accomplishment." Dix secured the bronze in 9.91, Martina fourth in 9.93, Powell fifth in 9.95, and Frater sixth in 9.97.
It was a proud day for Thompson who joined the Trinidad and Tobago exclusive band of 100m medallists, McDonald Bailey, Hasely Crawford, and Ato Boldon.
But Thompson had more work to do since he was a member of the national team in the 400m relay.
While competing at Louisiana State he had been a workhorse on its relay teams, which won gold medals at the NCAA Championships in 2006 and 2008. He had also had the opportunity to run with national relay squads and had competed in 2008 at the CAC Games and the NACAC Games with Keston Bledman, Marc Burns, and Aaron Armstrong where they ran 38.54 seconds, then the second fastest time in the world.
In the qualifying round the team of Bledman, Burns, Armstrong, and Thompson started in lane 8, one lane outside the US team. Bledman had replaced the ailing Darrel Brown on the national team which had no problem qualifying. The US team, however, dropped the baton and did not reach the final. At that point it seemed that the race for the gold would be contested between the Jamaican and Trinbagonian teams.
The Jamaican team, however, had an advantage on paper since three of its members had reached the 100m final, and its fourth member, Nesta Carter, had already run a sub ten 100m.
Trinidad and Tobago fielded the same qualifying team with the exception of Emmanuel Callender who replaced an ailing Aaron Armstrong.
The teams ran true to form with Jamaica winning the gold with a jaw-dropping world record of 37.10 seconds.
Trinidad and Tobago grabbed silver with a tremendous run by Thompson who had to make up ground. The national team clocked 38.06 seconds in winning Trinidad and Tobago's first Olympic relay medal since the 1600m team of Ed Skinner, Kent Bernard, Ed Roberts, and Wendell Mottley in 1964.
The margin of victory of the Jamaican team was .96 seconds, the largest since the US team with Jesse Owens beat the Italian team in 1936.
The national team exulted in its victory and two of its members could be forgiven for saying that the silver medal felt like gold.
In his first Olympic Games Richard Thompson had won two silver medals.
Richard, the last of the four children of Ruthven and Judith Thompson, was born in Port of Spain on June 7, 1985. He attended Newtown Boys RC school before proceeding to Queen's Royal College.
He was always into sports and participated in football, swimming, karate, and in athletics, he did track, the javelin, the triple jump, and the long jump. Richard admits to being "sort of discovered" when he played football since they put him to play on the right wing on account of his speed. But football was not to be his métier and he concentrated on athletics.
For the full Richard Thompson profile and other articles, log on to http://www.trinidadexpress.
On Tuesday, August 7, we
feature Wendell Mottley.