Elaine Thompson uses COVID-19-induced break to recover from Achilles injury

By Paul A Reid
Observer writer

Saturday, June 06, 2020

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The postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games has allowed defending, double-sprint champion Elaine Thompson-Hera to get back to full fitness and refocus on defending her titles if the Games are held next year.

The 2020 Olympic Games were originally set to start next month but were moved back 12 months by the International Olympics Committee (IOC) earlier this year because of the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic, and Thompson-Hera, who has been bothered by a painful Achilles tendon injury for at least the last two years, said she has used the time off to regain full health.

Thompson-Hera, the joint national record holder in the 100m with clubmate Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce at 10.70 seconds — the fourth fastest legal times ever run by females — said she had set modest goals for this year and just wanted to make the Jamaican team in an individual capacity before starting her quest to defend her titles.

“Honestly, I was sad at first, but now I got a chance to recover fully from the Achilles injury. I started training really late and said to myself that I probably had to rush [training programme] to get to Trials [Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association National Championships] to make the team and my main goal was top three and then take it from there,” she said.

Thompson-Hera was a guest on an online panel discussion hosted by the Olympians Association of Jamaica (OAJ) under the theme 'Keeping your competitive edge during the pandemic'.

She said the break from training and competition had given her the chance to rest and heal and her goals have been readjusted. “Now I am super excited. I am home watching all my tapes; I watch all my races from 2015 coming right up and seeing what I can correct and I am training now and feeling great and I just have to continue 'rehabbing' and getting treatment and get ready for next year.”

Pan American Games champion Sherone Simpson, an executive member of the OAJ, hosted the hour-long discussion that also included four-time Olympic swimmer Alia Atkinson, technical director of the Jamaican track and field team Maurice Wilson, and Australian physiotherapist Dr Jo Brown.

Thompson-Hera admitted to being scared during the outbreak of COVID-19, and that she missed the training and competition, but said her family and a positive mindset helped her to get through the worst times.

After going through a long season last year, competing up to October at the World Athletics Championships which were held in Doha, Qatar, she said she was not looking forward to another long season, but with the Diamond League starting in August, she hinted that she could be on the circuit.

“I hope it gets back to normal soon, and we can go back on the track and compete, but to be honest, I missed it because last year we went all the way to October, and my season did not end so well,” she said of her disappointing fourth-place finish in the 100m final won by Fraser-Pryce in a world-leading 10.71 seconds.

She said the news of the postponement of the Olympics was hard to take initially. “When the Olympics were postponed I said 'oh no, I don't think I can do another October again',” she told the panel. “I was so sad because I did not think I can do another October again and basically I still had to train my mind to keep the mindset, then I see a schedule with the Diamond League ending in October, so I have to really and truly keep it in my mind and be dedicated in my mind to continue the process of training. As athletes we can lose fitness in a few days and I don't want to lose any fitness; I don't want to lose any muscle, so you just have to continue train, train, train.”

Keeping motivated can be hard at times, she said. “There are days when I wake up and don't want to go to training, but guess what, I have to do it because it is my work, it is my career.”

With 2020 being the final year of her current shoe deal with American sportswear company Nike, getting back to competition is crucial. “This COVID-19 has crippled the world, at times it is scary, I can't travel, I can't compete. We just got back access to the stadium [east facilities] to train and we have been training on the grass at UTech; it's a bit up and down. This is the last year of my contract, but some athletes don't have a contract and so the funds they normally get from races they don't have access to that now, but almost everyone is on the same page; we cant travel or compete...some people cannot train at all as they are restricted to their's crazy, every body feeling the same thing.”

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