Jamaican athlete Elaine Thompson Herah was voted the Person of the Year for 2021 at the Best of Jamaica Awards sponsored by the world’s top website and media platform focused on Jamaican and Caribbean news, travel, food, and culture.
The Best of Jamaica is the platform’s biggest event of the year and is all about what its readers and staff vote as the best Jamaica has to offer. The Best of Jamaica 2021 is based on the results of two surveys: The Best of Jamaica Abroad and The Best of Jamaica in Jamaica, both of which ask respondents for what – and who – they think is the best. The surveys seek responses from members of Jamaican Diaspora communities in major cities in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada.
The results were announced on December 10, 2021, on the Jamaicans.com YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook pages on a show hosted by Jamaican media personalities Jody Ann Gray and Eddy Edwards. Jody Ann Gray enjoys a large fan base for her radio shows in Jamaica and Florida, hosted and Eddy Edwards is the executive producer and co-host of Caribbean Riddims, a popular radio program airing on CANEradio.com.
Jamaicans’ choice for 2021 Person of the Year is the sprinter and five-time Olympic champion Elaine Sandra-Lee Thompson Herah. She was born in Banana Ground, Manchester, Jamaica in 1992, but unlike other champion runners, Thompson Herah was not a stand-out athlete in her early years.
Over time, however, with the help of her disciplined and religious family, her own strong work ethic, and some world-class scouting, she overcame her early challenges to become one of the best and most recognized athletes in the world. Thompson Herah credits her grandmother for her start on the journey to becoming a world-class athlete.
One of her chores growing up was to go to the shops and bring back the items her grandmother requested. She would memorize the list of items her grandmother told her to get at the shops and then run back home as fast as she could to watch her favourite cartoons and movies on television.
She competed for Christiana High School and Manchester High School during her teen years and took fourth place in Class Two 100 meters at the Jamaica ISSA Grace Kennedy Boys and Girls Championships in 2009, clocking 12.01 seconds for the distance. After high school, she was recruited by Paul Francis, the brother of MVP Track Club head coach Stephen Francis, to compete for the University of Technology.
Thompson Herah said his tough-love approach was instrumental in getting better performances from her. He pointed out to her that she was not attaining the times she should be and counselled her to be less serious, not to be afraid of people, and to “shake it up.”
Her performance markedly improved under his coaching, and in 2013, she ran a personal best of 11.41 seconds at the Gibson Replay and took second place at the Jamaica Intercollegiate Championships. She then ran the first leg of the 4x100-meter relay for Jamaica at the Central American and Caribbean Championships, making a major contribution to Jamaica’s win of the gold medal with a time of 43.58 seconds.
She won her first intercollegiate title in 2014 with a fifth-place finish at the national championships, clocking 11.26 seconds. Her breakthrough moment came in 2015 at the Utech Classic when she ran the 100 meters in under 11 seconds for the first time, as well as achieving a personal best of 21.66 seconds in the 200-meter event.
With a personal best time in the 100 meters of 10.84 seconds, Thompson Herah was ranked 30th in the world.Injuries kept her from repeating her phenomenal performance at the 2016 Rio Olympics where she won gold medals in the 100 meters and the 200 meters, but she became more dedicated to her goal than ever.
She ran seven 100-meter races in 2020 and turned in times of less than 11 seconds in five of them. She won two Diamond League competitions that year and had a season’s best time in the 200 meters of 22. 19 seconds.
At the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, Thompson-Herah took gold in the women’s 100-meter final, equalling the second-fastest time in history and setting a Jamaican national record and an Olympic record with a time of 10.62 seconds. Running the 200 meters, she equalled her personal best time of 21.66 seconds in the semi-finals and won gold in the final, achieving a personal best of 21.53 seconds.
At the Prefontaine Classic in August 2021, Thompson Herah was the winner in the 100-meter event with a new personal best of 10.54 seconds, which was the second-fastest time in women’s sprint history. Thompson-Herah holds a bachelor’s degree in foodservice management and culinary arts, and she often prepares dishes that reflect her Caribbean heritage.
These include yellow yam, which fellow Olympic champion Usain Bolt has cited as a key reason for the superior sprint performance of Jamaica’s athletes. Thompson-Herah is also interested in fashion and favours glamorous, elegant clothes when she is not on the track.
Thompson-Herah is married to Derron Herah, a former athlete and coach.