Jasmine Camacho-Quinn of Puerto Rico celebrates
Jasmine Camacho-Quinn secured a redemptive gold in the women’s 100m hurdles. Leading an accomplished field from the off, a breakaway instigated on the final three hurdles netted Puerto Rico their first medal at Tokyo 2020.
The 24-year-old, born in Ladson, South Carolina, had put her competitors on notice with an Olympic record in her semi-final heat with a time of 12.26 sec. She did not need to go as hard, registering 12.37 in the midday sun, but still put distance between herself and Kendra Harrison (USA) and Megan Tapper (Jamaica), who took silver and bronze with 12.52 and 12.55 respectively.
Making it to the final itself was a dramatic improvement on Camacho-Quinn’s experience at the 2016 Games when she crashed out at the semi-final stage. Having clipped the eight hurdle, she failed to regain her footing and ended up falling into the 10th. At just 19, it was the highest profile blow of a precocious runner’s career, one which was always going to scope her going forward whether she would like it or not. She later explained the tears in her in the aftermath were partly were down to a feeling she had let her country down. Speaking after the fall, she vowed not to let this race “determine my future”. Five years on, she has kept that promise.
“It’s been a rollercoaster since I became a professional.,” she said in this post-race chat. “So just to be able to come here and win a gold medal, I’m so happy.”
And no doubt Puerto Rico are thrilled with only their second gold at an Olympics and their first in athletics outright. Her decision to represent the Caribbean Island comes through her mother, Maria, who hails from the country. Her pride at Camacho-Quinn’s will be celebrated wildly there, just as her semi-final heat was, and no doubt at the University of Kentucky, where she is based.
“Just to put on for such a small country, to give little kids hope. I’m just glad I’m that person to do that. I’m really happy right now.”
Both her parents were track students – her dad coached her as a teenager – and her older brother, Robert, plays in the defensive line for the Chicago Bears in the NFL. A family of gifted athletes now has an Olympic champion to celebrate.
It is worth noting Harrison, with silver, is the world record holder at this level with 12.20. And Camacho-Quinn admitted that she also had her sights set on beating the American’s time set in July 2016. Alas, clipping the penultimate second cost her some fractions of a second. Not that she minds too much.
“I was really running for the record,” she told. “I hit the hurdle. But everything happens for a reason. I Came through with the gold. My first gold medal! I almost fell but I crossed the line and I just won the Olympics!”
In a way, that makes this all the more perfect. After the heartache of 2016, she has built herself back up to such a level a similar clip of the furniture did little to stop her charge. Such was her brilliance over the last week that, given she will only be 27 in three years’ time, you’d pencil her in for a successful defence come Paris 2024. A first gold in high-level competition certainly won’t be her last.
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