Horns blared and green, black and yellow Jamaican flags dominated the stands at Hayward Field ahead of the women’s 200-meter final Thursday night in Eugene, Ore.
It was almost as if the fans knew what was coming.
Shericka Jackson delivered for the Jamaican-favoring crowd as she became the country’s fifth woman to win the 200 world championship. She crossed the finish line in 21.45 seconds, the second-fastest time ever. Jackson and Florence Griffith-Joyner of the United States are the only two women to break 21.50 seconds. Jackson, who is typically reserved and stoic after races, let out a scream and hugged teammates after seeing her time.
Shericka Jackson became the fifth Jamaican woman to win the 200-meter world championship title, crossing the finish line in 21.45 seconds.Credit…Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica finished with silver, and Dina Asher-Smith of Britain finished in third. The Jamaicans did miss out on the sweep they had in the 100, with Elaine Thompson-Herah, last summer’s Olympic gold medalist in the 200, finishing seventh.
Jackson is the first Jamaican 200-meter world champion since Fraser-Pryce took the title in 2013. The Americans Abby Steiner and Tamara Clark finished fifth and sixth, respectively. This is Jackson’s first individual gold medal at the World Athletics Championships.
Jackson, 28, seemed destined for gold after winning the 200 at the Jamaican national championships last month in what was then the third-fastest time ever. She had an Olympic bronze and two world championship bronze medals in the 400 before she switched to shorter distances in 2021.
Since then, she has run some of the fastest times in the history of both events. But the 200, which combines power and the speed endurance skills she mastered in the 400, is her best event. One of her most impressive runs of the season came in the world championship semifinals, when she jogged across the finish line in a wind-aided 21.67 seconds, faster than the personal bests of athletes like Allyson Felix and Fraser-Pryce.
The win further cements Jamaica’s superiority in women’s short sprinting, which has been unusually impressive because of the country’s consistency and parity among the best. Fraser-Pryce, Jackson and Thompson-Herah have dominated the world in short sprints while being each other’s most intense competition at major championships.
Thompson-Herah has won gold in the 100 and 200 at the last two Olympics, but she has yet to win either title at the world championships. Fraser-Pryce has won five of the last seven world championships in the 100 but hasn’t won the 100 at the Olympics since 2012. With the Jamaican men, for example, all of their short-sprinting medals at the Olympic and world championship levels after 2013 came from Usain Bolt.
“No one has taken the baton as well as he had,” said Paul Francis, the head coach of the Maximising Velocity and Sprint Track Club, which has trained some of Jamaica’s top runners since its inception in 1999.
Jamaica’s dominance in men’s and women’s short sprinting has always been extraordinary because of the island’s size. Jamaica’s population is just under three million, smaller than New York City and Los Angeles. Still, since the 2008 Olympics, Jamaica had dominated men’s and women’s short sprinting events. But after Bolt’s retirement in 2017, the men have struggled to keep pace with the women. Oblique Seville, 21, is a bright spot for Jamaica’s men; he finished fourth in the 100 final at 9.97 seconds.
Francis says he has seen a gap in the work ethic between men and women, even at his club. “Men sometimes appear to think that they will be satisfied very easily,” he said in a recent interview, “They will sometimes work pretty hard and pretty smart until they get to that high level. And then they get to the point where they sometimes second guess aspects of a program and say, ‘Oh, this is important, this isn’t.’”
He added: “Even the way they handle things like injury, a man may be injured, and he will be given a rehabilitation schedule. And the minute that he’s not feeling discomfort anymore, he might stop, whereas a female tends to go the whole course until you tell her to stop it. It’s just a difference in attitude.”
The next task for the Jamaican women is the 4×100-meter relay, which begins with preliminary heats on Friday before the finals on Saturday. The women have also dominated this event, winning gold in four of the last six world championships. Jackson, Fraser-Pryce, Thompson-Herah and Briana Williams ran the second-fastest time ever at the Tokyo Olympics. They should easily win the gold, and the world record of 40.82 seconds held by the United States should be in jeopardy.