Olympics: Gabby Thomas qualifies for 200m final with 3rd-fastest time

  • Gabrielle Thomas, left, of the United States, competes in the women’s 200-meter semifinal at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, in Tokyo. The Florence native finished third in this heat and qualified to run in the finals Tuesday morning. AP

  • Gabrielle Thomas, of the United States, reacts after a semifinal of the women’s 200-meters at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, in Tokyo. AP

  • Florence native Gabrielle Thomas, of the United States, finished third in a women’s 200-meter semifinal at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, in Tokyo. She will race in the finals Tuesday morning. AP

  • Gabrielle Thomas, of the United States, gets ready to start a women's 200-meter semifinal at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, in Tokyo. AP

  • Gabrielle Thomas, of the United States, competes in the women's 200-meter semifinal at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, Aug. 2, in Tokyo. AP

  • Gabrielle Thomas, of the United States, competes in a semifinal of the women’s 200-meters at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, in Tokyo. AP

  • Faith Kipyegon, of Kenya, crosses the finish line to win her heat of the women's 1,500-meters at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek) Submitted photo—AP

  • Faith Kipyegon, of Kenya, crosses the finish line to win her heat of the women's 1,500-meters at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek) Submitted photo—AP

Staff Writer
Published: 8/1/2021 10:11:54 PM

Reaching the Olympic women’s 200-meter dash final briefly escaped Gabby Thomas’ control Monday.

The top two runners in each of the three semifinals qualified for Tuesday morning’s final automatically, leaving two open lanes for the next two quickest runners. Thomas, a Florence native, finished third in the second semifinal in 22.01 seconds, faster than anyone in the first semifinal. As long as no more than two ran faster than her in the third semifinal, she would qualify for the final.

No one did..

The event’s three fastest times emerged from the second semifinal, allowing Thomas to race for gold. Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson-Herah won the heat in 21.66, one of the six fastest times ever. Namibia’s Christine Mboma edged Thomas down the final stretch for the second consecutive round, hitting the line in 21.97 to automatically qualify for the final.

“I want a gold medal. I’m excited to go for it,” Thomas said on the USA broadcast.

The final starts at 8:50 a.m. Tuesday and can be streamed on NBCOlympics.com

Thomas, 24, posted the second-fastest time in history in winning the U.S. Olympic Trials (21.61) but didn’t break 22 seconds in either of her first two runs in Tokyo.

Mboma also chased down Thomas in Sunday night’s first round, though the Williston Northampton and Harvard grad smoothly advanced to the 200 semifinals Sunday, placing second in her heat in 22.2 seconds.

Thomas, making her Olympic debut, shot out of the start and led for most of the way before Mboma turned on the jets to beat her to the line (22.11). Thomas ran from Lane 2, chasing the entire field form the staggered start around the turn. She posted the second-quickest time in the opening round.

Mboma excels at the 400 but was barred from running that event by World Athletics because of naturally high testosterone levels.

Pioneer Valley residents cheered Thomas from a watch party at the Northampton Center for the Arts on Sunday organized by Northampton Open Media and state Sen. Jo Comerford, among others.

“It was very organic, folks trading texts. I was part of that early,” Comerford said. “We just organically wanted to recognize there’s a young woman from Florence on the Olympics and how unbelievably exciting that was and feeling very inspired by Gabby and her story and her unbelievable gifts. We wanted to create a space where the community could join together.”

Around 75 people gathered in a large ballroom with the preliminary race projected on a large screen. Newly minted Northampton youth poet laureate Rio Santos read one of her poems, “Wind.”

The crowd included community members, local runners, local politicians and many Williston Northampton students.

“For most of us in the area, this is something really to celebrate. I’m excited for her (Thomas),” said Northampton resident Tricia Loomis, Santos’ mother. “She seems like such an incredible person. She’s super brilliant. I feel like showing up is a way to support her.”

They watched the first three heats, many learning about the sport and event for the first time. A hush fell around the crowd at 9:50 p.m., minutes before Thomas took the track. It erupted when the camera panned to her on the start line decked in red white and blue and the commentator compared her to Wonder woman.

“It was a wonderful raucous din,” Comerford said. “It was our Florence neighbor running in the Olympics.”

MacLean moving on

UMass graduate Heather MacLean secured a spot in the women’s 1,500 semifinals after her Olympic debut Sunday. She placed fifth in the third heat, crossing the line in 4:02.4.

The top six finishers in each heat advanced automatically followed by the next six fastest times.

World-record holder Faith Chepngetich Kipyegon of Kenya won the heat in 4:01.4.

MacLean will run in the second semifinal at 6:12 a.m. Wednesday. She had the fifth-fastest time in the first round.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.


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