Jasmine Camacho-Quinn stormed to an emphatic first Olympic track and field gold medal for Puerto Rico on Monday, powering to victory in the 100m hurdles to exorcise the ghost of her 2016 Rio Games nightmare.
Five years ago, Camacho-Quinn was helped off the Rio Olympic Stadium track in tears after crashing and falling at the last hurdle in the semi-finals with a place in the final within touching distance.
But on Monday the powerfully built 24-year-old US-born hurdler banished that bitter memory in style, upsetting world record holder Keni Harrison of the United States to win in 12.37sec.
Harrison took silver in 12.52sec while Jamaica’s Megan Tapper claimed bronze in 12.55sec.
Camacho revealed after her win she has spent the past five years haunted by her Rio calamity—and had suffered a “breakdown” ahead of Sunday’s semi-finals in Tokyo as she feared the same thing happening again.
“It stays with me all the time because I’m constantly reminded of it,” she told reporters on Monday.
“Somebody’s always messaging me and saying ‘I’m sorry for what happened in Rio’. And I’m like ‘I need y’all to let that go’.
“You know yesterday before the semis I had a breakdown because I was like ‘I don’t want the same thing to happen’. But I knew if I raced how I did all season I’d be okay.”
Camacho-Quinn had set an Olympic record in the semi-finals, and although her time was slower on Monday, she was always in control after edging into the lead from Harrison at the 30-metre mark.
She clipped the penultimate barrier in an otherwise flawless display but it was not enough to deny her gold.
“It really means a lot,” Camacho-Quinn said. “This year I trained really hard. This was what I wanted for this year.
“I wanted to be a gold medallist and I manifested that. I spoke it into existence.
“It worked out for me.”
The defeat means Harrison’s long wait for a major outdoor championship title will go on.
The American failed to qualify for the 2016 Olympics after suffering a shock loss in the trials, and then finished fourth at the world championships in London a year later before claiming a silver at the 2019 worlds.
Harrison however was ecstatic after finally bagging her first Olympic medal after the disappointment of failing to qualify for Rio in 2016.
“The feeling is amazing,” Harrison said. “To miss out on Rio and come to my first Olympics and get a silver medal.
“Of course everyone wants the gold but I’ve got myself back out here on the world stage and I’m getting better and better and I couldn’t be more happy.
“Missing out on Rio is always at the back of my head when I’m training.
“Just picking myself back up and going after it and building up my confidence and bringing home a silver medal for my country, I couldn’t be more happy.”
Camacho-Quinn’s path to victory in Tokyo was smoothed by the absence of several rivals who might otherwise have been expected to challenge for gold.
Reigning world champion Nia Ali skipped the Games after announcing in April she was expecting her second child with partner Andre De Grasse, the Canadian sprinter who took bronze in Sunday’s 100m final.
The field was further depleted by the absence of reigning Olympic champion Brianna McNeal.
McNeal was ruled out of the Olympics after being handed a five-year ban for “tampering within the results management process” after a missed drugs test in January 2020.