By Tyler Dragon, USA TODAY
Gabby Thomas ran a world-leading 21.94 seconds in the semifinals of the women’s 200 meters on Friday — and her momentum carried over to Saturday. Thomas eclipsed her previous career-best as she crossed the finish line in 21.61 to win the women’s 200 meters at the U.S. Olympic trials. Her time is the second-fastest in the history of the women’s 200 meters and puts her in illustrious company. Only Florence Griffith-Joyner’s world-record 21.34 seconds from 1988 is faster. “I’ve been working so hard,” Thomas said. “I moved to Austin, Texas to train for this. I still just cannot believe it. I’m so, so happy. I’ve been working so hard. I’m really grateful.” Jenna Prandini ran a personal-best 21.89 to finish second, and Anavia Battle crossed the line in 21.95 to finish third.
Thomas, a Harvard graduate, has propelled herself to a serious gold-medal contender in Tokyo after speeding through the preliminary rounds and running one of the best times ever. “Since coming here my expectations for myself have gotten even higher,” Thomas said. “Now when I step on the track, I do expect to run sub-22, which is something I love for myself and I’m really excited about.”
Thomas has valid reasons to be excited after her performance in Eugene. She ran sub-22 seconds in the opening round, semifinal and final of the 200 meters. Leading up to the trials, though, Thomas had a harrowing experience. After winning the 200 meters at the Golden Games on May 9, Thomas underwent an MRI to diagnose what had seemed to be a nagging hamstring injury. The results of the MRI revealed a tumor on her liver.
“The more and more I spoke to people, the more the word ‘cancer’ was used. I was scared,” Thomas said on social media on June 7.
Thankfully, though, Thomas received news from doctors that the tumor is benign and won’t need to be operated on.
“I am so excited to compete – feeling much lighter with this weight off of my shoulders! One of the greatest gifts in life is our health,” Thomas said prior to the trials on social media.
“I remember telling God, ‘If I am healthy, I’m gonna go out and win trials,’ ” she said.
Thomas did in emphatic fashion. Now she is off to Tokyo healthy and running better than she ever has.
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