‘She will bring it again’
Elaine’s grandmother predicts more gold medals for Olympian in Tokyo
Banana Ground, Manchester
Several communities across Jamaica have produced some great talents who continue to contribute to national development and represent the island on the global stage.
One such is the small community of Banana Ground in central Manchester – childhood home of Olympic champion and track athlete extraordinaire, Elaine Thompson-Herah.
Her name is now almost synonymous with the community, as she has never denied the impact it had on her life and the residents there are equally excited for every opportunity to show the world that greatness can come from the rural area.
No one is probably more excited though, than the woman who helped to raise Thompson-Herah and continues to influence children in the community to pursue their dreams with passion.
The Gleaner caught up with the track star’s grandmother Hycenth (Gloria) Thompson, who shared details of a life with the little girl who was always running, to becoming the woman the world now watches with bated breath just before a race.
“[When she was growing up] she liked to see Merlene Ottey and she always say ‘when me grow up me want to be like she’… And, whenever you send her to the shop, she always a run. We see from that stage, from basic school then to primary school.”
According to the matriarch, Elaine, who attended the then Garlogie Primary and Junior High School, made her first appearance at the National Stadium after the then principal saw her abilities as a developing track athlete.
“She guh plenty places guh run man and one day I asked her what she want to be and she said, ‘Mama, a my two foot dem me a take mind my mother and father’. I asked her if she was sure and she said yes.”
It was after leaving Garlogie Primary and then transferring to the Manchester High School, after a short stint at Christiana High, that she truly started to blossom, Thompson said.
She added that there were a number of other upcoming athletes during the period, but later chose to pursue other endeavours, possibly owing to a lack of support.
“…I never beat it out of Elaine because I know she loved it. You see when you ask your children what they are going to be and they say run cart, if you even tell them run plane, a cart dem deh pon… from early she say this is what she want to do.”
The mother of four boys, who later took Elaine at seven months old to live with her and even took her to work while she was teaching at the Banana Ground Basic School, revealed that one of her proudest moments was seeing Elaine’s performance at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
“That time, oh dear! It gives me the vibes to take more grandchildren. It was a joy man. Everyday people talk about Elaine. Even the other day her teacher asked me about her; Ms Baker and the lady that used to sell her chips – Ms Chun and Ms Witter – they don’t leave her out.”
“You know why me love Elaine, she never disown up here at Banana Ground. When other people disown we, Elaine always make people know this is where she come from and big we up,” said a farmer from the community.
Thompson is expecting that her granddaughter will be able to defend her 100m and 200m titles in the coming days in Tokyo, Japan.
“I put God in my vessel and God is going to smile at the storm. She bring it already to Banana Ground and she ago bring it again under God…These things uplift the community and to know that is not rich people coming from Banana Ground is a poor little girl, they know her mother and they know her father who does barbering in Mandeville … is a big upliftment man.”
Thompson said there are other children with the potential to excel. She said that they should be encouraged by their parents to pursue their dreams.
“More deh bout here but the parents must push them. If you let them sit down, they will sit down, but if you push them they will go and you mustn’t pray for your children alone, you must pray for other people’s children…”
“We have more soldier, more runner, more nurse, more police, right here, at Banana Ground, and them colours soon show up, you ago come back here…” Thompson said laughingly.
This sentiment was shared by principal of the Garlogie Primary, Valentine White, who has made a significant impact on the lives of those who have passed through that institution.
“As an institution we take track and field seriously and the development of our students is paramount …We have many students who have moved on to representing the parish and these numbers have been consistent, we have always had students doing well,” said White.
He said that track athletes are normally selected based on performance in physical education classes and later sharpened through the partnership with other schools.
“As a school, we are interested in producing more Olympians and creating even more well-rounded students and individuals in different sectors, like agriculture, drama, among others,” he added.