Shericka Jackson stunned in Oslo: Time to Worry?

 

The last time Shericka Jackson lost a 200m race was two years ago.

19 races later, the Jamaican, who has won two world titles in that span, succumbed to her first defeat at the Oslo Diamond League. It was clear as daylight that she struggled to even be in that race. Her 22.97 finish fifth should make people ask questions about her form leading up to the crucial part of the season.

For those who are fans of numbers, this was the kind of time Jackson ran when she misjudged her race to not qualify for the semifinal of the 200m at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. But then she was in great shape and had just come off from winning Bronze in the 100m at the Games. But here was different, Jackson looked out of sorts and struggled to hold her form for most of the race. Things are not looking good.

Shericka Jackson wins the 200 meters at, the World Athletics Championships
Eugene, Oregon, USA
July15-26, 2022, photo by Kevin Morris

Let’s take it back a bit. Jackson raced 11 days ago at the Diamond League in Marrakesh. It wasn’t a convincing win, as she ran into a headwind of -1.0 m/s and clocked 22.82s. The alarm bells weren’t out yet despite how she came about the win. However, people see through things. It was labored and flat. It was far from the Jackson we were used to seeing dominant races in recent times.

People still gave her the benefit of the doubt as it was still her first race of the season over the distance despite her running 11.03 in Jamaica over the 100m a few weeks before that. Here in Oslo, Jackson was up against a stacked field that included Marie Josee Ta Lou-Smith, Daryll Neita, and the eventual winner Brittany Brown. It wasn’t meant to be a cakewalk, but knowing how dominant she had been over the last few years in the event, falling down the way pack with about 80m to go in the race wasn’t the plan.

The absolute joy of victory! Shericka Jackson set CR of 21.45 in the 200m WC! photo by Kevin Morris.

So what went wrong? Early season bad form, underrating her opponents, nursing an injury, or even an early sign of decline. This is an athlete who ran 21.48s and 21.57s to finish the 2023 season in Brussels and Oregon. Her Personal Best is 21.41, 0.07s behind Florence Griffith Joyner on the all-time 200m top list. The thing is, athletes don’t just go this bad in the space of nine months. Surely, something is wrong even though it could be potentially worked on before Paris.

Jackson heads to Stockholm next and will look to make amends for this terrible result of hers. Physically, maybe her body needs to get back to peak shape. Typically, she would have racked up a couple of 100m races before this point of the season, putting her in good shape to tackle the 200m. This is a lady who is used to chasing the World Record; now she’s chasing her chance to be in top shape ahead of the Olympics starting in July.

One positive for Jackson is that no athlete has taken the event by the scruff of the neck so far. The current world leader is Mckenzie Long, an athlete who isn’t even a shoo-in to make the US team to the Olympics. 400m Hurdles record holder Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone ran a blistering 22.07s a few weeks back in Los Angeles. Gabby Thomas is next on the list, and even she got beaten by McLaughlin-Levrone and isn’t in top shape.

Shericka Jackson wins at 200m in Brussels! photo by Diamond League AG

The positive for Jackson is how much she can control in the next few weeks. The talent and drive are still there, and like we saw with Sha’Carri Richardson, who also had sub-par 200m races in China in April and came back with a commanding performance at the Prefontaine Classic, Jackson has earned the right to have the benefit of the doubt from onlookers.

Time is of the essence. She hasn’t made major changes to her training regime like so many other top athletes have done this year, as the legendary Stephen Francis is still coaching her. Chances are they will brush things up, and we will get to see the Jackson that was chasing Flo-Jo. For now, though, she’s racing against her Olympic medal prospects. Just that this time, it won’t be that she misjudges her race strategy but might be well beaten as she was in Oslo.

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