Richard Thompson, born on 7 June 1985, was 23 years old when he travelled to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games hoping to reach at least one final and instead returned home with two silver medals, from the 100m and the 4x100m relay.
While a student at Queens Royal College he played soccer and did some athletics until his parents and teachers convinced him to concentrate on sprinting. And in 2004 he clocked 10.65 for second in the Hampton Games junior 100m and repeated this time in his semi-final at the Junior Championships.
Since this did not attract the attention of US universities, he approached coach Dennis Shavers at Louisiana State University (LSU) directly, was accepted and moved to Baton Rouge in January 2005. That year marked his introduction to American collegiate competition, serious sprinting and training with the Tigers track squad, but at the National Championships in June he did not qualify for any final.
However, in 2006 his learning curve progressed upwards as he ran 100m in a windy 10.26 and 200m in 21.24, and was second in the National Championships 100m final won by Jacey Harper. At the NACAC U-23 championships he came fifth in the 100m final with 10.42 sec.
In April 2007 Thompson ran 200m under 21 seconds for the first time, and at the NCAA Championships in Sacramento brought his 100m PB down to 10.23 in the semi-final before running fifth in the final. At the National Championships Darrel Brown (9.88w) shunted him into second place, but Thompson`s times had improved progressively (10.22w to a new PB 10.09 to 9.95w). Representing TT at 100m he won the NACAC title, but at the Pan American Games a hamstring injury eliminated him in the preliminaries, and at the Osaka World Championships he went out in the quarter-finals after winning his heat.
During the winter he worked hard on strengthening his back to avoid any recurrence of the hamstring problem, and positive results came in the 2008 indoor season when at 60m he won the NCAA title, brought his PB to 6.51 and was unbeaten over the distance.
Outdoors Thompson ran new PBs of 10.00 and 9.93 for 100m and 20.23 and 20.18 at 200m, scoring sprint doubles at the South Eastern Conference (9.93/20.12) and the NCAA Mideast Conference (9.97/20.21), and winning the NCAA 100m title going faster in each round – 10.57, 10.33 and 10.12 sec. At the National Championships he also improved as the 100m progressed (10.53/10.11/10.10) but in the final was second for the third consecutive year, as Marc Burns ran 10.01 to win.
Then at the Bird`s Nest Stadium in Beijing, Richard Thompson ran his PB 9.89 in the Olympic 100m final. It was only good enough for a silver medal because the winner, Jamaican Usain Bolt, had set a remarkable world record of 9.69 sec. But Thompson had again run faster in each round: 10.24/9.99/9.93/9.89 sec. Before the Olympics closed he won another silver medal, in the 4x100m relay. Earlier in 2008 he had signed a contract with Nike, and had also graduated from LSU, but he continued to live and train in Baton Rouge. He was given 2nd spot in the ATFS Annual 100m ranking for 2008.
Injuries from a car accident on the first day of 2009 delayed the start of his season, but they had no apparent effect on his racing form. In June he won his first national 100m title, and at the August World Championships in Berlin he ran 9.93 for fifth in the 100m, after doing 10.36/10.08/9.98 in the earlier rounds, and anchored TT to the 4x100m relay silver medal in 37.62, a new national record. At year end he was 8th in the ATFS rankings.
During 2010 he had two windy 100m times under 10 seconds and took both sprint titles at the National Championships. Though he missed both the CAC Games and the Commonwealth Games, he was ranked 7th by the ATFS.
At the August 2011 National Championships Thompson took his third 100m title clocking 9.85 to break the national record of 9.86 set in 1998 by Ato Boldon. At the World Championships in Daegu he was eliminated in the 100m semi-final and anchored the sprint relay team to sixth place after being obstructed by falling runners at the last changeover. During this season he had no less than fifteen 100m times under 10.20 seconds.
The London Olympics, when he was 7th (9.98) after clocking 10.14 and 10.02 in the qualifying rounds and 3rd in the 4x100m relay, proved to be the high point of 2012. His best 100m time of the season was 9.96, when finishing second in the National Championships.
Thompson had a comparatively short season in 2013, with his best performance at the National Championships where he ran a windy 9.91w to finish second in the 100m (for the fifth time) in the title race won in 9.86w by Keston Bledman. At the Moscow World Championships he reached the 100m semi-final and anchored the sprint relay team to seventh place in the final.
Over 100m in 2014, Thompson regained the national title in record time of 9.82, won Diamond League races in Oslo and Berlin, and clocked a wind assisted 9.74w in May, but did not reach the Commonwealth Games final in Glasgow.
On the other hand, at 4x100m he teamed up with Keston Bledman, Marc Burns and Rondel Sorillo to win a silver medal (38.04) at the World Relay Championships, and a bronze medal (38.10) at the Commonwealth Games.
In addition he also anchored the Americas to victory (37.97) in the Continental Cup.
Thompson began his brief 2015 season with a couple 10.04 times over 100m in April and May, and in between he anchored the national team to seventh place (38.92) in the World Relay Championships.
Then a knee injury got worse and forced him to miss the 100m final at the national championships in June, after qualifying with 10.40 in his semifinal.
He had to sit out the rest of the pre Olympic season to prepare for the Games in Rio de Janeiro.
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