After the night of a million sighs, when the curtain fell on Usain Bolt's individual career with the rarest of defeats, Elaine Thompson fell short of salvaging any precious glory for Jamaica.

Tori Bowie, the quiet girl from small-town Mississippi, sprang one of the greatest surprises of these championships yesterday with a stunning run of 10.85 seconds to overhaul the Olympic champion.

In a stacked field of the best that Europe, America, Africa and the Caribbean could throw at her, the 26-year-old, who made her living leaping into the long-jump pit as recently as 2013, threw herself at the line to take the gold ahead of Marie-Jose Ta Lou. Holland's Dafne Schippers took a surprise bronze, while Thompson was squeezed out of the medals altogether, finishing in 10.98s, far outside her personal best.

Bowie looked stunned at her accomplishment, claiming she was unaware she had won until she flung herself over the finish to prevail by one-hundredth of a second.

Advertisement

She could be forgiven for being overcome by emotion. A torrid childhood saw her put in foster care with her sister from the age of 2. Her grandmother fought a difficult custody battle to be able to take the sisters and raise them on her own.

Bowie also pays frequent tribute to the tiny community of Sandhill, Mississippi, for helping to shape her character and become the woman she is today.

"I always said that it takes a village to raise a child," Bowie said, noting that the place did not even have a single traffic light.

The Jamaican crowds, while still drying their tears over Bolt, had gathered in force by the finish line to salute Thompson, but watched dumbfounded as Bowie tore past their poster girl. There had seemed, until Bowie's emergence from the pack, little doubt of any disruption to her supremacy.

The women's 100m is a race that struggles to captivate like the men's equivalent, in part because the world record, the staggering 10.49s set by Florence Griffith-Joyner at the US Olympic trials in 1988, remains so far out of reach.

Thompson has come closer than most to emulating that improbable standard. Just last month, in Kingston, she streaked to victory in front of her home crowd in 10.71s, a time only surpassed in recent years by compatriot Shelly-Anne Fraser-Pryce. Under the tutelage of prolifically successful coach Stephen Francis, also mentor to Asafa Powell, she has emerged as one of the most electrifying sprinting stars in years.

Come Tokyo, the smorgasbord of talent over this distance is tantalising.

Bowie, the woman of the moment, has definitively proved herself as one of the contenders. Barely four years ago, she was still a professional long jumper, but has made the switch to the sprints with an aplomb that yielded three medals at her maiden Olympics last year.

"I just needed a change," she explained. "Once I won the gold, I fell in love."

Bowie is now the young woman they all have to catch.