Massachusetts native Gabby Thomas won the bronze medal in the women’s 200 meter final on Tuesday night in Tokyo.
The 24-year-old from Florence was edged by Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson-Herah — who also won gold in the women’s 100 meters — and Namibia’s Christine Mboma.
Thomas, a Harvard grad, entered the Games with the second-fastest time in the event in the world at 21.61, behind only Florence Griffith Joyner’s 21.34 at the 1988 Olympic Games.
But Thompson-Herah took that mantle from Thomas with her 21.53 to win gold. Mboma ran a 21.81; Thomas a 21.87.
Jamaican track legend Shelly-Ann Fraser-Price just missed the podium with a 21.94, coming in fourth place.
Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi, two teenagers from Namibia, blazed into the final just weeks after being barred from the 400-meter race.
They weren’t allowed to run the 400 — their favored event — after tests ordered by track governing body World Athletics found they had high natural testosterone. That meant they fell under the same regulations that have sidelined double Olympic champion Caster Semenya of South Africa in the 800 meters.
But the testosterone rules apply only to races between 400 and the mile, allowing Mboma and Masilingi a chance at the 200 in Tokyo.
The two Namibians announced themselves this season with some blistering fast times in the 400 meters, but those performances prompted World Athletics to order testosterone tests at their training base in Italy, the Namibian Olympic committee said. The tests revealed Mboma and Masilingi’s natural testosterone levels were higher than a limit set by the governing body, prompting their ban. The Namibian Olympic committee said the two runners were not aware they had high natural testosterone before the tests.
Athletes affected by the rules can compete in restricted races if they lower their testosterone levels for at least six months before a competition. They have three options to do that: Taking a daily birth control pill, having hormone-blocking injections, or having surgery.
The testosterone rules, which were introduced in 2018, affect female athletes with conditions referred to as differences of sex development, or DSDs. Those athletes have testosterone levels that are higher than the typical range for females, World Athletics said, and are deemed to give them an unfair advantage over other female athletes.
Elaine Thompson-Herah completes the double-double! 🥇
— #TokyoOlympics (@NBCOlympics) August 3, 2021
One of the many criticisms of the rules is that they’re inconsistent because they only apply to certain race distances. World Athletics scientists have not been able to determine whether increased testosterone has a meaningful impact in distances outside the 400-meter to 1-mile range.
The issue was a major controversy at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, when all three medalists in the women’s 800 meters — Semenya, Francine Niyonsaba and Margaret Wambui — were later barred from that event because of high natural testosterone levels.
Thomas ran her record time at the US Track and Field Trials in June.
“I was not expecting that, so it was a really crazy moment,” she said last month. “I just felt like a different athlete.”
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.