Jasmine Camacho-Quinn has passed a major hurdle and earned a place in Puerto Rican sports history.
The 24-year-old Puerto Rican track and field athlete raced to gold in the women’s 100-meter hurdles race on Monday morning at the 2020 Tokyo Games, giving Puerto Rico its first medal of this Olympics.
Camacho-Quinn won coveted medal, just the second gold medal in Puerto Rican history, clocking in at 12.37 seconds. In a photo finish for the second and third place spots, American Keni Harrison claimed silver in 12.52 seconds and Jamaica’s Megan Tapper took home the bronze in 12.55.
“It really means a lot. This year I trained really hard; I don’t have a training partner, I’m by myself, so every time I stepped out there I gave it all I had,” Camacho-Quinn said. “This was what I wanted for this year, I wanted to be a gold medalist, and I manifested that. I spoke it into existence.”
In 2016, Camacho-Quinn was a 19-year-old University of Kentucky student coming off an NCAA championship when she came to her first Olympics.
She fell in her semifinal, her trail leg clipping the top of the eighth of the 10 hurdles, and she couldn’t regain her form before the ninth, stumbling and falling to the track.
The daughter of a father born in South Carolina and a mother born in Puerto Rico, Camacho-Quinn chose to represent her mother’s island; even though Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, the IOC recognizes it as its own country for the purposes of Olympic competition and laws. Tennis player Monica Puig won Puerto Rico’s first gold medal in 2016.
Asked how long that Rio stumble stayed with her, Camacho-Quinn said it’s basically been inescapable over the last five years.
“I’m constantly reminded; somebody’s always messaging me and like, ‘Oh I’m sorry for what happened’ and I’m like I need y’all to let that go, please,” she said, laughing. “I need y’all to let it go.
“But yesterday before semis I kind of had a breakdown because I don’t want the same thing to happen again, but I knew how I’d been racing all season, just do that and I’ll be OK.”
She may have allowed that memory to cause her momentary pause, but clearly it didn’t linger: Camacho-Quinn set an Olympic record in the semis on Sunday, running 12.26. It ties her for the fourth-fastest performance of all time.
Camacho-Quinn, whose older brother Robert currently plays for the Chicago Bears, had the three fastest times in the world this season coming into Tokyo, which gave her confidence for the Games.
“This year, when I opened up and seeing where I was” — she ran 12.47 seconds in her opener on April 10 and 12.32 a week later — “I was like, wow, I might have a really fast year this year. From that moment I’m like, ‘OK I know what I can do, and let’s work towards that’,” she said.