Keni Harrison loses hurdles Olympic gold to Jasmine Camacho-Quinn

Tokyo — Considering where she was for the last Olympics – sitting at home – 100-meter hurdler Keni Harrison couldn’t complain about the silver medal she won this time around. Still, in this event, Americans are used to gold.

Maybe they were looking in the wrong place.

Jasmine Camacho-Quinn, who grew up in South Carolina, went to college at Kentucky and trains in Florida, is taking the hurdles gold to her mother’s native Puerto Rico after an upset Monday that kept the Americans out of the win column as Olympic track competitions reached Day 4.

“This was what I wanted for this year. I wanted to be a gold medalist,” Camacho-Quinn said.

She powered ahead of Harrison early and finished in 12.37 seconds for a .15 second win – a blowout in such a short race. Megan Tapper of Jamaica finished third.

Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory that competes under its own flag at the Olympics, now has one more track gold medal than the deepest team at the Games, which won 13 golds five years ago in Rio de Janeiro.

Camacho-Quinn’s best time coming into the Olympics was 12.38. She ran an Olympic-record 12.26 in the semifinals that ranks fourth on the all-time list.

Some of this improvement can be credited to coach John Coghlan, who started working with Camacho-Quinn last December, studied the film and saw her potential.

“I was like, ‘If she can fix X, Y and Z, she can run really fast,'” Coghlan said.

Now, she is an Olympic champion.

Jasmine Camacho-Quinn of Puerto Rico, left, celebrates after winning the women’s 100 meter hurdles final over Kendra Harrison of the U.S. at the Olympic Stadium on day ten of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games on August 1, 2021 Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Harrison has silver, and still holds the world record of 12.2.

The buildup to that mark set in 2016 played out awkwardly.

In what is generally considered the most stacked event on the toughest team to make, Harrison finished sixth at Olympic trials and was denied the trip to Rio. A few weeks later, she traveled to London and set the world record, then returned home to watch the Americans sweep the podium.

Given that, Harrison said the silver felt like a win.

“To miss out in Rio and then come to my first Olympics and get a silver medal – of course, everyone wants the gold, but I got myself back out here on this world stage and I’m getting better and better,” she said.

None of the Americans from the 2016 sweep – Brianna Rollins-McNeal, Nia Ali or Kristi Castlin – was in Tokyo, but this still felt like an event for the U.S. to finally break its string of no gold medals on the track in Japan.

The Americans had won three of the last four women’s 100-meter hurdles at the Games, including the 2008 shocker by Dawn Harper after the buildup had been pointed toward Lolo Jones.

That spoke to the depth of American hurdles.

Turns out, Puerto Rico is tapping into that talent, as well.

Camacho-Quinn, whose brother, Robert, plays in the NFL, said her college coaches told her to head to the U.S. Olympic trials back in 2016 – not so much to win a spot on the team, but just to see what it was like to compete against professionals.

Then she learned she could qualify to run for Puerto Rico, the island territory with which she has deep roots because of her mom’s side of the family.

“I didn’t understand track like that,” she said. “I just went out there and ran.”

All the way to the Puerto Rican team. And so, a star was born.

She was running in Rio in 2016 when she clipped the ninth hurdle in the semifinal to send her sprawling to the deck. She tries not to think about that.

“Somebody’s always, ‘Oh, I’m sorry for what happened,'” she said. “I’m like, ‘I need y’all to let that go.'”

She moved on, and now it looks as though the U.S. team needs to do some recalibrating, as well. Though there is plenty of time left – only 10 of the 48 events were complete after Monday morning’s session – a team that opens every Olympics with grand hopes has no gold medals.