By Jonathan Gault
June 17, 2019
BOSTON — Tori Bowie looked like a woman running her first 100-meter race in over a year on Sunday. Which makes sense considering, well, Tori Bowie was running her first 100-meter race in over a year.
Plenty has changed — both for Bowie, and the women’s 100 meters in general — in the 386 days since she tore her quad at last year’s Prefontaine Classic, sidelining the reigning world champion at 100 meters for the remainder of the 2018 season. So yesterday, when Bowie made her return to the track with an 11.22 third-place clocking at the adidas Boost Boston Games street meet, there was rust, there was a shaky start, but above all, there was relief.
“It feels so good for it to be over,” Bowie said. “It feels so good to get my first race out of the way. I felt all the stiffness in my legs and my body. It just feels good to get it out the way.”
Bowie dug herself into an early hole before the gun even went off; her right foot slipped in her blocks (a steady drizzle was present throughout the meet), and she didn’t have time to reposition it before the race started. The result was a poor push off from the blocks and a “terrible” start — well, that was the word that announcer Geoff Wightman, unafraid to mince words, used multiple times in describing the race over the PA system.
The Bowie of two years ago may have been able to overcome an early deficit, but this version isn’t quite there yet. 2019 Bowie is, as she herself posted on Instagram three weeks ago, a work in progress.
“I don’t want to make excuses,” Bowie said. “Because I’ve had terrible starts several times before…[I] still managed to finish the race, so I’m excited about that.”
If she is to successfully defend her world title in Doha in September, returning to the form of two years ago may not be enough, because two weeks ago, the women’s 100 meters went mad.
It began in Rome on June 6, when 2016 Olympic champion Elaine Thompson, who entered the last Worlds as the red-hot favorite only to finish an inexplicable 5th, broke 10.9 for the first time since 2017, going 10.89. The next day, 2008 and 2012 Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce did her one better, running 10.88 in Kingston — her first sub-10.9 since 2016. Both of them, however, were blown out of the water by 19-year-old Sha’Carri Richardson of LSU, who stormed to 10.75 at NCAAs to move into the all-time world top 10, all while celebrating over the final strides. In 2017, 10.85 won Bowie the gold in London; in 2019, that time may not even make the podium.
Bowie’s story is hardly your typical comeback from injury, however. In April, Bowie long jumped 6.78 meters in the thin air of Provo, Utah, a distance that ranks her 8th in the world this year. She said that meet wasn’t just for fun — the 2011 NCAA long jump champion at Southern Miss is planning on entering the event at USAs and, should she make the US team, Worlds.
Bowie has some long jump experience at the pro level. That’s the event in which she qualified for her first World Championships, finishing second at USA Indoors in 2014. Then two things happened, one after another. Bowie finished last in qualification in the long jump at 2014 World Indoors in Sopot, Poland. And, that summer, her sprint career took off, as she dropped her sprint PRs from 11.14/23.99 to 10.80/22.18. That 6.78 in Provo came in her first long jump competition in almost five years. Why return now?
“I felt like I walked away from long jump with a bad taste in my mouth,” Bowie said. “I finished [in] last place and I gave up immediately.”
Bowie is training for the long jump in San Diego under Craig Poole, her third coach in a year. At this meet last year, Bowie was training under Lance Brauman as part of the PURE Athletics group in Clermont, Fla. Then she began working with Al Joyner in California last summer, before eventually switching to Poole.
Bowie said today that the decision to leave Brauman was so that she could better rehab her injury.
“I left there after my injury,” Bowie said. “It wasn’t like, for training purpose or anything like that. It was after my injury and I felt like, since that group is so huge, I felt like I just needed more quality time to get back healthy.”
But there’s more to the story. In January, FloTrack reported that Bowie said she had been involved in an altercation with 2016 Olympic 400-meter champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo, another member of the PURE group, in February 2018, which resulted in Bowie bleeding from the head. Then, after switching to Joyner’s group in California, Bowie was told she had to exit the Elite Athlete Training Center in Chula Vista over an unpaid $6,000 bill — a bill Bowie said she was unaware she owed. Today, Bowie said that the latter issue “was never resolved” but that she has “moved past it.”
The Flotrack article also stated that, in the wake of the incidents with Miller-Uibo and the Elite Athlete Training Center, Bowie was in the process of seeking new management to replace her agent Kimberly Holland.
Holland, however, was with Bowie in Boston today. When I asked Bowie today about what caused altercation with Miller-Uibo, Bowie said, “I’m not really sure,” before beginning to laugh as Holland interjected to say that the issue was in the past.
Miller-Uibo declined to comment when asked about it on Friday. Exactly what led to the fight between the Olympic 400 champion and the World 100 champion remains unclear — for now. Holland said that the FloTrack article was not entirely accurate, and that they would eventually set the record straight — though she preferred that Bowie do so in a more formal interview, as opposed to the mixed zone at a track meet (where I spoke with Bowie yesterday).
“It’s a long story there,” Bowie said. “I’ll speak about it one day.”
Post-race interview with Bowie