LONDON – Tori Bowie was the Queen of the Lean and Team USA did it again.
Bowie expertly leaned at the line to become the surprise winner of the women’s 100-meter on Sunday night -- almost exactly 24 hours after Justin Gatlin won the men’s title.
Okay, Bowie wasn’t surprised.
“I bet I’m probably the only person in the world that believed I’d come out here and win the 100 meters tonight,” Bowie said.
While Gatlin dethroned Usain Bolt of Jamaica, Bowie was the first of four women to finish ahead of favorite Elaine Thompson of Jamaica. Like Bolt, Thompson is the defending Olympic champion.
Bowie, who won the silver medal behind Thompson at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, was in sixth place when she surged to the front, crossing the finish line in a season-best time of 10.85 seconds. She edged Marie-Josee Ta Lou of Ivory Coast, who had appeared to be heading for the gold medal, and wound up second in 10.86, a personal best.
“I didn’t think I had it,” Ta Lou said. “I didn’t see around me. When I crossed, some people say, ‘You get it, you get it!’ “When I saw the (video), I said, ‘Agh! Just a little bit changed, but it’s OK. I have a medal.”
Bowie, a former long jumper, couldn’t have done it without her lean at the line. After a few strides, she tumbled to the track. Murielle Ahoure of the Ivory Coast had to hurdle her, and Bowie appeared to scrape her leg, tearing her lane number.
“I was trying to do just a modest lean like I’ve done the previous championships,” Bowie said. “And for some reason I lost control of my body tonight. I didn’t expect that to happen.”
So how often does Bowie practice this winning lean?
“Never,” she said. “I don’t work on leaning at all. It just happened naturally. I’m telling you, it just comes from instinct and just comes from just wanting it so bad. That’s the only thing I had left. I mean, I ran my heart out.”
Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands won the bronze (10.96), followed by Ahoure in 10.98 and Thompson, who also clocked 10.98. Taking it down to thousandths of a second, Thompson was .002 behind Ahoure.
Bowie, who won the bronze medal at the 2015 world championships in Beijing, became the first Team USA athlete to win the women’s 100 since Carmelita Jeter in 2011.
“I didn’t really start believing until Beijing when I was the bronze medalist,” said Bowie, who will celebrate her 27th birthday on August 27. “I just had high hopes that I could just continue to improve from that bronze medal. I went to Rio last year and I became a silver medalist and I was hoping that I could come here this year and become the gold medalist. It’s been a slow progression and I’m very thankful for it.”
This is the first time Team USA has won both the men’s and women’s 100-meter titles since 2005, when Gatlin and Lauryn Williams topped the podium.
Thompson was trying to follow countrywoman Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce to the top of the podium. Fraser-Pryce prevailed in 2013 and 2015 and Thompson was the world leader at 10.71 seconds.
Bowie came in ranked seventh at 10.90 seconds.
After Bowie sprawled on the track, rubbing her leg, she didn’t know she’d won at London Stadium before a crowd of about 55,000.
“I had no idea,” she said. “I was happy with the finish because I felt like I was in top three. I didn’t know what place I was in. But I was like, ‘OK, I think I’m a medalist,’ but I didn’t exactly know what place. But when I saw it pop up on the board and it was all confirmed, I’m like, ‘Ohmygod, I can’t really believe this just happened.’”
At the starting line, Bowie had a big smile as she wore her red, white and blue headband. Earlier, teammates Deajah Stevens and Ariana Washington were eliminated in the semifinals, leaving Bowie the only U.S. representative in the final.
Thompson was to Bowie’s right. While Bowie had one of the worst reaction times out of the blocks (0.182), Thompson’s was even slower at 0.200.
“I’ll have to watch the video because I don’t know what went wrong,” Thompson said, adding that she gave the women who finished ahead of her “a lot of credit, so a big congratulations to them. I didn’t execute my race, which is a shame, but I’m healthy.”
Bowie, the reigning national champion from tiny Sand Hill, Mississippi, said that while she’s still working on the beginning of her race, the last 20 meters “is the best part.”
Although the few meters after the race left her with “a few bruises,” Bowie said, “I’m pretty sure I’ll feel much better tomorrow.”
That’s when she’ll have to make some decisions about the rest of the week in London.
After Bowie finished first in the 100 at the USATF Outdoor Championships in June and was third in the 200, she said she did not want to double at worlds.
She’d already been there, done that in Rio, where she won gold in the 4x100-meter, silver in the 100 and bronze in the 200 to leave with a complete set of medals.
But she came to London entered in both events and her best chance for gold looked like it was in the 200.
Bowie is the world leader in the 200 at 21.77 seconds, which is .14 ahead of anyone else in the field. Thompson, the reigning Olympic champion, is not entered in the race.
After the 100, Bowie said, “I learned to always follow your heart. I think the rest of the world was telling me, ‘Ohmygod, why are you choosing the 100 over the 200?’ I’m like, ‘This is how I’m feeling. This is the event that I want to be the world champion in,’ and it happened tonight.
“Honestly, I’m still not looking forward to the double,” she added. “My team and I still haven’t made a decision [about running the 200]. I still have tomorrow to make a decision. I’m running the relay for sure. I went to relay camp and I’m very confident we’re prepared to run.”
Asked if she wanted to dedicate the 100-meter victory to her grandmother, Bobbie Smith, who passed away earlier this year, Bowie sighed. Her grandmother raised her and her sister after a tough custody battle.
“I’m pretty sure she’s watching me,” Bowie said. “I’m pretty sure she’s grinning from ear to ear right now.”