You’ll probably never find Jennifer Randall at Hayward Field. Or at an Olympic stadium. Or sitting track-side anywhere her daughter, sprinter Gabby Thomas, is competing for something of consequence.
“I always watch Gabby in big competitions alone and in silence,” Randall says. “My preference is that no one else be anywhere near me. And if you must be there, you must not engage in conversation. My preference is that you just hold your breath.”
Thankfully most of Thomas’s races are over in 22 seconds or less. But between the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials and the Tokyo Games (where spectators were barred because of the pandemic), Randall has understandably spent a lot of time alone this year. When her daughter placed third in the 200 meters on August 3 at her first Olympics, Randall watched the livestream at 8:50 a.m. from home in Amherst, Massachusetts, even as parties were thrown by friends, neighbors, and family members nearby.
It was clear to the naked eye that Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson-Herah had won and Namibia’s Christine Mboma had stormed into second…but third place? It could’ve been Thomas. Or it could’ve been Shelly-Ann Fraser-Price.
Whatever the case, it was probably good that nobody else was around to witness the finish from Randall’s couch. “I swear to God, they immediately switched to the pole vault. The pole vault. What the hell?! I’m screaming at the screen because I have no idea if she medaled,” Randall says. “No one needed to be in the room to hear the onslaught of expletives that were coming out of my mouth.”