Bolt, Blake try to add to Jamaica’s gold
Published 9:31 am Monday, August 6, 2012
LONDON — There’s been a whole lot of hype at the 2012 Summer Games about Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and the men’s 100-meter final Sunday night. Yet Jamaica didn’t need to wait for those two guys to resume the island nation’s Olympic supremacy in sprint events.
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce took care of that.
Running with a golden ribbon tying back her hair, and a golden chain jangling around her neck, Fraser-Pryce earned a medal of that hue, too, winning a second consecutive Olympic title in the women’s 100 by outleaning Carmelita Jeter of the U.S. to finish in 10.75 seconds Saturday night.
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“Back in 2008, Usain Bolt was the first to get a gold medal,” Fraser-Pryce said, “and now a woman is in charge.”
And she had company: Veronica Campbell-Brown gave Jamaica the bronze.
With a population of 3 million — about 1 percent of the people who live in the United States — Jamaica now has six of the last seven gold medals awarded in the men’s and women’s Olympic sprints, including relays. Three of those belong to Bolt, who swept the 100, 200 and 4×100 in Beijing, each in world-record time.
Given Bolt’s success and fame, Fraser-Pryce is overshadowed back home. Even if she was good enough to become the first woman since American Gail Devers in 1992 and 1996 to win two Olympic 100s in a row.
“Sometimes I go to the supermarket, and they ask me questions about Usain,” Fraser-Pryce said. “They’re like, ’Where is Usain? Do you train with Usain?”’
Still, anyone familiar with the sport’s history in Jamaica knows what a significant role women such as Merlene Ottey and Campbell-Brown — who own a combined 15 Olympic medals — have played in making running the national pastime.
“Jamaicans — I wouldn’t call them ’greedy’ — but they expect a lot from us,” Fraser-Pryce said.
Everyone expects a lot from the men’s dash, the marquee race in track and field.
In addition to being the reigning Olympic champion, Bolt owns the world record of 9.58 seconds.
Blake is the world champion, and he also beat Bolt in the 100 and 200 at the Jamaican Olympic trials.
Then there’s the third Jamaican in the men’s 100 field, Asafa Powell, who held the world record from 2005 until 2008, when Bolt bettered it.
“Who will win tomorrow? I don’t know,” Fraser-Pryce said. “I hope they go 1-2-3.”
A couple of Americans — Tyson Gay, a past world champion, and Justin Gatlin, a past Olympic champion — might have something to say about that.
Then again, even they know Bolt is the man to beat.
“He’s the equivalent of the guy walking on the moon for the first time. He’s done something that no one has ever done before. You have to line up in the blocks, shoulder-to-shoulder, with this guy? You’re going to be in awe sometimes,” Gatlin said. “I think a lot of runners almost have that audience mentality: See what he’s going to do, even while you’re running. You’ve got to block that out, go out there and compete against that guy.”
Easier said than done.
Before Gatlin and others line up for the start, Sunday’s track and field schedule includes the women’s marathon in the morning. At night, in addition to the semifinals and final of the men’s 100, Sanya Richards-Ross will compete in the women’s 400 final, and medals will be awarded in the women’s triple jump, men’s hammer throw and the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase.
Jamaica’s women went 1-2-3 in the 100 at Beijing, but a chance at a three-medal sweep this time vanished when Kerron Stewart couldn’t make it out of the semifinals.
Given what Fraser-Pryce and Campbell-Brown did in the final, there was sure to be a little extra celebrating going on in Jamaica. They’re already in a partying mood there, because the 50th anniversary of the country’s independence from Britain is Monday.
On Aug. 5, 1962, the Union Jack was lowered for the final time at National Stadium in Kingston. Talk about perfect bookends: The Jamaican flag will be raised in Olympic Stadium on Sunday for Fraser-Pryce’s medal ceremony. Might happen again Monday, if Bolt, Blake or Powell comes through.
“The excitement has already started,” Fraser-Pryce said. “For me, what’s really kind of exciting is, we got our independence from England and now we’re here in England and we get our first medal. For me, that kind of tops it off.”