More mixed fortunes for Caribbean athletes
By Clare Forrester, Trackside report
Caribbean teams had another night of mixed fortunes at these London Olympics, that is in terms of the lofty standards in track and field athletics that some of our countries have set for themselves.
Jamaica won two medals Wednesday night, bringing their count to six.
Leading the way was Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce who achieved the silver when she finished second (22.09 seconds) behind the US favourite Allison Felix, who clocked 21.88 and Carmelita Jeter in 22.14.
Former defending champion Veronica Campbell-Brown (known as VCB) finished fourth in 22.38 slightly ahead of American Sanya Richards-Ross in 22.39.
This was the first time that Felix has won a gold medal in an individual Olympic event although she competed in Athens in 2004 and again in Beijing in 2008.
In both those games, she was relegated to the first runner-up position beaten by VCB on both occasions.
“To twice lose to the same person, it’s been tough,” Felix said, referring to Campbell-Brown.
“But it’s all paying off.”
These results mean that VCB has failed in her bid to become the first woman to win a track event for three Olympics in succession.
However, she has not been showing any good form so far this season, especially in the 200 metres.
In fact, she has yet to achieve a decent victory over 200 metres this season and ran an unusually slow race.
Although a member of the elite group of sub 22 sprinters, the best time she has achieved so far this season was 22.32 in the semis.
Hence, many real track and field fans did not favour her to win the race.
The popular favourite was Felix, although many Jamaicans had hoped that the vastly improved Fraser-Pryce would be able to thwart the American’s hopes of winning her first individual gold medal.
However, Fraser-Pryce, although brimming with confidence, is still new to 200 metres sprinting even if she did enough to win the silver ahead of both Campbell-Brown and Carmelita Jeter.
Fraser-Pryce said that she was very pleased with her silver medal achievement, for which she had worked very hard.
Trinidad & Tobago’s Semoy Hackett finished seventh in 22.87.
The medal which came as a pleasant surprise to many fans in Jamaica and elsewhere was the bronze won by Hansie Parchment in a new national record of 13.12.
Parchment finished behind the two leading US hurdlers Aries Merritt who clocked 12.92, a personal best, and Jason Richardson with 13.04.
Merritt is the first hurdler for the United States to win the event since Allen Johnson in 1996.
Among those who trailed the medal winners was Barbados’ Ryan Brathwaite, the 2009 World Champion.
He finished fifth in a time of 13.40.
Later in the mix zone Brathwaite explained to journalists that he was still getting over an injury which deprived him of more serious competition so his failure to medal was not a total surprise for him.
He said he was, however, committed to working his way back to the top of the event in the year ahead.
I spoke to some of the Barbadian fans after the race who were, understandably, disappointed.
Some were disappointed not only because he finished the race outside of the medals, but that “even Parchment could manage the bronze.”
Those fans appear not to have taken note of the fact that Parchment had been showing tremendous form all season and was lowering his personal best almost every time he raced during these Games.
Additionally, Parchment lowered the national record for Jamaica twice during the Olympic competition.
What some of us who spoke to him after the race found to be incredible was that he told us that he did not have a problem with his start in the finals.
He may have been the only one who did not see his start as the weakest part of an otherwise great performance.
This writer’s pre-race favourite for the gold, defending champion and world record-holder Dayron Robles of Cuba pulled up injured midway through the race leaving the field, and gold medal clear as a gift for the taking.
The third finals on Wednesday night, in which Jamaica was again represented, was the women’s 400 metres.
Regrettably, no medal was forthcoming from this event.
When these Olympics started, this had been an event in which most Jamaican fans were confident of adding to the country’s medal count of 11 achieved in Beijing.
Such hopes were dashed when the main medal hope and then defending champion Melaine Walker was eliminated in the semi-final round.
Walker’s teammate Kaliese Spence, although failing to medal, made it through to the finals without any further histrionics.
Her performance should be assessed against the quality of the race.
The winner, Russia's Natalya Antyukh took the title with a personal best time of 52.70, a mere 0.026 seconds outside of the Olympic record, held by Walker.
The US champion and current world champion, Lashinda Demus finished second in a season's best of 52.77 to take silver.
Spencer ran strongly for most of the race but could not withstand the pace.
The bronze medal was claimed by Czech Zuzana Hejnova (53.38), just ahead of Kaliese.
Meanwhile Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake comfortably won their 200 metres semi final heat.
Jamaica’s third-string Warren Weir is also looking good as he moves through the rounds.
The youngster was edged out by Curacao-born Churandy Martina (20.17) but Weir did ease up at the finish line.
At the close of Wednesday’s proceedings, Jamaica had won a total of six medals and it is fair to state that at this stage evidently the country is not going to reap the bonanza that many had predicted prior to the start of these games.
Although Jamaica was the only country in the Caribbean to reap success in terms of medals won on Wednesday night, in general teams, the region maintained its competitive edge.
Of the four track and field finals on Wednesday - the women’s 400 metres hurdles, the women’s 200 metres, and the 110 metres hurdles for men - Caribbean countries were represented in all except one, the high jump.
Cuba has, meanwhile, been quietly notching up a medal tally of seven, up to mid-week.
Cuba has seven medals to date from athletics (women’s pole vault), judo, shooting, weightlifting and wrestling.