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Jamaica Can Clean-Sweep Without Bolt and Fraser-Pryce


Williams-Mills hugs Day (back to camera) and McPherson after their historic feat.

Jamaica, like the USA, seems to have found the formula for sweeping races at major championships even without their stars Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. The island has been able to strike gold and silver in the same race as far back as 1952, when Arthur Wint and Herb McKenley ran one-two in the quarter-mile at the Helsinki Olympics, but there was never a sweep of all the medals until 2008 at the Beijing Olympics when, 21-year-old Shelly-Ann Fraser spearheaded a one-two-two assault with Kerron Stewart and Sherone Simpson in the women’s 100m dash.

So tight was the space between Stewart and Simpson on the line, not even the electronic timer with its ability to split a second down to its one-thousandth part could separate them. Both finished in a dead-heat for the silver medal, thus eliminating the awarding of a third-place bronze medal.

The following year at the Berlin World Championships, Jamaica, failed to repeat what happened in Beijing, but Fraser and Stewart finish first and second, respectively, in the 100m. However, three years later at the London Olympics, it was the men’s turn; Bolt, Yohan Blake and newcomer Warren Weir finished 1-2-3 in the 200m. While gold and silver with Bolt and Blake, respectively, was a more realistic expectation, Weir, who confirmed himself as a force one month prior at the Jamaica Trials, ran with the heart of a lion to close the door to the podium on the rest of the world.

Two years later, it was the 2014 Commonwealth Games track and field, just ended 2 Aug. And although in recent times the event is being regarded by some as irrelevant, it still holds pride of place in the heart of Britain, the colonial mother of the Commonwealth of Nations, and her “children”, as they shine in the absence of heavyweights: USA, China and the European countries which are a force at global championships.

So at the just concluded Commonwealth Games, Jamaica, whose biggest rival in the sprints has been the US, was once again in a clean-sweep mode, when Stephanie McPherson, Novlene Williams-Mills and Christine Day claimed the top three places in the Tuesday, 29 July women’s flat 400m final.

Williams-Mills, a Melbourne, Australia Commonwealth bronze-upgraded-to silver medalist, has been running well all season and seemed set to take the crown in Glasgow. A flashback to the 2007 World Championships in Osaka reminds us of her coming within a hair’s breadth to winning a major title, when in the 400m final she slipped from gold medal position to third place in just one step to the line, all because she held herself upright while Britain’s Christine Ohuguoru and her compatriot Nicola Sanders snatched gold and silver on a dip.

Three hundred meters into this Commonwealth race, Williams-Mills and the defending champion Amantle Montsho of Botswana waged their own battle ahead of the field, while McPherson, a Moscow Worlds finalist, kept them within her sight and striking range. Then somewhere on the homestretch McPherson stepped on the gas, with her training partner Christine Day in pursuit. First, Williams-Mills got by Montsho before McPherson went by Williams-Mills, leaving Montsho and Day in a race for the bronze that ended on the line.

While Williams-Mills may have learned from being out-leaned by Ohuguoru, Montsho again succumbed to a similar blow delivered to her by none other than Ohuguoru at the 2013 Moscow Worlds that left her with silver. The big difference this time is Montsho was shut out of the medals by Day who out-leaned her, allowing Jamaica to create that perfect picture in black, green and gold at the finish line.

Hardly had I finished writing this piece when Jamaica did a London 2012 replay. Rasheed Dwyer, Warren Weir and Jason Livermore claimed gold, silver and bronze, respectively, in the men’s 200m.

Having read Day’s post-race comment that she and her 400m compatriots had planned on going for a sweep of the medals, suggests that the female trio, followed by their male 200m team members, threw caution to the wind as they stepped on to the track and said to themselves: what the heck, let’s go for it!

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