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‘Jamaica Doesn’t Replace Its Sprinters; It Reloads Them’

Yohan Blake became only the 2nd Jamaican to run below 19.8 secs in the 200m, joining Usain Bolt and pushing the legendary Donald Quarrie down to 3rd with the 19.86 mark he set more that two decades ago. He is also now third on the Caribbean list, behind Bolt and Trinidad & Tobago’s Ato Boldon (19.77). And Jermaine Gonzales, after years of battling injury, erased the Jamaican 400m record with a fine run of 44.40 secs. These were the two big headlines last week.

The 20-year-old-Blake’s remarkable run came in the 2010 IAAF Diamond League track and field meet held in Monaco on July 22.

Three points made this race so amazing: Blake was literally left in the blocks in the set position at the sound of the starter’s gun; he was running in his first 200m event of the season; and he ran out of Lane 8.
With such a horrible start, the young Blake had to play catch up, and that he did and more in the last 100 meters of the race. First, he blew past the likes of America’s perennial 200m runners Wallace Spearmon, the US 2010 200m champion and a former World Championships silver medalist over that distance, and Sean Crawford, a former Olympic 200 meter gold medalist, and closed in on Tyson Gay, who was leading the race by a huge margin. Gay almost got a taste of his own medicine when he just managed to clip Blake by the narrow margin of 600th of a second at the finish line.

The result: Gay 19:72 secs; Blake 19:78 secs, a season and personal best.

Blake’s run definitely has Gay wondering where these Jamaican sprinters are coming from. It was during one of these 2010 IAAF Diamond League meets that one commentator remarked that “Jamaica does not replace sprinters; it reloads them”. With Bolt absent from the 200m, things won’t necessarily be easy for him; now it seems he has to worry about Yohan Blake, another Jamaican.

Blake is down to run one more 200m, two 100m and a sprint relay during the remainder of the season.

Gonzales Serves Notice

In the two previous IAAF Diamond League meets, specifically one in Paris a few weeks ago, Jamaican quarter-miler Jermaine Gonzales, served notice to the track world that Jamaica is about to regain its place among the top 400m runners of the world, by running a personal best at each meet. In Paris, Gonzales looked quite impressive when he took on the American Jeremy Wariner, this season’s No.1 400m runner, and chased him down to finish a close 2nd.

Gonzales Spencer The last time Jamaica truly sat at this table among the best was in the 1990s to the early 2000s, when there were the likes of Roxbert Martin, the former Jamaican record holder, Gregory Haughton, Danny McFarlane, and Davian Clark among others.
Wariner pulled out of the July 22 meet, reportedly to return home to work on his race in the hope of finishing the season on a strong note. One has to wonder if Gonzales’s closing in on him has anything to do with that decision.

In Monaco, Gonzales entered the 400m as the favorite and he did not disappoint the fans. The tall, braided athlete set a new Jamaican record and earned himself a season and personal best with 44.40 secs. This performance erased the previous mark set by Martin in 1997.

Gonzales, however, largely owes his victory to Jamaica’s former national champ Ricardo Chambers (44:54), another Jamaican in the race who set a blistering pace that subsequently forced the competitive Gonzales to respond.

The Jamaican women also tasted glory. Twenty-three-year-old Kaliese Spencer, who hails from western rural Jamaica, did her parishioners and all Jamaicans proud, by winning her 2nd 400m hurdles at these 2010 IAAF Diamond League meets in 53.63.

And after what has been described one of the worst starts and executions of her track career, Veronica Campbell-Brown showed her true class and again served notice that she will be a contender in the 100m by out-running a quality field in the dash to place 2nd in 10:98 to America’s powerhouse Carmelita Jeter, 10:82, behind whom Campbell-Brown left the blocks.


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