LONDON, England — Jamaica's medal count could improve today with athletes taking part in three finals on today's sixth day of track and field competition at the XXX Olympiad at Olympic Stadium at Stratford in east London.
Despite gloomy skies and cold temperatures, the action should heat up somewhat in the 80,000-seater stadium as the semi-finals of the men's 200m featuring the world's two fastest men in Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake set to compete.
Two-time defending champion Veronica Campbell Brown and repeat 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce will contest the women's 200m as Caribbean athletes seek to continue their dominance in the sprints; Kaliese Spencer will seek to be the third Jamaican woman to win a medal in the 400m hurdles behind Deon Hemmings and Melaine Walker, while one or both men in the 110m hurdles semis today will hope to advance to tonight's final and vie for a medal.
Yesterday, Shermaine Williams, Jamaica's only representative in the women's 100m hurdles semi-finals failed to advance to last night's final by the slimmest of margins after being given third place in the first heat with 12.83 seconds, the same time as Austria's Beate Schrott who was declared second and an automatic qualifier for the final — both behind the USA's Dawn Harper, the Beijing Olympics winner who ran a personal best 12.46 seconds.
While waiting for the other two semi-finals to be completed, Williams whose personal best is 12.79 seconds, was not optimistic and said her only error in the race was "I lost ground on the second hurdle," saying she spent too much time in the air.
Meanwhile, Kenia Sinclair will start her campaign for back-to-back 800m finals this morning when she runs in the first round starting at 11:35 UK time (5:35 Jamaica time).
Despite several ailments, Sinclair who was sixth in Beijing, told the Jamaica Observer on Monday she was ready to give it her best shot.
She is drawn in the third qualifying heat, and based on times run by the other athletes, should be able to advance.
Spencer will be hoping to go at least one place better than the fourth place finish she had in the last two IAAF World Championships in Berlin, Germany and Deagu, South Korea. After running her season's best 54.02 seconds in the first round here, she indicated she was ready for the final.
Two days ago after the semi-final, she declared having a good chance of winning a medal in her first Olympics. "I just go out and run from start to finish, because I can't pick up in the race... but I think I stand a good chance as I have been working hard all season."
She said the fact that she will be the only Jamaican in the race after defending champion Melaine Walker and Nickesha Wilson were eliminated in the previous round would not add any pressure to perform.
In yesterday's morning session, World University Games gold medallist, Hansle Parchment and Beijing Olympic Games finalist Richard Phillips, qualified for this afternoon's semi-finals with good performances in the first round heats.
NCAA champion Andrew Riley finished a disappointing fifth in his race in 13.59 seconds after hitting the third hurdle, disrupting his momentum. After almost coming to a full stop, he continued racing nevertheless.
The semi-finals are set for 7:15 pm (1:15 pm) with the final set to be run two hours later.
Parchment, whose personal best 13.18 seconds achieved at the June National Trials, the third fastest ever by a Jamaican, will contest the third semi-finals and is drawn in lane four and will face World Record holder Dayron Robles of Cuba and American Jeff Porter, who has run 13.08 seconds already this season.
Parchment, who attends the University of the West Indies, Mona, said he was confident of making it to the podium, surpassing Jamaica's best-ever finish in the event, fourth-place by Maurice Wignall in 2004 in Athens, Greece.
"I think I have done enough work in training and I feel like I can get there... to the finals and God's willing a medal," he said.
Phillips, who was seventh four years ago in Beijing, admitted to be "watching other people" yesterday, but said "it won't be like that in the semis".
His race plan was simple. "Run like I never run before... go 100 per cent all out," he noted.
Yesterday's time, he said, was not fast, but "funny enough I am pleased". "This is the fastest I have run in a morning round, the morning round is always tricky," Phillips said, pointing to several mishaps including crashes by China's hurdling superstar Liu Xiang in a race where four starters failed to finish.