Sport

Sweep a culmination of long, rich history in 200m sprint

BY CLARE FORRESTER

Sunday, August 19, 2012    

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When Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Warren Weir crossed the finish line to sweep the 200-metres medal at the London Olympics they were continuing an unbroken Jamaica tradition of medalling in this event at the global level -- the Olympics and the World Championships.

The records show that a Jamaican man and/or woman has won at least one 200 metres medal at every Olympics since 1976 starting with Donald Quarrie's gold medal at the Montreal Olympics right down to Thursday, August 9, in London when Bolt and his two training partners added theirs to the silver won by Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce earlier that same week.

The records also show similar successes in this event in the now bi-annual World Championships which was first held in Helsinki in 1983. Jamaica has had a 200-metre medallist in 10 of 13 World Championships with 24th place and 15th-place finish in the three years we did not medal.

Given that background, the 200 metres race is clearly Jamaica's predominant event and appears set to be for well into the future. This must be a scary thought for other countries like the USA, which also has a strong tradition in sprinting. Indeed, our 200 metres strength shows no sign of diminishing any time soon, even if and when the formidable Usain Bolt retires from the circuit.

While Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce have won gold in the 100 metres, the list of winners in the 200 comprising Donald Quarrie, Bolt and Veronica Campbell Brown may be considered more historic, although kudos must be give to Blake who became the youngest 'century' champion in Daegu.

The 200-metre victories by Quarrie, Bolt and VCB were significant for other reasons. Quarrie's victory at the 1976 Olympics was the first time Jamaica had won a global event as an independent nation and therefore was the first time that our anthem was played at such an event.

Additionally, when VCB won in 2004 in Athens it marked the first time that a Jamaican woman was winning an Olympic gold medal in a flat sprint event (Deon Hemmings had won previously in Atlanta). She recorded another historic marker four years later in Beijing when she became the first Jamaican repeat winner. Then there was Bolt. On route to becoming the most successful athlete ever, Bolt's rewriting of Olympic history included the 200 metres world record he first broke in Beijing. Prior to that achievement the athletics' fraternity had thought Michael Johnson's record was unassailable.

In London, a record 80,000 tweets per minute were sent immediately after Bolt won his gold medal in the 200 metres. The men's 200-metre final has also been the most watched Olympic event in Great Britain, even though no British man made the final, attracting a television audience of 20 million people in that market alone.

It is also of significance that the 200 metres is the only global event in which Merlene Ottey won individual gold medals.

Kudos to Glen Mills whose Racers Track Club has achieved the ultimate success, an Olympic sweep. All three 200-metre medallists come from that UWI-based team.

The phenomenal successes in the 200 metres especially of first time Olympians Warren Weir and Yohan Blake in the Olympics, not only strengthens Jamaica's claims to being a sprint factory but demonstrates to the world the meaning of the adage that 'we little but we tallawa'.

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