… Jamaica's women strike Olympic sprint relay gold in AthensThursday, August 05, 2021
By Howard Walker
Jamaica's women are hours away from hunting gold in the 4x100 relay and a possible assault on the world record is expected with the island having the three fastest ladies at the Olympic Games.
In Elaine Thompson-Herah, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Shericka Jackson plus the National Junior record holder Briana Williams, Jamaica are heavy favourites to win and rightly so.
But despite the island's outstanding displays at the Olympic Games, Jamaica has only struck gold once and that is 17 years ago at the 2004 Athens Games.
Tayna Lawrence, Sherone Simpson, Aleen Bailey and Veronica Campbell-Brown in that order, destroyed the field in winning in 41.73 second and establishing a then national record.
Bailey, who ran the third leg, was captured in a famous picture nurturing the baton into Campbell-Brown's hand by using her left hand to gently hold Campbell's outstretched arm before safely making the exchange.
It was a masterful display from the quartet and is one of the magical moments of Jamaica's rich history at the Olympic Games.
Bailey, who ran on a number of Jamaica's relay teams, told Observer Online that she did that because she could not let down the country.
“Can't afford fi Jamaica kill me or let my teammates down,” revealed Bailey.
“Her hand was moving and because of how fast we were going, I wanted to make sure I saw her hand close up on the baton and she dragged it from me,” said Bailey.
The rest is history as Campbell-Brown sped off in the distance winning in 41.73 ahead of Russia in second some way back with 42.27. France copped the bronze in 42.54. The Americans messed up their second exchange and were out.
But as Jamaica's current coaches tinker with the running order of this team at the Tokyo Olympics and how to get the best out of the super talented quartet of Thompson-Herah, Fraser-Pryce, Jackson and Williams, Bailey said the 2004 team had a say in who ran where and why.
“We were a part of the decision on who ran which leg. Actually all of us tried each leg and tried baton passes with each other. But Tayna and Sherone just hit it perfectly on their first try,” she explained.
“Veronica and I went to the same school so we were used to each other. But the pass with Tayna and Sherone was hitting, so we switched to the third leg and it was perfect,” she noted.
“But in order for us to win, we had to take ego out of play and focus on what's best for the team and bring home the gold,” Bailey pointed out.
“We didn't focus on anything else but making sure the stick got around safely. We were pretty much attached at the hip from training camp. We did everything together and we didn't allow any outside influence to break that bond,” she revealed.
She was a part of Jamaica's relay pool at the 2008 Olympics, running in the heats along with Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Sheri-Ann Brooks and Veronica Campbell-Brown and won in 42.24 which was the fastest time into the final.
Bailey and Brooks were replaced by tied silver medallists Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart in the final. But Jamaica did not finish the race due to poor baton exchanges.
“My greatest moment would be the 2004 Olympics. We won the first relay gold medal for Jamaica. The unity that the team had and the love for each other. The fact that Merlene Ottey was there, the fact that I got to compete with her at an Olympic Games, so it was just an amazing experience, something I will remember for a very long time,” said Bailey.
Bailey also won 4x100 relay gold at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, following silver in 2005 and bronze in 1999.
The first 4x100 relay for women at the Olympics was competed for in 1928 and was won by Canada. In 21 Games, the USA has won a record 11 times.
Jamaica has won gold in the 4x100 at the Olympics only once and has been second three times in 2000, 2012 and 2016.
Jamaica got its first taste of a medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, a bronze courtesy of Michelle Freeman, Juliet Cuthbert, Nikole Mitchell and Merlene Ottey in a time of 42.24. The reserves Gillian Russell and Andria Lloyd ran in the heats.
The world record is currently held by the United States of America with 40.82, that team comprising Tianna Madison, Allyson Felix, Bianca Knight and Carmelita Jeter.
In that race, Jamaica finished second with Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Sherone Simpson, Veronica Campbell-Brown and Kerron Stewart in a then national record of 41.41.
However, the Jamaican record has since been lowered to 41.29 by the gold medal winning team at the 2013 Moscow World Championship and even further at the 2015 Beijing World Championship to 41.07.
A few hours from now, history beckons for this small but great nation in sprinting and the 4x100m relay could be added to that rich history.
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