COMMONWEALTH CONQUEST
Jamaica's athletes boost Independence celebrations
Sunshine Girls chase more history in Birmingham

BIRMINGHAM, England — Jamaica's Sunshine Girls will today contest their first final at this level after a crushing win over New Zealand in the semi-finals was one of several highlights in Birmingham, as the Jamaican athletes celebrated the island's Independence anniversary by adding another six medals to their tally at the Commonwealth Games.

Elaine Thompson-Herah shared the headlines after her history-making win in the 200m, which ensured she added her name to the exclusive list of Commonwealth Games sprint-double champions and in the process became the first Jamaican since Merlene Ottey, in 1990, to achieve the feat.

There was also double medal hauls in the women's high jump and 400m hurdles finals while Jaheel also secured a silver in the men's 400m hurdles to round off a strong day for Jamaica on the anniversary of the country's 60th Independence.

Thompson-Herah followed up on Monday's 100m gold-medal run with a Games record 22.02-seconds clocking, as she led from the starting block to the finish line to match last year's Olympic sprint double and get some ease for her disappointments at last World Championships last month.

"I wanted to dip below 22 seconds but I still managed to get the Games record. It's been a good season, I've had a good championship here in Birmingham. Even though the 200m at the World Championship wasn't the execution that I wanted, my mindset changed from that and I told myself I needed to get this record and I did that," Thompson-Herah told the Jamaica Observer.

"My confidence is always high [irrespective] of the outcome. I can't dwell on that [disappointment]… I have to just focus on the future," Thompson-Herah added.

The festivities started yesterday morning at the NEC court long before Thompson-Herah took the track, when the fourth-ranked Sunshine Girls dismissed world number two New Zealand 67-51 to book a date with Australia in the gold-medal match today at 8:30 pm (2:30 pm Jamaica time).

Jhaniele Fowler helped herself to 54 goals from 54 attempts as the Jamaicans get ready to face the Diamonds, three days after securing their first win over the top-ranked team.

"A changing of the guard? I think so. It only takes the grit and determination of nations like England and Jamaica to really be the spoiler because it's about time. We have been toiling the soil for a very long time so it's about time we reap the success," said Head Coach Connie Francis.

In the women's high jump final, Lamara Distin confirmed her form throughout the season, clearing 1.95m to claim gold ahead of Eleanor Patterson (Australia), 1.92m, and fellow Jamaican Kimberly Williamson, 1.92m

Distin, who attempted her own national record of 1.97m, was thrilled with her output considering her lengthy season.

"It's really been a long season. I never expected myself to even be at the Commonwealth Games knowing that it was really a long season … so I just feel like it's a great start to something and it's really a great feeling to come out here and just win the gold medal," said Distin, who was featuring in her first senior international final.

Janieve Russell clocked 54.14 seconds to successfully defended her 400m hurdles title with Shiann Salmon, 54.47, taking the silver medal ahead of South Africa's Zeney van der Walt, 54.47, who edged another Jamaican, Rushell Clayton, 54.67, to the final medal spot.

There was also agony for Natoya Goule, 1:57.88, in the women's 800m final after she was beaten to the bronze medal by Scotland's Laura Muir, 1:57.87, who survived a Jamaican protest contesting the interpretation of the photo-finish reading.

The gold was won by Kenya's Mary Moraa, 1:57.07, who finished ahead of Keely Hoghkinson (England), 1:57.40.

Meanwhile, Jaheel Hyde, 49.78, secured an improvement in the previous Commonwealth Games medal when he won silver in the men's 400m hurdles behind British Virgin Islands' Kyron McMaster, 48.93, with Alastair Chalmers, 49.97 claiming the bronze.

The Jamaican team of Kemba Nelson, Natalliah Whyte, Remona Burchell and Roneisha McGregor safely navigated the women's 4x100m heat, winning in 43.66 to secure their lane in today's final which should see Thompson-Herah's addition to the team.

In diving, Yona Knight-Wisdom, 445.50 points, could only manage a sixth-place finish in the 3m springboard event with the England trio of Daniel Goodfellow, 484.45, Jordan Houlden, 465.15, and Jack Laugher, 462.30, sweeping the medals.

In badminton, Samuel Ricketts lost 2-0 (22-20, 21-10) in his men's singles quarter-final to Singapore's Jia Heng Teh, while Tahlia Richardson and Katherine Wynter also fell 2-0 (21-8, 21-6) in their women's doubles quarter-final against Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Pullela from India.

Jamaican high jump gold medallist Lamara Distin (left) and teammate bronze medallist Kimberly Williamson celebrate during the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, on Saturday. (Photo: Naphtali Junior)
Elaine Thompson-Herah poses beside the clock after running a Commonwealth Games record 22.02s in the women's 200m final in Birmingham, England, on Saturday. (Photo: Naphtali Junior)
Jaheel Hyde of Jamaica competes in the men's 400m hurdles final during the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham on Saturday. (Photo: Naphtali Junior)
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BY ANDRE LOWE Sports content manager lowea@jamaicaobserver.com

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