By: Tony Best
It was another excellent Olympics for Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean.
The outstanding results of the track and field competition certainly gave the region something to cheer about.
Led by two Jamaican track and field superstar, Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest human and Shelley –Ann Fraser Pryce, the fastest woman alive who were ably complemented by Kirani James, Grenada’s gold medal winner in the men’s 400 meters, Luguelin Santos, a silver medalist from the Dominican Republic and Lalonde Gordon of Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean showed it’s the real deal, a part of the world that’s small but has emerged as a giant among the mightiest in sport.
But it was Jamaica’s Bolt, Fraser-Pryce, Yohan Blake and their team members who captivated the 80,000 spectators in the London stadium, the thousands of competitors from around the world, and the hundreds of millions across the globe who watched the races on television. The Jamaicans did it with their unbelievable performances, showing people everywhere that the victories in the 2008 Beijing Olympics weren’t flash-in-the-pan triumphs. Instead, they were the result of dedication, hard-work and well-honed talent that have combined to thrust Jamaica into a global spotlight as something akin to a production line of the best in international athletic achievement.
In the process, Bolt with his back-to-back victories in the 100 meters in two different Olympic Games has become a true-blue international legend, earning the right to be considered the world’s greatest sprinter of all time. After all, no runner before or after the American Carl Lewis in the 1984 and 1988 Games had captured the glamor event of any games: the 100 meters. It set him apart from almost every sprinter who competed at that level. And when you consider that Lewis’s victory in 2008 was awarded in the Olympics boardroom after Ben Johnson, a Jamaican who ran for Canada was stripped of the title when he was caught taking performance enhancing drugs, Bolt stands alone.
That fact was recognized by Blake, the man who defeated Bolt in the Jamaican trials this year, when he gleefully acknowledged Bolt's superiority: “he’s the fastest in the world and I’ve got a silver medal. What more can I ask for. To be the second fastest man in the world behind bolt is an honor.”
What’s particularly amazing is that more honors are to come in the next few days as the track and field competitions continue, giving Jamaica a realistic chance to more than double its current collection of four medals –two gold, silver and a bronze – by the time the Olympic flame is extinguished in London.
Little wonder that Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Portia Simpson-Miller said with considerable pride that her country had done exceptionally well.
“This performance of our men and women demonstrates once again that Jamaica is more than a name, more than a brand: It is the pride (of) a people,” was the way she put it.
But while Bolt may have stolen the show with his signature pose after a victory his compatriot Fraser-Pryce captured the hearts millions around the world with her prowess on the track and her grace, not to mention her charming smile. Considering that like Bolt she is well placed to win more medals, it’s clear she has earned her own exciting niche in international competition by joining a list of only three women –Wynomia Tyus in 1964 and 1968 and Gail Devers in 1992 and 1996 to repeat as Olympic 100 meter champions.
If Jamaica is justifiably encased in a state of euphoria with more to come, Grenada has earned its place in the sun and on top of the medal stand with a gold medal in the 400 meters. It was a remarkable occasion for the Eastern Caribbean nation which had never won an Olympic medal before. James, now being dubbed “King James” of Grenada romped home to a smashing victory ahead of Luguelin Santos, a 19 year old Olympic rookie from the Dominican Republic who came in second and Gordon of Trinidad and who captured the bronze.
The 19 year old gold medalist from the small Grenadian community of Gun Battle in the coastal community of Gouyave, showed the world that success can come from anywhere, even one of the smallest countries in the Western Hemisphere whose nutmegs already dominate the international market in spices.
James, once a star on the University of Alabama’s track team, is the reigning World champion over 400 meters, considered the world’s toughest race. When he won that title in South Korea, Grenada’s Police Commissioner James Clarkson let it be known that as far as he was concerned the victory was the “most important event that ever happened to our country, even more important than Christopher Columbus’ landing.” It may have been a little bit extravagant but not many Grenadians would disagree now that James has added Olympic gold to his collection.
They have all done their respective countries proud. In return the entire Caribbean region shares the joy of the Jamaicans, Grenadians, Dominicans and Trinidadians whose victories place them on Cloud Nine. Having reached the pinnacle of athletic competition, the island-nations and coastal states can view their success as evidence that size isn’t a barrier to excellence.