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Caribbean athletes take over track and field

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By Leland Stein III

COMMENTARY

LONDON - Throughout the history of the Olympic Games the larger nations like the Soviet Union, China, Germany and the United States have dominated the overall medal count at every Olympics.

The 2012 Games have recently concluded and the medal outcome was more of the same, with the USA and China battling for medal supremacy. Surprisingly jumping into the fray at third was Great Britain and that was a noteworthy story at the Games; however, the story of 2012 was the small archipelago chain Caribbean Islands just off the southeast coast of the United States.

The United States has long been the world dominate player in the sprints and relays and hurdles. However, the 2012 Games saw a measureable change in those events, especially with the men.

Leading the Caribbean charge was the small island of Jamaica. Out front and center for the resort-island and former British colony was one of the world’s most famous athletes, regardless of sport, superstar sprinter Usain Bolt. Led by Bolt’s historic showing the Caribbean Islands topped its record of equal 15 medals and surged to a record 18 in a fitting return to London, where it all started. Sure athletes from all over the world and especially the Caribbean’s have trained in the States’ university system, but Jamaica is unique in that their athletes are home grown. Jamaica's gold medals in London came from completely local-based coached and trained athletes.

I think that a man like Bolt, born in the States would have been a wide receiver and Olympic women’s 100-meter champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce would be playing basketball. Instead, the great athletes in the Caribbean have looked at what has been successful for their peers and have channeled their energies into track and field and the results are obvious.

Bolt, Doubted by many experts to repeat his Beijing conquests because of his relatively unsound build-up, the 25-year-old sprint marvel responded like great champions do. His 9.63 Olympic record run in the 100 meters was only 0.05 seconds off his own world mark and made him the second Olympic athlete to win back-to-back 100-meter titles. Bolt came right back won his second 200-meter title and helped the Jamaican team set another 4x100-meter world record. But the most amazing occurrence was the men producing a sweep in the 200-meters. Just like the Jamaican ladies did in the 100 at the Beijing Games.

The USA sports-wise is always distracted by football, baseball, basketball and hockey and all the other wonderful sports suffer in America. However, internationally the track and field is an apex sport and the phenomenal Bolt has effortlessly transplanted the 2008 Beijing euphoria to London and the world. It was mind-boggling the way Bolt was everyone's hero.

The USA always wins the 4x400- relay, 400- and 400-meter hurdles, but the Caribbean Islanders sweep all of those events.

Inspired by decades of Caribbean prominence at the global level, Grenada 19-year-old 400 runner Kirani James came within tenths of a second of the world record with a sub 44 in the 400 when he landed the one-lap event in 43.94 seconds. His win led a Caribbean sweep of the 400 medals with Dominican Republic's Luquelin Santos and Trinidad and Tobago’s Lalonde Gordon taking silver and bronze, a stinging blow to the Americans, who have traditionally dominated the event but did not even have a finalist in London.

The USA had not lost a men's 400m final at the Olympics since 1976, and they swept (1-2-3) all the men's 400 medals in the two games prior to London — Athens and Beijing. The Bahamas men's 4x400 relay team delivered more agony to the USA in a tremendous result and national record 2:56.72, accentuated by Ramon Miller's thumping of US veteran Angelo Taylor on the final lap. It was the first Olympic defeat for the US in the event since 1972.

The Jamaican team won the 4x100, with Bolt and company setting a world record. To the USA’s credit the men ran a national record and have nothing to be ashamed of: It’s just that the Islanders are better.

Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica won her second consecutive 100 gold medal. But the USA women came on strong and won the 200, 400, 4x100 and 4x400 relay. The Islanders did not stop there as Trinidad and Tobago 19-year-old javelin thrower Keshorn Walcott became the first Black man to win the event. He became the youngest Olympic champion ever in the event.

In the 400 hurdles SANCHEZ Felix Sanchez clocked an astounding 47.63 with Puerto Rico’s Javier Culson finishing second.

The Islanders are trying to extend themselves outside of running as Jamaican swimmer Alia Atkinson and T&T cyclist Njisane Phillip, also hinted that with more investment and focus in these sports, the region can also rise to high levels. Atkinson was bravely fourth in the women's 100-metre breaststroke final and Phillip lost the bronze medal ride-off in the match sprint.

The Caribbean Islands have made the Olympics their focus without seeking all the American professional sports and the results are obvious.

Leland Stein can be reached at HYPERLINK "mailto:lelstein3@aol.com" lelstein3@aol.com or at Twitter @lelandsteinIII

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