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Caribbean athletes continue to make great strides forward!

The 200 metres (Men), dash has yielded more medal sweeps by athletes from a single nation than any other track event. It was Jamaica’s turn in 2012. Usain Bolt successfully defended his title with Yohan Blake in hot pursuit. Finishing third was Warren Weir, in his first major international competition. photo credit: supplied
In the 100 metres (Women) Shelly-Ann Fraser –Pryce in 2012 became one of the few females to repeat as 100m Olympic champion. In 2008 she was followed across the line by her teammates Kerron Stewart and Sherone Simpson who finished in a dead-heat for second place. photo credit: supplied
In the 100 metres (Women) Shelly-Ann Fraser –Pryce in 2012 became one of the few females to repeat as 100m Olympic champion. In 2008 she was followed across the line by her teammates Kerron Stewart and Sherone Simpson who finished in a dead-heat for second place. photo credit: supplied
2012 saw the emergence on the Olympic stage of teenager Kirani James of Grenada, the 2011 World Champion, who became the first non- American to break the 44 second barrier, winning the 400m in 43.94 seconds. photo credit: supplied
2012 saw the emergence on the Olympic stage of teenager Kirani James of Grenada, the 2011 World Champion, who became the first non- American to break the 44 second barrier, winning the 400m in 43.94 seconds. photo credit: supplied
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI - In 2012, as in 2008, the Central American and Caribbean area showed its strength in depth at the highest level of athletics, especially in the sprint events, according to CACAC statistician, Mr. Rey O’Neal.

In comparing the Beijing Games with the results from London 2012 O’Neal did note that there was a fall-off in certain areas. “The Region as a whole didn’t so well in the jumps” he commented, “but the area could feel satisfied with the progress made in some unexpected areas.”

As Mr. O’Neal’s comparison shows the Caribbean is strong in sprinting, but the local athletes might like to take note of the wide range of events in which the Caribbean excels. There is more to Athletics than short sprints, though with the likes of Usain Bolt and Shelly Ann Frazer Pryce keeping those disciplines to the forefront it is easy to see why they become the focus of attention so readily. However maybe the BVI can increase its successes with a look into the other events too.

O’Neal’s comparison of performances in relevant events starts with the 100 metres (Men), with Bolt ruling the roost. The silver medal also stayed in the Caribbean, but this time in the hands of Bolt’s training partner Yohan Blake. Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago might not have been expected to be in the reckoning this year after finishing second in 2008 but he got to the final, where he finished seventh. The ill-starred Asafa Powell of Jamaica also made it to the final where injury put paid to his chances. Churandy Martina, who finished 4th representing the Netherlands in Beijing, was sixth in London but was now wearing the colours of Holland.         

In the 100 metres (Women) Shelly-Ann Fraser –Pryce in 2012 became one of the few females to repeat as 100m Olympic champion. In 2008 she was followed across the line by her teammates Kerron Stewart and Sherone Simpson who finished in a dead-heat for second place. In seventh place was the veteran Bahamian Debbie-Ferguson McKenzie, who thus became the first athlete to have been a finalist in both the 100 and 200 metres at three consecutive Games. This year the regional presence in the final included only two athletes besides Fraser Pryce; Veronica Campbell-Brown, who had finished fourth at the Jamaica Trials in 2008, added a bronze medal to her sizeable collection and Trinidad and Tobago’s Kelly-Ann Baptiste crossed the line in 6th place.                                                         

The 200 metres (Men), dash has yielded more medal sweeps by athletes from a single nation than any other track event. It was Jamaica’s turn in 2012.Usain Bolt successfully defended his title with Yohan Blake in hot pursuit. Finishing third was Warren Weir, in his first major international competition. Fifth was Martina, who had crossed the line second in Beijing, only to be disqualified for a lane violation. Kim Collins of St.Kitts and Nevis had placed sixth in 2008, after the disqualification of Martina and American Wallace Spearmon, originally adjudged to have finished third. 

200 metres(Women), In 2008 Veronica Campbell- Brown won her second consecutive 200 metre Olympic title besting American Allyson Felix, who would emerge victorious four years later. In third place was Jamaica’s Kerron Stewart. Positions six through eight also went to Caribbean sprinters, with 100 metre finalists Sherone Simpson and Bahamian Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie finishing ahead of Cydonie Mothersill of the Cayman Islands.                

For the 400 metres (Men) in Beijing the Caribbean could boast of two finalists in the men’s one-lap event, the Bahamian Chris Brown in fourth and Renny Quow of Trinidad and Tobago in seventh place. Brown’s fourth place finish represented the third consecutive time he had ended his race in that position in a global outdoor final .2012 saw the emergence on the Olympic stage of teenagers Kirani James of Grenada, the 2011 World Champion, who became the first non- American to break the 44 second barrier, winning in 43.94 seconds; and the Dominican Republic’s Luguelin Santos, who added an Olympic silver to his World Junior Championships gold. Following in their wake were Lalonde Gordon, a relatively unknown Trinidad and Tobago athlete and once again Chris Brown in fourth. Another Bahamian, Demetrius Pinder, finished seventh.  

400 metres (Women) - Shericka Williams of Jamaica finished a close second in the women’s 400 metre event in Beijing with her compatriot Rosemarie Whyte in eighth place. Four years on, Whyte once more was among those toeing the line in the final, again finishing eighth. Novlene Wiliams-Mills, also of Jamaica was fifth on this occasion, a bit disappointing perhaps after her early-season exploits.    

800 metres(Men)- Cuba’s Yeimer Lopez became the region’s only male 800 metre finalist this century with his sixth place finish in Beijing. Moving to Spain, he became ineligible for further representation of his country and none of the Caribbean event leaders have since risen to his stature.                                        

800 metres (Women) – Kenia Sinclair of Jamaica finished sixth in the Beijing two-lap race, beaten only by four Africans and a Russian. In 2012 injuries had taken their toll on Sinclair and the region was not represented in the final.      

5000 metres (Men) - Mexico’s Juan Luis Barrios is rarely seen on the European circuit but boasts a good competitive record in major internationals.In 2008 he placed seventh in the 5000 metre final, one position better than in London.

110 metre Hurdles (Men) -  Dayron Robles of Cuba was an easy winner of the high hurdles in Beijing, with Jamaicans Maurice Wignall and Richard Phillips occupying the sixth and seventh positions. In London four Caribbean athletes lined up for the final of the event. The top finisher was Jamaican newcomer Hansle Parchment in third. Former World Champion Ryan Brathwaite of Barbados made an impressive comeback to cross the line in fifth, while Cuban Orlando Ortega was sixth. Robles got off to a good start but came up injured and, although he finished the race, were disqualified. 

100 metre Hurdles(Women) In 2008 the veteran Jamaican pair of Delloreen Ennis and Brigitte Foster- Hylton, both former World Championships medalists, had to settle for fifth and sixth in a very close race in which two-hundredths of a second separated second place from sixth. In 2012 Foster-Hylton was once again in good form but in her semi-final hit several hurdles and failed to advance in London.

 400 metre Hurdles (Men) - In Beijing only one Caribbean hurdler had managed to qualify for the final of the 400 metre hurdles. The Jamaican Danny McFarlane, a surprise silver medalist four years earlier, finished fourth behind a sweep of the medals by Americans. In London Caribbean hurdlers dominated the placings, with Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic reprising his gold medal accomplishment of eight years earlier. Javier Culson of Puerto Rico, the pre-event favourite, captured bronze with Trinidad and Tobago’s young Jehue Gordon finishing sixth, one palace ahead of Jamaican Leford Green.       

400 metre (Women) Hurdles-Melaine Walker of Jamaica was one of the most convincing winners in Beijing, beating the second-placed American Sheena Tosta by over a second. In the years between Beijing and London she and her training partner Kaliese Spencer were consistently at or near the top of the world rankings. In London however Walker surprisingly failed to reach the final, while Spencer once again finished just outside the medals in fourth place.

High Jump(Men) - A very unlikely choice if one were to select the regional high jumper most likely to make the Olympic final, Colombian Wanner Miller nonetheless earned this distinction and  placed a creditable ninth, the best finish ever by a male field eventer from his country.     

Pole Vault (Men) - Lazaro Borges of Cuba, who had won a silver medal at the World Championships in Daegu last year and would have hoped to become the first C.A.C. Olympic medalist as well. However a broken pole in qualifying seemed to have affected his confidence and he had to settle for being equal-best among non-qualifiers for the final.

Pole Vault (Women) - 2012 saw Yarisley Silva of Cuba become the first Caribbean woman to qualify for an Olympic pole vault final. The London Games also saw the Pan American Games champion become the first from the region to win a medal at the global level, as she finished second only to the American Jenn Suhr.

Long Jump (Men) - An excellent showing by C.A.C. athletes in Beijing has been followed by a miserable one in 2012 at the London Games. Panama’s Irving Saladino stood atop the podium in 2008 with Cuba’s Ibrahim Camejo finishing third. In fifth place was another Cuban,Wilfredo Martinez. Saladino, whose career since3008 has been affected by frequent injury breaks, had shown good form in 2012 prior to London bur went out in the qualifying round. Camejo competed not at all in 2010 -11 and on his return this year fell short of the qualifying standard. Martinez joined the exodus to Spain and was ineligible for selection. In an event that has fallen on hard times internationally, and more so regionally, Bermuda’s Tyrone Smith, who had gained entry as a “wild-card” competitor, was the only regional finalist in London, placing 12th

Long Jump (Women) - Chelsea Hammond of Jamaica was a pleasant surprise in Beijing with her 4th place finish, the best result ever by a C.A.C. jumper. However she has competed infrequently since and was absent in 2012.No woman representing a regional country reached the final, although ninth place went to the former Anguilla jumper Shara Proctor, now representing Great Britain.

Triple Jump (Men)-Traditionally one of the Caribbean’s strongest events on the global stage, there would be no medals in 2012 although Bahamian Leevan Sands in fifth place and the Cuban Alexis Copello in 8th both advanced to the final. In Beijing Sands had won the bronze medal with Cuba’s David Girat in fourth. Girat also competed in London but was well off form and did not qualify for the final. Another Cuban, Hector Fuentes, had finished 12th in Beijing.         

Triple Jump (Women) - Yargeris Savigne of Cuba was one of the favourites in the Beijing triple jump but, despite bettering 15 metres had to settle for fifth. Another former World Champion, Jamaican Trecia-Kaye Smith, was 11th. Both were present in the London final as well but the new standard-bearer was Caterine Ibarguen of Colombia, an excellent all-round jumper whose 14.80 m leap proved sufficient for a silver medal. Kimberly Williams of Jamaica, who had enjoyed an outstanding collegiate career in the United States, got up for sixth place in the final in London, one position better than her compatriot Smith. Savigne failed to recapture her form of previous years and had to settle for ninth place.

Shot Put (Men) - Jamaica’s Dorian Scott had few competitions in 2012 prior to the Olympic Games but in London he became the first male C.A.C. putter to qualify for an Olympic final. His tenth place result certainly was satisfying.

Shot Put (Women)-In 2008 two Cubans made it through to the final of the women’s shot put competition. The consistent Misleydis Gonzalez finished fourth with her teammate Mailin Vargas in tenth. Gonzalez returned in 2012 but was never a factor. Cleopatra Borel of Trinidad and Tobago missed the final by one position, placing 13th overall in the qualifying round. Ironically that was upgraded to 12th after the original gold medalist was disqualified, but that must have been little consolation for the Trinidadian, who never actually got the opportunity to throw in the final.

Discus Throw (Men) -With a record four participants in the competition, the odds were good that at least one of their number would move on to the final. Jorge Fernandez of Cuba, a finalist in Daegu,was the third leading qualifier overall with a toss beyond 65 metres. In the final his best mark was over three metres less and he had to be content with 11th place. However no C.A.C. thrower had done better since Roberto Moya of Cuba had won a bronze medal in 1992.

 Discus Throw (Women) - Cuba’s Yarelis Barrios had won silver medal in Beijing in 2008 and had won stepped on the podium at the 2009 and 2009 World Championships. She seemed as likely as any to be among the medalists in London, with a gold medal a possibility. It was not to be, however, for although she threw well three others were better on the day and she could do no better than fourth in the final standings. 

Hammer Throw (Women) - Yipsi Moreno, Cuba’s former two-time World Champion had added a second Olympic silver medal to her collection in 2008 but was considered to have only an outside shot at a medal in London. A throw of 76 metres would be needed and Moreno’s best heave of 74.60m left her in fifth place.   

Javelin Throw (Men)-There were no throwers from the region among the finalists in 2008,nor had there been since Emeterio Gonzalez of Cuba in 2000. It was thought that Guillermo Martinez, a bronze and silver medalist at the last two World Championships might end the drought but he ended the qualifying round two positions short of a place. In the final, enter Keshorn Walcott. The Trinidad and Tobago athlete had arrived in London fresh off an impressive victory at the World Junior Championships. While many of the fancied veterans complained about the wind conditions Walcott was unperturbed and launched a throw of 84.58m which his rivals tried in vain to surpass. This was the first medal of any kind by a thrower from the Western Hemisphere since 1972, and his country’s first in a field event.

Javelin Throw (Women) - By 2008 Osleidys Menendez was winding down a career that stamped her as one of the all-time greats of the event. The former Olympic and World Champion and world record holder was still good enough to place sixth in Beijing. None of the region’s throwers in London were thought likely to reach the final and none did.

Decathlon (Men) - Cuba’s Leonel Suarez made his first major international award count when it mattered most with his bronze medal in Beijing. He repeated the feat in London with an outstanding second day of competition. In 2008 Jamaica’s Maurice Smith was coming off a silver medal performance at the previous year’s World Championships but he finished in 9th place in Beijing. The 19 year old Cuban Yordani Garciadid well to end in fifteenth position in Beijing but four years later he had improved by only one palace ,and with a similar score.

20 Km Walk (Men) - In Beijing the leading C.A.C. finisher in the shorter of the two walk events  was ninth-placed Luis Felipe Lopez of Colombia. The Mexican Eder Sanchez finished in 15th.Four years later Sanchez had moved up to sixth place but was outshone by Erick Barrondo of Guatemala, a rising power in international race-walking. Barrondo won Guatemala’s first ever Olympic medal in athletics with his second-place performance.       

50 Km Walk (Men) - Mexico’s Horacio Nava completed the punishing 50 kilometer course in Beijing in sixth position. In London he was not so successful but his finish in 15th position still led the walkers from Central America and the Caribbean.

4x100m Relay (Men) - In Beijing the Jamaicans set a new world record in the sprint relay with a team consisting of Nesta Carter, Michael Frater, Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell. In second place came the Trinidad and Tobago quartet of Keston Bledman, Marc Burns, Emmanuel Callender and Richard Thompson   Having once again lowered the world record at the Daegu World Championships  in 2011,the Jamaicans were ready for an assault on the 37 second barrier in London. They destroyed the previous record (equaled by the U.S.A. in second with their 37.04 clocking), circling the track in 36.84 seconds. Yohan Blake had replaced Powell, with Blake taking over third-leg duties from Bolt, who was now anchoring. Carter and Frater again ran the first two legs. Trinidad and Tobago, originally fourth, moved up a notch with the disqualification of Canada. Their team was identical to the one which had mined silver in 2008.

4x100 metre Relay (Women) - Neither of the two favoured teams in 2008 made it to the podium. The U.S.A. had come a cropper in the heats and Jamaica failed to move the baton around in the final. It would be a different story in the 2012 final in London. The Americans in an inspired performance crushed the previous world record by half a second, finishing in an unbelievable 40.82 seconds. The Jamaican foursome of Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Sherone Simpson, Veronica Campbell-Brown and Kerron Stewart in turn set a new national mark of 41.41 seconds. Trinidad and Tobago, thought to be a contender for bronze, failed to finish.

4x 400 m Relay(Men) - The Bahamas, which had been among the medals at four World Championships and one Olympic Games proved their mettle once again as giant-killers ,trailing only perennial champions U.S.A. in the 4x400 relay in Beijing. The Jamaicans were also represented in the final but finished eighth. In 2012 the Bahamian squad felt that they were in with their best chance of Olympic relay gold. They boasted a quartet that on the clock was the equal of, or superior to, the Americans and they would run their best four in both rounds. Trinidad and Tobago also harboured thoughts of being on the victory stand, and not to be discounted were the Cuban and Dominican Republic teams. Jamaica, second in the World Championships last year were not considered to be as strong as usual and in the event failed to finish their heat. The Dominicans seemed to have qualified but were booted for passing out of the zone, allowing yet another C.A.C. team, Venezuela, to join the Bahamians, Trinidad and Tobago and Cuba.  The final was a thriller with the Bahamian Ramon Miler just holding off the American veteran Angelo Taylor to cross the line first in a new Bahamian (and C.A.C.) record of 2:56.72. Miller had switched places with the experienced Chris Brown for the final, with Demetrius Pinder and Michael Mathieu handling the middle legs. Meanwhile Trinidad and Tobago anchor Deon Lendore hung on for dear life to keep Great Britain away from the bronze medals. The Southern Caribbean team included Lalonde Gordon, Jarrin Solomon, Ade Alleyne-Forte and Dion Lendore. Venezuela was seventh after the Cuban third-leg runner pulled up lame.

4 x 400m Relay (Women) - Two Caribbean teams graced the final of the women’s relay in Beijing. The Jamaicans continued their rivalry with the Russians for the minor medals in an event that the women from the U.S.A. have tended to dominate. In 2008 the Russians lost a close race to the Americans with the Caribbean team well behind in third. The foursome from Cuba broke their national record in finishing sixth. In London the order of the medalists was the same -U.S.A., Russia and Jamaica. The Jamaican team showed one change from 2008. Leadoff runner Christine Day replaced Shereefa Lloyd but Shericka Williams, Rosemarie Whyte and Novlene Williams-Mills once again ran the last three legs.

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