Felix gatecrashes Jamaica celebrations with gold that recalls memories of Flo-Jo
American sprinter takes women's 200m gold to thwart Fraser-Pryce double
The Olympic Stadium
Thursday 09 August 2012
The Jamaican party was put on hold at London 2012 last night. Two days on from the 50th anniversary Independence Day celebrations, Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake advanced to the men's 200m final without breaking too much sweat at the semi-final stage. The fireworks between the Racers Track Club training partners will have to wait until the final tonight.
When it came to the women's 200m final last night, though, the David of a Caribbean island (population 2.8 million) was unable to keep down the Goliath of the United States (population 311.5m).
In Beijing four years ago, Jamaica enjoyed a clean sweep of the individual sprints, Bolt winning the men's 100m and 200m, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce taking gold in the women's 100m and Veronica Campbell-Brown doing likewise in the 200m.
At the weekend both Bolt and Fraser-Pryce successfully defended their crowns at the shorter distance but the latter's bid to match her stellar male compatriot as a London sprint double winner was blown apart by the spindly-legged American Allyson Felix in the final of the longer event.
Fraser-Pryce stood to become the first female speed merchant to complete an Olympic 100m-200m double since Florence Griffith-Joyner in Seoul in 1988. Instead, it was the latest prodigy of Bob Kersee, Flo-Jo's old coach, who stole the show and the gold medal.
The 26-year-old Felix – three times a world champion at 200m but twice a silver medallist in Olympic finals – scorched round the bend and held a clear lead coming into the home straight that she was never in any danger of relinquishing. She could not get close to the freakish world record that Griffith-Joyner set in Seoul, 21.34sec, but then nobody else has managed to do so in 24 years.
Still, Felix won impressively enough, clocking 21.88sec. It was the first victory in the event by an American since 1992, when Gwen Torrence got the better of the Jamaican duo Juliet Cuthbert and Merlene Ottey at Montjuic Stadium in Barcelona.
Fraser-Pryce took silver in 22.09sec, a lifetime best, with Carmelita Jeter – Felix's US team-mate – third in 22.14sec.
Campbell-Brown, who won the title for Jamaica in Athens in 2004 and in Beijing in 2008, was fourth in 22.38sec. Sanya Richards-Ross, winner of the 400m final on Sunday, finished fifth in 22.39sec.
Predictably, Bolt and Blake gave little away in the men's 200m semis. Neither of the training partners, and friends, was pushed into showing his hand.
Blake was drawn in the first semi-final and won with ease, slowing down some 10m from the line, which he crossed in 20.01sec. He was almost caught by the fast-finishing American Wallace Spearmon, who claimed the second automatic qualifying spot in 20.02sec, and Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre, who was sluggish round the turn and had to rely on a fastest loser spot, clocking 20.03sec. "It was a walk in the park," Blake said.
Bolt took his foot off the gas from farther out in the second semi, switching to cruise control for the final 50m and cantering across the line a clear winner in 20.18sec. "It's about going through as easy as possible," he said. "I am ready. This is my favourite event.
"I am here to cement my legendary status. I am focused and I am ready. The track is fast. It's going to be a good race, lots of good competitors. Spearmon has been here before. There are lots of people who could spoil the party."
There might have been Jamaican winners of all three semi-finals but Warren Weir was unable to catch the flying Dutchman Churandy Martina in the third race. Martina won in 20.17sec, with Weir second in 20.28sec.
There was a valiant run by the lone British representative in these heats. A finalist in 2000 and 2008, Christian Malcolm finished in the wake of Weir in third place but the 33-year-old's time, 20.51sec, was not quite quick enough for the Welshman to join Lemaitre as one of the two fastest losers.
"It was great running out there in front of a crowd like that," Malcolm said, "but it would have been more enjoyable if I'd made the final. To be honest, I'm gutted that I didn't make the final. There are no excuses."
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