The field events led the way in the surprise department. First in the women’s high jump several big names made early exits, including Emma Greene Tregaro (SWE), Chaunte Lowe (USA); and defending champion Tia Hellebaut (BEL). In the end it was World champion Anna Chicherova (RUS), veteran Svetlana Shkolina (RUS) and collegiate champion Brigetta Barrett (USA) jumping at 2.03m/6’8" to decide the medals – first attempt clearance for Chicherova taking gold, second clearance for Barrett earning silver, and third attempt gaining bronze for Shkolina, as Chicherova would go on to clear 2.05m/6’8.75". The clearance by Barrett was a big time personal best for the young American in the pressure of the Games. As with so many other performances we’ve seen in throughout the Games it looks like another event is going to shift going forward.
While Barrett making the podium in the high jump was a surprise, the winner of the men’s javelin was, simply put, a complete shock! Young Keshorn Walcott of Trinidad took the lead on his first throw (83.51m/273.11"); then hit his gold medal toss (84.58m/277’6") in the second round as the rest of the field tried in vain to catch him! In an event dominated by Europeans (Euros finished 2 thru 8) Walcott was undoubtedly the biggest surprise medalist of the meet – let alone gold medalist! To be honest I didn’t even know Trinidad had a javelin thrower. But a quick search of the Internet and I discovered that Mr. Walcott won this years World Junior Championships. Now I find myself asking why WE are having so much trouble finding javelin throwers! And Walcott was no fluke add all of his legal throws were beyond 80 meters. Big up to the young man who won’t turn twenty until February! Trinidad may have a champion here for a while.
On the track things were hot even when they were slow as the men’s 5000 took out at a slow pace even for championship racing. In a field where nine men had PB’s under 13:00 the runners went out around 14:00 pace – a literal crawl. It was beyond tactical, as the bunched field circled the track over and over waiting apparently for the last two laps, because that’s when the race started as all the kickers began to fight for the podium. In the end, the best turned out to be Mo Farah who controlled and dominated the final lap to add the 5000 title to the 10000 gold he won at the beginning of the meet. Like Jessica Ennis, he overcame the pressure of being a hometown favorite and won the distance double – the first ever by a Brit. Farah proved in London to be both fast and smart – the winning combination for distance medals at these Games.
The track portion of the Olympics closed out with two big relays. First was the women’s 4×4 where the big anticipation was how fast would the US squad run? With 400 bronze medalist DeeDee Trotter leading off and 200 champion Allyson Felix and 400 champion Sanya Richards Ross on board the question was would they get close to the AR of 3:15.51. After Trotter led off in 50.5, Felix set sail around the track, and 47.8 seconds later handed off to Francena McCorory. That’s the first sub 48 split since 1988, and gives further indication that the 400 may be Allyson’s best event! A 49 by McCorory and a 48 by R, Ross and a record was possible. Francena hit her 49, but the long meet (rounds in the 400 and 200) finally took their toll on Sanya who "only" split 49.2 in her solo run around the track as the US scored a 3:16.87 victory over runner up Russia’s 3:20.23! The winning time was the equal fifth fastest time in history, and with all of these women still young a shot at the WR 3:15.17 may be in the cards in the near future.
Finally, one of the most anticipated races of the week, the men’s 4×1 was up. Talk about a set up t a race. The US dominated the event up thru 2007. Then a) the US dropped the stick in ’08, ’09, and ’11; and b) Jamaica won every title during that time frame AND took the WR to 37.04! Coming into the meet the US desperately wanted to a) get the baton around the track, b) get the record back, c) achieving "b" would mean a defeat of Jamaica. In the semis both squads ran well, Jamaica winning the first semi in 37.39 without Bolt; the US winning the second in 37.38 without Gay and Bailey. To add to the drama they were lined up with Jamaica in lane 6 set to chase the US in lane 7. The very definition of Must See TV.
At the gun it was Nesta Carter of Jamaica against Trell Kimmons of the US and they passed relatively even. Down the backstretch went Justin Gatlin and Michael Frater with Gatlin winning that battle and handing off to Tyson Gay ahead of Frater’s pass to Yohan Blake. At this point I would’ve bet on watching Bolt attempting to catch the US anchor in ithe stretch, but Blake did something yet to be seen, he closed on Gay around the bend! The lead gone Gay and Blake handed off relatively even to Bailey and Bolt. Both men flew down the straight but the race was over as one would expect from 9.6 racing 9.8 as the margin of victory was that .20. Bailey did himself and the US proud, but Bolt and Jamaica crossed the line in 36.84, with the US at 37.04. A new WR for Jamaica with the US equaling the previous record! Jamaica becomes the first team under 37 seconds and Bolt claimed his third gold of the Games to duplicate Beijing. The US proved that it could get the stick around the track and while Jamaica won, that this race is a two team race – and hopefully we’ll see more of the two squads on the track. One of the most exciting relays I’ve seen, as it was fast AND competitive throughout. Disappointed that the US lost, but if you’re going to lose do it running well and make your opponent do something spectacular. The US got a new national record and Jamaica broke the WR and a barrier. It doesn’t get better than that. On to Moscow!
So ended the Olympics. I have lots to talk about. The transitions being made in the sport. The wonderful performances of the US women. The strength of the Jamaican men in the sprints. What’s going on in the hurdles. Wither the US male sprinters. Progress in US distances. So much happened in London, it should take weeks to get through it all. And there will be more meets to close out the year. So a LOT to talk about. Be back shortly.