Jamaica ends Olympic sprint rot for good with historic sweep By John Bagratuni

Society Materials 17 August 2008 22:14 (UTC +04:00)

Usain Bolt's astonishing world record inspired the Jamaican women to a historic medal sweep as the Caribbean nation finally came good in Olympic sprinting. Sports minister Claire Grange relayed the good news live via cellphone for the islanders television and radio audience from Beijing, the dpa reported. "This is a great day for Jamaica. It was amazing. I cried," Grange told the nation of 2.8 million which was going crazy in delight. A few minutes earlier the freshly crowned 100 metres champion Shelly-Ann Fraser screamed her excitement into another phone where her mom was on the line. "I would like to say thanks to everyone. I am really excited about the medal. No one expected me to win," Fraser said, surrounded by dozens of microphones from the world media. Bolt had ended a Jamaican sprint curse on Saturday with a world record run of 9.69 seconds which was received in utter disbelief around the world, so commanding was his performance. The world record was not in danger 24 hours later but the women got their place in Olympic history books with a first ever gold and sweep in the women's 100m from Fraser (10.78), Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart - the latter two sharing silver after a photo-finish could not separate them on 10.98 seconds. "This is the crazy Bolt effect. Last night it was amazing, it was crazy," said Fraser. The two winners are 21 years of age but could not be more different apart from their age and their gold medal runs. The tall Bolt kept his coolness and was swiftly dubbed "the chilled-out flying machine" by British daily The Independent on Sunday. Fraser, by contrast, is diminutive and bubbly, unable to hide her excitement and delight as she beamed into cameras. "I can't wait to go home," quipped Fraser, whose confidence rose to the moon over the big win. "I am not nervous and shy anymore, I am ready to run." She flopped into the arms of Grange, who in her own excitement had already suggested to declare the day a holiday in Jamaica. "I feel all over the world. I am proud of the athletes. This is wonderful, amazing. It is national pride, an inspiration to all Jamaicans," the minister, sporting the team shirt, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. Victory was sweet after generations of Jamaican sprinters such as Don Quarrie or Merlene Ottey had always fallen short of an Olympic 100m title, mainly losing out against US runners.

"We have waited for such a long time. We had so many close moments like from Merlene," said Stewart in reference to Ottey's famous photo-finish defeat against Gail Devers 1996 in Atlanta. Simpson said: "This means a lot for our country. We have good athletes and it is good for our country." Jamaicans have always cited their great coaching and education as the reason behind a major sprint traditions, but the fast times did lead to raised eyebrows in recent weeks - given that the country had no national anti-doping agency. But Grange said that legislation has now been passed and the board been selected for the national body, with letters already sent to the World Anti-Doping and UNESCO ahead of the necessary steps. "We are against doping. We are the fifth most tested country," insisted Grange. For Fraser, meanwhile, there was a simple reason: "The secret of the team's success: reggae power."