Jamaica Delivers Knockout In the 100

By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 18, 2008

BEIJING, Aug. 17 -- Depending on your perspective, the Olympic track and field competition Sunday featured either a stunning sweep or a shocking shutout. For the second night in a row, a fun-loving and exuberant 21-year-old Jamaican speedster ran away from the field in the 100 meters.

Shelly-Ann Fraser, the youngest of Jamaica's sprinting youth movement, accelerated in the women's final much like countryman Usain Bolt did in shattering his world record Saturday. She even won by the same jaw-dropping margin: two-tenths of a second.

The difference a night later? She had company on her victory lap.

Fraser snatched the gold medal with the second-fastest time in Olympic history, 10.78 seconds, and was followed by countrywomen Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart. The night was so good for Jamaica, the nation didn't even have to settle for a bronze; the pair tied in 10.98 seconds. That meant two silvers, not one.

"What's gotten into Jamaica, man?" said Britain's Jeanette Kwayke, who finished sixth in 11.14. "I need to go there. They've been showing fantastic form all season."

Their dominance kept the U.S. women out of the medals in the event for the first time since 1976. (The United States boycotted the 1980 Summer Games and Marion Jones was stripped of her gold in 2000.) Though historic, the loss was hardly the day's only painful defeat. Americans failed to bring home a medal in any of six track and field finals Sunday, and saw the departure of one of their strongest medal hopes -- reigning world and Olympic medalist Bernard Lagat -- in the semifinals of the 1,500.

As Fraser beamed her mouthful of braces all over Beijing National Stadium, and yellow, black and green flags seemed to sprout out of nowhere, Americans Lauryn Williams, Muna Lee and Torri Edwards -- who finished fourth (11.03), fifth (11.07) and eighth (11.20), respectively, in the 100 final -- dipped their heads and ducked quickly off the track, as if to ensure they wouldn't have to watch others celebrate.

"I'm sure all of us came out here expecting to get on the medal stand," Edwards said. "None of us did that today, so I'm sure we're all disappointed."

The melancholy U.S. sprinters had company back at the Athletes' Village. Deena Kastor, the 2004 Olympic bronze medal winner in the marathon, was forced to pull out of the Sunday morning event because of a broken foot. Lagat, the reigning world champion, looked overpowered in his 1,500 heat and failed by two-hundredths of a second to make the final.

"I had my strategy going in but things didn't fall into place," Lagat said.

A day earlier, 100-meter world champion Tyson Gay also failed to advance out of the semifinals of his event.

Three days into the track and field competition, the United States has claimed one silver medal and four bronzes, including a surprising third from Shalane Flanagan in the women's 10,000 meters. But in many ways the U.S. team has lost more than it has won, seeing reigning world and Olympic medal winners unable to reach the medal stand in the shot put, and men's and women's 100, while mounting no challenge in the women's marathon and the upcoming 1,500 -- along with Lagat, U.S. flag bearer Lopez Lomong and Leonel Manzano also failed to make the final.

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