Jamaica sweeps the sprint golds in Beijing
Thursday, Aug 21, 2008 1:37PM UTC
By Sean Maguire
BEIJING (Reuters) - Jamaica made a clean sweep of Olympic sprint golds on Thursday with victory in the women's 200 meters to complete their domination over the United States.
The Americans, the traditional power in track and field, had a nightmare night with both the women and the men dropping their batons during the heats of the 4x100 meter relay to crash out.
The United States were also beaten in the final of women's softball, the first time the Americans have failed to win gold in that event.
The Caribbean island's Veronica Campbell-Brown powered through to gold in the 200m, taking a meter's lead by the halfway mark.
Her face was creased with pain but broke into a broad grin at the finish, where she dropped to her knees for a prayer.
Campbell-Brown also won the event in 2004. American world champion Allyson Felix came second and 100 meter silver medalist Kerron Stewart of Jamaica was third.
The victory will bring more rejoicing to an island already exultant over the two world records and double sprint gold of Usain "Lightning" Bolt. His jawdropping speed has brought superlatives pouring forth from media and commentators.
Bolt, 22 on Thursday, collected his second gold in a rain-soaked ceremony in the Bird's Nest stadium and gave his signature lightning bolt gesture for the cameras.
The head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has questioned the Jamaican's sportsmanship, taking exception to his exuberant celebration of his 100 meter win on Saturday when he pounded his chest even before crossing the finish line.
"I think he should show more respect, shake hands, give a tap on the shoulder to the other ones. Not making gestures like the one he made," Jacques Rogge said. "He still has to mature."
Jamaican coach and former sprinter Don Quarrie defended Bolt, saying his celebrations were just youthful high spirits, from a man who is "playful, funny, happy".
The United States have won a major sprint medal at every Games since 1984 and this year's collection of silvers and bronzes will be little consolation for a team doing worse than anticipated in track and field, a traditional strength.
The failure in the relays, an unexpected loss in the final of the women's water polo the Netherlands and defeat to Japan in the softball will be salt in the wounds for the Americans.
Softball will not be at the 2012 Games and the U.S. had won every gold on offer since it became an Olympic sport in 1996.
That will do little to chip at the dominance of China in the medals table. The hosts have a commanding 45 golds to the U.S.'s 27, a lead that China says shows it now has the sporting prowess to match its growing economic might and superpower clout.
In Athens, the U.S. team topped the medals table with 36 golds to China's 32, but the hosts have invested heavily in selecting and training athletes intensively over many years.
"The world has to learn to live with a change of geopolitical nature," the IOC's Rogge said, adding that China's sporting success would last "as long as their sports system lasts".
One sport where Americans did enjoy success was women's beach volleyball.
An excited home crowd sheltered from torrential rain as China's Tian Jia and Wang Jie lost to the defending champions, U.S. pair Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, in straight sets.
May-Treanor and Walsh, who have dominated the sport for five years, left the door open to a return in London 2012, but said that might depend on plans to have children.
The rain did not matter to the men's marathon swimmers.
Dutchman Maarten van der Weijden, who was given only a slim chance of survival when diagnosed with leukemia seven years ago, won the 10km swim, one of the most testing Olympic events.
A stem cell transplant and chemotherapy saved van der Weijden's life.
"That makes it extra special," he said. "It proves that even after such an illness you can win gold."
HORSE DOPE TESTS
Equestrian sports were embarrassed by positive drug tests on four horses that could lead to Norway's Tony Andre Hansen losing his bronze medal.
Four horses tested positive for capsaicin, which is banned for its hyposensitizing and pain-relieving properties.
Hansen, on his horse Camiro, was a member of the Norwegian team that won bronze in Monday's team show jumping competition. A decision on his team's medal will come after a B-sample test.
"It is certainly a serious blow to the sport and we are very well aware of the possible implications it can have," said Sven Holmberg, the chairman of the International Equestrian Federation's jumping committee.
(Reporting by Beijing Olympics bureau; Editing by Jon Bramley)