Jamaica ended the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on a high, finishing third on the athletics medal table behind the United States and Kenya.
The black, green and gold team won eleven medals including 6 gold, 3 silver and 2 bronze. The country equalled its 6 gold medal haul in Beijing. Two of the three silver medals came in the two final relays of the final night of competition. It is the first time in Jamaica’s Olympics history that the country has won a medal in both 4x100m and 4x400m.
Bahamas finished with 1 gold and a bronze (14th position), Grenada 1 silver (26th) and Trinidad and Tobago 1 bronze (35th).
Jamaica men’s mile-relay team produced a magnificent display to win the silver medal at the Rio Olympics. Written off by many before the games started, the Jamaicans surprised their critics and doubters with a season’s best 2:58.16 to finish runners-up to a powerful Team USA quartet (2:57.30).
The Jamaicans found themselves languishing some distance behind after the first leg. However, Nathon Allen just as he had done in the heats ran a very intelligent leg. He turned it on the home straight like a bush fire going uphill to bring the Jamaicans closer.
Newcomer Fitzroy Dunkley took up the responsibility and ran a steady third leg to hand over to anchor specialist Javon Francis in fourth position. Francis who is more accustomed to getting the baton in sixth position or lower would have fancied his chances of targeting a podium spot. He showed maturity and neatly tucked in behind Team USA, Botswana and the Bahamas.
Entering the final bend the tenacious Jamaican pounced like a panther overtaking Botswana and Bahamas with a devastating kick. The Americans were out of reach but Francis still charged to the finish line to hand his country a deserving silver medal, its first since 2000. Bahamas with Chris Brown on anchor finished third in 2:58.49.
Women’s 4x400m Final
Team USA has been dominant in the women’s mile-relay at the Olympic Games for a very long time. The last time Team USA tasted defeat at the Olympics was at the Barcelona games in 1992 to the Unified/USSR team.
However the Americans are not so immune at the IAAF World championships. Last year in Beijing Jamaica scored a scintillating win in 3:19.13. That stunning performance from the Jamaicans left the entire Team USA’s management team scratching their heads. Their thoughts perhaps spinning like the ‘Wheel of fortune’. It was indeed a massive blow and the Americans came to the Rio Olympics with a few goals, that is, to exact revenge, win gold and restore order.
Jamaica, prior to Rio, had never won the women’s mile-relay at the Olympics, however, their memorable victory at worlds in 2015 set the stage for another massive showdown between the two powerhouses.
Team USA started in Rio as favourites based on having three finalists in the individual 400m. Jamaica added to the intrigue by having two finalists one of whom was a medallist. The mile-relay final was definitely one of the events everyone was waiting for all season, featuring the defending Olympic champions versus the reigning world champions.
The contest lived up to expectations and was lively throughout with the Jamaicans and Americans providing moments of tension.
Courtney Okolo got the Americans off to flyer. The collegiate record-holder, a strong starter with a devastating kick over the last 200m handing over first with a reasonable lead.
Jamaica’s lead off runner Stephenie-Ann McPherson, being aware of Okolo’s abilities, employed an aggressive approach in an effort to upset the race plan of the American. She finished strong over the last 50 metres and handed over to her teammate Anneisha McLaughlin-Whilby.
Showing great determination, stamina and speed the versatile McLaughlin-Whilby, after collecting the baton in second position motored around the field like a steam train and took aim at Hastings. The American was in complete command, however, McLaughlin-Whilby responded like an experienced hunter tracking an elusive prey. Both athletes were engaged in an intense home straight duel. Hastings handed over just a shade before McLaughlin-Whilby.
Shericka Jackson, the individual bronze medallist, was up against the dangerous 400m finalist Phyllis Francis. There is no substitute for experience especially when the stakes are high. Francis, who was not among the starting quartet in Beijing, was now saddled with the decisive task to bring it home to her team’s most famous runner on anchor. The contest now rekindled memories of Beijing.
Jackson, a cool customer blessed with 200m speed, was not perturbed by Francis’ runaway tactics and maintained her race plan. Jackson, with 150m to go, opened up the burners and began to move with alacrity. She closed down Francis in the home straight and handed over almost the same time as the American.
Like it was in Beijing the gold medal decider came down to the crucial anchor leg. Jamaica kept their veteran heroine Novelene Williams-Mills on anchor while American Francena McCorora who grinded almost to a halt in the final 40m in Beijing was replaced by the legendary Allyson Felix.
Felix immediately opened up a sizeable lead which by no stretch of the imagination was insurmountable based on Williams-Mills previous heroics. The Jamaican began the herculean task to reel in the American. To win the gold she had to do something magical – again.
The back-straight as so often proved pivotal. Williams-Mills closed the gap considerably on Felix then eased off the accelerator conserving energy and waiting for the right time to pounce. Coming around the final curve both athletes began to accelerate. It was now a pressure cooker affair. Pressure can have a huge impact on the brain, it can erode confidence leading to anxiety and causing mistakes.
Felix, remembering how McCorory’s arms were flapping towards the end of the race last year, was not in the mood for anymore slip ups. She was primed for this moment and seized it. Felix held off the valiant Williams-Mills at bay and extended her country’s unbeaten run at the Olympics to six straight wins since 1992. The Americans won in a world leading 3:19.06.
Jamaica, who won bronze in 2012, got its first silver medal in this event at an Olympics Games since 2000. Jamaica registered a season’s best 3:20.34 five seconds ahead of bronze medallist Great Britain in 3:25.88.
NB. On August 20, 2016 a few hours before this final the IOC stripped the Russian Federation of the silver medal it won in 2008 after positive doping results from retesting. Jamaica was third in 2008.