There is a saying in international sport that the Olympics really gets going when the track and field starts. And the sprinters are the heavyweight kings of the discipline. The big story of track and field of course is the possibility of a USA shut out for the individual titles both in the relays, bar the 4x400m men and women, where their domination extends over 3 to 4 previous Olympics.
In Beijing, Jamaica won the men's and women's 100m and 200 m .titles. The Jamaican men won the 4x100m relay. But for foul ups, Jamaica would have won the women’s' 4x100 also. Anybody familiar with Jamaican track and field knows that anybody repeating such, should immediately head for a foreign delegation and seek track and field asylum. Start with Outer Mongolia and head East.
Note that there were five Caribbean finalists in the men's 100m. Powell. We finished 1st and 2nd. Also that there was a Jamaican 1,2,3, in the women's 200m.
Between 2008, the region has continued to dominate through the Jamaicans and there are emerging talents in the other islands. There is Trinidad and Tobago's Kelly Ann Baptiste who has posted impressive performances leading up to London. Keston Bledman from Trinidad and Tobago is the new kid on the block. According to his camp he missed qualifying for 2011 World's 100m men's final by the slimmest of margins and he has put that in the psychological tank.
He has already won silver at the Olympics in 4x100m so he would want an individual medal as well. Of Richard Thompson, all I would say is look at Kim Collins. Do not write anyone who has been there and done it. The grand old man at 36, is beating younger athletes at the Grand Prix meets.
Athletes like Kim and our own Marc Burns know the territory. Marc has made it to Olympic finals as has Kim. These runners could steal somebody’s place in the finals. Birth paper means nothing. It is a question of who can hold their nerve, and form, as the rounds progress.
A key part of the event deals with the team around the athlete. Coach, manager, masseur, fellow athletes. This has been a major problem for Trinidad and Tobago athletes at these games. I saw and heard one of our most promising female long jumpers being coached, by phone, in China, in 2007, from the Ato Boldon stadium. But I digress.
The wins by Yohan Blake in the Jamaican Olympic trials, over Usain Bolt have added more interest. Bolt can be beaten was the message. I am not going to discourse on how much faster the race will be or if Bolt 'setting up people'. You do not lose a race to set up people. By so doing you give your opponent a tremendous psychological boost. Hasely Crawford tells that he raced against all the top athletes prior to 1976 and he beat them. He emphatically won all his heats in 1976 Olympics.
It means that all those who may have felt that Bolt had won already will now be putting in the extra work needed, if they want to dethrone him. He is on the cusp of becoming the first sprinter to do a double in the premier event in the Olympics. Carl Lewis? He inherited his 1988 victory
A new factor is the emergence of Kirani James, of Grenada, in the men's 400m flat. He already is the 2011 World Games title holder. Immortality awaits him as the first Grenadian to win a gold medal at the Olympics. He has already beaten the reigning Olympic champion.
So Uncle Sam's team is up against it. They do not have a great record over the middle and long distances. That territory is dominated by Eastern Europe, North Africa a la Morocco, Algeria and the Kenyan powerhouse of athletes who own anything from 800m up, along with Ethiopia.
So we will give the opening days to swimming, football, equestrian. Pity they don't invite donkeys to show jump and dressage. If they did we could send a whole fleet from Parliament. Sorry! That typo slipped out. And then after all those events, with the start of 100m heats, we could say: "Let the games Begin!"