Gold winner Shelly-Ann Fraser, left, and silver medalists Kerron Stewart and Sherone Simpson pose with Jamaican flags after their sprint sweep (the first ever sprint sweep in the history of the olympics) , Sunday, Aug. 17, 2008. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
by Teswayne Harris
The world is shocked! A virtually unknown Jamaican woman has joined another Jamaican Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest man, as the world’s fastest woman. Her name is Shelly-Ann Fraser, but you can call her Olympic Champion after she won the women’s 100m Finals at Birds Nest stadium in Beijing.
The world is even more shocked that none of the three competing American earned a medal after Fraser’s compatriots Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart both earned a silver with a equal second place finish, completing a rare trifecta for the Jamaicans. It was the first time that a nation has swept the women’s 100m, Olympics or world championship.
It was also the first time since 1976 Olympics that an American woman did not finish in the top three spots.
But history did not come with a little bit of controversy as American officials protested the Jamaicans’ victory claiming that American Torri Edwards had false-started the race. Edwards finished dead last and the American’s appeal was procedurally denied.
No Jamaican woman has ever won an Olympic gold in the 100m and if a Jamaican was supposed to win it, no one would have bet on Fraser, who hails from the Waterhouse area of Kingston.
“I can’t believe I actually won. Nobody expected me to win, so there was no pressure,” Fraser told international reporters.
Stewart was the pre-race favorite, having run consistently since posting a personal best of 10.80 in winning the Jamaica trials. It was obvious that, unlike Fraser, Stewart had a bad start, but managed to close in on teammate Simpson to finish with an equal timing of 10.98 seconds.
But it does not matter how they finished as Jamaica made history earning three medals in one race to bring its Beijing Olympics tally to four, following Bolt’s recording-breaking run in the 100m.
“It’s about time the Jamaicans went 1-2-3. We‘ve been waiting on this. So many athletes have come so close” to winning a gold medal in the 100m, Stewart said after the race.
Jamaica’s most decorated Olympian Merlene Ottey competed in the 100m and the 200m at the Olympics for Jamaica from 1980 - 2000, but never won a gold medal in either race. She earned 4 bronze medals, 2 silver, and the name Bronze Queen.
At the previous Olympics in Athens, Veronica Campbell won Jamaica’s first female sprint gold medal, but that was in the 200m, leaving the tiny nation of 2.8 million people with a tradition of sprinters bereft of a 100m gold.
Campbell won the 100m at last year’s world championship, but failed to qualify for the Olympics at the Jamaica trials. She came fourth and 0.01 seconds short of one of the three spots.
After the trials, controversy had swirled in the air as to whether Campbell was going to be one of the three Jamaicans to compete the 100m in Beijing. JAAA rule states that the first two automatically qualifies, but the third place selection is at its discretion.
Campbell was disappointed that she failed to qualify and graciously admitted that “it’s just a part of life.” But proper judgment prevailed. Campbell did not run and all three Jamaicans earned a medal.
But none is as happy as first time Olympian Shelly-Ann who said in her post-race interview, “I am so excited, I really am, I can’t wait to go home.”
But Shelly Ann, yuh haffi guh wait, caah yuh have anodda gold medal fi collec’ inna di 4x100m weh start Thursday.
You’ve shocked the world, even your fellow Jamaicans, but that won’t happen again, because today you told everyone who you are: Jamaica’s first female 100m Olympic champion.
Every country is great, especially Jamaica.
Beautiful Place. Amazing People.
See you in Jamaica.