There’s a sort of hush over Jamaica as the island anticipates the journey of the Olympic women’s 100m race, set to begin tomorrow, Friday with the final on Saturday. Meanwhile, the US is waiting to make sure that what happened in Beijing in 2008 will not reoccur: one of the hurdles that they would have to clear to put them on their path to “regaining dominance.” Despite this, the overwhelming conclusion among Jamaicans is that while Jamaica may not sweep the medals this time, the gold certainly belongs to one of its own: Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the diminutive defending champion, who is in better form than she was when she rocketed onto the global scene four years ago.
The women’s 100m final promises to be humdinger as the lineup will be stacked heavily with power, speed and talent running deep from the Caribbean to Africa. I expect the final eight to be Kelly-Ann Baptiste of Trinidad and Tobago; Veronica Campbell-Brown (VCB), Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Kerron Stewart of Jamaica; Allyson Felix, Tianna Madison, Carmelita Jeter of the USA; and Blessing Okagbare of Nigeria. The question that permeates everyone’s mind: How will they finish?
Though Felix has run under 11 seconds this season, from my vantage point, she will not finish among the medalists. I do not expect her to be even among the top losers either.
Stewart had a fast start to the season but subsequently been a shadow of her Beijing or World Championships self.
Waiting in The Wings
Then there is the trio of Okagbare, Baptiste and Madison whom I see waiting for one of the big names to slip. In-form Okagbare with her height, long stride and race-readiness has her eyes on the prize, and believes she has what it takes to upset the pecking order and outshine her rivals from Jamaica and the US. However, the Beijing long jump bronze medalist stormed into the picture late in the season and could find the Olympic moment overwhelming, even though she has said she’s unfazed by the sprinters with whom she races “from day to day.” It will be extremely difficult for her to beat a field boasting personal bests and season bests that are far better than her personal and season best 10.96. Only twice has she clocked under 11 seconds, both times on her last two outings. Her significant times going into the Games are simply just not enough to convince me that she will win a medal.
In the case of Baptiste, we are not getting a true picture of her fitness level. After being setback by early season Achilles problem that impeded her movement out of the blocks for a while, the 2011 World bronze medalist showed tenacity in a May clash with Jeter in Kingston, Jamaica, when she held Jeter for about 75 meters to clock 10.86, just below her PB of 10.84. However, her times since then have not been close to what she did in Jamaica. I don’t expect her to factor among the top three.
Madison, another lateral-jumper-turned-sprinter, has the necessary start but lacks the experience to fend off fierce rivals. She will be caught.
VCB’s readiness status has everyone guessing, including me, based on her performances after her double defeat at the Jamaica Trials. The big question is: Will she or won’t she? VCB has promised to give of her best, declaring her state of readiness. If her start is good, she will be right there in the mix. When competing at big Games, VCB tends to sit in the blocks and call on her top-end speed to overtake the field. The problem facing her this time is that with other competitors coming in with 10. 70 and 10.81 at best this season, she will not be able to catch them if she gets up late as in the 2011 World Championships. Her main rivals here all have terrific top-end speed to match hers. No doubt, she will have to rely on her experience, but will it work?
Has Had to Fight
Jeter was ranked number one last year, but her form this season has not reflected that ranking. She has had to fight for her victories, as was evident at the Jamaica Invitational meet in May and the US Trials at the end of June.
Based on Fraser-Pryce’s unmatched explosive start (some two meters ahead of the field) on all occasions barring 2011 Worlds when she was coming off injuries and stumbled out the blocks, as well as her newly acquired speed endurance over the 200m, Fraser-Pryce has been able to open the gap after separating herself from the field. No-one will be able to gain on her as she keeps going away.
By all indications, it will be gold to Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, silver to Carmelita Jeter and bronze to Veronica Campbell-Brown.