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Caribbean gold standard

GREAT GRENADIAN: James

AFTER A fine showing in the last decade, Caribbean athletes got off to a good start at the World Championships in the new decade in Daegu.

All together, athletes from the Caribbean took 19 medals with the English-speaking territories winning 14 of that total.

Jamaica led the way but Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, St Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas all placed athletes on the podium.

Though down from the 28 medal collection obtained by the region in 2009, the Daegu numbers contained a first ever medal for Grenada as its crown jewel, Kirani James, made that golden with a solid win in the 400 metres.

World Junior champion last year, James outran 2009 winner, American LaShawn Merritt, to win in a personal best time of 44.60 seconds. Soon after, in Zurich, he set a national record of 44.36.

Both the previous highest Grenadian placing in the World Championships and the record used to belong to Alleyne Francique, the two-time World Indoor champion.

James’s win gave the Caribbean one of five gold medals. Aside from 2009 when the corresponding statistic was nine, the five-gold sweep was only exceeded once in the last decade.

That was 2001 when there were eight Caribbean gold first-place finishes.

Led by 2003 World 100 metre champion Kim Collins, St Kitts and Nevis had its best showing at the championships.


BEST SHOWING: The St Kitts and Nevis 4x100m team show off their bronze medals

Collins sped to his third World Championships medal by streaking into third place and blazed the second leg to help his team to another bronze in the 4x100 sprint relay.

The numbers also contain a first for Trinidad and Tobago. Kelly-Ann Baptiste stuck her neck out at the finish of the 100 metres final and craned past Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce to get the bronze medal.

No woman from the twin island republic had ever won a medal in the 100m and only one, 400 metres hurdler Josanne Lucas, had won any medal at all at the Worlds. The difference between third and fourth was 0.01 seconds.


SPRINT QUEENS: (L-R) Baptiste, Jeter and Campbell-Brown raise their flags in triumph

She almost copied Collins with two sensational second legs on the 4x100m. The first one boosted her team to a national record of 42.50 seconds in the heat. The second wasn’t quite enough and the red-white-and-blacks barely missed third place.

A certain medal for the Trinidad and Tobago men’s sprint relay team was lost in a freak accident. Incredibly, USA third-leg runner Darvis Patton made contact with Britain’s anchorman Harry Aikines-Aryeetey in the final exchange zone.

Patton tumbled in the lane occupied by Trinidad and Tobago creating an obstruction for the Olympic and World silver medallists.

After qualifying for the men’s high jump was over, there was hope that St Lucia would match Grenada by winning its first ever medal at the World Championships.

Darvin Edwards raised his national record to 2.31 metres to advance to the final. After becoming the first man from St Lucia to ever reach a World Championship final, Edwards couldn’t rekindle the spark when the medals were on the line.

That same event gave a medal to the Bahamas. Trevor Barry audaciously passed when the bar was set at 2.29 metres, a personal best height for him.

He then blew over 2.32 to take the bronze. Bahamian men have won the event twice, firstly in 1995 through Troy Kemp and in 2007 through Donald Thomas who was in the Daegu final alongside Barry.

That kept a long Bahamian medal winning streak alive despite one big disappointment. Three-time finalist Chris Brown was narrowly run out of the 400 final and lost a chance for compensation in the 4x400m.

Brown and fellow semi-finalist Demetrius Pinder rested in the heats but their teammates never made it. Given the relative weakness of the winning USA team, the Bahamians might have had a shot at the gold medals.

The first Bahamian World Championship medals came in 1995 through Kemp and 400 metre runner-up Pauline Davis.

Bahamians have been on the podium at every renewal since then. Amongst Caribbean nations, only Jamaica and Cuba have won medals in each and every World Championship.

In fact the land of wood and water has won just about half of all the medals won by the region and was the only English-speaking Caribbean nation to win medals in 1983, 1987, 1991 and 1993.

Jamaica has continued as the major contributor to Caribbean medals since then and the region’s success rises and fall with Jamaica’s input.

As usual, there are numbers within numbers. Jamaica is ‘little but tallawah’ when compared to big countries. On a per capita basis, the Bahamas is even more productive with a medal mix of 7-5-7.

Barry won the country’s 19th medal in World Championship history but the Bahamas has a population of just 350,000. That’s a smidge below a 10th of Jamaica’s population of 2.85 million.

That aside, the Caribbean is a key component in world athletics. Wins in Daegu by Usain Bolt, James, Veronica Campbell-Brown and Yohan Blake proved that and give Caribbean fans much to look forward to when the London Olympics arrive next year.

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