Sun | Apr 23, 2017

Jamaica's mile-relay women mine gold in big Beijing loot at World Championships

Published:Monday | August 31, 2015 | 8:00 AMAndre Lowe
Jamaican 4x400m winning women.
Novlene Williams-Mills (left) raises her arm in triumph after crossing the finish line ahead of the United States' Francena McCorory to win the women's 4x400m at the 15th IAAF World Championships yesterday.
Javon Francis (right) grimaces as he heads towards the line with the United States' Lashawn Merritt (left) in the final of the men's 4x400m at the World Championships in Beijing, China. The USA won. Jamaica finished fourth.
In solidarity, Pete Matthews (left), Javon Francis (centre) and Ricardo Chambers after the men's 4x400m in which Jamaica finish fourth behind the United States, Trinidad & Tobago and Great Britain.
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BEIJING, China:

Seven. Second. Twelve. One.

Those were the numbers that mattered as Jamaica wrapped up a successful and historic campaign at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing, China, with a mixed bag of ecstasy and heartbreak on the last day at the Bird's Nest.

The island closed its account with 12 medals, including a history-making seven gold medals, equalling the most in the nation's history and a haul that left it in second place on the medal standings - the country's best placing at these championships.

Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill, who returned to Jamaica from China last night, said that the exploits of the athletes in the Asian country have done Brand Jamaicaa huge favour.

"What has happened is that there is greater awareness about Jamaica. What has happened is that people like Jamaicans. The team has a lot of personality, and they are looking at it and saying, 'These guys are nice'. I don't think we could have asked for more," the minister said.

He said that following the country's dominance in the 2008 edition of the Championships, the Government took the decision to remove visa restrictions to woo Chinese visitors to the country.

"It was an opportunity to utilise this sort of popularity to engage the travel industry in China," McNeill said.

Only the 13 medals won at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, where Jamaica also won seven gold medals, bettered this Beijing loot, which saw seven gold, two silver, and three bronze as the Jamaicans finished behind Kenya (16 medals - seven gold, six silver, three bronze) and in front of the United States (18 medals - six gold, six silver, six bronze).

Wilson lauded the athletes for their dedication and praised the efforts of the management team and coaches for what he called a special performance.

"It was a long road. It was a difficult journey, but sometimes the criticism made us more resolute in terms of our performances," said Wilson as he provided his assessment of the team's efforts.

"This is indeed a special performance by the team ... and I would hope for Jamaica to feed on this success. It was a united effort, and we want to translate this into how we deal with our country," Wilson added.

Earlier, the several hundred Jamaican fans at the Bird's Nest were treated to a courageous and ruthless performance from the women's 4x400m team, which recorded what was only their second win in the event at the World Championships, crossing the line in front of the United States to take a gold medal that was 14 years in the making.

A blistering sub-50 seconds opening leg by Christine Day dug the foundation; 400m bronze medallist Shericka Jackson on the second leg laid the blocks; Stephenie-Ann McPherson added the roof under immense pressure from hurricane Allyson Felix on the third leg, where the Jamaicans lost a sizeable lead.

But veteran Novlene Williams-Mills - a fighter on and off the track bided her time, adding the finishing touches to a masterful job as she reeled in and blew past Francena McCorory in the last 60m to give the Jamaicans their first gold medal in the event since 2001 in Edmonton.

A world-leading 3:19.13 was the winning time for the Jamaicans, with the United States crossing the line in second place in 3:19.44, ahead of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, 3:23.62.

"With the women's 4x400m, we really planned for this, and we have to congratulate coach Paul Francis because he had a dream, and we bought into it, and we were able to do so well against the United States," said Wilson.

"The US may be rated as a First World power, but we have shown them that with hard work and dedication and getting the team unified around a single cause, anything is possible."

There was heartbreak, however, for a Jamaican men's 4x40m relay team that had invested heavy emotions into winning a medal for a country starved of success in an event that is held close to Jamaican hearts.

The Jamaicans were always within striking distance - except at the end of the third leg when Javon Francis received the baton near the back of the pack. DÈj‡ vu. It was Moscow 2013 all over again.

The youngster wasted little time blazing to the front of the queue, but this time, he didn't have enough in his reserve tank as he faded and eventually finished fourth, beaten on the line by the Great Britain and Northern Ireland athlete despite posting the same time, 2:58.51.

First place went to the United States, who won their second medal on the track with a world-leading 2:57.82 time, with Trinidad and Tobago claiming the silver medal in 2:58.20.

So onwards to the Rio Olympics, where Jamaica's old guard and the stars of the future look to make further history and stretch its dominance on the international stage.