Thu | Jan 23, 2020

Girls strike gold - Women’s sprint relay team mine Ja’s third gold of World Championships; Ricketts takes triple jump silver

Published:Sunday | October 6, 2019 | 12:37 AMAndre Lowe - Sports Editor
Natalliah Whyte (left), Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (second left), Shericka Jackson (second right) and Jonielle Smith celebrate gold in the women's 4x100m relay final at the 2019 IAAF World Athletic Championships held at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, yesterday.
Jamaica’s Shanieka Ricketts celebrates silver in the Women’s Triple Jump event at the 2019 IAAF World Athletic Championships held at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, yesterday
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DOHA, Qatar:

Jamaica’s 4x100m relay gold medal on yesterday’s penultimate day of the IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar, not only returned the country to the top of the World Championships women’s sprint relay hill, but again gave the world a glimpse into the future of the country’s female sprinting.

From Natalliah Whyte’s aggressive start to Jonielle Smith’s perfect curve, Jamaica’s fleet-footed freshmen delivered performances that belie their inexperience at this level to help the country to its third gold medal in Doha.

With 400m bronze medallist Shericka Jackson’s freight liner-type power on the anchor and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce’s blistering pace on display on the second leg, Jamaica’s women clocked 41.44 seconds – the fastest time since August 2016 – to win gold in the women’s sprint relay in front of another good crowd at the Khalifa International Stadium.

Shanieka Ricketts produced her second-ever best jump to deliver on the promises of an amazing season, winning silver in the women’s triple jump with a 14.92m distance, as Jamaica’s medal tally rose to 9 – 3 gold, 4 silver, and 2 bronze.

Jamaica’s women have simply owned the World Championships 4x100m relay event over the past decade, winning gold at four of the last six championships and failing to medal at only two of the 17 championships staged.

Despite having to do without Elaine Thompson and Briana Williams, they again demonstrated the country’s depth as they brushed aside an expected Great Britain and Northern Ireland challenge, with the Brits taking second in 41.85 seconds and dethroned champions United States, 42.10, finishing back in third.

“I am really excited for team Jamaica and our ladies and the depth that we have, especially going into 2020 (Olympics). There are so many things that can happen at a championship, so we have to make sure that all our ladies are ready no matter who you call on. Whether it’s a vet or a youngie, we will be ready!” Fraser-Pryce said, beaming.

It was a master stroke from the Jamaican technical team, and the ladies’ execution was near perfect save for a messy final exchange between Smith and Jackson.

Whyte was fierce from the start, eating into Trinidad and Tobago’s Semoy Hackett’s stagger with each stride, and when Fraser-Pryce took over on the second leg, the ‘Pocket Rocket’ was more like a heat-seeking missile; the target, the red, white, and blue vest of Great Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith.

Smith’s third-leg run might as well have been drawn by a compass, and Jackson’s 400m engine asked too much of those in pursuit as she crossed the line, arms stretched wide in celebration.

Smith, 23; Williams, 17; and Whyte, 22, represent Jamaica’s newest batch of international female sprinters, and Smith was elated to highlight what it meant to her to be a part of Jamaican history.

“I am feeling extremely happy,” said Smith. “Making the final for the 100m was an achievement, and it’s good, but now I can say that I am a world champion, so it’s amazing, and I think we did a wonderful job as a team and as individuals on our own legs.”

Whyte, 22, could hardly contain her delight and explained the reasons behind her composure.

“It’s my first senior team, my first World Championship, and we won a gold medal. I just wanted to play my part and I am happy we managed to secure the gold medal,” said Whyte.

“I wasn’t nervous at all. I prayed a lot and trusted in God. We have been doing this from the junior level. It’s in our blood, and the composure from that helped us out there,” she added.

Earlier, triple jumper Ricketts came within touching distance of her personal best, disturbing the sand at 14.92m on her third attempt to finish behind Venezuela’s Yulimar Rojas, 15.37m, with Colombia’s Caterine Ibarguen, 14.73m, bumping Kimberly Williams, who matched her PB, 14.64m, from the bronze medal position and into fourth place.

“This is my third World Championships. I have had a lot of disappointments in the last two, and to come out tonight and to deliver and be on the podium and get the silver medal for Jamaica, I am just very happy for that,” said Ricketts, who also registered marks of 14.81m, 14.76m, 14.72m, and 14.85m, in her series before fouling on her final attempt.

Despite missing her 15m target, Ricketts joins national record holder and 2005 world champion Trecia Smith as the only Jamaicans to medal in the event at the World Championships.

“I was definitely hoping to jump 15m. I was one centimetre from my personal best tonight, and that was enough to get the silver medal, but as much as I wanted to get the gold medal, it was far-fetched tonight, and I am just happy I was able to secure the silver medal,” said Ricketts.

Meanwhile, 2015 World champion Danielle Williams led all four Jamaican entrants into the 100m hurdles semi-finals, winning her heat with a time of 12.51 seconds to head into today’s semi-finals as the second-fastest qualifier behind Nigeria’s Tobi Amusan, who ran a personal best 12.48 seconds.

“I know everybody here is capable of making it on to the podium, so I am just focusing on executing my race and running three technically efficient races and, hopefully, that will get me on to the podium,” said Ricketts.

Janeek Brown’s 12.61 second-place finish has her as the fifth-best qualifier, while Megan Tapper, 12.78 seconds, and Yanique Thompson, 12.85 seconds, both finished in second place in their respective heats to qualify as the 10th and 13th fastest into the next round.

Like she did en route to winning the world youth title in 2011, Chanice Porter produced her best on her last attempt during yesterday’s women’s long jump final qualifiers, landing 6.57m into the pit to secure her spot in the final, which gets under way today at 7:15 p.m. (11:15 a.m.).

Tissanna Hickling, who, like Porter, was competing at her first senior global championship, had a best of 6.49m, which she achieved on her second attempt. Hickling, however, finished outside of the qualifying positions.

The women’s 4x400m relay team was quite impressive in qualifying for today’s final at 9:15 p.m. as the team of Roneisha McGregor, Anastasia Le-Roy, Tiffany James, and 400m finalist Stephenie-Ann McPherson clocked 3:23.64, with only the United States, which clocked 3:22.96 to win their heat, posting a faster time heading into the final.

Akeem Bloomfield, Nathon Allen, Terry Thomas, and Javon Francis combined to post 3:00.26 to also win their heat and finish behind the United States (2:59.89) in the men’s 4x400m relay heats.

andre.lowe@gleanerjm.com