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Gleaner 180 - Beijing gold rush

Published:Saturday | September 13, 2014 | 12:00 AM
McKenley - File

Jamaica has been good, sometimes very good, at the Olympic Games.

In London 1948, the island's first Games, Arthur Wint won the 400 metres ahead of compatriot Herb McKenley. Wint went on to take silver in the 800 metres and the seeds for future triumphs were sown.

Four years later in 1952, Jamaica won gold again in the 400 metres, top spot going to George Rhoden, McKenley was again second. The latter added another silver in the 100m, but the best was left for last.

The quartet of Wint, Les Laing, McKenley and Rhoden set a then world record three minutes 3.9 seconds in the 4x400 metres to defeat the mighty United States. McKenley was the star, he ran an incredible 45.1 third leg to set up the victory.

His Excellency the Governor Sir Hugh Foot, in a Gleaner report the following day, cabled congratulations to the team to hail their record-breaking victory: "Jamaica's pride in this crowning triumph knows no bounds. We shall never forget the great day when Jamaica beat the world."

It took another 24 years for Jamaica to win a gold medal at the Olympics, Donald Quarrie winning the 200m in Montreal in 1976. Then, 10 years later, Deon Hemmings became the first Jamaican woman to win an Olympic gold medal with victory in the 400-metre hurdles at the Atlanta Games.

Veronica Campbell-Brown mined 200-metre gold in Athens in 2004 and anchored the sprint relay to victory as Jamaica won two gold medals in a single Games for the first time since 1952.

Then came the great haul of China, six gold medals. It was the Games of the great Usain Bolt, three gold medals, three world records - 100m, 200m and 4x100m. Shelly-Ann Fraser (now Pryce) announced herself to the world with gold in the 100m, Campbell-Brown retained her 200m title and Melaine Walker won the 400m hurdles. In addition, Jamaica won three silver and two bronze for a grand total of 11 medals.

The total medals were surpassed in London two years ago (12), but the gold medal tally of six in Beijing remains the best ever by Jamaica at an Olympic Games.