Triple threat: Women 400m hurdlers have medal in sight
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil:
After carving their name in history as the first Jamaican trio to qualify for the 400m hurdles final at the Olympic Games, Janieve Russell, Leah Nugent and Ristananna Tracey are all confident about their chances to medal.
Only two Jamaican women have won Olympic medals for Jamaica in this event, Deon Hemmings with gold and silver in 1996 and 2000; with Melaine Walker also winning gold, in 2008.
Tracey qualified with the fourth best time in the semi-finals after her 54.80 second place finish, with Russell, 54.92 and Nugent, 54.98, finishing second and third, respectively, in their semis.
All three believe they still have technical adjustments to make ahead of today's 10:15 p.m. (8:15 p.m. Jamaica time) final, but are approaching it with full assurance.
"I feel really good, I am trusting God and trusting my coach (Stephen Francis). He says I'm ready so I feel that I am, I am just focusing on doing what he says. Doing that has taken me to the final, so I am pleased about that, it's just up to me to execute now and deliver," said Russell, who is one of two persons in the final to have gone sub 54 seconds this season, the other being American Dalilah Muhammad.
Russell, however, suffered an injury over a month ago, which she admits had affected her confidence here at first.
"It did affect my confidence a little, but speaking to my family and friends and also my coach has certainly boosted me up very well. I'm in the final, from there anything can happen," Russell said.
Nugent's road to the final has not been a smooth one.
She was firstly disqualified from the heat after being adjudged to have not properly cleared a hurdle, and after she was reinstated following a protest from the Jamaican management team, the Belarusian team tried to get that decision reversed, but was unsuccessful.
"I just had to tell myself that God gives his hardest battles to his strongest soldiers, he didn't say it was going to be easy," Nugent said after her semi-final performance on Tuesday night, which also produced a personal best time.
"My goal here was always to get the gold and it still is, I'm not going to put limits to myself, I know God has a destiny for me and if it's gold that he wants then I'm going to get it, just like it was destined for me to be in this semi," she said.
"I am just so blessed that's probably one of the worst races technically, so for me to come out with a personal best, that's nothing but God, especially with everything that has been thrown at me."
Nugent believes Jamaica having three competitors in the final should not surprise anyone.
"We are one of the best teams here next to the US, if not better, so I don't think it should be a surprise when things like this happen, it is a blessing that I get to compete in the final with two of my teammates," Nugent shared.
Tracey was also confident about her chances going into the medal round.
"It wasn't easy to get back and I must thank my coach Maurice Wilson and his support staff for their help. It was a lot of work, but now I am here and I am definitely confident about my chances to medal," Tracey said.
"We are all running the same amount of metres, I am a human being and so are they; I have two legs and they have two legs so anything is possible."