Golden run by Jamaica's Skeen
Raymond Graham, Gleaner Writer
WOLMER'S Boys' sprinter Odean Skeen scored a historic victory in the 100 metres at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore yesterday.
Skeen, who will celebrate his 16th birthday on August 28, gave himself an early present with a personal best 10.42 seconds for the gold medal. It was Jamaica's first medal of the Games.
Yesterday's run crowned a great season for the Wolmer's boy. He was double sprint champion at Boys' Championships, Carifta Games and Junior Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Championships, and was also a member of Jamaica's silver medal winning 4x100 metres quartet at the recent World Junior Championships in Moncton, Canada.
Going into the final with the second fastest time behind favourite and world leader David Bolarinwo of Great Britain, Skeen separated himself from the field with his usual fast finish. Japan's Masaki Nashimoto who led early bagged silver in a personal best of 10.51, the same time returned by third-place Bolarinwo.
"At 80 metres I knew I had the gold," Skeen told the IAAF website.
Favourite Bolarinwo blamed his start for his third-place finish.
"I didn't get a good start and that cost me the race. However, this is only my second year in the sport and I am still learning", said the Briton.
There were encouraging performances from Jamaica's other finalists. Sprint hurdlers Megan Simmonds and Steffan Fennell came close as they both finished fourth in their events in personal-best times.
Simmonds, for the second time at the meet, improved her time as she clocked 13.62 seconds in the final of the 100-metre hurdles. Favourite and world leader Ekaterina Bleskina of Russia won the event in 13.32. Michelle Jenneke of Russia copped silver in a personal best 13.46 and Noemi Zbaeren of Australia took bronze in 13.50.
Fennell, a semi-finalist at the World Junior Championships, raced to a personal best of 13.54 seconds in the 110m hurdles, as Nicholas Hough of Australia won the event in 13.37.
The other Jamaicans who competed in "A finals yesterday finished sixth and seventh respectively in their events. Olivia James was sixth in the 400 metres in 54.14 seconds. Gold went to American Robin Reynolds in 52.57.
Long jumper Janeive Russell had to settle for seventh in the final with a leap of 5.83 metres as the event was won by Lena Malkus of Germany with a leap of 6.40 metres.
Yesterday also saw the Dominican Republic among the medals as Lugelon Santos gave his country the gold medal in the boys' 400 metres in 47.11 seconds.
Two other Jamaicans, Shericka Jackson (200m) and Rochelle Farquharson (triple jump) will compete in finals today.
Mom: Odean was always confident
"Words cannot express my feelings as it is happiness all through, and this means a lot for Odean, the family and the country, because he is a very humble and disciplined person who is hard working, and I am hoping that this will be the start of greatness for him."
Those were the words of Cheryl Skeen, mother of Odean, shortly after his historic victory in the 100 metres at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore yesterday.
She said her son was very confident of winning gold when she spoke to him just after his preliminary round race on Wednesday.
"Odean told me that I should not worry and should not watch his time (he was the second fastest qualifier) as he was very confident that the Great Britain athlete would not beat him," she said.
"When he said that to me I was also very confident because whenever he is going to do well he always tells us, and we believe in him," she added.
According to the athlete's mother, she got very little sleep on Friday night.
"I hardly slept the night before and I could not eat because I was very nervous, and although he had never been wrong in the past I still had concerns."
Members of the Skeen family and friends watched the race live via the internet yesterday morning.
"... After seeing Odean cross the finishing line, we jumped and started to scream and several people in the community who didn't know what was happening rushed to the house to see if something was wrong," continued an elated mother.
Special birthday party
They are now planning a special birthday party for Odean when he returns home on August 29, a day after his 16th birthday.
Skeen is from a family of track and field enthusiasts.
"We all love track and field and every member of the family has been involved in the sport, as I used to compete for Tivoli Gardens and his father competed for Excelsior and Tivoli also," said Cheryl Skeen.
She warned rivals that there is another rising star in the family.
"His six-year-old brother, Xavier, who now attends Hydel, will even be more awesome than Odean. The Skeen dynasty will be around for a long time as Xavier is more talented at this stage than Odean was," concluded an emotional and happy mother.