Jamaican Fraser-Pryce edges Jeter for Olympic gold

Associated Press
Jamaica's Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce celebrates winning gold in the women's 100-meter final during the athletics competition in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in London.(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
.

View gallery

LONDON (AP) — Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce leaned across the finish line of the women's 100 meters, then looked up at the blank scoreboard for the name of the next Olympic champion.

Five seconds passed, then five more.

Was it the Jamaican, Fraser-Pryce, or the American, Carmelita Jeter?

The race couldn't have been any closer, and when Fraser-Pryce's name finally came up first, she fell to the ground and shouted, "Thank you, Jesus!"

Another sprint gold for Jamaica. Really, was there ever any doubt?

A golden ribbon in her hair, the bubbly 25-year-old Fraser-Pryce made it back-to-back titles in the premier women's event of the Olympics, closing ground over the last 20 meters Saturday night and leaning at the line to win in 10.75 seconds and edge Jeter by .03 seconds.

"It means a lot to defend my title," Fraser-Pryce said. "I trusted in myself."

With the victory, Fraser-Pryce became the first woman to repeat in the 100 since Gail Devers of the U.S. in 1992 and 1996.

"I don't know much about the history of track and field," Fraser-Pryce said, showing her mile-wide smile. "But I know Gail Devers."

What a way to start a historic weekend in Jamaica, where the 50th anniversary of the country's independence from Britain is Monday. It was on Aug. 5, 1962, that the Union Jack was lowered for the final time at National Stadium in Kingston. In a picture-perfect bit of symmetry, the Jamaican flag will be raised Sunday — maybe Monday, too, if Usain Bolt or Yohan Blake or Asafa Powell win the men's 100 — over Olympic Stadium in London for Fraser-Pryce's medals ceremony.

"The excitement has already started," she said. "For me, what's really kind of exciting is we got our independence from England and now we're here in England and we get our first medal. For me, that kind of tops it off."

Another Jamaican, Veronica Campbell-Brown, finished third for her second career 100-meter bronze. The country fell out of the running for a repeat of its sweep in Beijing after 2008 silver medalist Kerron Stewart failed to make it through the semifinals.

But don't expect much complaining on the island where the top industry behind tourism seems to be mining precious metals, er, medals of the Olympic variety.

On Sunday, Bolt and Blake will try to keep the gold coming for Jamaica, which has now won six of the last seven gold medals awarded in the men's and women's Olympic sprinting events, including relays.

Given Bolt's massive worldwide popularity, Fraser-Pryce sometimes takes second-billing in her home country.

"I go to the supermarket," she said, "and they ask me, 'Where's Usain? Where's Usain?'"

But those with a sense of the history know what a big role women have played in turning sprinting into the national pastime. Merlene Ottey has nine Olympic medals, and Campbell-Brown just won her sixth. Now Fraser-Pryce has two golds.

"Jamaican sprints for women have been going great for a long time now," Campbell-Brown said. "We never fail to deliver and it continues."

Four years ago, Fraser-Pryce was relatively unknown, a 21-year-old who first stunned her country, then the world, on her way to Olympic gold. There was a setback in 2010, a six-month ban for using a painkiller to treat a toothache.

But she cleared her head, got back to work and showed, once again, a knack for peaking at exactly the right time.

"This means a lot to me," Fraser-Pryce said. "For two years, it's been up, down, up, down, all over."

She's not done yet. She won the 200 at the Jamaican Olympic trials, as well, and preliminaries for that race start Monday night.

When the scoreboard finally flashed her in the No. 1 position on Saturday night, Fraser-Pryce dropped to the ground and cried. She ran to the stands, grabbed a Jamaican flag and paraded around with Campbell-Brown. "VCB," as she's known on the island, is not finished in London yet, either. She's the two-time defending champion in the 200, where she'll have Fraser-Pryce to contend with again, along with American Allyson Felix.

Felix, who considers the 100 her tuneup for the 200, finished fifth in 10.89 on Saturday.

She made the 100 meters after a week of tumult at U.S. trials, finishing in a dead heat for the third and final spot. She faced a run-off against the teammate she tied, but got the spot when that teammate withdrew at the last second.

"I'm happy. I got a personal best," Felix said. "I'm looking forward to the 200."

Jeter offered a great big smile after watching her visions of gold vanish by a sliver.

"Everyone wants to win, but I'm on the podium," Jeter said. "I'm the only American on the podium."

She's also one of the biggest enigmas in American track — a late bloomer at age 32 and not much of a talker. The defending world champion, Jeter, had been the favorite for this event until Fraser-Pryce, not on form through much of the early season, announced she was back with a 10.70 in Kingston last month.

Now Fraser-Pryce gets to answer one of those questions any Olympian would love to be asked: Which gold means more?

"I'd have to say Beijing because I was inexperienced, I was young and I never believed I could. But I did," she said. "This year I came into the championship as a favorite, which was a first for me, so I was a bit nervous. But I believed in myself."

As magical a night as it was for the Jamaicans, the end of Fraser-Pryce's win was met with silence — or maybe it just seemed that way after what had transpired over the previous hour or so.

This happened to be the day when the British finally broke through at the track in their home Olympics.

In rapid succession, the host country won three straight gold medals.

With Prince William (wearing a red Great Britain Olympic ballcap) and his wife, Kate, watching alongside Prime Minister David Cameron, Jessica Ennis finished out her stirring heptathlon victory by winning the 800-meter finale in 2 minutes, 8.65 seconds. She finished the seven-event heptathlon with 6,955 points, 306 ahead of Lilli Schwarzkopf of Germany.

About 20 minutes later, Greg Rutherford parlayed that momentum to come out of nowhere and win the long jump, his first medal in a major international meet with a leap of 27 feet, 3¼ inches (8.31 meters).

Then, about another 20 minutes later, it was Mo Farah — born in Somalia, training in Portland, Ore., competing for Britain — who brought down the house, sprinting to the finish in the 10,000 meters for a win over his American workout partner, Galen Rupp, in 27 minutes, 30.42 seconds. Farah slapped both hands on his head three times, curved back toward the finish line, then continued a celebration that will long be remembered here.

"I saw Jess, and I knew she won the gold, and I wanted to win the gold, too," Farah said. "As I came through the tunnel, people shouting my name, it was like someone gave me 10 cups of coffee. I knew I had to make something happen, I was just so buzzed up."

A bit after the evening's program was finished, hardly anyone in the 80,000-seat stadium had gone home. They waited to sing along to two tunes: "All You Need Is Love," by the Beatles (Paul McCartney, also on hand, surely knew the words) — and another one that might ring a bell: "God Save the Queen," played while tears streamed down Ennis' face during her medals ceremony.

"Massive relief," Ennis said. "To come into this event with all that pressure, with everyone just saying, 'Oh, you are going to win gold. You are going to win gold.'"

Hours before the British invasion, the stadium belonged to Oscar Pistorius, the "Blade Runner" from South Africa who made history simply by lining up in the men's 400, the first amputee to compete in Olympic track. He booked a return date, as well — into the semifinals on Sunday — after finishing second in his heat in 45.44.

"I've worked for six years ... to get my chance," Pistorius said. "I found myself smiling in the starting block. Which is very rare in the 400 meters."

It's not uncommon for the Jamaicans to be smiling after the 100 and 200.

Next up, a probable matchup of Bolt vs. Blake with another countryman, Powell, among the contenders for good measure.

In Beijing, Bolt kicked off the Jamaican medals haul with his chest-thumping, world-record time of 9.69. A night later, Fraser-Pryce led Jamaica to a women's sweep.

This time, the schedule is flipped. Ladies first.

"I'm sure it's crazy in Jamaica right now," Fraser-Pryce said. "I can imagine everyone on the street, cheering and happy for us. I'm sure they're excited for tomorrow, looking for more medals. We're doing well. But we're always looking for more things to celebrate."

View Comments (15)