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The Caribbean dream - we were all Jamaicans

"...nothing can equal the joy we in the Caribbean experienced at the performance of our track and field athletes, led by the incomparable Jamaicans and the awesome Usain Bolt. They gave us one golden moment after another..."

Stabroek News - Editorial August 29, 2008
The Olympics are finally over and for many sports fans life is getting back to normal. But the images linger and every armchair athlete among us will have his or her own favourite Olympic moment.
It might be Michael Phelps's superhuman efforts in the pool and his incredible haul of eight gold medals and seven world records. Or the glamorous calculation of Elena Isinbaeva, Russia's pole vault queen, who defended her Olympic title and claimed her 25th world record in the event. Or the golden long-distance double double of the great Ethiopian runners, Kenenisa Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba, who respectively won the men's and women's 5,000m and 10,000m crowns.
But surely nothing can equal the joy we in the Caribbean experienced at the performance of our track and field athletes, led by the incomparable Jamaicans and the awesome Usain Bolt. They gave us one golden moment after another and at times it was as if we ourselves were literally on speed.
Jamaica had its best Olympics ever, coming thirteenth on the medals table with six gold, three silver and two bronze, all won on the athletics track. In fact, in the athletics table, Jamaica came third behind the USA with seven gold medals and Russia with six. Clearly Jamaica has arrived as a world power on the athletics track.
All Jamaica's medals, with the exception of Melaine Walker's gold in the 400m hurdles and the women's bronze in the 4x100m relay were won in the shorter sprints. The sprinters, men and women, swept the gold medals in the 100m and the 200m, with the women going one better than the men in claiming all the podium positions for themselves in the 100. But for the baton mishap in the women's 400m relay, there surely would have been another gold medal for the taking. Jamaica is now, undoubtedly, the world's sprinting superpower, eclipsing the Americans in a way never before witnessed.
Most impressive of all were the other-worldly performances of Usain Bolt, who came away with three gold medals, in the 100m, 200m and the 4x100m relay, and the unprecedented feat of setting world records in all three events, including the obliteration of Michael Johnson's supposedly unbeatable record in the 200. And if the irrepressible Bolt was the undisputed star of the magnificent Bird's Nest stadium, it was also absolutely glorious to see Asafa Powell tearing up the track like the thoroughbred he is to power the relay team home in a stunning new world record, dispelling the notion that he is a perennial 'choker'.
Last week we were all Jamaicans, as we basked in the reflected glory of the golden exploits of Bolt, Powell, Walker, Shelly-Ann Fraser, Veronica Campbell-Brown and company. But lest we forget, there were other splendid efforts by Caribbean athletes.

A new star was born in Richard Thompson of Trinidad and Tobago who took silver in the 100m and anchored his team in an exciting and successful charge for silver in the 4x100m relay. Also, the Bahamas won silver in the men's 4x100m relay and Leevan Sands leaped to bronze in the men's triple jump. In addition, in the wider Caribbean, Cuba came home with twenty-four medals overall, but surprisingly, only two gold.
Let us not forget either that six Caribbean men lined up in the final of the 100m and three appeared in the 200m final. And there were four Caribbean women in the 100m final and five in the 200m. Surely there can be no exaggeration in saying that the Caribbean is now the cradle of world sprinting.
Spare a thought, however, for Churandy Martina of the Netherlands Antilles, definitely one of the revelations of the Games. Fourth in the men's 100m, he appeared to have won the silver in the 200m, only to be cruelly, belatedly disqualified for a lane infringement. We are confident that we have not seen the last of this talented, young speedster from Curaçao, but this was perhaps the only sour note for the Caribbean during an otherwise unforgettable week.
Last week the English-speaking Caribbean sang and danced together across the miles, the islands and the sea, in a way not seen since the halcyon days of the all-conquering West Indies cricket team. One has only to read of the unconfined elation and thanks-be-to-God pandemonium that enveloped Shelly-Ann Fraser's humble home and neighbourhood in Waterhouse, St Andrew, to recognize and to feel how much these exploits mean to the people of the region. Oh, how sweet it still is!
Last week we were all united as Caribbean people in joy and in triumph. Last week we were living the Caribbean dream so presciently promoted by the Caribbean Media Corporation in its coverage of the Beijing Games. This week, with Carifesta coming home to Guyana, we continue to strive towards that dream. Now we just need the politicians to remember that integration can only work if it is people-driven and firmly rooted in our joint aspirations and our common culture.


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