Everybody Loves Ramon
LONDON — You don’t hear of too many Olympic medalists coming out of the Dakotas.
Maybe ice hockey. Not too many in track & field.
Of course, there was Fritz Pollard (of North Dakota) who took the bronze in the 110-meter high hurdles for Team USA back of Forrest “Spec” Towns of the U.S. and Don Finlay of Team GB at Berlin in 1936.
And, of course, of course, of course (South Dakotan) Billy Mills delivering the surprise of all surprises by winning the 10,000 meters at Tokyo in 1964, as the only American ever to win the 25-lapper at the Games (although Galen Rupp gave it one heck of a go the other day).
Now add Ramon Miller to the list.
OK, OK, OK, he’s not really a (North) Dakotan and he runs for the Bahamas, but he did much of his trainng and prepping for these Games of the XXX Olympiad at North Dakota’s Dickinson State College. And now he’s a hero in Dickinson, even though he’s surely not known elsewhere in the U.S.
There was joy on Grand Bahama, in Eleuthera, in Nassau, and in all of the many just-off-Florida islands, after Chris Brown (44.9), Demetrius Pinder (43.5), Michael Mathieu (44.25) and Miller (44.01) brought the stick around four times to win it all in 2:56.72, and relegate a patched-up and gallant U.S. team to the silvers in 2:57.05.
Miller ran down U.S. team captain Angelo Taylor to turn the tide in an all-exciting final 100 meters. Team USA was quick — Bryson Nellum (45.2), Joshua Mance (43.5), Tony McQuay (43.41) and Taylor ( 44.85) — but not quick enough.
To U.S. fans, this one hurt in oh-so-many ways. There was dismay for Taylor, who’d stepped up when others (LaShawn Merritt, Jeremy Wariner and Manteo Mitchell) bowed out.
There was the tough luck of Merritt, the 2008 Olympic 400 king who came to London hoping for individual and relay gold but he’s going home with none after a hamstring injury knocked him out in the first round.
And he even tougher luck of Mitchell, who gutted out what proved to be a broken leg to keep his team alive in the qualifying round. You still had to appreciate the joy the Bahamas men now shared.
Two-time 400 hurdles gold medalist Taylor was, understandably, rather disconsolate. “I got the stick exactly where I wanted it,” he said. "I thought I could get it home. I never could find my second gear.”
“It was a great honor for Angelo to step in,” said Mitchell, taking it all in from the sidelines. “He tried to honor Team USA.”
But Bahamas found all its gears.
All four Bahamas gold medalists have been U.S. collegians – leadoff man Chris Brown at Norfolk State, Demetrius Pinder at Texas A&M, Michael Mathieu at Texas Tech and Miller at Dickinson State which, of course, is never to be confused with Fairleigh Dickinson.
Claiming third place in 2:59.40 was the Trinidad & Tobago team with Queens resident Lalonde Gordon running a 45.1 leadoff leg, four days after he’d won a bronze medal in the individual 400.
“Tell the people back home (to Cambria Heights), I’m coming back with two Olympic medals,” said Gordon.
For Brown, 33 like Taylor, this was his fourth Olympic 4x400 appearance but his first gold. He’d anchored Bahamas to fourth place in 2000 (later elevated to third when drug violators got U.S. tossed), sixth in 2004, and second for the silver in 2008.
Like so many, he’d spent considerable time racing at The Armory. “Love that place,” he said. “We came up (from Virginia) to run there so many times, If you want to run fast times, everybody knows that’s the place.”
Normally, he’s the Bahamas anchor but the switch-up for the islanders paid off hugely. But he alerted Miller that he’d like anchor job back — someday. “Remember,” he said, “you just had it on loan today. I trusted these guys to finally beat the Americans.”
“This is amazing,” said Pinder. “We made it good from the start, and finally got it over the U.S.”
“We’ve been patient for a long time,” echoed Mathieu.
Miller put it this way: “The U.S. guys know we’ve been just behind them or thereabouts for a long time, but it’s amazing we are finally taking home the Gold. We can’t wait to celebrate. This is for everyone back home.”
Meaning, of course, Grand Bahama, Eleuthera and Nassau.
And Dickinson, North Dakota, too.