I Hear What You're Saying
The Athletics part of the 30th Olympics are two days in, and one trend is clear. With London as host, the English-speaking peoples are taking over!
The men’s 10,000 was won on Saturday by the home country’s Mo Farah, followed by the American Galen Rupp, both of whom have English as their first language, if that’s what they use here on the streets of Portland, Ore., where they both live and train.
It was the first win ever in the 10 for Great Britain; the first by a European since Alberto Cova of Italy won gold in 1984, and the first medal for the U.S. at the distance since Billy Mills’ upset win in 1964. (Admittedly, Farah is a transplanted European, as he was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, but I can testify that he speaks an excellent brand of the King’s English after conversing with him firsthand in Eugene a year ago.)
Then there was the men’s long jump, won, yes, by another Brit, one Greg Rutherford, who competes for the Marshall Milton Keynes Athletic Club, of Buckinghamshire. It was the first gold in the LJ for GB since Lynn Davies — who was in fact Welsh — in 1964. The other medalists? Mitchell Watt, an Aussie, and Will Claye, an American. That’s a Commonwealth nation and those pesky Colonies.
The women’s 100? The first five spots went to two medalists from Jamaica — which declared its independence from the crown exactly 50 years ago — and three Americans: Fraser-Pryce, Jeter, Campbell-Brown, Madison, Felix. The final three were a Trinidadian (the English-speaking Kelly-Ann Baptiste) and two former U.S. collegians, Murielle Ahoure (Cote d’Ivorian who attended George Mason) and Blessing Okagbare (Nigerian who went to Texas/El Paso).
Only the winner, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, did not attend an American college: Jeter Cal State/Dominguez Hills, Campbell-Brown Arkansas, Madison Tennessee, Felix USC (although she never competed as a Trojan) and Baptiste LSU. Fraser-Pryce did run in the States as a schoolgirl, for her Jamaican high school Wolmer’s Girls.
Completing the British gold trifecta on Day Two was Jessica Ennis, who won the heptathlon for the host country and broke the GB and Commonwealth records, scoring 6,955. In Olympic history, only Jackie Joyner-Kersee ever scored higher. For Great Britain, it was the first time they had won three gold medals in track and field in a single day since July 16, 1900 — a little more than 112 years ago — in Paris.
Saturday’s other two finals did not follow the English trend, as the women’s discus was won by a Croatian, the men’s 20k walk by a Chinese. But watch out for Sunday when such finals as the men’s 100 and the women’s 400 will be played out.
Sunday, Day 3
The big surprise in Saturday’s opening round of the men’s 100 was the No. 3 American, 23-year-old Ryan Bailey, who won his heat in 9.88, the fastest preliminary-round time ever run. (Bailey is, yes, another Oregonian, went to high school in Salem.) Sunday night’s final is shaping up to be a titanic confrontation between the three Americans — Bailey, Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay — and the three Jamaicans — Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell and Yohan Blake. Bolt is, of course, the defending Olympic champion and the world recordholder. The host British and Trinidad also advanced three men each to the semis, which are scheduled for 7:45 pm London time (2:45 pm in NYC). The final is two hours later.
The heats and lanes have been drawn for the semis, and lo and behold, each of the three sections has one runner each from the U.S., Trinidad, Great Britain and Jamaica. Heat I includes Powell and Gatlin, Heat II Bolt and Bailey, Heat III Gay and Blake.
You wouldn’t know about Bailey from watching NBC, however. In its summary of Round 1 of the men’s 100 on Saturday night, NBC did not show Bailey’s race — it showed four others — and did not mention his name or his performance in its remarks.
The final of the women’s 400 will also be held Sunday night, and the field is all three Americans, two Jamaicans, a Brit and one runner each from Botswana (formerly the Bechuanaland when it was part of the Commonwealth) and one non-English speaker, Antonina Krivoshapka of Russia.
The favored Sanya Richards-Ross — who was born in Jamaica before moving to Florida with her family — must contend with the reigning world champion, Amantle Montsho of Botswana, and Olympic champion, Christine Ohuruogo of Great Britain. Ohuruogo, whose parents are Nigerian, was born in East London, a stone’s throw from the Olympic Stadium.
The other finalists are Francena McCorory and DeeDee Trotter of the U.S. and Rosemarie Whyte and Novlene Williams-Mills of Jamaica. The Jamaicans, the two time qualifiers, will be in Lanes 1 and 2. The outside four lanes will be filled, in order, by Richards-Ross, Montsho, Ohuruogo and McCorory.
For early risers, the women’s marathon will be contested on Sunday morning, beginning at 11 AM London time, thus finishing at about 8:30 am East Coast time. The U.S. competitors are two more Portland residents, Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher, along with Desiree Davila, though Davila was a questionable starter because of an injury.
Sunday’s other finals are the women’s triple jump, men’s hammer and men’s steeple.