No Longer Unknown
LONDON – Lalonde who?
That’s a question probably 80,000 Olympic Stadium-goers were asking after the semifinals of the men’s 400 meters were put in the books Sunday with five Caribbean runners in the Monday night final, but zero Americans — this is not a typo, repeat not a typo — among them.
And here’s the answer:
Top of the charts at 44.58 – with a big Capital Q, meaning qualifier – was Lalonde Gordon, representing Trinidad & Tobago, the forever “one and inseparable” islands due north of Venezuela.
T&T, of course, is quite a distance away from Cambria Heights, Queens, N.Y., but Lalonde Gordon spans the route with distinction.
As they say everywhere the London Tubes run, he "minds the gap."
“Guess not too many people know who I am, but that’s OK with me, too,” said the delighted Gordon after his one-lapper semifinal victory before 80,000 stunned attendees.
“But they’ll find out pretty soon.”
Well, not too many people around the Big Apple Metropolitan area know who Lalonde Gordon is, either.
He’s 23. He attended Mohawk Valley, N,Y. Community College, he lives on 221 Street in Cambia Heights.
En route to London, he trains at Red Hook Park, Brooklyn, and Lincoln Park, Jersey City. And he runs for the Zenith Velocity club team, which is based in Jersey City, when he’s not running for T&T. A familiar face at The Armory.
One of his final pre-Olympic wamups came in, of all places, Omaha, Neb. Registering the 400-200 double, and scoring 20 points for Zenith Velocity, he was the main man of the USATF National Club Championships.
USA Track and Field only wishes it had a man like Lalonde Gordon running for its own team at this decidedly difficult stage of the Games.
With Gordon atop the “Q” list at 44.58, and trailed by Kirani James of Grenada (44.59), Chris Brown of Bahamas (44.67), Luguelin Santos of Dominican Republic (44.78), Demetrius Pinder of Bahamas (44.94), twins Kevin (44.84) and Jonathan (44.99) Borlee of Belgium and Steven Solomon Australia (44.97), that counts to eight and squeezes out the two remaining Americans, Bryshon Nellum (45.02) and Tony McQuay (45.31) and everybody else.
What that also means is that Olympic history was made 25 hours before the one-lap final is run.
The Modern Olympic Games commenced in 1896. Before this one, 27 Games have been held. Team USA's 400 men ran in 26 (all but the boycotted Moscow 1980 edition) and won 20 of them.
Not only that, but USA had a seven-Games win streak, stretching from Alonzo Babers (1984) to Steve Lewis (1988) to Quincy Watts (1992) to Michael Johnson (1996-2000) to Jeremy Wariner (2004) to LaShawn Meritt (2008).
And now that streak is down the tubes, undoubtedly giving USA head coach Andrew Valmon (himself a two-time 4x400 Olympic gold medalist) acute indigestion.
Valmon is one heck of a nice guy and gentleman, but he sure doesn’t need a double dose of bad news. All along, while he’s been getting his Olympic team lined up and ready to go, he’s been fighting the Battle of College Park, struggling to keep his U. of Maryland Terps men’s team afloat in the face of the chopping block plans of the Maryland administration.
A triple dose of bad news could be around the next corner, as well.
With Merritt still hurting and McQuay and Nellum somewhat struggling, that puts another big question mark next to America's outlook for the 4x400 relay. Speaking of the U.S. undergraduate scene, the zero-Americans 400 final has all the trappings of a major U.S. collegiate contest.
James is at Alabama, Pinder’s a Texas A&M man, the Borlees attended Florida State, and Gordon, of course, at Mohawk Valley.
Who’s going to win this thing Monday night? The Borlees nominate each other.
“If I don’t win but Kevin does, that’s just as good for me,” said Jonathan Borlee.
“Doesn’t matter who,” said Kevin. “Either way the medal comes home to the same place.”
Since no one else is doing it, Lalonde Gordon is doing it for himself. “The 400 final is going to be quick, very very quick,” he rightfully predicts. “It could go in the 42s, maybe even the 41s,” he drastically over-reacts.
“Whatever it takes, I know I’m going to be right in it.”
And that part could easily evolve into the truth, the whole truth. So once again, Olympic fans, stay tuned.