olympian-sprinter_web.jpgJamaicans worldwide this week celebrated numerous victories in the historic signature events of the Olympics.

The shot heard round the world, less than 10 seconds after the starting gun, elicited cheers from the Jamaican Diaspora when Usain ‘Lightning’ Bolt, one of three Jamaicans in the  men’s race, effortlessly shattered the previous world record of 9.72 seconds (also set by him), finishing victoriously in 9.69 seconds on Aug. 16.

Then, just four days after allowing Jamaicans worldwide to revel in his euphoric 100-meter victory, Bolt broke the 200-meter world record Wednesday, Aug. 20 with a win in 19.30 seconds to attain the first Olympic gold sprint double in 24 years.

Carl Lewis was the last to pull off double Olympic gold in the 100 and 200 in 1984.

“He’s obviously physically blessed and talented,’’ Marlon Hill, Jamaican Diaspora Advisory Board representative for the southern United States, said of Bolt. “The only thing he can be compared to is a cheetah. I mean, the only thing left for them to do now is test the ackee (a popular fruit tree in Jamaica)! Just imagine if we had more resources available to us…more world-class training facilities. It is a tremendous achievement and a testament to the spirit of Jamaicans. It should not be overlooked or understated. I hope it inspires them to achieve more.”

After Michael Phelps completed his eight gold medals at this year’s Olympics, all eyes were on Bolt.

While the young track star danced in jubilation Wednesday around the track after winning the 200, speakers at the stadium played “Happy Birthday” to him. He turned 22 on Thursday, Aug. 21.

The euphoric feeling of Bolt’s 100-meter accomplishment extended to the next day, when one Jamaican woman came in first and two tied for second in the 100-meter final. Shelly-Ann Fraser, Kerron Stewart and Sherone Simpson created Olympic history on Aug. 17.

Fraser won the race in 10.78 seconds; Stewart and Simpson tied for silver in 10.98 seconds.

Jamaican Melaine Walker also drove home the win on Aug. 20 in the women’s 400-meter hurdles in an Olympic record of 52.64 seconds.

Then, on Aug 21, Veronica Campbell-Brown successfully defended her 200-meter title in a personal best 21.74 seconds to follow Bolt and Fraser in winning the short sprints for the Caribbean nation.

This was the first time one country swept all four races at an Olympics since the United States did it in 1988.

American sprinter Allyson Felix, the silver 200-meter medalist in Athens, was second to Campbell-Brown again in 21.93 seconds.

Stewart, the 100-meter silver medalist, won the 200-meter bronze medal in 22 seconds flat, crossing the finish line just .01 seconds ahead of Muna Lee of the United States.

In Jamaica’s capital of Kingston, civilians were celebrating wildly after watching Bolt’s 100-meter  race on a big screen TV mounted in the busy town center. A local church in Kingston aired the race live to its congregation during the service. After the victory, the praise and worship choir led them in singing the chorus "We have the victory, Hallelujah."

But the joy for Jamaicans in the U.S. suffered a long delay: Viewers here did not get to see the race until 13 hours after it actually happened.

That’s because NBC, which owns the broadcast rights, opted to air it exclusively in prime time. The network also blocked access to viewing the race through almost any media before 11:30 that night. NBC aired its broadcast of Bolt’s 200-meter win with a similar delay.

Jamaicans in the United States have voiced their disappointment that NBC showed live footage of Michael Phelps winning all eight of his gold medals, but delayed showing the amazing feats of the fastest man in the world.

NBC officials could not be immediately reached for comment on the delay.

Although the video blackout frustrated many viewers who wanted to see the race in real time,  it didn’t seem to dull the feelings of victory, pride and accomplishment that Jamaicans in South Florida felt after learning the results of the race.

In fact, many Jamaicans here resorted to resourceful methods of learning the results, including phone calls from relatives who watched the race live in Jamaica.

Leroy ‘Dreamy’ Riley, a freelance photographer in Lauderhill, watched the race live from a satellite feed on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which he accessed from  the Dish Network.

“It was exciting and I was watching it with friends,’’ he said. “We were standing up throughout the entire thing, even jumping at times.”

Of Bolt’s victory in becoming the best sprinter of all time and winning Jamaica's first-ever Olympic gold medal in the 100 meters, Riley said, “It was a moment of pride for the Jamaican community. It means a lot that Jamaicans can achieve this victory without using any drug enhancements. For years, we’ve been coming in second and third [in the 100-meter race at the Olympics] and people are wondering how come [we haven’t won yet?] I’m so happy we finally we won.”

Barron Channer, board member of www.fastestnation.com, saw the race moments after it happened by gaining access to it on overseas websites.

“There are creative ways that we used to trick the computer into thinking that we were not a resident of the U.S. so that we could see the race before,’’ Channer said. “Besides that, I had family in Jamaica calling me and texting me the results.”

He continued: “We’re all very proud of Jamaica. When the world thinks about Jamaica they usually think of our reggae music and our foods. Now when they think of Jamaica they’ll think, ‘That’s the fastest country in the world!’ ”

Winifred Carnegie, mother of women’s 100-meter silver medalist Kerron Stewart, said “My daughter’s roommate called me and told me I could view it on a website called www.itv.com.”

The Jacksonville resident said, “When I was watching the race I was tense and very nervous and I was like, ‘Where is she?’ while the whole house was cheering her on. It wasn’t until they actually replayed the race that I saw that she got the silver. I was happy, pleased and so proud of her. Words can’t explain it.”

Of the historic feats, she said, “These victories mean a lot to Jamaica because we’re just a little island that’s coming up, and we won.”

This is the first time in the history of the Olympic Games that one country has taken all the medals in the women's 100 meters. It is also the first time since 1988 that one country won both the men's and women's 100-meter races. It was last achieved by the United States.

Pam Nugent, founder of the Neighborhood Track Club in Miami, said, “It was awesome, you know. Tremendous. These girls made us very proud. I mean, I was glued to that TV. This is indeed history because nothing like this ever happened before.”

All these expressions of excitement are typical of Jamaicans when it comes to track and field, especially concerning the Olympics.
“Track & Field is a passion and vocation for Jamaicans,’’ said Hill, of the Jamaican Diaspora Advisory Board. “The sport captures the spirit of our heritage – bold, powerful, innovative and dynamic."


Photo: Shelly-Ann Fraser, left, and Usain Bolt, right.