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Caribbean 2006 sprinting review

27 December 2006

By Gary Smith

In yet another busy term in track and field, Caribbean athletes challenged the world’s best and came out remarkably successful in a year of sprinting in 2006 — a year that continued the tradition of short sprint excellence in the region.

Men’s Review

Powell a cut above the rest

Running undefeated this campaign after a premature end to his impressive outing last year, Jamaican Asafa Powell again proved his dominance on the world circuit not only to run unchallenged, but to also match his own world record of 9.77 seconds on two occasions on his way to winning a share of the IAAF International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) million dollar Golden League jackpot prize.

In a year that started out with the anticipated rivalry between Powell and his arch rival, American Justin Gatlin, to crown the fastest man in the world, three world records in the 100-metre dash were established, one to Gatlin and two to his Jamaican counterpart.

Gatlin punched in his at the IAAF Super Tour meeting in Doha on May 12, while Powell’s double achievements came in the Gateshead International Stadium during the Norwich Union British Grand Prix a month later and at the IAAF Golden League meeting in Zurich on August 18.

However, Gatlin was tested positive for using a banned substance before he ran the world record, a result that means his landmark will not stand as a legitimate world mark, thus leaving Powell as the only man to run below 9.78 seconds, legally.

The 24-year-old soft-spoken Jamaican also became the first man to record 12 sub-10-seconds clockings in a single year, while winning his first major championships gold medal by easily topping the men’s field in the 100m dash at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia, in March. He also lowered his 200m personal best from 20.06 to 19.90 during the Jamaica National Championships in Kingston.

Adding to his list of achievements for the year of 2006, were other major awards, such as being named IAAF Male Athlete of the Year, Central American and Caribbean top male athlete, along with several local awards from top representatives in his country.

Francique repeats World Indoor glory

In an almost off season for Grenadian Alleyne Francique, the 30-year-old became only the second man to successfully defend a World Indoor title when he finished ahead of a strong field to recapture the men’s 400m dash at the 11th IAAF Indoor Championships in Moscow.Francique finished the year as the world no.4 ranked quarter-miler with a time of 44.64, someway short of his career mark of 44.44, but was still ranked highly amongst the best 400m runners this season.

He ran smartly in the Russian capital against the sharp turns to defend his title to a great deal of surprise, ahead of California Molefe of Botswana and Bahamian Chris Brown, who took the bronze medal in a national record time of 45.78.

Francique, however, was beaten for the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, with Jamaican Jermaine Gonzales taking a spirited bronze.

Also recording world standard marks during the fruitful season were Powell’s fellow countryman and World Junior 200m record holder Usain Bolt, who finished the season as the fourth best performer in the half-lap race, with an improved career best time of 19.88secs. Bolt also ran 19.96 to be the only Caribbean sprinter under the 20-seconds barrier twice this season.

Achieving notable personal bests in the sprints too were Netherlands Antilles’ Churandy Martina (10.04 and 20.27), who joined the list of professional athletes this season, Bahamian Derrick Atkins, who improved his best remarkably from 10.21 and 20.86 to 10.08 and 20.69 in the 100m and 200m respectively.

Both also provided the sprinting highlights at the 2006 Central American and Caribbean Games, with Martina coming out on top with a championship record time of 10.06. Atkins, who is reportedly the cousin of world record holder Powell, took second in 10.13.

Powell’s training partners, Michael Frater and Ainsley Waugh also finished the year with respectable times. Frater, the reigning World silver medallist leaned close to a personal best of 10.03, with a seasonal best of 10.06, while Waugh landed two personal marks, 10.15 for the short sprint and 20.44 for the half-lapper.

Women’s Review

Simpson matches up with the best

Undoubtedly, the women’s side was led by another Jamaican, Sherone Simpson, who, like Powell, recorded her best-ever season in her international career. In a year when regular regional sprint leader, Veronica Campbell suffered major injuries and had to sit out most of the outdoor season, Simpson broke loose and led the world in both the 100m and 200m dashes.

Starting the campaign with a surprise victory over Olympic champion Campbell in the 200m at the Commonwealth Games, Simpson went on to flash to a remarkable sprint double at the Jamaican National Championships in Kingston, three months later, in June.

Two stunning personal bests of 10.82secs and 22.00secs over the 100m and 200m respectively, saw her rising above and beyond the elites in a 2006 year, which was only robbed by the non-inclusion of a top global championship.

Injuries shortened Williams-Darling season

Bahamian World and Olympic champion Tonique Williams-Darling was on course for another impressive season until she was robbed by injuries. She, however, was able to take a silver medal in the women’s 400m dash at the Commonwealth Games, though many thought it was a huge disappointment by her standards.

Williams-Darling was hoping to emulate her track idol Cathy Freeman of Australia and win gold medals at the Olympic, Worlds and Commonwealth Games, but her dream was stalled in the closing metres at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in Australia on March 21.

The Bahamian star was beaten into second place in her specialty and finished the season with a PR of 50.11 and no gold medal, but was not too disappointed after all.

“You always want to come out here and win… but I don’t feel disappointed to the point where I’m like ‘oh my God, I didn’t get the gold’,” she recalled after the race.

And the others too…

Credit too most also go to Christine Amertil from Bahamas, the World Indoor bronze medallist and Commonwealth Games finallist; Jamaica’s World Indoor finallist and Commonwealth bronze medal winner, Novlene Williams; her countrywoman Sheri-Ann Brooks, who shocked everyone to win the gold medal in the 100m at the MSG, as well as Jamaican World Indoor finallist Novlene Williams and bronze medal winner in at the MSG in the 400m, Cayman Islands’ Cydonie Mothersill, Trinidadian Kelly-Ann Baptiste and Bahamian Olympic 200m bronze medallist Debbie Ferguson, who had a reasonable good season on the circuit.

Well done Juniors

The region also enjoyed some success in the sprints at the 11th World Junior Championships in the Chaoyang Sport Centre in Beijing, China. Trinidad and Tobago’s Renny Quow held off two strong finishers with a superb late run to win gold in the men’s 400m dash. However, while he created a major upset, fellow Caribbean teammate Sonita Sutherland of Jamaica was upset in the women’s category.

Also winning a medal in the sprints were Jamaica’s Yohan Blake, who executed well to win a bronze medal in the 100m, so did his teammate Carrie Russell in the women’s race. Their countryman Remaldo Rose finished 10.43 to take third in male dash, Trinidadian World Youth bronze medallist Keston Bledman finished seventh.

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