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Caribbean quartet ready to make Beijing 100m interesting

8 August 2008

By Gary Smith

While the eyes of the world will likely be focused on Jamaicans Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell, as well as American Tyson Gay, four other Caribbean sprinters are planning a surprise in the marquee 100 metres event at the Olympic Games.

World Championships silver medallist Derrick Atkins from the Bahamas, Dutch Antilles' Churandy Martina and the Trinidadian pair of Richard Thompson and Marc Burns lead the Caricom charges looking to upset the odds.

It was around this time last year Atkins proved himself to be a world beater when he sneaked up in the closing metres of the 100 metres at the World Championships to separate Gay and Powell for silver in a quick 9.91 seconds.

But although admitting that this year the challenge would be sterner, especially with the inclusion of world record-holder Bolt who has already run below 9.8 seconds twice this season, the Bahamian national record-holder is confident he can step up to the plate.

"I know the attention has been on the guys like Asafa and Usain, as well as the Americans, but it was the same last year," Atkins reminded.

"It doesn't matter to me that people are talking about them because the Olympics are the only thing that matters this year and I'm confident I can be on the podium in Beijing.

"In Beijing, it could take running in the 9.7s to get a medal but I think I'll be ready to do that."

Burns, a finalist at the last two world championships and Martina, who also ran next to the big boys in Osaka last summer, echoed similar sentiments.

Martina, the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) and Pan American Games champion, who finished seventh in the quarter-finals in Athens four years ago, said he was determined to leave Beijing with a medal.

"I want to win a medal at this year's Olympic Games in Beijing," he said on the IAAF website. "I want to get even higher on the list of fastest athletes in the world."

The sprinter also deemed he was even good enough to break the world record, which currently stands at a flashing 9.72.

"My goal is to break a World record. I know I can reach all of this because nowadays I stand right next to those athletes that I used to look up to," Martina said.

"They are not the untouchable heroes any more. They are athletes just like me who are competing with each other to find out which one of us is the fastest."

Burns, a bronze medallist at the Commonwealth Games in Australia in 2006 has been a consistent performer over the last two years.

Like his fellow Caribbean challengers, the Trinidadian champion also backs his abilities to post a serious challenge to the front runners, but was more cautious with his expectations.

"I'm not going to say I can beat Usain and Asafa. They are running exceptionally well at the moment, but I feel confident in what I can do from 60 metres," he said.

"I'm quite confident about my race from 60 metres onwards. I will just have to do my part and hopefully the complete race comes along at the perfect time."

NCAA champion Thompson, a newcomer to the fraternity but no less of a threat, has a personal best of 9.93 seconds supported well by a searing 9.97 seconds, making him one of the top contenders for a place in the finals in Beijing.

Thompson has also caught the eyes of countryman and Olympic medallist Ato Boldon, who believes "there's no limit on his time" for the sprinter. Boldon also projected times the in 9.8 or 9.7 ranges, possible by the end of the summer.

"I'm convinced he's (Thompson) the next person who can run 9.7," Boldon told Trinidad Express.

Meanwhile, of the four challenging the odds for podium positions, only Martina has not yet legally run under 10-seconds in his career. He has a personal and year best of 10.00 seconds.

He ran 9.76 In El Paso, TX two years ago, a time which would have been a world record had he not been aided by a +6.1 mps tailwind.

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