Felix's final step to greatness

Felix's final step to greatness

American pips nemesis Campbell-Brown for 200M gold; Merritt wins in style

Felix's final step to greatness

The brilliant smile of Allyson Felix lit up an Olympic 200M final for the first time on Wednesday night.

A Caribbean whirlwind called Veronica Campbell-Brown had blown her off her quest for gold in two Olympic Games and despite being a three-time world champion, Felix had lacked the final sta­mp of greatness.

Wednesday then was payback ti­me. Memories of those close defeats were swept away in a trice as Felix dethroned Campbell-Brown, anointing herself as the new queen of the 200 metres in 21.88 seconds.

“It has been a long time coming. I am so overjoyed,” said Felix. “I am so thankful to God for an amazing opportunity. I am so excited,” said a beaming Felix.

Given the background of the race, the American had looked tense at the start. She had worthy competitors to vie with – apart from Campbell-Brown, the field included Jamaican 100M champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, silver-winner Carmelita Jeter and 400M champion Sanya Richards-Ross.

Felix wasn’t the quickest of the blocks but she soon gained control of the race and was ahead of the diminutive Fraser-Pryce coming into the straight.

Her long, graceful strides then opened up further gap and from then on, it was a cruise for the 26-year-old. Fraser-Pryce added another medal to her collection – a silver this time – while Jeter came in unnoticed in lane nine to take the bronze ahead of the defending champion Campbell-Brown.

“We have been racing each other for years. I am happy for her, I knew how bad she wanted it,” said a gracious Campbell-Brown while her fellow Jamaican Fraser-Pryce couldn’t stop smiling.

“If they ever put together such a 200M field again, I’d never run. To win silver, I am so grateful. They are all such fast ladies – it’s a blessing,” said Fraser-Pryce.

“A lot of hard work and dedication have gone into this,” she added. Felix couldn’t have agreed more.

Merritt triumphs

United States were dominant in other events of the night as well. Aries Merritt capped his superb season with gold in the 110M hurdles while Brittney Reese’s decimated all opposition in the women’s long jump. Russia’s Natalya Antyukh, however, prevented an American clean sweep by winning the 400M hurdles in 52.70, the seventh fastest of all-time.

After China’s Liu Xiang crashed out due to injury in the first round, Merritt was the out and out favourite, though the final also featured American world champion Jason Richardson and world record holder Dayron Robles of Cuba, the defending champion.

As it turned out, Merritt outclassed the field in a near-flawless performance, and missed Liu’s Olympic record by only one-hundredths of a second, timing 12.92. Robles had a good start but his journey was cut short by a hamstring injury at the half-way point.

“Words can’t explain how excited I am right now,” said Merritt. “People were talking about a world record but 12.92 into a headwind (-0.3m/s), is still pretty impressive,” said Merritt, the first US champion in this event since Allen Johnson in 1996.

At the long jump pit, Reese wanted to make a statement early, and she did exactly that with a massive leap of 7.12 metres in the second round after fouling her first. That killed the competition. Russian Elena Sokolova came closest to Reese, her best of 7.07 earning her the silver.

Reese dedicated her medal to the people of her home state Mississippi.  “We went through Hurricane Katrina, so I have got his medal for them. This is to honour them,” said the world champion.

Results: Men: 110M hurdles: Aries Merritt (USA) 12.92 seconds, 1; Jason Richardson (USA) 13.04, 2; Hansie Parchment (Jamaica) 13.12, 3.
Women: 200M: Allyson Felix (USA) 21.88 seconds, 1; Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (Jamaica) 22.09, 2; Carmelita Jeter (USA) 22.14, 3.
400M hurdles: Natayla Antyukh (Russia) 52.70 seconds, 1; Lashinda Demus (USA) 52.77, 2; Zuzana Hejnova (Czech Republic) 53.38, 3.
Long jump: Brittney Reese (USA) 7.12 metres, 1; Elena Sokolova (Russia) 7.07, 2; Janay Deloach (USA) 6.89, 3.