A golden ribbon in her hair, the bubbly Jamaican made it back-to-back Olympic titles in the women’s 100 meters Saturday night, closing ground over the last 20 meters and leaning at the line to win in 10.75 seconds and edge American Carmelita Jeter by .03 seconds.
Fraser-Pryce became the first woman to repeat in the 100 since Gail Devers of the U.S. in 1992 and 1996.
In Jamaica, though, they’ve been thinking about 1962 a lot of late. This weekend marks 50 years since the country became independent from Britain. Nice way to start the celebration.
Another Jamaican, Veronica Campbell-Brown, finished third for her second career 100-meter bronze. The country fell out of the running for a repeat of its sweep in Beijing after 2008 silver medalist Kerron Stewart failed to make it through the semifinals.
But don’t expect much complaining on the island, population 3 million, where the top industries are tourism and mining precious medals of the Olympic variety.
On Sunday, Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake will try to keep the gold coming for Jamaica, which has now won six of the last seven gold medals awarded in the men’s and women’s Olympic sprinting events, including relays.
Given Bolt’s massive worldwide popularity, Fraser-Pryce sometimes takes second-billing in her home country. But those with a sense of the history there know what a big role women — Merlene Ottey and Campbell-Brown, who own a combined 15 Olympic medals — have played in turning sprinting into the national pastime. Fraser-Pryce will now vault to the top of that list.
Four years ago, she was relatively unknown, a 21-year-old who first stunned her country, then the world, on her way to Olympic gold. There was a setback in 2010, a six-month ban for using a painkiller to treat a toothache.
“I felt like, ‘What am I going to do? Everyone is going to think I’m a cheat,’” she said back then.
But she cleared her head, got back to work and showed, once again, a knack for peaking at exactly the right time.
What’s more, she won the 200 at the Jamaican Olympic trials, as well. Preliminaries for that race start Monday night.
When the scoreboard finally flashed her in the No. 1 position, Fraser-Pryce dropped to the ground and cried. She ran to the stands, grabbed a Jamaican flag and paraded around with her teammate, Campbell-Brown, known as “VCB” on the island. She’s not finished in London yet, either. VCB is the two-time defending champion in the 200, where she’ll have Fraser-Pryce to contend with again, along with American Allyson Felix.
Felix, who considers the 100 her tuneup for the 200, finished fifth in 10.89 on Saturday.
She made the 100 meters after a week of tumult at U.S. trials, finishing in a dead heat for the third and final spot. She faced a run-off against the teammate she tied, but got the spot when that teammate withdrew at the last second.
“I’m happy. I got a personal best,” Felix said. “I’m looking forward to the 200.”
Jeter offered a great big smile after watching her visions of gold vanish by a sliver.
“Everyone wants to win, but I’m on the podium,” Jeter said. “I’m the only American on the podium.”
She’s also one of the biggest enigmas in American track — a late bloomer at age 32 and not much of a talker. She had been the favorite for this event until Fraser-Pryce, not on form through much of the early season, announced she was back with a 10.70 in Kingston last month.
Now, one of those questions any Olympian would love to be asked: Which gold means more?
“I’d have to say Beijing because I was inexperienced, I was young and I never believed I could. But I did,” she said. “This year I came into the championship as a favorite, which was a first for me, so I was a bit nervous. But I believed in myself.”
As magical a night as it was for the Jamaicans, the end of Fraser-Pryce’s win was met with relative silence — or maybe it just seemed that way compared to what had transpired over the previous hour or so.
This happened to be the day when the British finally had their big moment at their Olympics — actually one of their best days at any Olympics.
In rapid succession, the host country won three straight gold medals.