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BEIJING (Reuters) - Jamaica made a clean sweep of Olympic sprint golds on Thursday with victory in the women’s 200 meters humbling the United States, the traditional track and field superpower.
Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica (2133) crosses the finish line ahead of Allyson Felix of the U.S. in their women's 200m final of the athletics competition in the National Stadium at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 21, 2008. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn
The Americans had a nightmare night with both the women and men dropping their batons during the heats of the 4x100 meters relay to crash out. They also lost the final of women’s softball, the first time they have failed to win gold in that event.
The Caribbean island’s Veronica Campbell-Brown powered to gold in the 200m, taking a meter’s lead by the halfway mark.
The 2004 winner’s face was creased with pain but broke into a broad grin at the finish, where she dropped to her knees for a prayer.
American world champion Allyson Felix came second and 100 meters silver medalist Kerron Stewart of Jamaica was third.
The victory will bring more rejoicing to an island already exultant over the two world records and double sprint gold of Usain “Lightning” Bolt. His jaw-dropping speed has brought superlatives pouring forth from media and commentators.
Jamaica also won the women’s 100 meters.
“The Americans have dominated (in the past), but this Olympics has been a Jamaican Olympics,” said Stewart.
Bolt, 22 on Thursday, collected his second gold in a rain-soaked ceremony in the Bird’s Nest stadium and gave his signature lightning bolt gesture for the cameras.
The head of the International Olympic Committee has questioned the Jamaican’s sportsmanship, taking exception to his exuberant celebration of his 100 meters win on Saturday when he pounded his chest even before crossing the finish line.
“I think he should show more respect, shake hands, give a tap on the shoulder to the other ones. Not making gestures like the one he made,” Jacques Rogge said. “He still has to mature.”
Jamaican coach and former sprinter Don Quarrie defended Bolt, saying his celebrations were just youthful high spirits, from a man who is “playful, funny, happy”.
The United States have won a major sprint medal at every Games since 1984 and this year’s collection of silvers and bronzes will be little consolation.
The failure in the relays, an unexpected loss in the final of the women’s water polo to the Netherlands and defeat to Japan in the softball will be salt in the wounds for the Americans.
Softball will not be at the 2012 Games and the United States had won every gold since it became an Olympic sport in 1996.
There was a U.S. win in the men’s 400 meters, where LaShawn Merritt beat defending champion Jeremy Wariner to deliver the seventh straight gold in the event for the Americans.
That will do little to chip at China’s dominance in the medals table. They have a commanding 45 golds to the Americans’ 27, a lead that Beijing says shows it now has the sporting prowess to match its growing economic might and superpower clout.
In Athens in 2004, the U.S. team topped the medals table with 36 golds to China’s 32, but the hosts have invested heavily in selecting and training athletes intensively over many years.
“The world has to learn to live with a change of geopolitical nature,” the IOC’s Rogge said, adding that China’s sporting success would last “as long as their sports system lasts”.
Canada’s Eric Lamaze, who missed two Olympics because of drugs bans, won the equestrian show jumping gold medal.
In a thrilling climax to the equestrian events, rocked earlier by news of positive doping tests involving four horses, Lamaze put his past troubles behind him to beat Swede Rolf-Goran Bengtsson into silver. American Beezie Madden took bronze.
Lamaze, 40, was expelled from the Canadian team for 1996 and 2000 Games after testing positive for cocaine on two separate occasions, according to the official Olympic News Service.
The four horses tested positive for capsaicin, banned for its hyposensitizing and pain-relieving properties.
Norway’s Tony Andre Hansen was provisionally suspended after his horse tested positive. Hansen was a member of the Norwegian team that won bronze in the team show jumping. The International Equestrian Federation has not made a decision on the medal.
Three other riders, all show jumpers, have been suspended after positive tests on their horses — Denis Lynch of Ireland, Bernardo Alves of Brazil and Germany’s Christian Ahlmann.
The Americans enjoyed success in women’s beach volleyball.
An excited home crowd sheltered from torrential rain as China’s Tian Jia and Wang Jie lost to the defending champions, U.S. pair Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, in straight sets.
May-Treanor and Walsh, who have dominated the sport for five years, left the door open to a return in London 2012, but said that might depend on plans to have children.
The rain did not matter to the men’s marathon swimmers.
Dutchman Maarten van der Weijden, given only a slim chance of survival when diagnosed with leukemia seven years ago, won the 10km swim, one of the most testing Olympic events. A stem cell transplant and chemotherapy saved van der Weijden’s life.
“That makes it extra special,” he said. “It proves that even after such an illness you can win gold.”
As expected Cuba’s Dayron Robles won the 110 meters hurdles in a race that had been promoted as a showdown with Chinese sporting idol and defending champion Liu Xiang. But Liu hobbled out of his heat with an injured foot, devastating Chinese fans.
Reporting by Beijing Olympics bureau; Editing by Jon Bramley and Ralph Gowling
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