Blake’s Road To London Via Adidas Grand Prix
By Cathy Kleinhans
Published Jul 30, 2012
Although I booked a ticket for London at the end of April, it was not until the Adidas Grand Prix held at Icahn Stadium, Randall’s Island, June 9, 2012, that my “official” road to London began. Watching Olympics 2012 in the US was a definite and resounding, “NO WAY!” A refrain I’ve been muttering to myself for the past four years. I hoped for months that it would be London, maybe Jamaica and possibly Canada. At the last Olympics I was ready to stage a demonstration, albeit one-woman, at Rockefeller Center in front of the NBC offices regarding the biased reporting and some of the negative sound bites regarding Usain Bolt. In as much as we Jamaicans had to skip around the internet in the wee hours of the morning of 2008 to follow our love for track and field and the exploits of our beloved athletes lead by Bolt, Powell and Veronica, we did it just to know first-hand the winners. NBC carried their “official” Olympic broadcast later in the day – Ugh!!!!
I knew that our top athletes – Bolt, Powell and Veronica were not competing at this year’s Adidas Grand Prix, an IAAF Diamond League event. Many friends were not interested because they thought without Bolt and Veronica, what truly was the point? But, I wanted to be there to see for myself how Yohan Blake would perform. I wanted to see this young man as a professional athlete in his own right. I had seen him run before as a student of St. Jago High at Penns and before at Reebok Grand Prix. But ever since he won the 100m at a time of 9.92 when Bolt false-started at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, he has grown from strength to strength as a sprinter.
Interestingly, Tyson Gay and Blake would compete in the 100m but Adidas had two separate races. In fact, both were winners of their respective races. Blake was scheduled to run in the Men’s 100m National Race which he won at 9.90. Tyson Gay ‘s time; however, was 10.0 in the Men’s 100m B and no one in that race did a sub-10. However, other athletes in Blake’s race ran sub-10. Keston Bledman from Trinidad and Tobago at 9.93 and Michael Rodgers of the US at 9.99
Kevin Armstrong wrote in Sports Illustrated in 2007 of Blake, ‘Standing barefoot on the asphalt after his race, 17-year-old Yohan Blake, a junior sprinter from St. Jago (Spanish Town, Jamaica), was simmering down last Saturday. After burning up the track with a 45.40 personal split in the anchor leg of the 4×400 meter relay team, Blake was left to critique his performance in the 113th running of the Penn Relays.
“To run in front of a crowd with so many Jamaicans in the stands was a thrill,” said Blake, who despite his team’s second-place finish was named the meet’s outstanding athlete for relay events in front of 46,363 fans at Penn’s Franklin Field. “But we know that we are capable of doing better and that the expectations are for us to deliver faster times.”
“We’re not satisfied, but to run against competition that draws the best out of us is something that we desire,” said Blake, whose earlier performance in the 4×100 meter relay helped St. Jago to the Penn Relays first-ever sub-40 of 39.96, breaking the previous mark of 40.13 set last year by Jamaican rival Camperdown (Kingston).’
Prior to the 2009 World Championships, Blake tested positive for a banned substance and was penalized with a three-month ban from competition. But last year, 2011, alongside Bolt and other Jamaican teammates in Daegu, South Korea, Blake won the 4x100m final and broke the world record (set by the Jamaican team at the Beijing Olympics in 2008) with a time of 37.04 seconds. At 21 years, 245 days, Blake also became the youngest 100 metre world champion ever!
So, not to take anything away from Bolt but Blake was now a new Jamaican sprint wonder. This year, Jamaicans in the track and field know came out to Adidas Grand Prix 2012 just weeks before Jamaica’s Olympic Trials to see who people called, “the beast”! I do agree with another writer that he needs to change his nickname. Such a great sprinter and gentleman who is apparently a kind person just cannot be called a beast or is it a metaphor of Beauty and the Beast? The beast is after all a handsome prince waiting to be kissed under that gruff exterior or so goes the fairy tale. Is Blake “the beast” a fairy tale in the making? Is there a London 2012 100m proverbial kiss for the beast with a happy ending to his quest for winning the Olympic100m after training with the world’s best, Bolt? The 100m race for track and field aficionados has always been important but for them, fans and almost any Jamaican the event now, is even more so. This was all shown in the pre-Olympic BBC documentary, Can Anyone Beat Bolt?
The documentary follows 6 athletes who want to take home the Olympic gold; 3 Jamaicans- Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, and Asafa Powell-, 2 Americans- Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin- and Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre. Footage is taken from this year’s Adidas Grand Prix where they interviewed Tyson Gay and showed both his and Blake’s 100m wins.
Blake began his 2012 season very quickly, registering the first sub-10-second time of the season (9.90) at April’s Utech Classic in Jamaica. He did the same time at Adidas GP 2012 of 9.90. He went on to register a 9.84 seconds run at the Cayman Invitational prior to the Jamaican Olympic trials, where he beat Usain Bolt over 100 meters with a time of 9.75 seconds, and over 200 meters with a time of 19.80 (Bolt was timed at 19.83). He beat both Bolt and Asafa Powell. He is the fourth fastest sprinter of all-time after Bolt, American Tyson Gay and Powell. His 19.26 in the 200m is the second fastest ever after Bolt.
At this year’s Adidas 2012, for the Women’s 100m in a field that included Carmelita Jeter and Allyson Felix it was our “pocket rocket”, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce that came out on top with 10.92. Jeter came in third with 11.05 and Felix fourth at 11.07. There were other moments to enjoy at this meet for which I was instrumental in putting on the map to the NY Jamaican and Caribbean communities in 2006 when it was known as the Reebok Grand Prix. In fact, when Bolt broke his first world record of 9.72 on a rainy evening May 31, 2008, it was officially known then as Reebok GP.
It was good to see another Jamaican-born sprinter who runs for the US, Sanya Richards-Ross in her favourite 400m. She too will be seeking an Olympic medal. The wonder of seeing the double-amputee runner, Oscar Pistorius of South Africa run was truly a sight. Pistorius was chasing a dream of qualifying in the individual event for the Olympics. He will be the first amputee to compete on the track at the Olympics when he runs in the 400 meters and on South Africa’s 4×400 relay team.
After seeing Blake and Fraser-Pryce in great shape at Adidas 2012, I truly feel good about the Olympics 100m final – men’s and women’s. I haven’t seen Veronica since Madison Square in January when she ran indoors at the US Open Track & Field. She looked good then and I don’t doubt that she’s fine and in good shape and health. I call her the lady of Jamaican female athletes. For a very long time she stood out as our shining beacon of female sprinting. I wish all our athletes love, prayers, health and the strength to be the best of your God-given talent! For the Men’s 100m it would be good to see gold, silver and bronze. However, unlike many I don’t particularly care about the order of which one will come first, second or third…. so long as Blake, Bolt and Powell (note I have them in alphabetical order, smile) takes the stand at the London Olympics 2012. With that being said, ha, I would love to see a Jamaican break the world record. Now, that would be the green and yellow icing on the 30th Olympiad of the modern era as apparently London and the BBC have now joined us in a love affair with Bolt and our famous green and yellow.