Jamaican ‘ruff necks’ go out with bang in China
Even without Usain Bolt, Jamaica finished the world championships with a bang on Sunday, storming to the women’s 4x400-meters relay title to match Kenya’s gold tally at the top of the medals table.
Anchor leg Novlene Williams-Mills pulled out an eyepopping last 50 meters to catch Francena McCorory as the Jamaicans clocked this year’s best time of three minutes, 19.13 seconds to pip the United States on the line in Beijing.
“I came out here with a Jamaican ruff neck,” said third leg Stephenie Ann McPherson, using Jamaican slang for ‘street thug,’ adding: “My team-mates did a great job.”
The Americans hit back to take the men’s 4x400 meters, veteran LaShawn Merritt passing Carl Lewis as his country’s most decorated male world championships athlete with 11 medals.
But they will leave China with a sense of foreboding before next year’s Rio Olympics after playing second fiddle to the Jamaicans, who won seven gold medals — three of them, inevitably, Bolt’s.
Kenya also finished with seven golds plus six silvers and three bronzes, an overall tally which edged them ahead of Jamaica on the final standings.
But their success was tempered after two of their athletes, Joyce Zakary and Koki Manunga, failed pre-competition drugs tests. Hosts China placed 11th with one gold, seven silvers and one bronze.
“That’s when you have the heart of a champion,” WilliamsMills said of her lung-bursting pursuit of McCorory. “That’s what you do. These girls, they had it all the way.”
American star Allyson Felix looked to have dug the Olympic champions out of an early hole with a blistering third leg to give McCorory a lead into the last lap, until Williams-Mills kicked coming into the home straight to win it for Jamaica. Britain took bronze in 3:23.62. As heads went down once more in the American camp, Merritt flexed his muscles by anchoring the United States to a sixth consecutive victory in the men’s final. Merritt, David Verburg, Tony McQuay and Bryshon Nellum finished in 2:57.82 to extend a remarkable winning streak dating back to Helsinki in 2005. Trinidad and Tobago claimed silver in 2:58.20 with the UK taking bronze in 2:58.51.
Kenya’s demonstrated their middle- distance brilliance again when Asbel Kiprop completed a world title hat- trick in the men’s 1,500 meters to add to the 800- meters gold won by David Rudisha earlier in the competition. Kiprop, who also won gold at the Bird’s Nest in 2008, surged home in 3:34.40 in an electrifying finish.