By STEPHON NICHOLAS Saturday, August 11 2012
Less than an hour after seeing the national women’s 4x100-metre team fail to finish their race, the men’s 4x400-metre team eased the pain of the nation with a battling bronze medal performance that turned faces of sorrow into joy.
The effort took Trinidad and Tobago’s (TT) Olympic medal tally from the London Games to two which has already equalled the quota of Beijing 2008 with Keshorn Walcott, men’s javelin, and the men’s 4x100-metre team still to come in their respective finals today.
Led off by the 2012 Olympic 400-metre bronze medallist, Lalonde Gordon, 23, the TT quartet which also included Jarrin Solomon, 26, Ade Alleyne-Forte, 23, and Deon Lendore, 19, smashed the national record yet again to cross the finish line third in 2:59.40 seconds.
The gold was won by Bahamians Chris Brown, Demetrius Pinder, Michael Mathieu and Ramon Miller who broke their national record in a sizzling 2:56.72 seconds ahead of the highly fancied Americans, Bryshon Nellum, Josh Mance, Tony McQuay and Angelo Taylor, who had to settle for second in 2:57.05.
It was a valiant effort from the TT foursome who had to dig deep to come away with a medal.
After winning their semi-final race on Thursday, nothing less was expected of the TT team who went into the final with the third fastest qualifying time behind the Bahamas and US.
The race started with Gordon on the opening leg but after running three rounds in the individual 400 metres and also in the relay semi-final, the 23-year-old looked tired and handed off the baton to Solomon in about sixth place. Solomon was in no mood to settle for less than a medal and ran a brilliant second leg before passing smoothly to Alleyne-Forte. The San Fernando resident, already trailing the US and Bahamas, maintained the distance between the chasing pack as he passed the baton to Lendore for the final lap. The 19-year-old was well behind the top two runners but by then all TT wanted was a medal and Lendore obtained it with a nerve-wrecking final leg.
There was a bit of a scare going into the straightaway as Lendore seemed to fade a bit but the TT runner found a last burst of speed to hold off Great Britain’s Martyn Rooney to hang on to third. “Everybody came on top of the game,” Gordon said.
Lendore added, “Coming out here we had it in our minds that we have to do our best to get a medal. The world may be surprised, but as a team, watching our own performances throughout the year, we knew we would have given the teams here strong competition and take a medal.”
It was an effort that typified sheer determination and hunger from the TT team who celebrated the bronze by laughing and piling on each other on the ground while at home their fans applauded their brilliance.
TT’s former World Indoor silver medallist, Ian Morris, was in tears yesterday when contacted by Newsday and could not contain the happiness of seeing the local quartet bring glory to this country.
Morris was part of the 4x400-metre relay team that placed seventh at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and was also edged out of a medal in the 400 metres with a fourth place finish that saw him return home empty-handed.
“I am overjoyed. Tears are in my eyes still because these guys ran excellent,” Morris declared, “We haven’t done this in years and I think this Olympics is for the Caribbean,” he continued.
Morris revealed he had reservations of Alleyne-Forte running the third leg but acknowledged his concern may have been without merit following his superb effort which maintained TT’s third place.
Speaking to Newsday yesterday as well, Alleyne-Forte’s father, Learie, was bursting with sheer excitement following the race and stated the bronze medal was the culmination of years of hard work put in by his son.
“I am very proud of him and the entire Trinidad and Tobago team. These guys, especially Ade, have been working toward this from since a young boy and here he is today. He has achieved his lifelong dream and I’m so happy for him. The guys went out and executed to their best ability,” Learie declared. He noted that he was sure the team would medal and was not surprised with their performance yesterday.
“They can’t have their best race everyday but I was fully confident that they would have delivered — so said so done. The guys held their own and Trinidad and Tobago should welcome them into their arms. They have done exceedingly well,” he exclaimed.
The relay team was a hot topic on Twitter yesterday with several popular local personalities congratulating the quartet on their feat.
Former Soca Warrior, Shaka Hislop, expressed his delight on obtaining a medal, stating “Congrats to the 400 metres relay team, and medal, another reason to feel proud!”
Local cyclist, Njisane Phillip, who just missed out on an Olympic medal with a fourth place finish in the Match Sprint, was still elated that his compatriots were able to achieve what he could not.
“Sweet! Another medal!” he tweeted.
TT’s Olympics athletics manager, Dexter Voisin, also hailed the relay team for stepping up at sport’s biggest showpiece and writing their names into history.
“Coming into this meet here, these guys did not make the ‘A’ qualifying standard but that did not deter them. They continued to train hard and prepare themselves for the relay,” he stated. Earlier yesterday, TT fans across the country were talking about the possibility of picking up two medals with the women’s 4x100-metre team going into the final with the second fastest qualifying time.
It was not be, however, as TT’s race ended in calamity with Michelle Lee Ahye and Kelly-Ann Baptiste unable to exchange the baton. It was a sad end for the TT team which also included Semoy Hackett and Kai Selvon. For Baptiste and Hackett it was a repeat of the 2008 debacle where they also experienced baton transition problems and failed to finish their race.
Also yesterday, the men’s 4x100-metre team sealed a place in the final with a third place finish in their semifinal. The team of Richard Thompson, Marc Burns, Emmanuel Callendar and Keston Bledman, who copped silver four years ago clocked a season best of 38.10 seconds behind the US and Japan.