A new Caribbean Cold War: Jamaican sprinters

If America had a Cuban missile crisis, can it have a Jamaican sprinter crisis?

Is President Bush even now considering a blockade of Kingston harbor to ensure that the reggae runners are never again dispatched to an international meet?

For 12 days, American angst has focused on the host nation almost lapping us in the gold medal race. Tonight confirmed the greater immediate danger much closer to home.

Since the sprinting program began Friday, the Jamaicans have treated America less kindly than Nikita Khrushchev treated his shoe, winning the men’s 100 meters, sweeping the women’s 100 meters, and now taking the men’s 200 meters.

What medals has China taken from the US? Two gymnastics medals, tops, and perhaps a few others sprinkled here and there.

Jamaica has launched a sortie of missiles clad in banana-colored tracksuits directly toward the America's Olympic heart.

Tonight, a matter of minutes after another Usain Bolt struck – winning the 200 meters in world-record time – another Jamaican, Melanie Walker, raced past another American, Sheena Tosta, in a race Walker confesses she has always hated, the 400 meter hurdles.

Where do they get all these sprinters?

Wait, isn’t that what the world has always said about the US?

Sprinting has always been an American gold-medal trove. The country is by no means doing badly, but it is nowhere near its normal standards.

Before the 200 meter dash, former world record holder Michael Johnson said: “Up to this point, it has been a disastrous Olympics for the US. In the 100 meter we won only one medal [a bronze]… We’re used to dominating the event.”

When the US protested the results of the 200 tonight, it had the scent of frustration. The judges had disqualified the third person to cross the finish line, American Wallace Spearmon, because he had stepped into an inside lane.

The fourth- and fifth-place finishers were both Americans, so that was OK, really. Another American would move up into the bronze-medal slot. But the US claimed that second-place finisher Churandy Martina of the Netherlands Antilles had also stepped out of his lane.

The video evidence, which I have not yet seen, was apparently convincing. Martina, too, was disqualified, giving the US silver and bronze.

Yet it was a peculiar situation for the US – being the country at the bottom of the medal podium looking up, questioning results that did not go its way.

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