Rome - Eternally Jamaican

June 08, 2017

With the Racers Grand Prix set for this Saturday in Kingston, there'll be no Jamaican army of athletes at the Rome Diamond League meet today.

In fact, only six Jamaicans are set to compete at the meet, long known as the Golden Gala. Nevertheless, the Jamaican track and field imprint runs deep in Rome.

George Kerr won a bronze medal in the 800m in 1960 when the Eternal City hosted the Olympics. Kerr, Keith Gardner and Mal Spence were three-quarters of a British West Indies 4x400m relay that took third place. Twenty-seven years later, when the second World Championships were contested inside the Olympic Stadium, Ray Stewart crossed the line in third place in the 100m, but took the silver after a retro-active drug disqualification for Canada's Ben Johnson.

There were three bronze medals, two for Merlene Ottey and one for the men's 4x100m team of John Mair, Andrew Smith, Clive Wright and Stewart.

More recently, Jamaican sprinters have flourished in the warm conditions that usually prevail in Rome. In 2009, Kerron Stewart set a personal best of 10.75 seconds to equal Marion Jones' Golden Gala 100m record. In 2010, the first year of the Diamond League, Asafa Powell won the men's 100m in 9.82 seconds. Powell lost on the line - 9.93 to 9.91 - to the great Usain Bolt the following year and won again, in a world leading time of 9.76 seconds.

Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre was behind the Jamaicans in all three of those races.

American Justin Gatlin made the headlines with his first win over Bolt, 9.94 to 9.95, in 2013.

Kaliese Spencer has loved it in Rome too. After running second to American star Lashinda Demus in the 400 metre hurdles in 2010, she reversed that result in 2012 and won again in 53.97 seconds in the 2012 renewal.

In 2015, we saw the arrival of current sprint star Elaine Thompson. She zoomed the 100m in 10.87 seconds to resist English Gardner. Janieve Russell took the 400 hurdles with the world leading time of 53.96 seconds.

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