In the World of Sports, Sporting rivalry becomes the catalyst for Sporting dominance. Every sport has had two nations competing hard to fight it out for sporting supremacy or being hailed as the “Numero Uno” nation of that sport.
Prominent rivalries which stand out amongst the rest have been the Latin American soccer derby between Brazil and Argentina or the Germans vs. the Dutch in European soccer, India/Pakistan or Australia/England (Ashes) rivalry in cricket and the Trans-Tasman rivalry between Kiwis and Aussies in Rugby.
These rivalries have brought the best out of sportsmen competing for their nations with the ultimate aim of bringing back sporting laurels to their respective nations and boost their countrymen’s esteem and happiness index. But when it comes to athletics and specifically Sprinting as a track event, United States were the dominant force and unrivalled for a long time on the international scene.
Some critics would argue that Great Britain and Canada pushed the ever dominant Americans to the limits but in every sense they were second best to the Americans in the 80s and 90s. With the turn of the new millennium, a change of guard happened at the top with Jamaica stamping its authority by winning sprinting accolades at World meets and somewhat dethroning the Americans as the “Kings of Sprints “.
The small Caribbean island nation should be credited for producing a string of world class sprinter, with Usain Bolt surely being the flag bearer of his country at sprinting events.The bragging rights for being the top sprinting nation is up for the grabs yet again with the World Championships coming up at Beijing. Will Jamaica yet again dominate the sprints or will the Americans regain a little bit of their lost legacy from their Caribbean counterparts? Only time will tell when the blue riband races of track event unfolds at the big stage next month. Let’s go down memory lane and have a look at the nations which dominated the Sprint events in the last three decades.
UNITED STATES – AN EVER DOMINANT FORCE IN WORLD SPRINTING
United Stated has always been a dominant force when it comes to the Sprints. If James Hines was the first sprinter to officially break the 10-second barrier, Carl Lewis raised the bar of sprinting to another level. Lewis was by far the most versatile athlete mankind witnessed, winning 4 Gold medals at the Los Angeles Olympics in Sprints and Long jump, eventually becoming the dominant sprinter of the 80s.
The Americans had great sprinters in Calvin Smith and Sam Grady, both of whom got overshadowed by Carl’s herculean achievements. Lewis’s biggest rival was Canadian Ben Johnson who had the potential to challenge and beat Lewis but went down in history books for the wrong reasons (1988 Seoul Olympics Doping Scandal).The Americans had a formidable sprinting unit in Leroy Burell, Michael Marsh and Jon Drummond, all of whom served the Americans with great distinction.
In the mid and late 90s, Maurice Greene became the dominant sprinter of the decade winning multiple Gold medals at the Olympics (2000 and 2004) and World Championships (100m Gold-1997, 1999, 2001). Greene was pushed to the limits by his training partner and Olympic medallist Ato Boldon who put Trinidad and Tobago on the sprinting map. The US boasting of sprinters like Brian Lewis, Andre Cason and Bernard Williams formed a very powerful relay quartet for the American team.
Tim Montgomery was another world class sprinter who lost all his credentials as an athlete by getting involved in a doping scandal. The Americans produced speed demons of World Class pedigree in Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin, both of whom became multiple medallists in Olympics and World Championships. Michael Rodgers and Walter Dix have been world class sprinters in their own right by winning medals at World Championships and Olympics.
The depth in the American sprinting unit can be seen with the likes of the veteran Darvis Patton, Ryan Bailey and Isiah Young, who have to compete hard to get into the star-studded American sprint unit. Trayvon Bromell is the latest sprinting sensation coming out of the US and promises a lot in the future. The Americans have been a dominant force in the 200 meters too with Olympics and World Champions in the legendary Michael Johnson, John Capel, Shawn Crawford and Wallace Spearmon.
America’s continental neighbours, Canada had a power packed sprinting unit in the 90s spearheaded by 1996 Olympic (100m_Gold) and 1995 World Champion Donavan Bailey. Bruny Surin was another Canadian sprinter who beat the best at sprints on the world stage. Robert Esmie and Glenroy Gilbert were part of the Canadian relay team which won many a medals at international athletic events. Canada’s future at sprinting events looks promising with budding sprinters in Andre De Grasse and Aaron Brown.