Gary Smith and Kurt Morris – The Press – for World-Track
NEW YORK — Ever since the Jamaicans dominance at the Olympic Games in Beijing last, there has been a strong increase in the rivalries in track and field.
Jamaica, led by sprint phenomenon Usain Bolt fired inside the Bird’s Nest, while the Americans missed their mark — leaving many questions left to be answered.
However, one answered by American sprinter Lauryn Williams weeks later in a hotel room in Shanghai did not go down too well with a few Jamaicans.
Still struggling to come to grip with the disastrous outing in Beijing, Williams answered a question about the U.S. struggles by saying someone must have a "voodoo doll" — "a comment some took as a backhanded swipe at the culture of Jamaica, which had dominated the sprints in Beijing."
"I was really hurt, I was really broken up, because I didn’t realize I made so many people angry about the statement that I made," Williams said Thursday.
"They asked me about why the American team was doing not so good, and I just answered the question," Williams said. "I felt like the whole world hated me.
"The first time I saw Veronica after the race was Shanghai and I said, ‘Are you angry, what’s going on? Are the rest of them angry?’ She said, ‘Yeah, Lauryn, some of them took it the wrong way."
Williams said the comment was meant in jest and apologized.
Despite being sympathetic, the comments cast even a bigger rivalry between the Americans and Jamaicans.
Especially after Bolt, Veronica Campbell-Brown and Shelly Ann Fraser, along with Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart, all barred the Americans from the top podium in the short sprints in Beijing.
That dominant showing led USA Track & Field boss Doug Logan to challenge the Jamaican team to a home-and-home series of races that will begin next year.
Williams and several others have embraced the match races, designed to build interest in the sport during non-Olympic years, while some have, including Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell believe the challenge is not necessary.
"What happened at the Olympics and over the years wasn’t a mistake," said Jamaica’s Asafa Powell, the former 100-meter record holder. "Nothing was a mistake."
Tyson Gay, considered America’s top sprinter, believes the series isn’t necessary because most of the top stars already meet in the many competitions that mark the outdoor season.
"Asafa Powell, he’s been around," Gay said. "Veronica Campbell, Lauryn Williams, they’ve had their battles, you know? So I think the success of Jamaica at the Olympics shouldn’t become a Jamaica-U.S. rivalry, because they had a great week — they deserve all the success."
Both Gay and Powell plan to line up at the Reebok Grand Prix on Saturday.
The duo will, however race in different events, at their first major meeting in preparation for world championships in Berlin in August.
Despite some uncertainty from coach Stephen Francis about an ankle injury Powell is recovering from, the sprint ace is still slated to race in the 100 meters, with Gay focusing his attentions on racing over the 200m for the first time this season.
He’ll face a field that includes former college teammate Wallace Spearmon and Olympic 400-meter silver medalist Jeremy Wariner, while Powell will face the likes of Trinidadian Olympic silver medallist Richard Thompson and Jamaican rising star Yohan Blake.
The women’s 100m will see Campbell-Brown and Williams clashing. Another athlete to watch out for is American world bronze medallist Carmelita Jeter, who has gone under 11-seconds already this season.
Olympic champion Fraser has withdrew from the event, citing a lack of preparation as the reason.
Among the other stars competing are Ethiopian distance runner Tirunesh Dibaba, a double Olympic gold medalist, American distance star Bernard Lagat, and pole vaulter Jenn Stuczynski, who won silver in Beijing.