The US flexed their Olympian athletics muscles on Wednesday as Allyson Felix won the 200m gold, Aries Merritt claimed the 110m hurdles, Brittney Reese the long jump and Ashton Eaton took a stranglehold on the decathlon at the halfway stage.
Four years ago Jamaica gave the US a sprint pummeling, winning both of the 100m, both of the 200m and the men’s 4x100m relay, and normal service was likely to be resumed yesterday after Jamaican duo Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake looked a class apart when they cruised into the men’s 200m final.
However, on a night when the US picked up three golds among seven of the available 12 medals, not even the most one-eyed islander could begrudge Felix her moment of triumph having finished runner-up to Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown at the previous two Olympics.
Felix, who runs with such liquid grace that she barely seems in contact with the ground, came off the bend level with her nemesis and Jamaica’s 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, but maintained her elegant form as the others tightened to win in 21.88 seconds.
Fraser-Pryce took silver in 22.09 seconds, with Carmelita Jeter of the US third in 22.14 seconds.
It was a just reward for Felix, the only woman to break 22 seconds this season.
“It’s been a long time coming. I am so overjoyed,” said Felix, who was runner-up to Campbell-Brown in 2004 and 2008, but is still only 26. “I thought back to the disappointment in Beijing, it’s been a long road. This moment is really priceless.”
Merritt has timed his Olympic assault perfectly, putting together a string of sub-13 second runs in his buildup events, and though he benefited from injury to others, he has become the most consistent man in the field.
From 8:30pm, the semi-finals of the men’s competition.
From midnight, Spain take on Russia and the US “Dream Team” face Argentina in the men’s semi-finals.
3am tomorrow morning, the Netherlands take on Argentina in the women’s final.
China’s Liu Xiang failed to get out of his heat, while defending champion and world-record holder Dayron Robles pulled up after the sixth hurdle of the final.
None of that mattered to Merritt, who delivered a personal best 12.92 seconds to hold off compatriot and world champion Jason Richardson in 13.04 seconds and Hansle Parchment, whose 13.12 seconds was a Jamaican record.
“The US haven’t had a men’s hurdles gold medal since Allen Johnson in 1996. It’s phenomenal,” Merritt said.
Reese broke an even longer barren streak as she became the first US winner of the women’s long jump since Jackie Joyner-Kersee in 1988.
She registered only two legal jumps from her six attempts, but the first of them was 7.12m and good enough for the gold she needed to complete her collection, after two world titles and another two world indoor golds.
“This means a lot for our country, we are on track for our 30 medals that we really wanted,” Reese said. “We are getting some unexpected medals nobody predicted. We are doing good and not just in the sprints. We are doing good everywhere. We are an all-around team now.”
Russia’s Elena Sokolova claimed silver with 7.07m and Janay DeLoach weighed into the US haul with bronze on 6.89m.
Eaton, who set the decathlon world record in the US trials, threw a lifetime best 15.48m in the shot put en route to ending the first day 220 points clear of compatriot and double world champion Trey Hardee.
There was disappointment for 37-year-old Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic, though, as the 2004 Olympic champion’s participation in his fourth and final Games lasted just one event before he pulled out because of a heel injury.