The Caribbean is often shown as a paradisiacal place on the globe, with spectacular beaches, year-round warmth, jovial inhabitants … and where the best athletics runners are formed. If we analyze the universal rankings, in the speed tests, we find that the Caribbeans occupy the first places, between men and women. Everyone knows the Jamaican Usain Bolt, renowned as the fastest of all time; but, in addition to the “Lightning Bolt”, what have been the best Caribbean sprinters in history?
For almost a decade, Bolt widely dominated the 100 and 200 meter races, in the main international competitions and, without doubt, expanded the human being’s physical limits. The Jamaican won eight Olympic titles and 11 world titles and his name appears at the rankings’ top. For instance, in the 100 meters he is the record holder, with a super time of 9.58 seconds, reached in the Berlin World Cup, in 2009, but also holds the other two fastest times in this distance: 9.63 seconds, in the 2012 London Olympics and 9.69 seconds, at the Beijing 2008 summer event.
In the 200 meters something similar happens: Bolt owns the record, with 19.19 seconds, also obtained in the Berlin World Cup and among the five best times of all time, two others are his: 19.32 seconds, in the London Games and 19.30 seconds, in Beijing. Can anyone overcome the “Lightning Bolt”? Of the current runners, none of them come even close to his records, so it would not be an exaggeration to say that the Jamaican could remain in the record books for at least ten more years.
The sprinter who has come closest to Bolt’s times is another Jamaican, Yohan Blake, an athlete endowed with great physical conditions, but who has fallen short of what was expected in international competitions (only two Olympic titles, both in the 4 x 100 relay and two world crowns). In the 100 meters, Blake has the third fastest time in history, with 9.69 seconds, achieved in Lausanne, Switzerland, in August 2012. In the 200 meters, he has been the second fastest man, running the distance in only 19.26 seconds, in Brussels, in 2011.
The problems with doping have strongly hit Powell’s career. This 35-year-old Jamaican has one Olympic title, in the 4×100 meters relay, in the 2016 Rio Games and, in addition, two world crowns, also in the short relay, in Berlin 2009 and Beijing 2015. In the 100 meters holds the eighth and ninth fastest time in history. In 2007, in Reti, he scored 9.74 seconds and, a year later, in Lausanne, he achieved 9.72 seconds.
Carter is another runner of enormous physical talent, but with an image tarnished by doping. His positive test at the 2008 Beijing Games forced the International Olympic Committee to withdraw the gold medal to the 4×100 meters Jamaican relay. Carter has one Olympic title, as part of the 4×100 relay in London 2012 and three world crowns in this line, at the appointments of 2011, 2013 and 2015. In August 2010, Carter became the fifth sprinter to come down from the 9.8 seconds in the 100 meters, by scoring 9.78, in Reti. This time remains the sixth best in history, only surpassed by Bolt, Blake, Powell and the Americans Tyson Gay and Justin Gatlin.
In the Caribbean Top 5 sprinters, the only one who is not Jamaican is the 32-year-old Trinidadian Richard Thompson, who, in 2014, ran the 100 meters in 9.82 seconds, at an event held in Port of Spain. In his record, appears the Olympic title in Beijing 2008, as part of his country’s 4×100 relay (Jamaica was disqualified due to Carter’s doping); in addition, in that summer appointment he was a silver medalist in the 100 meters. Four years later, he led the Trinidad and Tobago short relay in the conquest of the silver medal at the 2012 London Games.
THE QUEENS OF SPEED IN THE CARIBBEAN
Among the ladies, the Caribbean reign of Jamaican sprinters has also been unquestionable, since the five most outstanding ones in history are from that country.
This small runner, but giant on the tracks, is the fourth fastest woman in the 100 meters. There has never been any doubt about doping related to her, as it happens, for example, with the world record holder, the American Florence Griffith-Joyner, who with 10.49 seconds has remained in the books for 29 years. Fraser-Pryce has three Olympic titles, in the 100 meters, in the 2008 Beijing Games, London 2012 and Tokyo 2020; furthermore, she has won 10 gold medals in World Cups, five of them in the 100 meters. Her best time in the 100 meters was 10.60 seconds and she achieved it in an event in 2021; while, in the 200 meters, her most outstanding record is 21.79 seconds, in 2021.
This young sprinter achieved a surprising double, winning in both 100 and 200 meters at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo 2020. She has the second fastest time in history in the 100 meters, as she managed 10.54 seconds in 2021. In the 200 meters, she is the third fastest sprinter, with a time of 21.53 seconds, with which she won the gold medal at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Ottey is the most awarded Jamaican athlete in history. In her curriculum appear nine Olympic medals (3 silver and 6 bronze) and 14 medals in World Cups, 3 of them are gold. Her best results were obtained in the 200 meters, with two world titles, in 1993 and 1995 and, moreover, in this distance she has the fifth and sixth fastest time in the ranking, with 21.64 seconds, in Brussels, in 1991 and 21, 66 seconds, in Zurich, in 1990.
This runner obtained her most outstanding results as part of Jamaica’s short relay, with which she won three world titles in 2009, 2013 and 2015. At Beijing Olympic Games, she achieved the silver medal in the 100 meters and the bronze in the 200. Then, in London 2012, she won the silver with the relay of 4 x 100 meters. In the 100 meters, her most prominent time was 10.75 seconds.
Campbell-Brown doesn’t reach Ottey in the total number of medals in Olympic and World Games, since she has 19 versus Ottey’s 23; but she exceed sher in the medals color, since she accumulates 3 titles in summer events and 3 in World Cups. Campbell-Brown won two Olympic crowns in the 200 meters, in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, where she made her best time in this distance, 21.74 seconds, which is the fifth fastest in history.