POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Aug 05, 2012
LONDON » Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce leaned across the finish line of the women's 100 meters, then looked up at the blank scoreboard for the name of the next Olympic champion.
Five seconds passed, then five more.
Was it the Jamaican, Fraser-Pryce, or the American, Carmelita Jeter?
The race couldn't have been any closer, and when Fraser-Pryce's name finally came up first, she fell to the ground and shouted, "Thank you, Jesus!"
Another sprint gold for Jamaica. Really, was there ever any doubt?
A golden ribbon in her hair, the bubbly 25-year-old Fraser-Pryce made it back-to-back titles in the premier women's event of the Olympics, closing ground over the last 20 meters Saturday night and leaning at the line to win in 10.75 seconds and edge Jeter by .03 seconds.
"It means a lot to defend my title," Fraser-Pryce said. "I trusted in myself."
With the victory, Fraser-Pryce became the first woman to repeat in the 100 since Gail Devers of the U.S. in 1992 and 1996.
"I don't know much about the history of track and field," Fraser-Pryce said, showing her mile-wide smile. "But I know Gail Devers."
What a way to start a historic weekend in Jamaica, where the 50th anniversary of the country's independence from Britain is Monday. It was on Aug. 5, 1962, that the Union Jack was lowered for the final time at National Stadium in Kingston. In a picture-perfect bit of symmetry, the Jamaican flag will be raised today -- maybe Monday, too, if Usain Bolt or Yohan Blake or Asafa Powell win the men's 100 -- over Olympic Stadium in London for Fraser-Pryce's medals ceremony.
"The excitement has already started," she said. "For me, what's really kind of exciting is we got our independence from England and now we're here in England and we get our first medal. For me, that kind of tops it off."
Another Jamaican, Veronica Campbell-Brown, finished third for her second career 100-meter bronze. The country fell out of the running for a repeat of its sweep in Beijing after 2008 silver medalist Kerron Stewart failed to make it through the semifinals.
But don't expect complaining on the island where the top industry behind tourism seems to be mining precious metals, er, medals of the Olympic variety.
As magical a night as it was for the Jamaicans, the end of Fraser-Pryce's win was met with silence -- or maybe it just seemed that way after what had transpired over the previous hour or so.
This happened to be the day when the British finally broke through at the track in their home Olympics.
In rapid succession, the host country won three straight gold medals.
Jessica Ennis finished out her stirring heptathlon victory by winning the 800 meters in 2 minutes, 8.65 seconds. She finished the seven-event heptathlon with 6,955 points, 306 ahead of Germany's Lilli Schwarzkopf.
About 20 minutes later, Greg Rutherford parlayed that momentum to come out of nowhere and win the long jump, his first medal in a major international meet with a leap of 27 feet, 31/4 inches (8.31 meters).
Then, about another 20 minutes later, it was Mo Farah -- born in Somalia, training in Portland, Ore., competing for Britain -- who brought down the house, sprinting to the finish in the 10,000 meters for a win over his American workout partner, Galen Rupp, in 27 minutes, 30.42 seconds. Farah slapped both hands on his head three times, curved back toward the finish line, then continued a celebration that will long be remembered here.
"I saw Jess, and I knew she won the gold, and I wanted to win the gold, too," Farah said. "As I came through the tunnel, people shouting my name, it was like someone gave me 10 cups of coffee. I knew I had to make something happen, I was just so buzzed up."
A bit after the evening's program was finished, hardly anyone in the 80,000-seat stadium had gone home. They waited to sing along to two tunes: "All You Need Is Love," by the Beatles (Paul McCartney, also on hand, surely knew the words) -- and another one that might ring a bell: "God Save the Queen," played while tears streamed down Ennis' face during her medals ceremony.
"Massive relief," Ennis said. "To come into this event with all that pressure, with everyone just saying, 'Oh, you are going to win gold. You are going to win gold.' "
Hours before the British invasion, the stadium belonged to Oscar Pistorius, the "Blade Runner" from South Africa who made history simply by lining up in the men's 400, the first amputee to compete in Olympic track. He booked a return date, as well -- into the semifinals today -- after finishing second in his heat in 45.44.