‘It was us against them’ – Why keeping USA off medal podium meant the world to Boldon in Atlanta 96 Featured

By Sports Desk July 27, 2021 7589













Decorated Trinidadian Olympic medalist, Ato Boldon, has admitted his generation was intensely aware of the rivalry between themselves and track and field powerhouse the United States, one of the fiercest in global athletics.

When it comes to the sprint events at the Olympics, there can be little doubt that the Americans have ruled the roost.  In 28 contests so far, beginning in 1896, the United States has claimed an impressive 16 gold medals.

Whenever there has been a fly in that proverbial ointment, so to speak, however, it has more often than not, one way or the other, turned out to be athletes of Caribbean descent.

In total, athletes of Caribbean descent have claimed 6 medals, a list led by Jamaican Usain Bolt’s three straight between 2008-2016.  The first was Trinidad and Tobago’s Hasely Crawford in 1976, followed by wins for Lindford Christie (Great Britain) and Donovan Bailey (Canada), both of whom are of Jamaican descent.

 In total athletes from the Caribbean have found themselves on the podium in 16 of the quadrennial, with the dominant USA failing to make the podium on only three occasions.

The occasions were in 1928 Amsterdam, 1980 Moscow and 1996 Atlanta.

On one of those rare occasions, it was Boldon himself who featured alongside Bailey and

Namibia’s Frankie Fredricks to leave the USA outside of the medal spots, in their home country, no less.

Left in fourth and fifth place the was US pair of Dennis Mitchell and Mike Marsh.  In that regard, Boldon wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“At the time, Dennis Mitchell and I weren’t particularly good friends because Dennis was actually with John Smith (coach) when I got there in 1995,” Boldon said on SportsMax.TV special Olympic series Great Ones.

“At some point, he had a decision to make as to whether he was going to come with me on a trip somewhere or something.  Dennis actually said to him, because Dennis had been number one in the world the year prior, he said something like, ‘why are you wasting time with this young kid?’ I’m number one in the world. I always remembered that.”

The flamboyant Mitchell had finished in third position at the 1992 Olympics and heading into the Atlanta Games had hopes of finishing much higher.

“I remember thinking, I want to beat Dennis on his home soil because he was an American and to me, if we shut out the Americans on home soil, we have done our job,” Boldon said.

“So, even back then that was a real thought for me, not just because of Dennis but because I had a sense of my place in this battle we were to fight.”

Despite being fierce opponents for 100m, following the event, Boldon and Bailey took the opportunity to quickly reflect on the moment.

“He said, ‘never forget where you are from, and I said to him that’s right ‘you never forget where you are from.’ We were very aware that it was us versus them.  The Jamaican and the half-Jamaican, versus Dennis and versus Ezinwa, versus Mike Marsh,” Boldon said.

“I don’t know why we were aware of it, but we were aware of it.  So to me, Donovan saying that to me after was kind of a, ‘I know that you live here now and you attended American university and all that but remember you’re a Trini and it was my sort of echoing the sentiment back to him.”

Thanks to the exploits of Bolt, the US has failed to get a gold medal in the event for three straight Olympics, the longest drought they have faced in the history of the competition.


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Last modified on Tuesday, 27 July 2021 21:00
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