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BEIJING 2008 : TRACK AND FIELD

Jamaica goes for a sweep of the 100s

August 17, 2008|Philip Hersh | Special to The Times

BEIJING -- Can the Jamaican women sprinters one-up (or two-up) their men?

And do it without their most decorated current sprinter, reigning world champion Veronica Campbell-Brown, who finished fourth in the Jamaican Olympic trials?

A Jamaican sweep of tonight's Olympic 100 seemed a possibility after Kerron Stewart, Shelly-Ann Fraser and Sherone Simpson each won her quarterfinal heat Saturday in what would be the three fastest times of the round.

The inexperienced Fraser, 21, has been the biggest surprise of this season after edging Campbell-Brown in the trials.

Jamaican women previously had won two silver and three bronze Olympic medals (all from 1992 through 2004) but never a gold, as their legendary sprinter, Merlene Ottey, fell thousandths of a second short of U.S. runner Gail Devers in 1996.

"To go from no Olympic champions in the 100 to male and female I think would be fantastic for them," said NBC commentator Ato Boldon, a four-time Olympic sprint medalist.

Usain Bolt of Jamaica won the men's 100 in a world-record 9.69 seconds Saturday night. The other two Jamaican men were fifth and sixth.

All three U.S. women -- Lauryn Williams, Muna Lee and Torri Edwards -- also advanced to the semifinals. Williams, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist, will be trying to maintain her reputation as a big-meet sprinter, one who gets better through the multiple rounds of a major competition.

Greek hurdler banned

Greek 400-meter hurdler Fani Halkia was banned from the Olympics after a doping control at the Greek team's pre-Olympic training camp in Japan came back positive for the steroid methyltrienolone.

Halkia said she was "shocked" at the result. She is among 15 Greek athletes who have tested positive for methyltrienolone this year, including 11 weightlifters, swimmer Yannis Drymonakos, 400-meter runner Dimitrios Regas and sprinter Tassos Gousis.

Halkia came out of nowhere to be the runaway winner in the 400-meter hurdles in the 2004 Games in Athens and faced insistent questioning about possible drug use afterward. She had improved on a personal best of 56.40 before 2004 to a winning time of 52.82.

Still only 29, she all but disappeared after that, with a best of 55.66 the past two seasons.

Her coach in 2004, George Panayiotopoulos, was a sprinter who trained with Christos Tsekos, coach of sprinters Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou. They withdrew from the 2004 Games after missing at least three drug tests.

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