Jamaicans Revel In 100M Olympic Triumphs

Jamaica's Usain Bolt and Jermaine Brown took gold in the men's and women's 100 meters at the Beijing Olympics. Jeremaine Brown of Radio Jamaica says track and field is deeply embedded in Jamaica's culture right from kindergarten.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

When 21-year-old Usain Bolt of Jamaica won gold in the 100 meters on Saturday in world record time, he didn't even look winded. I guess that's why his nickname is lightning.

Then yesterday another Jamaican, Shelley Ann Fraser, won the women's 100-meter race. The two runners who finished right behind her are also Jamaican. So the fastest man and woman on Earth are both Jamaican.

So how does a nation of 2.8 million people - that's fewer people than in Chicago - produce so many world class runners? To try to find out, we've called on Jeremaine Brown. He's a sports broadcaster for Radio Jamaica.

Mr. Brown, thanks so much for being with us.

Mr. JEREMAINE BROWN (Radio Jamaica): It's a pleasure. It's a pleasure. Thanks for having me.

SIMON: What do they put in the water down there that makes people run so fast?

Mr. BROWN: Probably the water has been touched by lightning.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Oh, oh, oh.

Mr. BROWN: But track and field is deeply embedded in our culture. This is a sport which is contested at a serious level from the kindergarten level. We have a national championship for the little ones. And from then on we have the prep school championships, which is for students or children at the ages of about nine through to 12. And then we have the high school level, where we have one of the most prestigious high school championships, the boys and girls athletic championships held every year.

It has been in place since 1910. And I think that is where most of our athletes fine tune their talent and move on to the carnage level and the professional level.

SIMON: Mm-hmm. Any secret training methods that the Jamaicans use better than anyone else?

Mr. BROWN: No, no. I think it - as I said, it's part of our culture. You grow up seeing your older brother or sister taking part in track and field, sprinting, and you get motivated by that. And that's how a lot of our athletes get involved.

SIMON: You mentioned that there weren't any particular training methods that the Jamaicans have that nobody else has.

Mr. BROWN: No.

SIMON: But I wonder, you know, the sultry heat in Jamaica…

Mr. BROWN: Yes.

SIMON: …does that mean that wherever else Jamaicans go in the world, every place by contrast, is cool and lush?

Mr. BROWN: Well, we tend to carry that spirit with us. Some people may say it's the reggae music. But to be honest, it has to do with the overall culture here in Jamaica, wherein track and field is a major sport, and athletes, for instance, are trained from an early age about how to sprint. You learn certain techniques from a very early age.

SIMON: Mr. Brown, help us understand what it's like to be in Jamaica now, to see your runners on the world stage being lauded.

Mr. BROWN: I'll tell you, what happened over the weekend with Usain Bolt winning the men's 100 and Shelley Ann Fraser winning the women's 100 and having the first three ladies across the line, and having first, second and second - it has been celebrated a whole lot here in Jamaica. The atmosphere was electrifying over the weekend. We had big-screen televisions set up in a number of towns for people on their way to work or about their business just to stop and watch the races.

So this is - definitely what happened over the weekend is one of the greatest sporting achievements by Jamaican athletes. And we expect even more at these Olympic Games. There is Veronica Campbell coming up, and people are awaiting that with bated breath. She's the defending champion at the Olympics for the 200 meters, and therefore right now there's Olympic fever in Jamaica.

SIMON: Mr. Brown, thanks so much for your time.

Mr. BROWN: All right. Thank you as well.

SIMON: Jeremaine Brown, sports broadcaster for Radio Jamaica in Kingston.

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