Mayaguez, Puerto Rico - Leford Green denied local hero Javier Culson the possibility of a rematch and a home victory as Mexico took the lead of the 23rd Central American and Caribbean Championships medal tally under a constant rain on Saturday (16) in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.
One year after beating Culson at the Central American and Caribbean Games on the same track, Green took advantage of his rival’s problems passing the eighth hurdle and never looked back to take the 400m Hurdles gold medal in a season’s best of 49.03.
The 2009 Berlin World Championships runner-up lost his rhythm and was overtaken by Dominican Republic’s 2004 Olympic and twice World champion Felix Sanchez (49.41), his fastest time this year by over half a second, to repeat his silver medal from Havana 2009.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Jehue Gordon sprinted on the home stretch to grab the bronze in 50.10, the same medal colour he achieved two years ago and denied defending champion a place on the podium. Culson finished fourth in 50.27, his slowest time in an international race final since 2007.
“I was too close passing the fourth hurdle and that made me change my rhythm. From then on, I had to pass the hurdle with my right leg, my weak one and I could not recover. Just a week ago, I ran my season’s best (48.34) and back home I ran my slowest time in three years (in fact four),” said the slender Culson.
“Anyone could have a bad day. I can’t explain what happened. Last weekend, we changed the rhythm and achieved the best time (in the season), but training won’t change for the World Championships in Daegu”, assessed his coach Hector Amill.
The women’s race had a surprising winner in Jamaican Andrea Sutherland, who ran 56.75 to prevail over Dominican Republic’s Yolanda Osana (57.23) and Bahamian Katrina Seymour (57.24). Pre-race favourite and 2009 World Championships bronze medallist Josanne Lucas of Trinidad & Tobago was relegated to fifth in 58.27 after running the quickest time in the semi-finals (56.94).
Jamaica added the men’s sprint relay victory. Oshane Bailey anchored the quartet to a narrow win over four-time defending champions of Trinidad and Tobago (38.81 for 38.89). 2009 100m silver medallists Lerone Clarke, twice World junior champion Dexter Lee and Jason Young completed the squad that gave Jamaica its first men’s sprint relay gold in the event since 1989.
Saint Kitts & Nevis, with 2003 World champion Kim Collins running the second leg, finished third in 39.07
Trinidadians took revenge in the women’s final and regained the title won in Cali 2008 but lost in Havana 2009. It was also their only victory on Saturday after grabbing four gold on Friday. 100m winner Semoy Hackett anchored the quartet to a 43.47-second victory. She was the starter in the champion team three years ago and ran the second leg in the bonze medal winning team in Havana.
Third-leg runner Ayanna Hutchinson has also been part of all three squads. Starter Magnolia Howell and Michelle-Lee Ayhe completed the team.
Jamaica (43.63) and Bahamas (43.74) rounded up the podium.
Elsewhere, Cuba’s 2009 World silver medallist Guillermo Martinez became the first athlete to successfully defend his 2009 crown as he threw the javelin to 81.55m. He is back after recovering from an injury in his right arm. In March, he had set an early season world leading 84.68m.
Saint Lucia’s Lavern Spencer soared to 1.82m, enough to win on count-back over Venezuela’s Marielis Rojas and claim her fifth overall and fourth consecutive High Jump title, 10 years after clinching her first one in Guatemala.
Mexico had a glorious day with four wins in the long distance events and the Pole Vault. Marisol Romero (16:05.68) and Jose Uribe (14:08.10) took the top honours in the 5000m, as well as Luis Ibarra (8:55.86) in the 3000m Steeplechase and Cristian Sanchez in the Pole Vault (5.00m).
Local fans celebrated Puerto Rico’s first gold in the competition as Marcos Sanchez scored 7397 points to take the Decathlon gold, ahead of 2008 champion Claston Bernard of Jamaica (7299).
Outside the finals, Bahamas’ Michael Mathieu, sixth in Havana, led the qualifiers to the men’s 200m final in 20.64, ahead of his countryman Demetrius Pinder (20.70), the fourth quickest man in the 400m this year. 2009 runner-up Rondell Sorillo and 2008 champion Emmanuel Callender of Trinidad & Tobago are also through to the final on Sunday.
Nivea Smith and 17-year old Anthonique Strachan equalled their countrymen to lead the women with respective times of 23.18 and 23.29.
Notable non-qualifiers include Puerto Rico’s 22.23 performer Carol Rodriguez (23.98) and defending champion Virgil Hodge of St.Kitts & Nevis (24.28).
Jamaica’s Peaches Roach leads the Heptathlon after the first day with 3522 points, ahead of Cuba’s Gretchen Quintana (3453) and Dominican Republic’s Francia Manzanillo (3326)
Mexico now totals six gold, six silver and two bronze to lead Jamaica (6-5-4) and Trinidad and Tobago (5-2-3). Cuba, represented by only nine athletes, is trailing in fourth with three gold medals, ahead of Venezuela (2-3-3), the host nation (1-3-1) and Colombia (1-2-5). A total of 15 countries have won at least one medal.
The 23rd CAC Championships, being held in Puerto Rico for the fourth time and back here since 1997, ends on Sunday with 20 finals.
Javier Clavelo Robinson for the IAAF
The winners on Saturday (16):
5,000m Jose Uribe MEX 14:08.10
3,000m SC Luis Ibarra MEX 8:55.86
400m H Leford Green JAM 49.03
PV Cristian Sanchez MEX 5.00m
HT Roberto Janet CUB 71.65m
JT Guillermo Martinez CUB 81.55m
4x100m Jamaica 38.81
(Lerone Clarke, Dexter Lee, Jason Young, Oshane Bailey)
Decathlon Marcos Sanchez PUR 7397
5000m Marisol Romero MEX 16:05.68
400m Andrea Sutherland JAM 56.75
HJ Lavern Spencer LCA 1.82m
4x100m Trinidad & Tobago 43.47
(Magnolia Howell, Michelle-Lee Ayhe, Ayanna Hutchinson, Semoy Hackett)