Machel Cedenio bolted into the history books at the Joao Havelange Olympic Stadium, here in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, last night, clocking a jaw-dropping 44.01 seconds in the Olympic Games men's 400 metres final to become the fastest-ever Trinidad and Tobago quarter-miler.
The blistering national record run earned Cedenio fourth spot in a race that featured three sub-44 clockings.
Wayde van Niekerk added Olympic gold to his world title with a new world record, the South African completing his lap in an unbelievable 43.03 seconds. The last two Olympic champions, Grenada's 2012 winner Kirani James and American LaShawn Merritt got silver and bronze, respectively. James clocked 43.76 seconds, while Merritt was home in 43.85.
Drawn in lane three, Cedenio went out strong and by the 170-metre mark was up on Grenadian Bralon Taplin, in four. Van Niekerk, meanwhile, was running blind way out in lane eight. It was a case of catch me if you can. There was no one in the field up to the task. In fact, no quarter-miler in history would have caught him, van Niekerk erasing Michael Johnson's once untouchable 43.18 seconds world record from the books.
Coming off the final turn, Cedenio trailed the “Big 3”. The 2014 world junior champion finished strong, but not strong enough to climb the podium. In any other Olympic final in history, Cedenio would have medalled with his 44.01 scorcher!
The new T&T one-lap record was long in coming. The old standard, 44.21 seconds, was established by Ian Morris in the semi-final round at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics--three years before Cedenio's birth!
Like Cedenio, Morris was fourth in the final in 44.25. But Morris was 30, and competing in his last Olympics. At 20, Cedenio is still in the fledgling stage of his career, and will surely have other opportunities for precious metal.
Cedenio can lift his head high, following last night's herculean effort. Giving everything he had, and then some, the T&T hero lay on the track for more than five minutes. With nothing left in his legs after moving into 15th spot on the all-time world performance list with his 44.01 T&T record, Mighty Machel was taken into the underbelly of the stadium on a wheelchair.
Jehue Gordon will be on the track this morning, competing in the opening round of the men's 400m hurdles.
Gordon is the 2013 world champion in the event, and is hoping to make his mark on the Olympic stage as well. This season, however, has been an extremely tough one, following abdominal surgery last year.
Gordon's personal best is 47.69 seconds, which he produced in his golden run at the 2013 IAAF World Championships, in Moscow, Russia. But in 2016, he has been unable to dive under 50 seconds, a barrier he first broke way back in 2009, as a 17-year-old.
Gordon produced sub-49 clockings for six straight years, between 2009 and 2014. He struggled last year with the lower abdominal muscle injury that eventually required surgery, but still managed five sub-50s. The 24-year-old hurdler has been working hard, battling to regain form, and is hoping to reap the rewards of his labour at Rio 2016.
Michelle-Lee Ahye has been enjoying a rewarding season. In March, the T&T sprinter finished fourth in the women's 60m final at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Portland, Oregon, USA. And then, on Saturday, she appeared in an individual Olympic final for the very first time in her career, clocking 10.92 seconds to secure sixth spot in the 100m dash, after running a season's best 10.90 in the semis.
Ahye returns to the Olympic Stadium this morning for the opening round of the 200m event. The 24-year-old sprinter produced a 22.33 seconds T&T record run at the National Championships, in June, and is ninth on the 2016 world performance list.
Semoy Hackett and Reyare Thomas will also represent T&T in the women's half-lap. Hackett, a Rio 2016 100m semi-finalist, was second to Ahye in the National Championship 200m final in 22.61 seconds, with third spot going to Thomas in a personal best 22.72.
In today's second session, Mikel Thomas competes in the opening round of the men's 110m hurdles. And in the women's 400m hurdles, Janeil Bellille and Sparkle McKnight will represent the Red, White and Black.
Mikel Thomas is attending his third Olympic Games, while Bellille and McKnight are both at the Olympics for the second time. McKnight, though, has never competed on the world's biggest sporting stage. At the 2012 London Games, she was a sprint relay alternate.
“I am more excited this time,” McKnight told the Express, “because the first time I was just there. But this time I'm competing. I'm in it with everybody else. There's more of a thrill this time.”
McKnight is now based in Jamaica, where she is part of the MVP training group, along with Jamaica's newly-crowned Olympic women's 100m champion Elaine Thompson and two-time gold medallist in the same event, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. Ahead of the Games, McKnight was with MVP in Italy, fine-tuning her preparations.
McKnight's best clocking this season is 56.23 seconds—well outside her personal best 55.41.
“No, I'm not satisfied. I didn't have a good year at all, but I'm still thankful to be here and looking forward to finishing strong. I changed training camps, so I guess my body is getting used to this new programme, but I'm where I'm supposed to be now, so I'm looking forward to great things.
“I just want to take it one round at a time,” McKnight continued, “and get through each round. Once I do that, everything will come into play.”
T&T TODAY (All times TT)
Athletics, Women's 200m First Round, Heat 1, 8.30am, Reyare Thomas
Athletics, Women's 200m First Round, Heat 3, 8.42am, Michelle-Lee Ahye
Athletics, Women's 200m First Round, Heat 9, 9.18am, Semoy Hackett
Athletics, Men's 400m Hurdles First Round, Heat 4, 10.56am, Jehue Gordon
Athletics, Men's 110m Hurdles First Round, Heat 3, 7.56pm, Mikel Thomas
Athletics, Women's 400m Hurdles First Round, Heat 2, 8.38pm, Sparkle McKnight
Athletics, Women's 400m Hurdles First Round, Heat 4, 8.54pm, Janeil Bellille
All events LIVE on CCN TV6.