Pompey ends Guyana's 68-year medal drought
July 29, 2002
MANCHESTER, (Reuters) - Aliann Pompey ended a 68-year drought for Guyana athletics when she won the women's 400 metres title at the Commonwealth Games yesterday.
The 24-year-old held on to beat Scotland's Lee McConnell in a thrilling finish to claim her country's first Commonwealth Games athletics gold medal since Phil Edwards won the 880 yard (half mile) event for British Guiana at London in 1934.
Pompey's historic moment came when she dipped across the line in 51.63 seconds, just 0.05 ahead of the fast-finishing McConnell, who only switched from the high jump a year ago.
Jamaica's defending champion Sandie Richards clocked 51.79 to claim the bronze.
The race was thrown wide open after Australia's Olympic champion Cathy Freeman chose to run only in the relay while other title hopefuls like England's Katherine Merry pulled out.
"I felt the race was wide open and anything could happen, Pompey said. ``I thought it was possible to win, but you don't really know for sure.''
The men's race was even tighter with just 0.06 separating the first four across the line.
Jamaica's Michael Blackwood was awarded the gold in a personal best of 45.07 with Canada's Shane Niemi second in 45.09 and Avard Moncur of Bahamas, the reigning world champion, taking the bronze in 45.12, just 0.01 in front of England's Daniel Caines. "I'm very happy right now. I just did it one step at a time and the final has gone my way,'' said Blackwood. ``The aim for my career now is to be the number one athlete in the world.''
Pompey ran race in agony
Guyana's new athletics hero 24-year-old Aliann Pompey ran the end of her race in agony with her eyes shut as the 38,000 crowd in the City of Manchester Stadium roared on the underdog as she held on to clock 51.63 seconds to win her first international title.
She was pushed all the way by former high jumper McConnell, who finished ahead of 1997 world silver medallist Sandie Richards, now in the twilight of her career at 33.
Pompey, surprisingly small and slim for a one-lap runner, has made a quantum leap considering her previous best performance was reaching the semi-finals of last year's world championships.
"I am so happy but so, so tired," she said. "I felt the race was open. For the last 20 metres my eyes were kind of closed. I couldn't see anything. I was going by the crowd's reaction.
"But it was so hard. Yesterday I had to take the longest ice bath after the semi-final. I'm scared how I'll feel tomorrow."
She had set a personal best of 51.34 seconds in that semi-final but the final was slower, underlining the current lack of consistency in the women's 400m in the absence of Australia's Olympic champion Cathy Freeman.
But Pompey, who is coached by former Irish sprinter John Ryan, said it was too early to talk of her as a pretender to Freeman's crown.
"No one's heard of me because I've been trying to break on to the circuit for so long," she said. "I went to college in New York, where I'm finishing a masters degree and working as a personal trainer. "Hopefully this win will finally get my name known. Then we'll see what happens." (Daily Telegraphy) (Back to top)
Pompey said she prayed for victory
Sprinter Aliann Pompey of Guyana benefited from a crackling atmosphere as she clinched gold in the women's 400m final.
Pompey (51.63) fended off the crowd's favourite, Scotland's Lee McConnell (51.68) and Sandie Richards of Jamaica (51.79) in a very tight 400m final.
A thrilled Pompey said: "That was hard. I didn't know what to expect. I was praying all night, praying to God that he would give me something to work with."
"I felt the race was wide open and anything could happen. I thought it was possible to win, but you don't really know for sure."
"For the last 20 metres my eyes were kind of closed. I couldn't see anything. I was going by the crowd's reaction," she added.
Silver medallist McConnell said: "It was hard to go through four rounds. I think it was down to who had the most strength."
"I'm really pleased. It's better than I thought I would do. I can't complain," she added happily.