Deon Lendore ran his heart out for Trinidad and Tobago at the Olympic Stadium, here in London, England, yesterday, battling to the line to earn his team bronze in the London 2012 men's 4x400 metres relay.
Lendore had to contend with thousands and thousands of screaming Britons, determined to push their anchorman Martyn Rooney into the bronze medal position. But the 19-year-old T&T quartermiler was even more determined than the partisan crowd, holding off Rooney to finish the job that had been started by Lalonde Gordon, and continued by Jarrin Solomon and Ade Alleyne-Forte.
"I don't think I ever ran so hard in my life," Lendore told the Express. "It was a wonderful feeling. I may have cried if he passed me.
"Seeing that we ran a new national record," he continued, "and seeing my teammates running up to me, it was a very emotional moment."
The T&T quartet returned a time of two minutes, 59.40 seconds, smashing the 3:00.38 national record they had established in the qualifying round, on Thursday.
There was also a national record for Bahamas, but more importantly the Bahamians struck gold, Chris Brown, Demetrius Pinder, Michael Mathieu and Ramon Miller combining for a 2:56.72 clocking. The United States, champions in the event 16 times, were forced to settle for silver on this occasion, in 2:57.05.
Yesterday's championship race appearance was the seventh for T&T in an Olympic Games men's 4x400m event. It was only the second time, though, a medal was bagged.
At the 1964 Games in Tokyo, Japan, Edwin Skinner, Kent Bernard, Edwin Roberts and Wendell Mottley earned bronze. Forty-eight years later, Skinner is here in London as a member of the T&T coaching staff.
"Mr Skinner," Solomon told the Express, "showed a few of us the (1964) bronze medal run when we were in Wales in the Cardiff camp. Just to see how happy they were and how hard they worked we wanted to come out and emulate that same thing. And we knew we had the team to bring home a bronze medal, if not a gold, so we came out here confident and ready to deliver."
Gordon ran three rounds in the individual 400m, culminating with bronze in the final in a personal best 44.52 seconds. He also competed in the qualifying round of the 4x4. The opening leg in yesterday's final was his fifth time round the Olympic Stadium track, but the 23-year-old athlete dug deep into his reserves to put his country in contention for precious metal.
Solomon continued the good work, and T&T were in the bronze medal position when he handed the baton to Alleyne-Forte. Obviously rusty in the qualifying round, Alleyne-Forte stepped up his game in the final, staying in third to set the stage for Lendore's anchorleg heroics.
"It was a much better effort than yesterday (Thursday)," said Alleyne-Forte. "I hadn't competed in a while, prior to yesterday. I told these guys after the race it was going to get better. It got better, and I'm pretty satisfied.
"Thank you T&T for all the support. We came out here to represent you all, and my honest hope is that we did it to our best."
Virtually unknown coming into the London Games, Gordon is now the proud owner of two Olympic bronze medals.
"Words can't explain; just a wonderful feeling. Thank God man, thank God.
"I felt I could have done a little better," he continued. "I didn't really feel the power getting out the blocks, but it was a good run."
Yesterday's bronze was the second global 4x4 success for T&T in 2012. On March 11, Gordon, Renny Quow, Jereem Richards and Solomon teamed up for bronze at the World Indoor Championships, in Istanbul, Turkey.
"Two or three years ago," said Lendore, "I would not have thought of being an Olympic bronze medallist. But during this year I had the thought. Seeing how my teammates all progressed greatly, I knew that we had a chance to do anything in this Olympic Games."
For Solomon, the podium finish had special significance. His father, Mike Solomon represented T&T with distinction, appearing in two Olympic 4x400m finals—1976 and 1980—as well as the individual 400m championship race in 1980. On each occasion, sixth spot was the senior Solomon's fate.
"I know he really wanted to medal," said Jarrin. "In '84 he was supposed to run, and he didn't get the chance to go to the Games, so this was very important to me, to go out there, give my best, and bring home a medal for the family. We've been to three Olympics already. I think it was due time to bring home a medal."
After spending more than a fortnight in cool, and sometimes cold London, Gordon is looking forward to some warmth.
"We coming home for doubles," he declared.
The hunger for precious metal already satisfied, the double Olympic bronze medallist is eager to celebrate not only with his teammates but with all of T&T.
By Kwame Laurence