SPORT Jamaica's Austin defies cold to cop historic speed skating gold at Winter Games


SPORT Jamaica's Austin defies cold to cop historic speed skating gold at Winter Games

SPORT Jamaica's  Austin defies cold to cop historic speed skating gold at Winter Games

GRAZ, Austria — Jamaica’s speed skater Romaine Austin led post to post to win a historic gold medal for Jamaica yesterday in division 15 of the 500m race inside Liebenau ice rink stadium here at the Special Olympics World Winter Games.

Austin, a novice on ice, stopped the clock at 1:18.971 minutes, ahead of three competitors from Hong Kong.

Wing Ho Lee won silver in 1:22.840 minutes, while Antony Sze-Yuen Tsoi (1:25.684) and Tsz Fai Yip (1:25.915) were third and fourth, respectively.

Austin’s feat represents the tropical country’s first gold medal on ice at the Special Olympics World Games.   

Only two months ago, the 19-year-old Austin and Jamaica speed skating teammate Dave Oddman, who won silver in division 23 of the 222m event on Wednesday, had their first training session on ice during a one-week stint in Florida.

Otherwise, the two practise using roller wheel skates on concrete or asphalt in Jamaica.

The long-limbed Austin, who did 1:22 minutes in the preliminary 500m race on Saturday, said the relatively brisk time in the final was a surprise.

“I’m very excited, but I didn’t know I would have done it so fast,” the skater, battling cold symptoms, told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

He said the aim was to start quickly, but he explained that the contingency plan was to go all out for the lead over the final two laps had he been trailing.

“It was the plan to get out quickly, but I also knew that if I wasn’t in first place from early on, then I would have waited until the two final laps and then start to overtake from there. But that didn’t happen because I took the lead first,” he said, while sporting a broad smile.

Austin, who along with his father, is a goat farmer in the Bernard Lodge area of St Catherine, gave dedication to his family, Special Olympics Jamaica (SOJ) and speed skating coach Jacqueline Bennett.

“This gold means a lot to me, and it is also for my mother, the rest of the family, everybody. SOJ and coach believed in me, and she told me ‘well done’ when I was finished,” Austin said.

Oddman, 35, secured Jamaica’s first medal at these Austria 2017 Games.

However, Austin took it a step further yesterday as a handful of long strides from a standing start powered him to the front.

In almost no time he had a 20-metre lead.

Thereafter, it was merely a matter of maintaining composure and not falling, though on at least two occasions he almost lost balance while negotiating the bends.

By the final lap it became certain that the best the Hong Kong trio could do was to jostle for the remaining two medal positions as Austin went into cruise mode.

Austin and Oddman are expected to compete in separate divisions on today’s final day of competition for a shot at gold in the 333m event, also at the Liebenau venue.

Under the guidance of Coach Bennett, Jamaica stunningly won silver medals in two ice figure skating categories at the 2013 Winter Games in Republic of Korea.

Special Olympics empowers people with intellectual disabilities by promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect across the world.

The movement aims to provide year-round sports training and competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for people with these disabilities.

— Sanjay Myers



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