By Matt Kryger, USA TODAY Sports
Gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, left, and bronze medalist Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica celebrate after the 100 meters.
By David Leon Moore, USA TODAY
LONDON - Well, it wasn't quite as bad for the U.S. women this time around.
They still lost to Jamaica in the Olympic women's 100 meters. But at least this time it wasn't a clean sweep.
In 2008, the Jamaican women went 1-2-2, with Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce winning the gold as a 21-year-old and her compatriots Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart tying for the silver.
Since then, veteran American sprinter Carmelita Jeter emerged as a worthy challenger, and she stepped to the start Saturday night in chilly but electric Olympic Stadium as the reigning world champion and the second-fastest female 100-meter runner in history behind the late world recordholder Florence Griffith-Joyner.
The credentials were great, and she appeared as ready as she could be, but the outcome was the same - Fraser Pryce won, and Jamaica strikes first in the USA-Jamaica sprint rivalry, one of the overriding story lines for track and field in the London Games.
With her victory, Pryce becomes the first woman to win back-to-back Olympic 100s since American Gail Devers in 1992 and 1996.
Devers actually called U.S. Track and Field spokeswoman Jill Geer in London to pass along a message to Jeter and to Fraser Pryce.
"She said tell Carmelita 'great job' and tell Shelly-Ann 'welcome to the back-to-back club,' " Geer said.
Said Fraser Pryce: "I'm honored to be a part of the club. It feels good to be in that category."
Fraser Pryce shot out of the blocks with a sensational start but seemed to tie up a bit in the final stage of the race. Her time was 10.75 seconds, not a season best for her and potentially beatable by Jeter, who has run as fast as 10.64.
"It was good," Fraser Pryce said. "It could have been better."
But Jeter could never find the gear to catch the Jamaican. She finished in second, taking a silver medal with a time of 10.78. She just did hold off Jamaican veteran Veronica Campbell-Brown, who earned the bronze with a time of 10.81.
"That was my best time of the season, and I feel like I executed the best I could," Jeter said. "But Shelly-Ann ran an amazing race. I always take my hat off to her. She's an amazing runner. She just always shows up."
Team USA took fourth and fifth with Tianna Madison (10.85) and Allyson Felix (10.89) running personal bests.
Felix said she got off to her typically poor start but otherwise the race set her up well for the 200, in which she has won silver medals in the previous two Olympics and will be favored, along with her nemesis, two-time defending gold medalist Campbell-Brown.
U.S. women won the Olympic 100 meters four times in a row from 1984 to 1996. Two American women have won back-to-back Olympic 100s: Wyomia Tyus in 1964-68 and Devers in 1992-96.
And the fastest 100 meter runner of them all was an American: Florence Griffith-Joyner, who ran the existing world record of 10.49 in the U.S. Olympic trials in 1988.
But since Devers' repeat title in 1996, the U.S. women, coming into the race Saturday night, had produced one solitary medal in the event - Lauryn Williams' 2004 silver.
Into this recent void stepped Jeter, who wasn't fast enough to qualify for the Olympic team in 2008 but hired veteran sprint coach John Smith after that disappointment and forged dramatic improvements: a time of 10.64 in 2009, making her the second-fastest woman in history behind Griffith-Joyner.
Last year, at 31, she won her first major title: the 100 world championship in Daegu, South Korea, where she also took the silver in the 200.
The difference in profile, however, between the world's fastest living woman and the world's fastest living man - Jamaica's Usain Bolt, the world recordholder - could hardly be greater.
Jeter, compared to Bolt, is hardly recognizable and not nearly as marketable.
Given her silver medal Saturday night, instead of the gold she craved, and considering that she is 32 and a long shot to run in another Olympics, that is not likely to change very much.
But she thinks the gold in Daegu and the silver here were solid signs that she had done what she had set out to do after 2008.
"I definitely feel I ran a strong race. I left my heart and soul out on the track," she said. "I know I worked hard and pushed myself all year. When you run hard and push yourself hard from start to finish, you can't be upset."