WI, Bolt propel the Caribbean in 2012
West Indies rescaled the pinnacle of world cricket for the first time in eight years, while sprint superstar Usain Bolt laid claim to legend status by once again attaining the dizzying heights of global stardom, to headline a remarkable year in Caribbean sport in 2012.
The mercurial regional side captured the Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka when they beat the hosts in a pulsating final, registering their first world title since they dramatically won the 2004 ICC Champions Trophy in England, and adding to the back-to-back 50-over World Cup triumphs of the 1970s.
Bolt, meanwhile, dominated the London Olympics, winning both the 100- and 200-metre events to become the first ever athlete to successfully defend the titles at an Olympiad.
The 26-year-old Jamaican entered the Games with his title defence shrouded in doubt following defeats at the National Championships to training partner Yohan Blake, but delivered two spellbinding performances to write his name indelibly into the record books. His heroics earned him a second straight IAAF World Athlete-of-the-Year honour, and fourth overall.
Even more outstanding for Jamaica was the fact the country swept the podium spots, as new boy Warren Weir, another member of Bolt's Racers Track Club, claimed bronze. Bolt was not yet finished, however. On the penultimate day of the Games, the long-striding genius covered himself in even more glory with his third gold medal, anchoring the sprint relay team of Nesta Carter, Michael Frater and Yohan Blake to a new world record of 36.84 seconds. The performance marked the first time in history a team had ever dipped below 37 seconds.
Trinidad and Tobago's team of Keston Bledman, Marc Burns, Emmanuel Callender and Richard Thompson picked up bronze behind the Americans, an effort that typified the twin-island republic's outstanding campaign in London that yielded a record four medals.
It was underscored by teenager Keshorn Walcott, who upset his more experienced field and stunned the world by winning gold in the javelin with a throw of 84.58 metres, also on the penultimate day of competition in mid-August. There was no sign of what was to come when he qualified tenth with a measurement of 81.75 metres but once in the final, he took the lead with a special second round throw and no one could overhaul him.
For T&T, it was only their second ever Olympic gold medal behind the legendary Hasely Crawford who won the 100m at the 1976 Montreal Games.
Little known Lalonde Gordon snatched bronze in the men's 400 metres and then joined the team of Jarrin Solomon, Ade Alleyne-Forte and Deon Lendore to also hand T&T bronze in the distance relay.
A distinct Caribbean flavour was left all over the 400 metres as World champion Kirani James delivered Grenada's first ever Olympic medal when he easily won the full lap. Entering the final as the strong favourite after former World and reigning Olympic champion American LaShawn Merritt pulled up with injury in the preliminary rounds, the 19-year-old James did not disappoint, clocking 43.94 seconds to dismiss his field.
There was some disappointment on the women's side, however, as only Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce could find the top of the podium. The pint-sized 25-year-old clocked 10.75 seconds to successfully defend her 100 metres title and come away with the only gold medal for the Caribbean. In the process, she became the first non-American and first woman in 16 years to defend an Olympic 100 metres title.
She returned later in the Games to win silver in the 200 metres and also with the sprint relay team of Sherone Simpson, Veronica Campbell-Brown and Kerron Stewart in a new national record of 41.41 seconds, as the Americans took gold.
At July's World Junior Championships in Barcelona, young Caribbean athletes—including Walcott—represented the region with distinction to grab 16 medals overall.
Walcott, uninhibited by any thoughts of an Olympic medal quest, threw 78.64 to win gold in what proved to be a fairytale year for the 19-year-old. Delano Williams of the Turks and Caicos snatched the men's 200 metres, and there were also triumphs for Jamaican Janieve Russell in the women's 400m hurdles and her compatriot Fedrick Dacres in the men's discus throw.
However, it was the exploits of Bahamian sprint queen Anthonique Strachan which set the Games alight. The loose-limbed 19-year-old pulled off the incredible sprint double of the 100 and 200 metres, becoming the first woman in 12 years to do so and announcing herself as the latest world class talent to emerge from the region.
She clocked a world junior leading time of 11.20 second to win the 100 metres and returned in the 200 metres with a new championship record time of 22.53.
With the excitement from the Olympics abated, the Caribbean's return to the global spotlight was swift as West Indies came out of nowhere to win the Twenty20 World Cup in October.
Ironically, the triumph almost never was, as the regional side endured a luckless group stage before narrowly limping through to the second round.
In the Super-Eight second round, West Indies continued to live a charmed life, defeating England, losing to Sri Lanka and then tying with New Zealand before emerging winners in a dramatic super over. They saved perhaps their best performance for the semi-finals, conjuring up a fabulous all-round performance to crush Australia by 74 runs and snatch a place in the final.
The final epitomised West Indies' run in the championship, as they hauled themselves back from the brink of defeat on more than one occasion to seal an emphatic victory. Winning the toss and batting, the innings was going nowhere until Marlon Samuels arrived to unleash a stunning 56-ball 78, before captain Darren Sammy struck a cameo of 26 off 15 balls to lead the Windies to 137 for six.
Tillakaratne Dilshan fell cheaply in the second over but veterans Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene put the favoured Sri Lankans back on course for victory. Once they were separated, however, West Indies romped to an historic victory which breathed a new sense of purpose and direction into regional cricket.
West Indies Women were good enough to reach the semi-finals of the tournament but a batting implosion saw them lose to Australia and miss out on a spot in the final.
The men's triumph in many ways confirmed a resurgence that had begun at home against Australia earlier in the year in March, when the hosts held Australia to a 2-2 result in the five-match One-Day International series. Brushed aside by 64 runs in the first match of a tripleheader at Arnos Vale, West Indies rebounded to win the second game by five wickets before a sensational tie in the third game left the series open, heading into St Lucia.
A rare Kieron Pollard century fired West Indies to a 42-run victory in the fourth ODI and a 2-1 lead in the series, but a 30-run defeat in the final game ended their hopes of a precious series win and Australia eased to a 2-0 win in the three-Test series.
On the subsequent tour of England in May the Caribbean side failed to win a single match, and were undermined by miserable early spring weather. They lost the opening Test at Lord's by five wickets and then crashed to a nine-wicket defeat inside four days in the second Test at Nottingham to concede the series. The third, rain-affected Test at Birmingham was drawn.
The limited overs series was much of the same, with England winning the first two ODIs and rain accounting for the third without a ball bowled. West Indies also lost the lone T20 International.
But there was one bright spot as West Indies fans celebrated the return of the previously exiled Jamaican opener Chris Gayle, after a deal was brokered by St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, to end the player's 15-month standoff with the West Indies Cricket