TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – If you happened to be out at Florida State’s Mike Long Track at any point between January and May this year, you may have well seen a pair of identical twins hammering away in preparation for the London Olympics.
Those Belgium-born twins and former Seminole All-Americans – Kevin and Jonathan Borlee – made that work pay off Sunday when they advanced to the finals of the 400-meter dash, set for Monday at Olympic Stadium.
“Two men from the same country in an Olympic final is amazing, but for them to be twins is out of this world,” said FSU Director of Sprints, Hurdles & Relays, Ken Harnden. “They both have a great chance to medal tomorrow.”
There were a few anxious moments for Jonathan Borlee, who was the fastest qualifier out of the qualifying rounds, but finished third in his second semifinal heat in 44.99 seconds. With only the top two from each of the three semifinal heats guaranteed a spot in the finals, he had to wait to see if would grab one of the last two spots based on time.
Kevin Borlee, running in that third and final heat, qualified automatically by finishing second in 44.84. Perhaps more importantly, he opened up some distance between himself and third-place finisher Bryshon Nellum, who finished in 45.02.
“I couldn’t be happier for the twins,” FSU head coach Bob Braman said. “They say the semifinal is always more stressful that the final. I wouldn’t be surprised if they both are in the mix to medal coming down that final straightaway.”
Kimberly Williams served notice early in her first Olympic appearance that she was not going to fade on the world stage. Entering Sunday’s triple jump final – she qualified second overall on Friday with a career-best mark of 14.53m – the 2012 Florida State graduate stood on the precipice of a medal after three jumps.
With a clean slate to start Sunday’s final, the Jamaican native uncorked a mark of 4.48m (47-6.25) just as her fellow famous countryman Usain Bolt was winning his semifinal heat in the 100-meter dash. Williams’ mark thrust her into third place, securing three more jumps as the finals field of 12 was narrowed to eight.
Williams, however, was unable to muster a better mark in the swirling winds of Olympic Stadium and finished sixth overall.
“Sixth in the Olympic Games is a great accomplishment on the biggest sporting stage in the world,” said Florida State assistant Dennis Nobles, who continues to coach Williams. “Kim did a great job of competing in her first major championship final, putting herself in medal contention early on.
“She is a special athlete and a special young woman. I’m very happy for Kim.”
So too is Braman, who is also attending the Games in London.
“It was a great debut Olympics for Kimmi; nearly a lifetime best and in contention the whole time,” Braman said. “What a competitor!”
Kemar Hyman never had the opportunity to test his mettle in the 100-meter semifinals, pulling out of the third heat when a hip injury flared during his warm-up session.
“Kemar had a really tough choice to make: run hurt or protect his future,” said Hardnen, who is in London as Hyman’s coach. “I believe he made the right choice.
“To make the Olympic semifinal when the biggest meet of his life prior to this was the NCAA is an amazing accomplishment.”
Still, it was a disappointing conclusion to a most remarkable 2012 breakthrough season for Hyman. The first-time Olympian from the Cayman Islands came into his senior season at Florida State with personal-best times of 10.26 in the 100 and 6.65 in the 60-meter dash, which he repeatedly smashed.
“Kemar's last six months have been nothing short of amazing,” Braman said. “Coach Harnden has done an incredible job with his career. Kemar will make every final he's healthy for in the years to come.”
It’s virtually impossible to argue Braman’s point, given Hyman’s ascent.
He won the ACC Indoor Championship in the 60 and placed third at the NCAA Indoor Championship, matching his country’s national record with a time of 6.56 along the way. His outdoor campaign was even more impressive, beginning with his 10.14 in the 100 at the Pepsi Relays, which tied the Cayman Islands national record. Two weeks later, he claimed the national record outright, winning the ACC 100 title in 10.07; a mark he bettered at the NCAA Outdoor Championship with a 10.04 in the preliminary heat. Hyman finished sixth in the finals, then came back with a blazing leadoff leg for FSU’s runner-up 4x100 relay team, which posted a school record 38.57.
With an Olympic A-standard time and a spot in London secured, Hyman made a monumental performance jump when he ran 9.95 – one of the top 10 times in the world in 2012 at the time - in Madrid while preparing for the Games.
“I am so proud of how far he has come in the two years that he has proudly worn a Seminole uniform,” Harnden said.
Beyond the Borlees’ appearance in Monday’s 400-meter final (4:30 p.m, ET at www.nbcolympics.com) , the Olympic slate is relatively light for those with Florida State ties.
First up is the newest ‘Nole, 2012 signee Anne Zagre (Belgium), who will compete in the qualifying heats of the 100-meter hurdles. Zagre, who comes into the games with a personal-best of 12.79, will try and secure a spot in the semifinals by placing in the top three of her first heat. She will compete at 5:05 a.m. (ET).
The morning schedule will also include the Olympic debut of Great Britain’s Hannah England. The 2011 IAAF World Championship runner-up at 1500m, will compete in the qualifying rounds, set for 6:30 a.m. (ET). The top six runners in each of three qualifying heats – plus the next six best times – will move on to the semifinals.
England, an All-American for the ‘Noles in 2008 when she won the NCAA 1500m title in a record which still stands, enters the meet with a season-best effort of 4:04.05 but has a PR of 4:01.89.
“I have so much pride in our alums,” Braman said. “They continue to do our program proud on the world’s greatest stage. Florida State University launched all of their careers and provided them with a world-class education as well.”