Olympic – New women’s World Record 4 x 100-meter relay by US team
LONDON — As Carmelita Jeter sprinted across the finish line in the women’s 4×100-meter relay Friday night, she turned to her left and pointed a finger at the electronic clock beside the track as if to say, “Look at what we just did.” A beat later, the board flashed Jeter’s news in bold type: NEW WR.
Justin Gatlin anchored the U.S. team that set a national record of 37.38 seconds in its heat of the men’s 4×100 relay. More Photos »
Jeter’s final leg capped a blistering race for the United States team, which won its first gold medal in the event in 16 years and did it in emphatic fashion. The winning time of 40.82 seconds shattered the world record of 41.37, which was set in 1985 by East Germany, whose athletes were later found to be part of a state-run doping system.
The dominance of the United States women’s team also highlighted one of the cleaner nights for the American relay team in recent memory and capped a stunning workweek for American track athletes over all.
In addition to the women’s 4×100 victory, the injury-plagued men’s 4×400-meter relay team won a silver medal Friday, giving the United States 19 track medals since Monday. The women’s sprinters provided the 10th gold.
“In my heart I said, ‘We just did it,’ ” Jeter recalled of crossing the finish line. “We wanted to get that medal home because it hasn’t been home in a while.”
Although the United States is traditionally strong in the sprints, the women’s 4×100 had been a relative blight — the Americans’ last gold coming at the Atlanta Games in 1996. A series of dropped batons and missed exchanges had made for a stretch of disappointment — one that seemed to be contagious as the men’s sprint relay teams had their share of troubles, too.
On Friday, though, the American passes were perfect. Tianna Madison broke quickly from the blocks, then passed cleanly to Allyson Felix, who won the 200 this week. Bianca Knight ran the curve on the third leg before Jeter, who took silver in the 100, blazed toward the finish, where she celebrated just as she crossed the line.
It was a sparkling conclusion for a team that had been involved in its own bit of controversy before the races began. Jeneba Tarmoh was part of the quartet that ran in the preliminary round — she will win a medal — but these Games seem destined to be a bittersweet experience for her as she was part of the contentious Olympic trials dead-heat finish in the 100 that ultimately left her outside the Olympic team.
Tarmoh was later added to the relay team but was replaced, along with Lauryn Williams, in the final by Felix and Jeter. As per Olympic rules, neither Tarmoh nor Williams took part in the formal medal ceremony.
“As soon as we crossed the finish line, they broke a world record and won a gold medal, too,” Madison said. “We’re a team.”
Jamaica finished behind the United States in the women’s 4×100, with Ukraine third, and the United States-Jamaica rivalry will be revived again Saturday when the men’s 4×100 teams from both countries will meet in the final. Both qualified easily in their heats Friday night. Jamaica, with Yohan Blake running the third leg, posted a time of 37.39 seconds in the first heat while the United States, with Justin Gatlin as the anchor, bettered that in the second heat with an American record of 37.38.
The final should be a showpiece race, with Usain Bolt expected to join the Jamaicans and Tyson Gay likely to run for the Americans. The United States will hope for an incident-free race to end a run of poor passing form in big meets, as they finished second at the Athens Games in 2004 because of awkward passes, then failed to finish their heat in Beijing, were disqualified in the heats at the 2009 world championships and did not finish again at the world championships in 2011.
“We were inspired by our girls from last night,” Gatlin said. “They had safe passes and brought the stick home. If you have safe passes, then you can get a record.”
Passing was not an issue for the United States men’s 4×400-meter relay team as it had a more basic concern: Who was healthy enough to run? After injuries knocked out LaShawn Merritt, who won the individual 400 in Athens, and Jeremy Wariner, who took the 400 gold in Beijing, the Americans were already thin for the relay. Then Manteo Mitchell fractured his fibula halfway through his portion of the preliminary heat, hanging on to finish but obviously not fit to run in the final.
Watching on crutches, Mitchell saw a patchwork team get caught by the Bahamas on the final lap as Angelo Taylor, who finished fifth in the 400 hurdles earlier in the meet, couldn’t hold the lead for the United States. It was only the fourth time since 1956 that the Americans did not win gold, and Trinidad and Tobago won the bronze while Oscar Pistorius, the South African who became the first double-amputee athlete to compete in track earlier in the Games, completed his Olympics by running the anchor as the South Africans finished eighth.
“I didn’t hold up the tradition in the 4×4,” said Taylor, who was passed by Ramon Miller in the homestretch. “Unfortunately, I didn’t have it today.”
The women’s 4×400 will conclude Saturday. – Nytime