12th August, 2012
FABULOUS … United States’ women’s 4 x100-meter relay team members, (from left), Tianna Madison, Carmelita Jeter, Bianca Knight, and Allyson Felix with the timing board displaying their world record time of 40.82 seconds.
LONDON: The United States women’s 4×100 metres relay team laid to rest one of the longest-standing and most controversial world records as they took the Olympic title on Friday.
The American quartet, anchored with a stunning final leg by Carmelita Jeter, timed 40.82sec to slice more than half a second off the 27-year-old record of 41.37sec set by the former East Germany in 1985.
The old mark was one of the handful of records that had fallen under suspicion after the extent of state-sponsored doping in the Communist country emerged following the fall of the Berlin Wall four years after it was set.
After the women’s success in the Olympic Stadium, the United States’ evening ended in disappointing fashion as the Bahamas inflicted a shock defeat in the men’s 4×400 metres relay.
It was the first time an American team contesting an Olympic 4×400m relay final had been beaten since the 1972 Munich Games.
The victory was made sweeter for the Bahamians because it was a first Olympic athletics gold medal for their men.
The American women – who ended a 16 year Olympic gold drought – may have relegated their bitter Jamaican rivals into second but the latter’s male counterparts can gain revenge on Saturday.
With Usain Bolt rested, they sauntered through their heat to set up what could be another historic night for the double sprint champion who is eyeing a repeat of his haul of three golds from Beijing.
Jeter, who has arrived on the top stage late in life under the aegis of legendary coach John Smith, completed a full house of medals from these Games having taken silver in the 100m and bronze in the 200m.
“I knew we were running fast. I was already pointing at the clock, saying ‘there it is’,” said 32-year-old Jeter, who screamed for joy as she crossed the line.
“There was a cloud hanging over us, with people saying ‘they can’t do this, they’re going to drop the stick’ but we did it.
“I knew that if we got the stick around then all I had to do was to bring it home.”
Allyson Felix, who earlier in the Games had finally got the 200m gold that had eluded her in the past two editions, said breaking the world record had never seemed realistic before.
“It was an absolutely unreal feeling. For so long we’ve looked at women’s sprints and records have been so out of reach and to look up and see that we had a world record was crazy.”
Her teammate Bianca Knight put into perspective their achievement after so many other great quartets teams had failed to break it.
“The world record was older than I am,” said the 26-year-old.
The American men’s 4×400 relay team had been decimated by injuries, not least to world champion LaShawn Merritt.
The 33-year-old Angelo Taylor had to be rolled out for the final leg as the first choice, Manteo Mitchell, broke his leg running the first leg in Thursday’s heat.
“It’s painful watching the race and I couldn’t be with them. I’m heartbroken,” said Mitchell, who was allowed to watch the race trackside.
The relay also saw the end of double amputee Oscar Pistorius’s historic Olympic campaign as South Africa trailed in last with the ‘Blade Runner’ taking the baton for the final lap.
“It’s a dream come true. It’s the most amazing experience of my life, and it will inspire and motivate me for the next four years,” Pistorius said. “Just to take part has been great.”
On the field, Australia’s Steve Hooker surrendered his pole vault title without registering a height as Renaud Lavillenie gave France their long-awaited first gold in athletics at these Games.
Hooker, though, said he would leave happier than he had been for a long time.
“It’s been very, very hard over the last year-and-a-half at times.
“I’ve had every issue that you can imagine to overcome and I feel like my old self on the runway and that’s pretty gratifying.”
Asli Cakir Alptekin led a shock 1-2 for Turkey when she won the women’s 1500m, handing her country a first-ever gold medal in track and field. Gamze Bulut took the silver medal.