Busy busy day. Watched the Games online then had to head out to get real life business taken care of. Almost waited until tomorrow to close out the last two days of the Games, because I missed much of the field events, and I need another look at that UGLY women’s 1500 meters. I’ll get to see that later tonight, and will include it with tomorrow’s discussion. But this relay run needed it’s own space, because it was as significant as anything that’s happened so far at the Games. So let me talk about today’s two relay finals, then finish up tomorrow – because both relays were very significant.
First the men’s 4×4, where it was clear before the gun went off that this would be a race between the US & the Bahamas. Pre meet, this was another “gimme” on the chart, with the US having LaShawn Merritt and Tony McQuay on board – #’ 1 & 3 on the clock heading into London. Pairing them with another pair of runners was sure to produce another win – a streak in the Olympics going back to 1976.
A funny thing happened on the way to the starting line however. Merritt was injured prior the Games and never recovered. Former Olympic champion, and relay stalwart Jeremy Wariner was less than his best, and he was injured during practice in London. Hot quarter miler Tony McQuay had a poor semi and didn’t make the final. And finally in the semifinals of the relay Manteo Mitchell broke his leg on the leadoff – but managed to get the stick to the #2 man. Suddenly we were looking like the 1972 team that lost its top two men after they were removed from the Games for their performance on the victory stand after the open 400. That team didn’t field a squad, because out intermediate hurdlers left town too early and we ran out of people – so no medal at all in ‘72.
After all of the above, however, we still had folk aboard, including hurdle finalist Angelo Taylor who sported a SB 44.97. So we were still in the mix. But it was clear in the semi that the Bahamas were on a mission, as they ran strong and finished microscopically ahead of the US troops in 2:58.87. A very good time, but assuming Taylor would replace the hurting Mitchell, it still looked like a solid bet that the US would pull this one out. Umm, not so fast. Veteran lead off leg, Chris Brown (BAH) put the Bahamas out front, and in spite of the US closing the gap on the second leg with a sensational 43.5 by Josh Mance (USA), the Bahamas Demtrius Pinder held him at bay. Another sizzling leg of 43.4 by Tony McQuay got the US the lead that was anticipated and Taylor set sail ahead of Ramone Miller of the Bahamas – done deal. Umm, not so fast. Miller (44.0) stalked Taylor (44.8) for 350 meters – then went by him to win the gold for the Bahamas in a sterling 2:56.72 NR! The race was eerily like the 1991 World Championships final when Great Britain went by the US before the line to steal gold. Props to the Bahamas with their first ever gold in this event, and a HUGE NR. They came and did what needed to be done, and they were not going to be denied. Props to the Bahamas.
Another group that looked like they weren’t going to be denied was the US women’s squad in the 4×1. With Jamaica taking gold and bronze in the 100 – US silver, 4th and 5th – the US wanted to “even the score” and dispel the thought of Jamaican sprint superiority. The scene was set with Jamaica in lane 6 (Fraser Pryce to Simpson to VCB to Stewart) and the US one lane outside in 7 (Madison to Felix to Knight to Jeter). Many, including myself, felt that the WR of 41.37 set by the DDR way back in 1985 might finally be in jeopardy – especially after the US “B” team ran 41.63 in the semis. At the gun, Fraser Pryce was out like a shot, but Madison was too, and connected roughly evenly at the exchange – it was the last time the race was even or close! Felix set sail down the backstretch and connected with Bianca Knight ahead of Simpson and VCB. Knight blazed the turn handing off to Jeter ahead of Kerron Stewart and the race was over – the only question being would they challenge the record. The answer as Jeter crossed the line was YES, as they obliterated the mark with the first ever time under 41.00 seconds – actually the first under 41.30 and every barrier in between – breaking the old record by half a second! How good was the mark? As badly as Jamaica trailed they finished in a NR 41.41 which itself is the #3 time in history! The time is perhaps one of the most significant in the history of women’s sprinting as it removed one the sports oldest “tainted” marks from the books taking down an Eastern Bloc mark that had stood for decades. Huge in the world of women’s sprinting. Big up to the US squad.
So on to tomorrow. I’ll take a look back at a few other events from today, as well as tomorrows big match ups. TEASER. Tomorrow the men go at it in the 4×1 and it should be a doozy. In today’s semis Jamaica running with Carter, Frater, Blake and Bailey-Cole ran the fastest prelim ever with a 37.39. They will replace B-Cole with Bolt in the final! Right afterwards, however, a US squad of Demps, Patton, Kimmons and Gatlin screamed a 37.38 of their own. They will replace Demps and Patton with Gay and Bailey in the final. Grab your popcorn and turn on the fan because it’s going to get HOT tomorrow in London.