U.S. sprinter Allyson Felix had already earned an individual gold in the 2012 Olympic Games, and teammate Carmelita Jeter had earned two medals individually. Their greatest feat of the Games, however, came on Friday, as members of the world record-setting U.S. women’s 4x100-meter relay team.
The previous world-record time of 41.37 seconds in the women’s 4x100-meter relay, set by a German team, had stood since 1985. The U.S. team of Tianna Madison, Bianca Knight, Felix and Jeter absolutely shattered that mark, running an incredible time of 40.82 seconds.
Although .55 seconds may not seem like much, the difference by which the U.S. team broke the previous world record is absolutely staggering. In the 27 years since the previous record was set, 23 teams had come within .55 seconds of breaking Germany’s time, but no team could beat it.
Prior to Friday, only four teams in history had broken 41.50 in the women’s 4x100-meter relay. Two teams (Jamaica being the second) broke that barrier on Friday, but in one full swoop, the U.S. team also became the first team to break 41 seconds and set a record that is likely to stand for a very long time.
The drastic progression of the previous world record is a result of near-perfect execution by the U.S. team. All three handoffs were completed cleanly without a single hitch at any point in the race by any of the four runners. The U.S. women established control throughout the race and were finished in a time that defied all history in the event.
The previous record was a progression of only .16 seconds, and it took 27 years to be broken. Given that the new record-breaking performance was a much larger progression of .55 seconds, it should stand for a very long time until another team of truly elite sprinters can execute the race as flawlessly as the U.S. team did on Friday.
The world record was a major Olympic feat because of its progression but also for its significance to U.S. track and field.
What is the best U.S. track and field performance thus far at the 2012 Games?
The record-breaking performance was the first for U.S. women’s track and field in an Olympic-contested event since August 11, 1995 when Kim Batten broke the world record at the 1995 World Championships. It was also the first world record-breaking performance for U.S. track and field to take place at the Olympics since Michael Johnson broke the men’s 200-meter dash world record in 1996.
This U.S. relay performance was nothing short of legendary and will go down as one of the greatest performances in U.S. Olympic track and field history. Madison, Knight, Felix and Jeter could hold a place in the world record books for many more Olympiads to come.
Dan Hope is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist covering the 2012 Olympic Games. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Hope.