Olympic Track and Field 2012: Team USA Demolishes the World Record in 4x100m

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Olympic Track and Field 2012: Team USA Demolishes the World Record in 4x100m
Stu Forster/Getty Images

A stain on the conscience of the international athletics community was wiped clean in London Friday. When Carmelita Jeter crossed the line in the anchor leg of the 4x100-meter relay and set a new world record, the last record set by East Germany and its state-run doping program was cleansed from the record books.  

A collective sigh of relief must have been let out by the athletics authorities as that shameful period was finally consigned to history. This record had remained as an ugly reminder of the dark side of international sports for 27 long years.

The women’s 4x100-meter relay was utterly dominated by Team USA from start to finish.

Tianna Madison ran the opening leg. The baton was passed smoothly to Allyson Felix, while the other teams fumbled. Felix took off down the straight, lengthening her stride, leaving her rivals floundering in her wake and demolishing the field with a fierce elegance.

Again, the baton exchange to Bianca Knight was crisp and seamless. Knight extended the lead even further.

In contrast, the Jamaican quartet struggled, having left their two fastest runners on the bends. Knight slid the baton into Jeter’s hand and the final doubt about the destination of gold was gone.

Team USA was out of sight.

Jeter could almost have jogged home. Instead, she powered down the straight, the record set in October 1985 firmly in her sights. She still had time to point the black baton at the clock with 10 meters left, as if to say: “Are you watching history being made, world?"

The relay team didn't just break that dubious record from 1985—they destroyed it and stomped the pieces into the track.

40:82—can you believe it?

The Jamaican quartet of Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart were second, with a national record of 41:41.

Ukraine took bronze in 42:04.

It was redemption of sorts for Lauryn Williams. Williams ran a leg in the heats in London. She botched a baton transfer in the final in Athens and in the semifinal in Beijing.

This time, there was no mistake.

If the USA 4x100-relay team lifted a dark cloud off athletics, the result of the 1500-meters replaced it. Today's winner, Alsi Cakir Alptekin, was suspended for doping offenses in 2008 after traces of EPO were found in her sample.

Alptekin won a scrappy, messy race. Her compatriot, Gamze Bulut, took silver and Bahrain’s Maryam Jamal won bronze.

The unfortunate Morgan Uceny of the U.S. was once again jostled to the ground from a commanding position. She also fell in the World Championships in Daegu last year.

Her dismay was understandable. It did appear to be just an unfortunate accident. The Ethiopian athlete was pushed from behind and she reached out to steady herself, knocking Uceny off balance.

The men’s 4x400-meter relay produced one of the shocks of the meet, as Team USA was beaten by a brilliant Bahamian team.

This is an event Team USA has won in every Olympics since 1984. Team USA had suffered its fair share of misfortune leading up to the final, with injuries to key athletes Lashawn Merritt and Jeremy Wariner.

Their semifinal produced one of the most incredible stories of the Olympics, with Manteo Mitchell revealing he had run 200 meters with a broken leg. X-rays confirmed he had broken his left fibula.

In the end, 400-meter hurdler Angelo Taylor had to anchor the team.  

The Bahamas started strong and held the lead through the first two legs. Taylor had a slight advantage when he took the baton. He desperately tried to hold on, but Ramon Miller ran a storming final leg to pass Taylor with 50 meters remaining to win gold for the Bahamas in 2:56:72.

Team USA had to be content with silver in 2:57:05, and Trinidad and Tobago took bronze in 2:59:40.

Taylor can’t be blamed, as he isn’t a specialist for the flat 400 meters, but one feels for Mitchell, whose heroism perhaps deserves more than silver. Still, the Bahamian team was exceptional and fully deserving of the gold.

Both the USA and Jamaican men’s 4x100-meter relay teams qualified comfortably to set up a mouth-watering clash in the final. The Americans were one-hundredth of a second quicker than the second-fastest Jamaican quartet.

Mr. Bolt, meanwhile, had his feet up today.

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