London 2012: Very Best of US Track Not Near Enough to Match Usain Bolt, Jamaica
It was all US track fans could ask for out of the men's 4x100-meter relay.
The Americans got the stick around, a minor shock in itself. Even better, they did it with some pretty good passes. A bunch of accomplished runners all ran great legs. They equaled the world record, which was already kind of out there as an excellent record.
It wasn't nearly enough.
Going against the juggernaut that is Jamaican's stable of sprinters, the American men's 4x100-meter relay ran spectacularly and still came up short.
Their second-place time was 37.04 seconds, which would have beaten every team in history by a huge .36-second margin in the SBB (Sprinting Before Bolt) era.
In 2008, though, times changed forever in the 100, 200 and the 4x100. Spectacular isn't enough to get it done. And make no mistake, this was an amazing American squad.
The "slowest" runner was Trell Kimmons, and he is a superb starter and turn runner. He, in fact, gave the US an early lead and topped Jamaica's Nesta Carter, a man with a 9.78-second personal best for the 100. Best of all was the perfect pass in his exchange.
Next up was Justin Gatlin, the bronze medalist this Olympics in the 100 meters. He was also great, increasing the lead of the Americans with a powerful run to outdo Jamaica's Michael Frater. That's where it all went wrong, though, with little fault to the Americans.
You see, they were now facing perhaps the two greatest of all time back-to-back. It was Blake then Bolt, and realistically that made no lead even a little bit safe.
The couple tenths they had was certainly not enough. While the US team was stuck in 2007's level of greatness, the two Jamaicans seemed to have arrived from the future to move the sport forward another 15 years.
Never was that more apparent than on the third leg.
For the US it was Tyson Gay, who swept the sprints at the 2007 World Championships and appeared to be the future of the sport at that time. For the Jamaicans it was Blake, the 22-year-old prodigy who looks primed to pick up exactly where Bolt leaves off when he retires.
Against a man who dominated 2007 and still managed a creditable fourth in this year's Olympics, Yohan Blake exploded and made Gay look like a relic of the past.
In under nine seconds he erased everything the Americans had built on the Jamaicans. The race was over and there was nothing that the Americans and anchor leg Ryan Bailey could do about it.
Bailey himself had a breakout season and was far from a slouch. He ran 9.88 at the Olympics, which in kinder days would have made him the favorite to be world's fastest man.
In 2012, he was an also-ran in the 100-meter Olympic final. Here, he was matched against the world's undisputed fastest man ever and he didn't have a prayer. Even with a dreadful pass that almost saw Bolt stop entirely to gather the baton, this thing was over.
Bolt pulled away looking easy as he always does. While Bailey ran another great race for the American quartet, it never got close. Their world record-equaling mark was .20 away from the new standard the Jamaicans had just set.
This was just a case of too much firepower, too much speed. To beat Bolt and Blake, you better have a monstrous lead or pray for a dropped baton.
The Americans did all they could. They got the stick around competently, and looked like a relay team for the first time in a while. A group of all stars with well under sub-10 ability all ran well. It was finally an American 4x100 team at its best.
There was just one unavoidable problem. They're stuck in 2007, when all of that was enough.
In 2012, sprinting belongs to Usain Bolt and the Jamaicans, and they're just too damn good.
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