The last night of track and field in London 2012 continued in the same vein as all the previous nights— the Jamaican men and the US women out on their own as the kings and queens of sprinting.
Once again, the US women showed up their male compatriots dominating the final of the 4x400 meter relay and winning with an ease that embarrassed their opposition. Remarkably, Allyson Felix—fresh from her success as a core element of the peerless 4x100 meter relay record breakers—contributed to Saturday’s demonstration of a sprinting master-class.
400-meter bronze medallist DeeDee Trotter led the US team out on the first leg and had built up a handsome lead when she seamlessly handed over to Allyson Felix. Felix—undisputedly the female athlete of the meet—took off in her familiar style that leaves us breathless with admiration.
The Russians started strong, but Felix destroyed Antonina Krivoshapka, running her leg in 47:80. As in the 4x100 meters she crisply handed the baton over. Francena McCorory—a very powerful runner— extended this lead even further on the third leg. With each stride the US team increased their advantage.
This was a rout. It would have taken a bungled transfer to deny the US victory at this stage and after a clean handover to the anchor Sanya Richards-Ross it was game over. Richards-Ross sprinted off on a virtual victory lap. 400-meter hurdles winner Natalya Antyukh would have needed a mo-ped to catch 400-meter flat champion Richards-Ross, who crossed in 3:16:87. Her concern was to consolidate second place and stretch away from Jamaica in third.
The Russians took silver in a time of 3:20:23, a staggering 3:36 seconds behind the US, while Jamaica won bronze in 3:20:95. The wonderful Allyson Felix leaves London with three gold medals and a world record. Unique in that she competed in a 100- and 200-meters individual final, 4x100 meters and a 4x400 meters relay final—winning gold in the latter three events.
Mo Farah ensured another super Saturday for the super hosts as he added the 5,000-meters Olympic crown to his 10,000-meters gold medal won last week. Farah was sensational, showing grit and determination to come out on top after a messy tactical race run at a slow pace. With one lap remaining, there was a group of seven athletes in contention.
At one stage in the final lap, Galen Rupp made a move on the outside to help his training partner Farah, but faded when pace was injected. US runner Bernard Lagat was looking to make a late charge on the outside when he was jostled and stumbled out of medal contention.
With 150 meters left, Farah in the lead was gritting his teeth, as the crowd of 80,000 roared and willed him to hang on. Dejen Gebremeskel was looking strong as the lead group disintegrated and was welded to Farah’s shoulder. Somehow Farah, aided massively by the crowd, was able to summon up a little extra reservoir of strength to cross the line in a slow time of 13:41:66 to complete a memorable long distance double. Gebremeskel chased him home in 13:41:98 to win silver for Ethiopia. Kenyan Thomas Pkemei Longosiwa won bronze in 13:42:36.
It was fitting that Usain Bolt was going to draw the curtain on the last major track event. Every time he had appeared in the stadium, from his first appearance at the opening ceremony until the final relay, there was a crackle in the atmosphere. Today the great man was due to anchor Jamaica in a hotly anticipated showdown between the US and his brilliantly talented quartet.
Trell Kimmons went off hard to give a great start to the US and Nesta Carter for Jamaica inside him could not chase him down. By the time Kimmons handed over to Justin Gatlin and Carter to Michael Frater, it was a two horse race.
Gatlin ran a strong second leg and the US were edging ahead. They needed to be with Yohan Blake and Bolt to come. Gatlin handed the baton to Tyson Gay and Gay took off with one objective: to give Ryan Bailey an advantage on the anchor. However the handover from Frater to Blake was smooth and Yohan Blake was soon running down Gay.
Gay—the second fastest man alive ever—tried desperately to hold off ‘the beast’ running on the inside. Gay and Blake handed over the baton to their anchors virtually simultaneously. For the US however it was soon to be game over.
Bailey and Bolt took off neck and neck but Bailey was a dead man running. He would have needed a five meter advantage to escape from Lightning. Bolt—switching the baton from one hand to the other—exploded down the home straightaway, every long, loping stride taking him away from Bailey, who struggled manfully to stay in touch.
Bailey ran the leg of his life but like Blake before him, he was never going to catch Bolt. Bolt ran it out this time and Jamaica smashed the world record to finish in a remarkable 36:84. The US took silver in 37:04, a new national record, which matched Jamaica’s previous world record. After the unfortunate Canadians were disqualified for a lane infringement on the third leg, Trinidad and Tobago won bronze in 38:12.
All that was left was for Bolt to entertain the crowd, conducting a Mexican wave and even copying Mo Farah’s signature Mo-bot celebration. Bolt was reluctant to give up the baton to an official, before eventually relenting. Bolt leaves London with 3 gold medals, a world record and perhaps the most hard fought for souvenir of all—that baton—which he received 40 minutes after the race.