After the final event, on the final day of the World Track and Field championships in Moscow, almost every nation who participated had reason to feel a little better.
After all, with over 200 countries represented, it was one of the most balanced global championships in recent memory in terms of widespread representation on the medals podium.
Certainly Russia must have been pleased with the many athletes who stepped up in the presence of their adoring fans. And the East Africans obviously corrected their poor showing in the 2012 Olympics. Germany, Great Britain and France demonstrated the force that Europe is quickly becoming in track and field.
Tiny Jamaica continued to over-achieve. Ukraine had their own cheering section inside Luzhniki Stadium.
But the United States, who overwhelmingly dominated this competition (if one is counting medals and points) and who had numerous stellar performances of its own, and in spite of a very good final day, left Luzhniki with their heads hanging a little low.
Snakebit again by those relay blues.
After two disastrous exchanges in Saturday's 4X400-meter relay, the U.S. women muffed the second exchange in Sunday's 4X100 relay final, and it possibly cost them a gold or silver medal finish.
On the Alexandria Anderson to English Gardner exchange, Gardner appeared to leave much too soon and had to nearly stop to receive the baton inside the exchange zone. Gardner then blistered her turn run, getting the stick to anchor, Octavious Freeman, who made up several meters to finish third in 42.75 seconds.
Meanwhile, Jamaica and France took advantage of the blunder and finished first and second, in 41.29 (new championship record) and 42.73, respectively. Great Britain, who finished fourth in 42.87, was disqualified on a lane violation.
UPDATE: August 18, 11:30 am Pacific - The following official IAAF tweet just crossed my feed and it appears Great Britain appealed the DQ, and upon review, France was disqualified, moving the U.S. to silver and Great Britain to bronze.
This developing news will bring little solace to the Americans, who need to find some answers to their chronic relay problems.
In the men's 4X100, Usain Bolt and his Jamaican team predictably won in a world-leading 37.36. The American team finished in second place again, after some less-than-crisp exchanges, but still in a respectable 37.66, followed by the fleet-footed Canadians in 37.92.
The women's 800-meter final looked to be an old-fashioned grudge match between USA and Russia, but it was a Kenyan, Eunice Sum, who took gold in a personal-best time of one minute, 57.38 seconds. Russian defending champion Mariya Savinova captured silver in 1:57.80, while Americans Brenda Martinez and Alysia Montano took third and fourth in 1:57.91 and 1:57.95.
Russia's Ekaterina Poistogova and American teenager, Ajee Wilson finished fifth and sixth, as all but one finalist crossed in under two minutes.
In the men's 1,500 meter final, the three Kenyans in the race got their wires crossed in terms of strategy. It was supposed to be a rapid pace with each one taking a turn in the lead. Silas Kiplagat ignored the plan and slowed considerably on his leg, which played into the hands of American Matthew Centrowitz, known for his gutsy kick.
As it turned out, Kenyan Asbel Kiprop was still strong enough to hold off Centrowitz for gold, finishing in a rather slow three minutes, 36.28 seconds. Centro gutted out the silver in 3:36.78 and South Africa's Johan Cronje came out of nowhere to take bronze in 3:36.83.
Russian favorite, Mariya Abakumova was not quite in her usual form today, and to the disappointment of the home crowd, had to settle for bronze in the women's javelin final with a sub-par 213 foot, 6 inch throw.
Germany's Christina Obergfoll was quite willing to fill the void, however, and her 226'-6" launch was good enough for gold. Australia showed a surprising penchant for the javelin, with Kimberley Mickel throwing 218'-6" for silver and Kathryn Mitchell capturing a fifth place finish.
In the men's triple jump, Frenchman Teddy Tamgho produced a world-leading effort of 59 feet, two inches to claim gold. Cuba's Pedro Pablo Pichardo lunged 58'-0 for silver and Americans Will Claye and Christian Taylor took third and fourth, with jumps of 57'-6" and 56'-5", respectively.
In my final tally, (corrected for the latest DQ and reinstatement in the women's 4X100) it is clear the USA is still the prominent entity in world track and field. The Russians represented well as hosts and made the women's standings very interesting until the final day.
As noted in an earlier column, Europe as a competitive region, is becoming a force to be reckoned with and I suggest the lever-pullers at the top of our sport consider a USA vs. Europe dual-meet series.
Okay. For what it's worth, here are the final standings:
MEN WOMEN TEAM
USA - 147 USA - 135 USA - 282
Ken. - 69 Rus. - 120 Rus. - 183
Rus. - 63 Ken. - 70 Ken. - 139
Jam. - 60 GrB. - 49 Ger. - 102
Ger. - 60 Eth. - 48 Jam. - 100
Eth. - 49 Ger. - 42 Eth. - 97
Fra. - 36 Jam. - 40 GrB. - 84
GrB. - 35 Chi. - 35 Ukr. - 51
Pol. - 30 Ukr. - 32 Fra. - 50
Can. - 21 Fra. - 15 Pol. - 44
Note: there is plenty of track and field action left this Summer, including three Diamond League meets in Stockholm, Zurich and Brussels.
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