USA sprint to relay record
USA relay (Action Images)
London - After a comedy of errors at the last three Olympics, the United States women's 4x100 metres relay team finally got their act together in some style on Friday with a world-record run to secure gold at the London Olympics.
Since the last of four successive golds for the country in Atlanta in 1996, botched baton exchanges had kept the American teams packed with talent off the top of the podium in a cycle that many thought was destined to continue.
"There was a cloud hanging over us, with people saying 'they can't do this, they're going to drop the stick' but we did it," said Carmelita Jeter, who ran the final leg to win her first Olympic gold.
"I knew that if we got the stick around then all I had to do was to bring it home.
"I knew that these girls were going to run their hearts out. I knew we were running fast. I was already pointing at the clock, saying 'there it is'."
The Americans ran the lap in 40.82 to smash the record held since 1985 by a quartet of women who set the mark for the former East Germany.
Allyson Felix, who won the 200m individual title and will go for a third gold of the Games in the 4x400m relay on Saturday, said winning gold was a "relief" but breaking the 27-year-old mark by more than half a second was even better.
"It just felt like for so long we've looked at women's sprints and the records have been so out of reach and to look up and see we had a world record was just great," she told reporters.
"You just don't think something like that would happen, it's just been an amazing night."
Florence Griffith-Joyner's world records for the women's 100m and 200m go back to 1988, while the 400m record has been owned since 1985 by Marita Koch who also ran for East Germany.
The United States might have challenged the record at a previous Games had they been able to get the baton around.
In the Sydney Games final, the American team bungled the handover from Torri Edwards to Nanceen Perry and finished with a bronze.
In Athens four years later, Lauryn Williams took the baton outside the passing zone and the team pulled up, while in Beijing, Edwards and Williams messed up the exchange in the semi-final and the favourites did not even make the final.
Williams will now finally get a gold medal after running the anchor leg in the US team for the heats and semi-finals.
"The botched hand-offs are history now," said Tianna Madison, the 2005 world champion in the long jump, who ran the lead off leg on Friday.
"She's completely obliterated that from her record. She's is also part of this world record, gold medal relay team."
The Jamaican team were also looking for redemption on Friday after a botched handoff of their own in the Beijing final, which they started as favourites.
As well as being delighted with a seventh Olympic medal in her fourth Games, Veronica Campbell-Brown said the US record was good for women's sprinting.
"I'm happy with how those ladies ran tonight," she said. "As a woman with an agenda to promote gender equality in the sport, I'm pleased that America broke the world record because I hope that that may start to shed some light on us females.
"We work hard but we don't get the same level of respect as our male counterparts do."
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, 100m individual champion, said the Jamaica-United States rivalry was also helping to boost the profile of women sprinters.
"It has also done a lot and shed a light on the females," she said.
"Everybody talks about the Bolt, now we can talk about the women are running so well. It keeps the fire burning."