U.S. women erase embarrassment of 2008 with world record in 4x100
At 2008 Games, both U.S. men and women flopped in the 4x100-meter relay
Women found redemption in London, winning the 4x100 in world record time
On the strength of that performance, U.S. could hit lofty goal of 30 track medals
LONDON -- Three thoughts from Friday night's track and field finals at Olympic Stadium ...
1. The U.S. women had the perfect 4x100-meter relay. Tianna Madison, Allyson Felix, Bianca Knight and Carmelita Jeter not only erased the embarrassment of the last three Olympics, they also obliterated the world record. The U.S. won the 4x100 for the first time since the 1996 Games, and had four clean handoffs for the first time since 1996, too. As Jeter crossed the finish line ahead of Jamaica and Ukraine, she pointed the black baton toward the infield clock and screamed. It would read 40.82 WR. The previous mark, set by those squeaky clean East Germans in 1985, was 41.37.
Credit Jon Drummond, the longtime leadoff man for the U.S. men's relay in the 1990s and early 2000s. (Interestingly, the leadoff leg was key Friday, as Madison beat 100 gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.) Drummond was appointed U.S. relays coach last year, given the task of correcting the 2008 Olympic flop -- no medals from the men or women in the 4x100. Drummond, who brought sprinters together for a July relay camp, also used the same four, in order, from the Penn Relays in April. That's key in an event where speed is worthless without familiarity and rhythm.
2. The Bahamas did not defeat the U.S. men's 4x400 team. Injuries did. A patchwork U.S. lineup was beaten for the first time since the 1952 Olympics. It was close. Bahamian anchor Ramon Miller passed the U.S.' Angelo Taylor over the final 150 meters to win in 2:56.72. Taylor crossed in 2:57.05. Had the U.S. been able to replace Taylor with, say, a healthy 2008 Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt, it probably would have taken gold.
But Merritt (hamstring), 2004 Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner (hamstring) and Manteo Mitchell, who broke his right leg during Thursday's heat, were all unavailable. That left three 400 runners with a combined zero world or Olympic individual final appearances -- Bryshon Nellum, Tony McQuay and Josh Mance -- and a 400 hurdler (Taylor) to carry the U.S. hopes. They nearly did.
It was the Bahamas' first gold in men's track and field. When the Bahamian women won the 4x100 relay in Sydney, their faces were posterized at the Nassau airport and they were celebrated as the nation's "Golden Girls." You have to wonder what's in store for these guys.
3. The U.S. has a shot to hit its targeted 30 medals. Former CEO Doug Logan set the bar before being dismissed. His successor, Max Siegel, didn't back away from the goal, which would represent seven more medals than USA Track and Field's brought home after an underwhelming performance in Beijing. Thirty would match the best U.S. track and field haul at a fully attended Olympics since 1956. After Friday's finals, the count stood at 26 with one more night of action at Olympic Stadium followed by Sunday's men's marathon.
On Saturday, two more relays -- women's 4x400 (3:25 p.m. ET), men's 4x100 (4 p.m.) -- will podium if they have clean baton exchanges. That would make 28 medals. To its goal, the U.S. must find two more medals in individual events where they have no gold-medal favorites but a handful of podium contenders. It won't be easy.
The women's high jump (2 p.m.) could produce the first American medalist(s) since 1988. Only one woman in the field has jumped higher than Chaunte Lowe, who gave birth to her second daughter last year. Brigetta Barrett, who tied Lowe with the second highest jump this year, wouldn't be a shock to take a silver or bronze.
Three Americans are in the 15-man 5,000 final (2:30 p.m.), including reigning world silver medalist and four-time Olympian Bernard Lagat and 10,000 silver medalist Galen Rupp. Rupp's training partner, Somali-born Brit Mo Farah, bids to become the seventh man to double in the 5,000 and 10,000.
Finally, in the women's 800 (3 p.m.), Alysia Montano is ranked No. 2 in the world this year behind defending Olympic champion Pamela Jelimo of Kenya. However, scrutinized South African Caster Semenya is probably the favorite for gold over both of them.