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Reynolds, "running with vengeance," in Valmon's words, blasted his first 200 so hard he seemed sure to burn out. But he drove on implacably to clock 43.3, the best relay leg of his life. When Johnson grabbed the baton and laid it along his right forearm, the team was almost a full second under record pace.
Johnson's stride is always upright and twinkle-toed, and he appeared to rocket through the backstretch at full bore. However, with 200 meters to go, he started running so fast that he seemed driven by electricity, not mortal biochemistry. He crossed the line with no gesture of triumph, for he was spent.
Well spent. He had become the first man to break 43 seconds in the 400 (42.97) and had brought the U.S. team to a world record of 2:54.29, an unholy 1.45 seconds better than the old mark. All four men had run perfectly.
After a jubilant victory lap Johnson tried to be cool, saying this record shouldn't be regarded as eternal. He'll probably be saying that in 20 years.
?At the victory ceremony IAAF vice-president Lamine Diack hung the gold medals around the runners' necks, while Nebiolo stood aside. When he reached Reynolds, Diack seemed to freeze. Reynolds bounded from the stand, wanting that medal. Suddenly Nebiolo stepped forward, guided Reynolds back onto the platform and presented the medal. He then grabbed Reynolds like Michael Corleone telling Fredo he knows he was the traitor, and kissed him on both cheeks.
"You are very strong, very strong," Nebiolo said, holding the speechless Reynolds's hands. "I hope we can make some cooperation."
Reynolds, touched, later said, "It was vindication. It really means a lot." He was alternately thoughtful and giddy afterward, as were his three teammates.
"We stayed together, the four of us, having fun, until three in the morning," Watts said the following day. "It was like we didn't want to separate to go to bed and wake up being competitors again. We teased Butch about those kisses. All this time we thought it was hate, but it's been love/hate, man. 'You so strong, Butch.' "
There we are. Track turned literature. Will the Gargoyle and the Thorn work things out or wake up still competitors, surrounded by lawyers? It seems the last, perfect ambiguity. An ending that leaves room for a sequel.