After podium sweeps of the flat 400m and 400m Hurdles, Team USA was the overwhelming favourite to add yet another 4x400m title to their vast collection. They hardly disappointed, clocking 2:55.39, the second fastest time in history.
400m champion LaShawn Merritt gave the quartet a one second lead after his opening 44.35 run; after that it was smooth – and very swift – sailing. He handed off to Angelo Taylor, the 400m Hurdles champion, who produced a 43.70 second leg. But he had some unexpected company in rising Belgian star Jonathan Borlee, who kept his squad in the hunt with a blistering 43.62 leg, to remain within a second of the Americans.
The American parade of medallists continued with David Neville. The 400m bronze medallist added a half second to the margin after his 44.16 leg, giving Jeremy Wariner a lead of nearly a second and a half for the last leg. But two-time World champion Wariner, who ran to the silver here, clearly had his sights set on the world mark of 2:54.29, set by an American squad at the 1993 World championships in Stuttgart.
With another phenomenal performance, Wariner covered the final lap in a sensation 43.18, finishing just 0.10 seconds shy of the World mark, but well under the previous Olympic record of 2:55.74 set by the American gold medal squad in Barcelona 16 years ago.
“We wanted to come here and do something special,” said Merritt, who handed off to his Olympic village teammate Taylor. “I had three great men here to follow me.”
Added Taylor, “We’re wonderful. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
“The way these guys ran before I got the stick was amazing,” said Wariner, who also collected 4x400m gold in Athens four years ago. “It was a great race by all four.”
Behind them, The Bahamas produced a solid run. Moving past Belgium on the final leg, Chris Brown anchored the Island nation to a 2:58.03 performance. Russia, with an inspired 43.56 anchor leg by Denis Alexeev – one of five sub-44 splits in the race – moved from fourth into third to take the bronze with a national record 2:56.08.
Further back, Martyn Rooney, propelled by a 43.73, moved Great Britain from sixth to fourth, in 2:58.81, with Belgium fifth in 2:59.37, also a national record.
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF