Allyson Felix won her third gold medal in four days at the Nagai Stadium tonight as she provided the crucial leg to help the United States quartet to dominate and win its fourth women’s 4x400m relay gold in the penultimate event of the World Championships.
Felix ran the second leg for a team that boasted individual 400m finallist DeeDee Trotter on first, with Mary Wineberg and Sanya Richards taking Felix’s lead to the line in 3min 18.55sec, the fourth best of all-time by a US foursome and the fastest time in the world for 14 years.
“It’s great to work together,” said Felix after her first 4x400m relay final. “I didn’t want to let down the team. I ran a very strong leg, but I wasn’t really sure where I was compared to the others.”
After winning golds in the 200m and yesterday in the 4x100m, Felix completed her hat-trick as the USA ran away with the title leaving Jamaica, Britain and Russia to fight for silver and bronze.
The Jamaicans, anchored by the individual bronze medallist Novlene Williams, smashed their national record for second in 3:19.73.
“We did all we could, ran the national record, we cannot ask for more,” said an exhausted Williams. “Silver is great for us. Now I have two medals and so must be totally satisfied.”
Britain’s individual silver medallist, Nicola Sanders, produced a storming last lap to eclipse Russia’s medal hopes, crossing the line in 3:20.04, a British record, bettering a mark set in the 1991 World Championships, the last time they were staged in Japan.
Sanders was just as pleased to have her second medal of the week. “After the heats we knew that the national record was in reach,” she said. “But to do it then in the final was just fantastic. It is amazing - I got two medals. This feels really great.”
Russia’s best time of the year, 3:20.25, was only good enough for fourth, while Belarus also set a new national record for fifth, 3:21.88.
The pundits had been saying this would be close. Through Sanders and Christine Ohuruogu, Britain had taken the first two places in the individual 400m final and had high hopes of giving the Americans a run for their money.
But after leading the qualifiers, USA had 200m finallists Felix and Richards to come into their side, two of the quickest one-lap runners in the world this year, and Britain’s gamble of putting Ohuruogu on first leg, clearly hoping to get an early advantage, didn’t pay off when Jamaica led at the first change.
That soon changed when Felix opened her stride down the back straight and established a 10m lead on the Jamaicans. Russia lay third with Britain fourth and the rest already out of it.
Wineberg extended USA’s lead to 15m as Richards took the baton for the final lap. Down the back straight, Williams and Russia’s Natalya Antyukh started to gain on Richards, opening a gap on Sanders as they did so. But the American had plenty in reserve and she moved away down the home straight to reclaim the title.
Sanders had saved some energy too. She rounded the bend and began her attack, moving out almost to lane four and catching Antyukh with five metres to go to give Britain its third bronze at this event, as Williams brought Jamaica home for a second silver to go with the gold they won in 2001.
“The other two in front of me ran pretty fast, but I kind of waited,” said Sanders. “I had beaten the Russian girl in the 400 metres final, so I knew that I could catch her again. And it worked!”
Richards had the last word, however. “It was just about team USA,” she said. After the Americans had won all four relays in Osaka, few can argue with that.
Osaka 2007 News Team/mkb