Carmelita Jeter of the United States celebrates winning gold ahead of Kerron Stewart of Jamaica and set a new World Record in the Women's 4 x 100m Relay Final of the London 2012 Olympic Games on 10 August 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
But pure potential alone counts for little when the changeovers do not go to plan, which is perhaps the biggest reason why the record stood for as long as it did. Tonight, though, USA had the combination of top talent – with three of the top five from the individual 100m – and solid baton exchanges and the result was a World record. And a big one at that.
Tianna Madison got the team off to a great start and handed over to Allyson Felix, the Olympic 200m champion. Bianca Knight then took up the running before the baton was handed to World 100m champion Carmelita Jeter. She quickly got into her running and powered down the homestraight, stopping the clock in an incredible 40.82 – smashing the World record by 0.55, the largest ever margin of improvement on the World record in the event!
Jamaica's best ever team – Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Sherone Simpson, Veronica Campbell-Brown and Kerron Stewart – were no match for the USA, but they produced their fastest performance in history with a 41.41 national record, just 0.04 outside the previous World record.
Completing the duplication of the podium finish from last year's World Championships, Ukraine took the bronze medal with a national record of 42.04. Nigeria just held off Germany in fourth, 42.64 to 42.67.
But even the euphoria of a World record could not help boost USA's men's 4x400m team, who surrendered their long reign as the top nation in the long sprint relay.
The Bahamas had given the USA a scare in the heats yesterday, and once again they got off to a great start, thanks to Chris Brown (44.9) and Demetrius Pinder (43.5) and led at half way. A sensational 43.41 leg by Tony McQuay saw USA move into the lead by half a second with just one lap left to run. But Ramon Miller (44.01) chased Angelo Taylor (44.85) hard on the final lap and overtook him in the home straight, giving Bahamas an historic victory in a national record of 2:56.72.
USA clocked 2:57.05 to take silver, while Trinidad & Tobago smashed their national record for bronze 2:59.40, thanks in no small part to a 43.9 third leg from Jarrin Solomon. Great Britain dipped under three minutes, but finished out of the medals with 2:59.53.
Gold at last for Lavillenie with Olympic record
Pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie has taken the bronze medal at the past two World Championships and for a moment tonight it looked as though the Frenchman would once again end up third.
The height which decided the medallists was 5.85m, which Lavillenie cleared first to maintain the lead. But German duo Bjorn Otto and Raphael Holzdeppe both then popped over 5.91m at the first time of asking as Lavillenie failed and slipped into third place. It meant that World Indoor champion Lavillenie would have to be the first to clear the next height, 5.97m, to regain the lead.
A superb second-time clearance at that height sealed the gold – and the Olympic record – for Lavillenie as Holzdeppe failed three times and Otto also bowed out. Lavillenie went on to attempt 6.02m (once) and 6.07m (twice) but it was not to be.
Defar ends Dibaba's hopes of a double-double
Had Tirunesh Dibaba successfully defended her Olympic 5000m title tonight, she would have become the first woman in history to win four individual Olympic titles. But competing on tired legs in her third race within a week, Dibaba was out-sprinted by 2004 Olympic champion Meseret Defar.
The opening pace was slow and Britain's Jo Pavey was the reluctant early leader, going through 3000m in 9:27.75. With just over a kilometre of running left, Dibaba then took up the running but Defar, World champion Vivian Cheruiyot and 10,000m silver medallist Sally Kipyego were all still in contention as they approached the final lap.
With a 60.20-second final 400m, Defar waited until the final straight to launch her attack and she kicked away to win in 15:04.25 as Cheruiyot came through for silver (15:04.73) and Dibaba held on for bronze (15:05.15) ahead of Kipyego.
Lysenko wins greatest quality women's Hammer competition in history
With the four top throwers of all-time, the women's Hammer final promised to be a classic and it did not disappoint. But it could have ended in disaster for World record-holder Betty Heidler, who almost missed out on a medal due to a mis-measure.
World champion Tatyana Lysenko smashed the Olympic record in the first round with 77.56m. The Russian never surrendered her lead and improved to 78.18m in round five to wrap up the title. 2009 World champion Anita Wlodarczyk steadily improved throughout the competition with 76.02m in round two, 77.10m in round five and 77.60m on her final throw.
Heidler unleashed a big throw in round five, but whose measurement was never sent to the results data system, and the German was given an extra throw, which she fouled. After the competition, officials found the original mark of Heidler's fifth-round throw and measured it at 77.13m.
It meant that she moved into the bronze medal position, relegating China's Zhang Wenxiu, who threw 76.34m in the second round, and as she took her last round throw believed she had taken the bronze medal. With three women over 77 metres, five over 76, eight over 74, and eleven over 71, it was easily the greatest ever depth witnessed in a women's hammer final.
See the Hammer Throw event report in 'Related Content' to the right of this text for detailed information concerning the competition and the Jury of Appeal decision
Turkey take 1-2 in women's 1500m
Despite seven of the 13 finalists boasting sub-four-minute PBs, the women's 1500m was a slow and scrappy affair which came down to a frantic last lap.
For the second major 1500m final in succession, USA's Morgan Uceny – a genuine medal contender given the nature of the race – was tripped and did not finish.
Replicating their finish from the European Championships earlier this year, Turkish pair Asli Cakir-Alptecin and Gamze Bulut took gold and silver in 4:10.23 and 4:10.40 respectively. Two-time World champion Maryam Jamal came through for the bronze medal in 4:10.74.
Earlier in the evening the heats of the men's 4x100m and women's 4x400m saw unprecedented depth. Jamaica, with Yohan Blake on the third leg, won the first heat of the 4x100m in 37.39, the second-fastest time in Olympic history – or at least it was, until the second heat.
Anchored by Justin Gatlin, USA won the second heat in a national record of 37.38. The other automatic time qualifiers were Canada (38.05), Japan (38.07), Trinidad & Tobago (38.10) and Netherlands (38.29, a national record). France (38.15) and Australia (38.17) advanced to the final as time qualifiers. World bronze medallists St Kitts and Nevis – despite breaking the national record with 38.41 on a team that did not include Kim Collins – only finished sixth in their heat and will not be in the final.
The second heat of the women's 4x400m could have almost been a final as the USA lined up alongside Russia and Great Britain. Unsurprisingly, it resulted in the fastest time ever witnessed in the heats at the Olympics as USA booked their placed in the final with 3:22.09, helped by a 49.78 split by individual bronze medallist DeeDee Trotter. Russia (3:23.11) and Great Britain (3:25.05) took the other automatic spots as the top three from this race all ran quicker than the winner of the first heat.
That race went to World silver medallists Jamaica, whose 3:25.13 put them comfortably ahead of Ukraine (3:25.90) with France finishing third. The Czech Republic and Nigeria qualified by time, while 3:26.52 by Belarus is the fastest ever time never to make an Olympic final.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF
- Carmelita Jeter of the United States celebrates winning gold ahead of Kerron Stewart of Jamaica and set a new World Record in the Women's 4 x 100m Relay Final of the London 2012 Olympic Games on 10 August 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
- Carmelita Jeter of the United States receives the relay baton fom Bianca Knight of the United States on their way to winning gold in the Women's 4 x 100m Relay Final of the London Olympic Games on 10 August 2010 (Getty Images) © Copyright
- Renaud Lavillenie of France celebrates winning gold in the Men's Pole Vault Final on Day 14 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 10, 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
- Raphael Holzdeppe of Germany has the third place in the Men's Pole Vault Final of the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 10, 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
- Silver medalist Bjorn Otto (R) of Germany celebrates with bronze medalist Raphael Holzdeppe of Germany after the Men's Pole Vault Final on 10 August 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
- Gold medalist Asli Cakir Alptekin of Turkey crosses the finish line during the Women's 1500m Final 4 of the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 10, 2012 (Getty Images ) © Copyright
- Betty Heidler of Germany celebrates after claiming the bronze medal in the Women's Hammer Throw Final of the London 2012 Olympic Games on 10 August 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
- Gold medalist Tatyana Lysenko of Russia and silver medalist Anita Wlodarczyk of Poland celebrate after the Women's Hammer Throw Final of the Olympic Games in London on 10 August 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
- Meseret Defar (C) of Ethiopia celebrates with Tirunesh Dibaba (L) of Ethiopia and Gelete Burka of Ethiopia after winning gold in the Women's 5000m Final on Day 14 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 10, 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
- Meseret Defar of Ethiopia crosses the finish line and win gold in the Women's 5000m Final of the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 10, 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright
- Renaud Lavillenie of France won the gold medal in the Men's Pole Vault Final of the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 10, 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright