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Event Report Women 4x400 m Heats

The main protagonists flexed their muscles in the first round of the women's 4 x 400m relay.
 
In the first heat it looked like a match up between Jamaica, Poland and Great Britain. Jamaica were led off well by dual world indoor champion Sandie RICHARDS. The 34 year old handed off to Ronetta SMITH with a slight lead over Poland and Great Britain. Smith ran a solid 51.79, maintaining her team's lead. She passed the baton well clear with the next two still battling it out for second. Next in line for the Jamaicans was Michelle BURGHER who ran swiftly early on but tied up in the closing stages with Catherine MURPHY (GBR) and Anna JESIEN (POL) closing the gap markedly. Burgher's time was still a creditable 51.74. On the final leg Allison BECKFORD (JAM) showed a clean pair of heals to ensure Jamaica's qualification for the final, bringing them home in 51.00 (3:26.22). Individual 400m finalist Lee MCCONNELL brought the British team (3:26.44) up into second in the final 100m, relegating Poland (3:26.66) to third. Poland still go through to the final as a fastest loser.
 
In the second heat Russia looked untouchable with three runners having qualified for the individual final, and thus it panned out. Fighting it out for second would be Cameroon and France. Svetlana POSPELOVA made an impressive start for the Russians. Her 50.87 lead off was nearly half a second faster than her run for eighth in the individual event. She handed over well in front of Cameroon and France, in that order. Svetlana GONCHARENKO maintained the Russian lead with a lap of 51.52, with the race stretching out. On the third leg the host nation were pulled up into second by Virginie MICHANOL (FRA) down the home straight and handed over in second. On the anchor leg Natalya NAZAROVA, Russia's highest placed finisher in the individual, fourth, did only as much as was required and eased up for 53.91. The team's time 3:27.97. Hortense BEWOUDA was able to pull Cameroon (3:29.40) back into second down the stretch to secure a place in the final and in the process knocking France out.
 
In the final heat it was a low key American team that were the clear favourites. They were unable to establish their dominance until the second leg with DeeDee TROTTER doing the job. On the third leg Aminata DIOUF (SEN) got her team into second behind Sanya RICHARDS, 52.04, who had the Americans well clear. The Germans followed and Ukraine were in fourth. On the final leg 1993 world champion Jearl MILES CLARK (USA) took the baton well clear. The race for second was on with four time world championship finalist Grit BREUER (GER) changing just ahead of 2001 world champion and bronze medallist this year Amy Mbacke THIAM (SEN). Thiam ran a slick first 200m and passed Breuer at the end of the back straight. While Miles Clark, 50.14, crossed the line three seconds clear Breuer was able to come back over the top of Thiam in sight of the line. None the less Senegal still proceed to Sunday's final as a fastest loser.