Javon Francis of Jamaica in the 4x400m at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (Getty Images) © Copyright
Report Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Report: men's 4x400m heats – Rio 2016 Olympic Games

On the evidence of the 4x400m heats, it will be no straight forward task for the USA to reclaim a title that they have won on 16 previous occasions.

Four years ago at the London 2012 Olympic Games, the USA were surprisingly defeated by The Bahamas, and in today’s first-round heat, the pre-event favourites produced a far from convincing performance conceding defeat to Jamaica.

In a thrilling and high-class race, five teams – the US, Botswana, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and France – were in close order. By the halfway stage, Botswana – courtesy of Karabo Sibanda – and the USA were locked together with Trinidad and Tobago five metres further back.

The field concertinaed on the third leg and a blanket could have been tossed over the leading four teams – the US, Jamaica, Trinidad and Botswana – at the final exchange.

In the final lap charge, USA’s David Verburg built up a solid lead but Javon Francis finished with a scintillating late burst to help Jamaica grab top spot in 2:58.29 – by 0.09 from the US, who had the very unusual experience of placing second in a heat of the 4x400m at an Olympic Games.

Trinidad, anchored by Machel Cedenio who finished fourth in the individual 400m, recorded a time of 2:58.84 and was initially awarded third, but were later disqualified for a lane infringement.

Botswana was upgraded to third – the final automatic qualification spot – courtesy of a national record time of 2:59.35. Poland grabbed fourth in 2:59.58 to advance on time. It was the first time in history that four sub-three-minute times were recorded in an Olympic heat.

There was more drama in the second heat. A thrilling final leg from Martyn Rooney earned Great Britain what appeared to be an impressive heat win. However, their joy was to quickly turn to despair when they were disqualified for taking the baton out of an exchange zone.

Belgium – who set a national record of 2:59.25 – with 75 per cent of thanks to the three Borlee brothers – to take the win. Defending champions The Bahamas earned safe passage into the final placing second in 2:59.64 with Cuba, the 1992 Olympic silver medallists, securing the third automatic place in 3:00.16.

There was also delight for Brazil, who, roared on by a thumping home crowd, recorded a season’s best time of 3:00.43, which proved enough to advance to Saturday’s final.

Steve Landells for the IAAF