The women’s 4x400m at most recent major championships has come down to a USA vs Jamaica duel, and tonight’s final was no different.
In the end, though, USA won their sixth successive title in this event, beating world champions Jamaica by more than a second in 3:19.06.
NCAA champion Courtney Okolo got the USA off to an early lead, handing over to Nastasha Hastings after covering the first lap in 50.3. Commonwealth champion Stephenie Ann McPherson was just 0.3 behind at the first changeover, while Canada, Great Britain and Poland were more than a second behind.
Hastings produced the fastest split of the day, 49.2, to extend the USA’s lead over Jamaica. But Anneisha McLaughlin’s 49.6 effort ensured that Jamaica was still within reach of the leaders at the half-way point.
Anyika Onuora had briefly taken Great Britain into third place on the second leg, but she was passed by Canada’s Alicia Brown and Poland’s Patrycja Wyciszkiewicz on the home straight.
Out in front, Jamaica’s world and Olympic bronze medallist Shericka Jackson managed to make up some of the deficit on USA’s Phyllis Francis, clocking 49.47 to Francis’s 49.82, but the USA had world 400m champion Allyson Felix on the anchor leg.
For a brief moment on the back straight, it looked as though Jamaica’s fourth-leg runner Novlene Williams-Mills was closing on Felix, but the Olympic silver medallist dug in with 150 metres remaining and maintained the USA’s lead, crossing the line in a world-leading 3:19.06.
Williams-Mills crossed the line in a season’s best of 3:20.34 to equal Jamaica’s best ever finish in this event at the Olympics.
Emily Diamond ran a strong third leg to put Britain back into third place before handing over to Christine Ohuruogu. The two-time world champion held on to the team’s advantage over Canada, Italy, Poland and a fast-finishing Olha Zemlyak of Ukraine, taking bronze for Britain in 3:25.88.
Hurdles specialist Sage Watson held off Zemlyak to take fourth for Canada in 3:26.43. The last time Canada finished higher in this event at the Olympics was 32 years ago.
Ukraine took fifth place in 3:26.64 with Italy finishing sixth in 3:27.05. Poland and Australia were seventh and eighth in 3:27.28 and 3:27.45 respectively. Aside from USA and Jamaica, all of the other teams ran faster in the heats.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF