Angelo Taylor safely brings the US home in the heats of the 4x400m relay (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Men's 4x400m Relay - Round 1

Since its inception as an Olympic event in 1912, The United States has just about owned the men’s 4x400m relay. There’s little indication that that will change in Beijing.

Aiming for the seventh straight gold in the event, the first round responsibilities from the planet’s deepest pool of one-lap talent fell upon David Neville, Kerron Clement, Reggie Witherspoon and Angelo Taylor. Neville was competing less than 24 hours after taking the bronze in the 400m, while Clement and Taylor returned to the track after taking silver and gold, respectively, in the 400m Hurdles four days ago.

Neville carried a slight lead for the U.S. at the first exchange, one which Clement extended with a solid, if somewhat conservative 45.12 lap. Witherspoon’s fresh legs produced the quickest U.S. split, 44.62, to put the race out of reach. Running comfortably and cruising to the finish line, Taylor crossed the line in 2:59.98.

“We needed to be nice and smooth,” said Taylor, who took the 400m hurdles gold for the second time. “We are ready. We think it’s possible to go for the World record. We definitely want to break it.” The World record of 2:54.29 was set at the 1993 World championships in Stuttgart.

Behind them Russia, Belgium and Australia battled it out for the two remaining automatic spots. Denis Alekseyev ran down Belgian anchor Kevin Borlee to give Russia the runner spot in 3:00.14 to Belgium’s 3:00.67, national records for both.

Australia’s Clinton Hill and Poland’s Rafal Wieruszewski were next across the line, clocking 3:00.68 and 3:00.74 respectively, to easily advance to tomorrow’s final by time.

Heat two was marginally faster and in reality considerably more competitive. Jamaican lead-off Michael Blackwood was the first to hand off, passing the baton to Allodin Fothergill. But he was quickly reeled in and overtaken by Briton Robert Tobin (45.32) who gave Great Britain a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Both Tobin and third leg, Michael Bingham (44.56), successfully fended off Jamaican challenges before Martyn Rooney put it away with his 44.42 closing leg, winning comfortably in 2:59.33.

Bahamian anchor Andrae Miller beat back Jamaican anchor Ricardo Chambers with the two Carribean nations, taking the remaining two spots for the final, clocking 2:59.88 and 3:00.09, respectively.

Fireworks on par with those that lit up the opening ceremonies are expected in the final tomorrow, with LaShawn Merritt and Jeremy Wariner, the gold and silver medallists in yesterday’s 400m, returning to the track for the U.S. squad.

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF