Torri Edwards and Lauryn Williams drop the baton for the USA in the heats of the 4x100m (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Women's 4x100m Relay - Round 1

You couldn't make it up. Just 30 minutes after the USA's men's 4x100m relay hopes imploded their women's hopes nosedived in exactly the same fashion.

Running on the inside lane two the US appeared to be cantering to a heat win but Lauryn Williams fumbled the third baton take from the incoming Torri Edwards leaving their hopes in tatters.

Perhaps, though, we shouldn't have been so surprised. It is the third successive Olympic Games that the USA women's 4x100m team have suffered a disqualification.

Williams said she was at a loss to explain what happened on the final exchange.

"We're not sure what happened," she said. "The stick was there, I really don't know what happened. It seemed like it was right there and it (the baton) jumped right out (of my hand)."

It left the way open for Belgium, the surprise 2007 World bronze medallists, anchored by European champion Kim Gevaert to take the heat win 42.92 and once again show their medal credentials on the global stage.

Great Britain bagged second place in 43.02 with Brazil booking their spot in tomorrow night's final in 43.38. The heat also provided the two next fastest as Nigeria (43.43) and Poland (43.47), in fourth and fifth, both progressed.

Italy also had the dreaded DNF to their name.

By contrast to the blundering US team, the pre-event favourites Jamaica had no such problems in heat two.

Anchored by Veronica Campbell-Brown, who had won the 200m Olympic final just 90 minutes earlier, the quartet which also included the Olympic 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser, blasted to the fastest time in the world this year 42.24.

Russia qualified second in 42.87 with Germany securing the third automatic spot in 43.59. This was also not the greatest example of baton exchanging as Trinidad and France did not finish and the Ukraine were disqualified.

Jamaica appear untouchable, providing they can successfully exchange the baton, although the battle for the minor medals is wide open with Russia, Great Britain and Belgium all fancying their chances.

Steve Landells for the IAAF