Tony McQuay of the United States and Michael Mathieu of the Bahamas compete during the Men's 4 x 400m Relay Round 1 heats of the London 2012 Olympic Games on 9 August 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright

London 2012 - Event Report - Men's 4x400m Relay Round One

The men’s 4x400m relay is one of the most exciting and challenging events on the athletics programme. This morning’s two first-round heats proved to be full of excitement and upsets and also included the added value of a national record for Trinidad and Tobago.

With 400m bronze medallist Lalonde Gordon fielded in the opening leg, the Caribbean nation found itself leading from team GB, Cuba and Poland as the teams broke up from their lanes. With Kamghe Gaba for Germany, Vincent Mumo Kiilu for Kenya and Ofentse Mogawane for South Africa also closing quickly on the leaders, a very tight pack approached the home straight in leg two. In an attempt to make his way through traffic, Kiilu moved to his outside and cut across Mogawane who could not prevent the impact and both runners fell to the ground.

Kiilu picked up the baton and carried on to finish the race but Kenya would later be disqualified for this incident while Mogawane remained on the floor and would be escorted off the track by the medical staff suffering from what looked to be a dislocated elbow or shoulder.

400m sixth placer, Jonathan Borlée was lucky to have been in last at the time of the incident and found enough space to avoid contact.

Meanwhile, the race up front looked to be a Caribbean affair with Ade Alleyne-Forte and Orestes Rodriguez having made a surge at the front. However a terrific third-leg run by 400m hurdler Jack Green saw the British team move all the way to second position at the final exchange and in the lead after Green and Martyn Rooney had a swifter baton exchange.

Carried by the vociferous 80,000 spectators, Rooney was in total control of the race keeping Omar Cisneros for Cuba at bay. With the top three teams automatically qualifying for tomorrow’s final, Rooney made as little effort as possible and closed in 3:00.38, the same time awarded to Trinidad and Tobago, their fourth runner Deon Lendore dipping to line in first place.

Cuba secured third in 3:00.55 with Kevin Borlée running a magnificent final leg having taken the baton in fifth and a full 20 metres adrift the leading pack to claim fourth for Belgium in 3:01.70. Poland took fifth in 3:02.86 with Germany in sixth at 3:03.50.

The second semi-final was the tougher race on paper with teams of Jamaica, Bahamas, USA, Russia, Australia and the Dominican Repubich having legitimate chances to qualify.

The Bahamas quartet of Ramon Miller, Demetrius Pinder, Michael Mathieu and Chris Brown, led from the tape and held on for the heat win in a season’s best 2:58.87 in a photo-finish with team USA. A 43.65 third leg from Tony McQuay saw the Americans close a 20-metre gap on their Caribbean rivals before Bryshon Nellum ran stride for stride alongside Brown in the final 100 metres.

Although unable to use 2008 Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt who injured himself in the individual 400m, the USA should be able to count on the more experienced Jeremy Wariner and Angelo Taylor in the final.

The battle for third, fourth and fifth was fierce with defending bronze medallists Russia grabbing the final automatic qualifier at 3:02.01 as Jamaican third leg runner, Jermaine Gonzales, also the national record holder for 400m, pulled up injured on the back straight.

Venezuela who had surprisingly held on for third place behind Bahamas and the USA until Pavel Trenikhin (RUS) passed Jose Melendez in the final leg also had to surrender fourth place to individual silver medallist and 18-year-old World Junior champion Luguelin Santos whose final lap terrific effort saw him cross the line in 3:02.35.

Unfortunately for the team which also included Olympic 400m Hurdles champion Felix Sanchez, the Dominican Republic was later disqualified for a relay takeover outside the takeover zone in the second changeover.

The news of the disqualification of Venezuela was the next to be announced but the South Americans would later be reinstated and their 3:02.62 proved enough for a place in the final, the country's best placing since Lucia Vaamonde's bronze medal in the 100m Hurdles back in 1976.

Belgium was the next best to advance by time.

Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF

Jury of Appeal Decision 4x400m Relay Men - RSA

An incident occurred in Heat 1 of the Men’s 4x400m Relay involving the Teams of Kenya and South Africa running in leg 2. The Referee disqualified Kenya, as their runner had cut across and caused the South African runner to fall.

The Jury of Appeal met and agreed to advance the South African team to the final, even though they did not finish the race, considering that they had been severely damaged in the incident with Kenya.

South Africa will run as an additional team in lane 9.

Note: The Referee cannot advance a team or athlete who did not finish the race, the Jury of Appeal can.