Kerron Stewart (L) of Jamaica and Elyzaveta Bryzgina of Ukraine race to the finish line during the Women's 4 x 100m Relay Round 1 of the London 2012 Olympic Games on 9 August 2012 (Getty Images) © Copyright

London 2012 - Event Report - Women's 4x100m Relay Round One

There will be no Olympic title defence by the Russian 4x100m team as the quartet of Olga Belkina, Natalia Rusakova, Elizabeta Savlinis and Aleksandra Fedoriva never recovered from a disastrous first exchange in the second of two first-round heats.

Instead, it was redemption time for team Jamaica, the 2004 champions who did not to reach the finish line in the Beijing Olympic Games final where Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart failed to pass the relay baton.

Both Simpson and Stewart lined-up for this evening’s heat although running the second and fourth legs respectively this time around. With second stringers Samantha Henry-Robinson and Schillonie Calvert who should make space for Olympic 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and bronze medallist Veronica Campbell-Brown in the final, the Jamaicans made it to the finish line in 42.37 despite a poor second exchange.

"It is important to get the stick around," commented Stewart. "We are in the final, now we just have to go there and have fun and stay positive and support each other. When you have four people running together that do not do a lot of baton passes, then you get stuff like this. It was not a clean change in the second change. It is not about getting a lot of practice, it's about competing together to get the stick around the track."

With both Russia and Jamaica struggling with their exchanges, it was Ukraine running in the inside lane 4 and European champions Germany in the outside lane 9 who entered the final straight in the better position.

A 200m semi-finalist earlier this week Elyzaveta Bryzgina held off the late charge by Stewart and took the heat-win for Ukraine just one hundredth of a second ahead of Jamaica while Verena Sailer closed in strongly to claim the third automatic qualification place for Germany in 42.69.

Russia closed in sixth in 43.24 behind teams of Poland and Colombia but none will advance by time as the first heat proved to be much faster.

In fact, team USA clocked the second fastest time ever recorded in Olympic history and just four hundredth of a second off the 22-year-old Olympic record 41.60 held by East Germany and that was without Olympic 200m champion Allyson Felix and 100m silver medallist Carmelita Jeter!

Individual 100m fourth placer Tianna Madison set off to a tremendous start with team-mates Jeneba Tarmoh, Bianca Knight and former World champion Lauryn Williams closing well clear of the rest of the field in 41.64.

"There's no pressure (for the final), we are the golden team," said Williams. "We practised until we were blue in the face. Everybody practiced every place in case of an emergency."

"There's a sense of relief, a huge weight off my shoulders. I'm going to support the team tomorrow as they go for gold. I'm excited to do my part. There was no showboating, we ran all the way to the line. We wanted to show the world that even the B team can get something."

Terrific times were also recorded by Trinidad and Tobago whose 42.31 for second was also a national record and the Netherlands in third also improving their own national record to 42.45. The best of the rest, Brazil will also advance to the final Rosangela Santos, the Pan American champion and former World Youth medallist anchoring to a new South American record 42.55.

"We did not have a good handover and to still get a national record, it is a good thing," commented second leg runner for Trinidad Kelly-Ann Baptiste. "We want to get the medal, this will be awesome and this is our goal. In the final there are two teams stronger than us and the rest of us are competing for bronze. We want to win but everyone wants to win. We want to be realistic."

It hasn’t been the best of Games for Blessing Okagbare who finished last in the 100m final last Saturday when expected to medal and did not make it past the qualification round in the Long Jump but the 23-year-old did anchor her Nigerian team to 42.74, the second next fastest time to qualify.

Laura Arcoleo for the IAAF