If you can keep your head when all around are losing theirs, then yours is the World Relays title.
Okay, that wasn’t exactly how Rudyard Kipling put it all those years ago, but never did the British writer’s words rings as true as in Nassau on Saturday night (22) as the team so often the subject of ridicule – the United States’ men’s 4x100m squad – laughed last and laughed best, retaining their title in 38.43 at the IAAF/BTC World Relays Bahamas 2017.
Earlier in the evening, Jamaica threw their chance – and their baton – away in the heats, third leg runner Jevaughn Minzie failing to grab the stick from Kemar Bailey-Cole. That left team anchor Yohan Blake looking forlorn at the top of the home straight, awaiting an incoming runner that would never arrive.
In the final, all eyes were on two teams – Canada and the US – as sprint heavyweights Justin Gatlin and Andre De Grasse awaited the baton expecting, as they did in the heats, to go toe-to-toe in a home-stretch duel.
But then it all fell apart, at least for the Canadians.
Second leg runner Aaron Brown managed to get the baton into the hand of teammate Brendon Rodney, but only for a fraction of a second. As he swung his arm through it slid from his grasp, their hopes of getting one over on their US rivals sliding away with it.
However, the US did not, as expected, have things all their own way thereafter.
As they approached the final exchange, Britain’s Danny Talbot was locked together with Ronnie Baker of the US, but 20-year-old British anchor Ojie Edoburun, in what could only be described as an example of vast inexperience, set sail for the finish far too early.
That left Talbot chasing in vain to hand over the baton inside the zone, an impossible task.
"Everything happens for a reason," said Talbot. "We'll learn from this mistake."
Amid the calamity occurring all around them, the US team, anchored by Justin Gatlin, executed their final changeover with precision, giving them an unassailable lead.
Gatlin, a different calibre of athlete to those chasing behind, was never going to relinquish such an advantage, and he duly brought the US home to retain their title in 38.43, with Barbados taking second in 39.18, marginally in front of Australia (39.22).
"I haven't really run the anchor leg before but my teammates put me in a good position to bring home the gold," said Gatlin.
In addition to the medallists, Australia and France secured qualification for the IAAF World Championships London 2017 courtesy of their respective fourth- and fifth-place finishes. However, because the Netherlands failed to finish along with Britain and Canada, the remaining three places went to the top three in the B-race.
In that, Trinidad and Tobago spoiled the party for the hosts, with Dan-Neil Telesford producing an inspired final leg to power past The Bahamas to take victory in 39.04. Germany took second in 39.15, with Bahamas marginally behind in third (39.18).
Cathal Dennehy for the IAAF