For a championships that had been full of exciting finishes and surprise medallists, the men’s 4x400m was a fitting final event.
The USA had won all but two of the men’s 4x400m titles across the past 16 editions of the World U20 Championships. Jamaica had been touted as the pre-championships favourites, but a disqualification in the heats for a lane infringement meant they were non-starters in the final, making the USA the outstanding favourite.
But a botched exchange on the first changeover meant the US team was playing catch-up for the remainder of the race. They eventually managed to chase down six of the other seven teams, but were unable to catch Italy, who were clear winners in 3:04.05.
USA got off to a strong start with Elija Godwin covering the first leg in 45.50, but as he went to hand over to teammate Nicholas Ramey, the baton fell to the floor. It meant Great Britain emerged from the break as the early leaders with France close behind.
Individual 400m winner Jonathan Sacoor put Belgium into the lead on the second leg while 800m specialist Andrea Romani moved Italy into second place ahead of Britain and France.
USA’s Ramey tried hard to make up lost ground on the second leg, but went off too hard and eventually faded on the home straight, handing over in fifth place.
Belgium’s lead was short lived as Italy’s Alessandro Sibilio and Britain’s Alastair Chalmers moved into first and second on the back straight of the third leg. Justin Robinson managed to get USA into third place but Italy went into the final leg with an eight-metre lead.
Italy’s Eduardo Scotti, who finished fourth in the individual 400m final, was away and clear on the anchor leg. USA’s Howard Fields ran a better-timed effort than his teammates on the second and third legs, waiting until the final 120 metres to make his move on Britain’s 400m hurdler Sam Knibbs.
Fields passed Knibbs as the pair entered the home straight, but there was no catching Scotti, who crossed the line in 3:04.05 to win by more than a second. USA took silver in 3:05.26 with Britain getting the bronze in 3:05.64.
Further behind, France finished fourth in 3:06.65, 0.4 ahead of Belgium.
Not only did Italy win their first global 4x400m title at any level, they also became the first European team to win the men’s 4x400m at the World U20 Championships. Their last global medal in the men’s 4x400m came at the 1980 Olympic Games, but their time from that race – 3:04.54 – was slower than the U20 team’s time in Tampere.
Jon Mulkeen for the IAAF