LONDON - Records are meant to be broken.
This proved true on Friday night at the Olympic Stadium, as a 27-year old mark was broken on the track by a quad of U.S. women.
The U.S. women’s 4x100-meter team set a world record that had stood since 1985, perfectly passing the baton from one sprinter to the next and crossing the line in 40.82.
“For so long, we’ve looked at women’s sprints and records have been so out of reach. So to look up and see that we had a world record, it was just crazy,” said Allyson Felix. “You don’t think anything like that will ever happen.”
Felix, along with Bianca Knight, Carmelita Jeter and Tianna Madison, helped win the gold medal and set the world record over a half second lower than it previously stood. The old record was held by East Germany with a time of 41.37 set on Oct. 6, 1985. Meanwhile, silver medalist Jamaica and bronze medalist Ukraine both set national records with times of 41.41 and 42.04.
The U.S. women nearly broke the record in qualifying, with both Jeter and Felix’s spots being taken by Jeneba Tarmoh and Lauryn Williams. With such a dominating performance in qualifying without two of the top runners, there was a universal feeling that the team could break the record on Friday night.
“In the warm up area, I went up to Allyson and said that we were probably going to get the world record,” said Knight. “I didn’t know we’d do it. I was actually joking, because we did run so fast in the heat.”
As the anchor of the relay, Jeter, approached the finish line, she couldn’t help but take a look at the team’s progress towards a world record.
“I did look over at the clock,” said Jeter. “As I am running, I see this time that’s like 37, 38, 39, and my heart said that we just did it.”
After passing the finish line, Jeter saw the indication of the world record and kept on sprinting around the track in celebration. A relieving moment indeed for the team, as the pressure was felt after failed attempts to finish the race at past Olympic Games. In Beijing, the team was disqualified, and in Athens, the team did not finish the race. Holding onto the baton in the race and bringing home the gold medal meant a lot to the four athletes.
“We trusted each person to bring us that stick. That was the number one thing – we had great chemistry,” said Jeter. “As I crossed the finish line, I just had so many emotions, because we’ve not been able to get the gold medal back to the United States since 1996 and we had just made history.”
They did make history with their medal win, as did the men’s 4x400 team. For the men, though, the color of the medal marked the end of a very long streak of gold medals.
The Bahamas took home the gold medal with a national record time of 2:56.72, while the U.S. men fell just short with a time of 2:57.05. Trinidad & Tobago trailed closely behind for the bronze medal with a time of 2:59.40.
Four-time Olympian Angelo Taylor ran the anchor leg of the race for the U.S. team and could not hang on to the lead he had going into the home stretch of the race. The disappointed Taylor said his timing was off just a touch.
"I think I floated a little too much on the back stretch, but I was exactly where I wanted with 300 meters to go. I didn't come into fifth gear quickly and by the time I did, it was too late."
Even with the disappointment of ending a streak, the team – made up of Taylor, Tony McQuay, Joshua Mance and Bryshon Nellum – still found plenty of positives from its silver medal-winning performance.
"This is a very young team,” said Mance. “We are blessed to get the silver medal and bring it home to the United States. It's great to bring a medal back."
After what happened to their teammate, Manteo Mitchell, in the qualifying heat, the men knew that things could have been much worse.
“We didn't complete the tradition of the USA winning gold medals in this competition,” said McQuay. “But thankfully, we had no injuries this time after Manteo broke his leg in the heat. He brought the baton home to us and if he didn't do that, we wouldn't be here today."
As Mitchell walked out of the stadium on crutches Friday night, it was clear that the injured runner was proud of his fellow teammates for leaving everything out on the track.