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World Championships in Athletics Day 9

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EUGENE, Ore. — The four American men parked on the track at Hayward Field never worried about how fast they were running. Their excellence in the first eight days of the world championships in athletics had erased any doubt about their speed. They only had to worry about the safety of their stick, the 11.5-inch aluminum cylinder that had vexed previous generations of their brethren.

Minutes after the USA women’s 4x100m relay team upset Jamaica, the American men executed two perfect transmissions and then saw an expected gold turn to silver in the third. The US men’s 4x100m team did not add another debacle to its cursed history. But it added a disappointment, a silver medal after spending the last week racking up the sprint wins.

The problem occurred during the final transfer, 100 meters from the finish. Elijah Hall-Thompson rounded the final corner with a slight lead and handed over to Marvin Bracy-Williams. On his first grab attempt, Bracy-Williams missed. He again reached and twisted his upper body, which gave Canadian anchor Andre De Grasse the daylight he needed to charge for gold. Alexandria’s Noah Lyles ran a clear return leg and added silver to his gold in the 200 meters.

The USA women’s 4×100 relay team stunned the formidable Jamaican team, which included all three 100 meter medalists and the second fastest women of all time in the 100 and 200 meters. Melissa Jefferson, Abby Steiner and Jenna Prandini passed the baton with a lead to Twanisha Terry, who held off 200-meter champion Shericka Jackson with a tilt on the line, finishing 0.07 seconds ahead in 41.14 seconds.

“I knew we were going to do something to shock the world here,” Terry said in an on-track interview.

Steiner may have made the difference. A rising star and relay expert in Kentucky, Steiner won three gold medals at the NCAA championships in June in the 200 meters and the 4×100 and 4×400 relays. Steiner took over for the second leg with a slight lead, against Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson-Herah, who won three gold medals last summer at the Tokyo Olympics. Steiner ran his leg in 9.86 seconds and Thompson-Herah only managed 10.10.

Although they usually take to the track with the fastest team, the United States had created a farcical history of disappointment in the 4×100 relay. Since 1988, American men had won 12 Olympic and world championship medals in the 4x100m relay but had been disqualified 11 times. In Tokyo, the United States crossed the finish line, but an awkward transfer between Fred Kerley and Ronnie Baker resulted in sixth place in the qualifying round.

Their silver medal was somewhere between triumph and disaster. It also added up to a redeeming performance for the American men in the sprints. In Tokyo, the American men failed to win Olympic gold in the individual sprint for the first time, despite spending at least part of 2021 as favorites in many events. At the world championships, they traded underperformance for dominance.

The American men swept all the medals in the 100 meters and 200 meters, won gold in the 400 meters, gold and silver in the 100 meters hurdles and silver and bronze in the 400 meters hurdles. If America’s men’s sprinters were their own country, they would lead the world in medal totals, and only Ethiopia would match them in gold medals.

“We’re just picking up medals left and right,” Lyles said. “We’re basically sweeping dust into a trash can, and what we’re offering are medals.”

Ethiopian female distance runners matched American male sprinters in dominance. Red, yellow and green flags were unfurled at a rapid pace, including one that a man tried to run down the track at the end of the women’s 5,000 meters before being dragged away by security. Gudaf Tsegay won in 14:46.29, adding silver to her 1,500-metres, and her compatriot Dawit Seyaum took bronze. Ethiopia finished second in the medal table on Saturday night with 10 medals and four gold medals, seven of which were won by women, all over distances of 1,500 meters or more.

No one in American history has won more track and field medals than the runner called up Saturday night after a brief retirement. Allyson Felix said goodbye to her sport on the first night of the world championships, walking away after running a leg for the bronze medal-winning 4×400 mixed relay team from the USA. She returned home to Los Angeles and attended the ESPYs. She felt “absolutely” at peace, she said.

Early last week, Felix went to Hot Wings Cafe in Los Angeles and ordered the favorite cheat meal she was craving – hot wings and a root beer float. In the middle of her meal, her coach, Bob Kersee, called her and asked if she could run a leg in the preliminary round of the women’s 4×400 relay.

“I hopped on a plane and here we are,” Felix said. “I’ve been doing it for so long it just kind of broke. Bobby gave me a few extra workouts at home, and you can just get back to it. It had only been a few days. »

Felix took over from Talitha Diggs, a runner 17 years his junior, and raced the return leg. The United States easily won their heat in 3:23.38 and created memories for three American sprinters. “It’s great to go from idol to competitor to teammate now,” said Kaylin Whitney, who ran stage three.

Félix will remain for Sunday’s final even if she does not intend to participate. Again, she assumed she had already retired. “What do I know?” she says. If four teammates step onto the podium as big favorites to win gold, Felix will win her 20th world championship medal. She could celebrate with another plate of hot wings.

“I’ve only had a few,” Felix said. “I’m going to finish this meal now.”