|The U.S. women's 4x100 relay team just ran 400 collective meters faster than any female group in history. (US Presswire)|
Not only did the United States women win gold in Friday's 4x100 relay final, they set a new world record while doing it.
It was a record that stood for 27 years, which amounts to a few lifetimes in modern track. Tianna Madison, Allyson Felix, Bianca Knight and Carmelita Jeter had no trouble passing off the baton and keeping the competition at bay. They ran their 400 aggregate meters in 40.82 seconds. That's 10.2 seconds per runner -- an incredible rate for a female quartet on the track. The new mark beats the record set by East Germany in 1985 by .55 seconds, essentially a torching by the Americans. That record, though long acknowledged, has also long been viewed with skepticism by those within track and field as having been accomplished with the aid of performance-enhancing drugs. It was never proven to be illegitimate, however.
Jeter, who ran the anchor Friday, finished the race less than 24 hours after taking questions from reporters about her ties to a man barred from track and field for his affiliation with banned substances. A big American celebration was also roped into an awkward time, for sure. To be clear, Jeter has never failed a drug test.
When asked how she reacted at the new world mark, Knight told the BBC, "I ran another hundred. Like Allyson said, I knew we could get the Olympic record, but world record, I didn't see that one. It was definitely a pleasant surprise."
The Americans are now far and away considered the best sprinters in the female track world. It's a big comeback for the U.S., which was disqualified in the '08 preliminaries in Beijing. The U.S. also did not finish in 2004's Games, dropping the baton in the final. Twelve years ago, the team earned bronze in Sydney, making it 16 years between gold medal performance for the United States women in this event.
On Friday, there was no doubt. Ghosts and curses from the past were killed. The U.S. was far and clear ahead of second-place Jamaica, who took silver, set a national record, and in fact ran the third-fastest 4x100 relay in women's history. Their foursome clocked in at 41.41 Ukraine set a new national record as well, its quartet running for bronze in 42.04.
"I knew they were going to do their job. I wasn't worried about it," Jeter said of winning the gold and playing anchor to her teammates. "I said they was going to make it happen for me, all I had to do was bring the stick home."
Gold medals will also be awarded to Lauryn Williams and Jeneba Tarmoh, American runners who ran in preliminary/semifinal heats. You'll remember Tarmoh was the sprinter caught up in the dead-heat controversy with Felix at the U.S. national trials in June.