AFTER THEIR MAGNIFICENT MEDAL SWEEP in the 100, it seemed likely that only a dropped baton or a badly botched exchange could prevent the Jamaican women from dominating the short relay. With three of the fastest sprinters on the planet in 2021, plus ample reserves, no other nation had ever brought such speed to the Olympics.
However, successful exchanges were going to be vital, and as U.S. teams continue to demonstrate on numerous occasions, that cannot be taken for granted.
Among their opponents, Swiss prospects were elevated by the surprising 5th-6th performances of their top sprinters, but previously solid British stock would be reevaluated on the basis of world 200 champion Dina Asher-Smith’s hamstring injury.
In the first heat, that value skyrocketed, as the presumptive U.K. A-team produced a national record 41.55, No. 5 nation all-time and the fastest qualifying time ever. Leading all the way and bolstered by crisp passes and a strong third leg by Asher-Smith, they looked like an actual threat to the Jamaicans.
The latter finished 3rd in 42.15 with a B-team, anchored by Shericka Jackson but resting Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson-Herah. The U.S. (Javianne Oliver, Teahna Daniels, English Gardner and Aleia Hobbs) employed very safe passes and ran 41.90, good for 2nd. The Italian team, fastest non-qualifier, set an NR of 42.84.
Germany ran a smooth 42.00 to win heat II, utilizing three-fourths of its ’16 NR team. Just behind came an expected Swiss NR, 42.05.
The next evening, the penultimate session in the Olympic Stadium, 8 teams contested the final. From lane 2 outwards, they were Netherlands, France, Germany, Great Britain, United States, Switzerland, Jamaica and China.
As expected, the Americans substituted Jenna Prandini and Gabby Thomas on the final two legs, and Jamaica did likewise with Thompson-Herah and Fraser-Pryce on their middle two.
At the end of a very even first carry, Oliver passed to Daniels in mid-zone, while Jamaica’s Briana Williams, still only 19, had an awkward turnover near the end of her area. The British had to slow, exchanging within a shoe-length of a violation.
Thompson-Herah gained a couple of meters on her pursuers, although Daniels ran a fine second leg for the U.S., nearly catching the Swiss outside of her and opening a gap on the British.
The Jamaicans had another less-than-smooth exchange; nevertheless, Fraser-Pryce was off first, ahead of a decent U.S. changeover to Prandini. The Brits again had to stretch to safely pass, a meter from the end line. At this point, Germany was 4th, the Swiss 5th, and China 6th.
Fraser-Pryce ran an excellent curve, but gained nothing on Prandini, who blew past Swiss Mujinga Kambundji, and did not yield any ground to Asher-Smith, a lane inside.
At the final exchange, the Jamaicans again passed poorly, but successfully, and the Americans experienced their worst pass of the day. Into the straight, Jackson led Thomas by more than 2m, with the Swiss another 3 back, a meter ahead of the Germans and Brits.
On this day, no one could catch 100 bronze medalist Jackson, and she brought her team home in an NR 41.02, the third-fastest performance ever. Thomas finished in 41.45 for the third-best ever by a U.S. team. Britain’s 100m finalist Daryll Neita made quick work of her nearby anchors and finished three meters behind Thomas for third. The Swiss outran the Germans for 4th.
After relay silvers in London and Rio, Fraser-Pryce moved up a notch. “Finally to be able to get a gold medal and a national record definitely ranks high for me, so I’m glad we were able to put together a good team,” she said. “We were not able to have camps, so I hope that can change in the future, to solidify our exchanges.”
Echoed the USA’s Thomas, “We didn’t have a training camp this year, so we couldn’t do relay practice, we couldn’t do handoffs. But we came together, we trusted each other. We had to do some switching, other girls running the prelim, but it worked out because we had that trust.”
Prandini added, “We have great chemistry, and we are really confident with each other.”
WOMEN’S 4×1 RESULTS
(August 06) (temperature 82F/28C; humidity 79%)
1. Jamaica 41.02 NR (WL) (3W; #2 nation)
(Briana Williams, Elaine Thompson-Herah, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Shericka Jackson);
2. United States 41.45 (AL) (10W; 3A)
(Javianne Oliver, Teahna Daniels, Jenna Prandini, Gabby Thomas);
3. Great Britain 41.88
(Asha Philip, Imani Lansiquot, Dina Asher-Smith, Daryll Neita);
4. Switzerland 42.08
(Riccarda Dietsche, Ajla Del Ponte, Mujinga Kambundji, Salomé Kora);
5. Germany 42.12
(Rebekka Haase, Alexandra Burghardt, Tatjana Pinto, Gina Lückenkemper);
6. China 42.71
(Xiaojing Liang, Manqi Ge, Guifen Huang, Yongli Wei);
7. France 42.89
(Carolle Zahi, Orlann Ombissa-Dzangue, Gemima Joseph, Cynthia Leduc);
(Nadine Visser, Dafne Schippers, Marije van Hunenstijn, Naomi Sedney).
(best-ever mark-for-place: 4, =5)
(lanes: 2. Netherlands; 3. France; 4. Germany; 5. Great Britain; 6. United States; 7. Switzerland; 8. Jamaica; 9. China)
HEATS (August 05)
I–1. Great Britain 41.55 NR (WL) (#5 nation); 2. United States 41.90 (AL) (Oliver, Daniels, English Gardner, Aleia Hobbs);
3. Jamaica 42.15 (Williams, Natasha Morrison, Remona Burchell, Jackson); 4. France 42.68; 5. Netherlands 42.81; 6. Italy 42.84 NR (Irene Siragusa, Gloria Hooper, Anna Bongiorni, Vittoria Fontana); 7. Japan 43.44 (Hanae Aoyama, Mei Kodama, Ami Saito, Remi Tsuruta); 8. Ecuador 43.69 NR (Marizol Narcisa Landázuri, Gabriela Anahí Suárez, Yuliana Angúlo, Angela Tenorio).
II–1. Germany 42.00; 2. Switzerland 42.05 NR; 3. China 42.82; 4. Poland 43.09 (Marika Popowicz-Drapala, Klaudia Adamek, Paulina Paluch, Pia Skrzyszowska); 5. Brazil 43.15 (Bruna Jéssica Farias, Ana Cláudia Silva, Vitoria Cristina Rosa, Rosângela Santos); 6. Nigeria 43.25 (Tobi Amusan, Grace Nwokocha, Patience George, Ese Brume); 7. Denmark 43.51 NR (Mathilde U. Kramer, Astrid Glenner-Frandsen, Emma Beiter Bomme, Ida Kathrine Karstoft); 8. Trinidad 43.62 (Khalifa St. Fort, Michelle-Lee Ahye, Kai Selvon, Kelly-Ann Baptiste). ◻︎