Olympic Men’s 4 x 400 — Finishing On A Positive Note

After Rai Benjamin crossed the line, stadium track & field came to a close and the U.S. men finally had a running-event gold. (ANDREW McCLANAHAN/PHOTO RUN)

AFTER 8 DAYS OF DROUGHT, the United States men finally won a gold on the track. It was a terrific race that saw the Americans successfully defend their title, running the No. 4 time ever, 2:55.70.

The team of Michael Cherry, Michael Norman, Bryce Deadmon and Rai Benjamin was a completely different foursome than the one that had triumphed in Rio, although Cherry and Benjamin were holdovers from the victorious ’19 World Championships squad.

The silver medals went to Netherlands with its NR of 2:57.18, while Botswana’s NR 2:57.27 for bronze was an African Record, and gave them the No. 6 NR ever.

The race proved to be one of the deepest in history, more than living up to its potential. Never before had all 8 finalists broken 3:00 in qualifying, and the spread of 1–8 was only 1.60 from top qualifier USA at 2:57.77 to last qualifier Belgium at 2:59.37. In the final, best-ever marks for place were registered by every team except the first two, and four teams recorded NRs.

Leadoff Leg
Cherry, in lane 4, appeared to be quickest around the first turn and through much of the backstretch, but around the second turn Isaac Makwala of Botswana took control of the race, with Trinidad’s Deon Lendore running even with Cherry. Pulling away on the straight, Makwala ran a blistering 43.9 in lane 7. Cherry finished in 44.3, and Lendore, one lane outside Makwala, ran 44.4.

Second Leg
Trying to keep Botswana second man Baboloki Thebe in his sights, Trinidad’s black-clad 200 specialist Jereem Richards gained ground around the turn. Thebe held a 3m lead over Richards and Norman at the break. Richards was barely first at the end of the straight, but had yet to gain the pole. Richards got to the pole by the first third of the turn, while Norman was following, also trying to get past Thebe.

With another 35m gone, Norman had passed Thebe and closed on Richards and by the end of the turn Norman had swept past Richards, with Thebe 3m back and Richards fading.

Norman touched off first, his 44.0 gaining the U.S. 3m over Botswana, Thebe having run 44.8. Richards, with a 44.6 carry, faded enough in the last 30m that Poland’s Karol Zalewski and Terence Agard of Netherlands passed ahead of him in the exchange zone. Zalewski had run the fastest split of that leg, a 43.7, to move into 3rd, while Agard moved the Dutch foursome to 4th with his 43.8.

Third Leg
Deadmon took over for the U.S. and immediately moved to the pole, gaining another 2m in his first 20. Botswana’s Zibane Ngozi came back through the curve and entered the straight only 2m back. Deadmon still held that 6ft margin over Ngozi by the end of the straight, but Hollander Tony van Diepen had closed to within 3m of Ngozi.

The margins held through the turn, but Deadmon drew away in the homestretch, with van Diepen catching Ngozi at the handoff. Deadmon’s 44.01, the fastest third-leg carry, gave the U.S. a 6-meter lead over Botswana, as van Diepen had run 44.28 and Ngozi 44.40. St. Hillaire slowed with a pulled hamstring. He finished his leg in 46.88, but it spelled the end for the Trinidadians.

Anchor Leg
Benjamin took the baton in full flight, immediately stretching his margin. Dutch anchor Ramsey Angela held 2nd, but only virtually, as Botswana’s Bayapo Ndori had inside position as he took the pole. Ndori flew away before Angela could get into high gear, and midway through the turn Benjamin had added 2m, while Angela had closed by 1, with Belgium’s veteran relayer Kevin Borlée closing the gap. When Ndori entered the backstretch he was down 9m to Benjamin and then ran the straight watching Benjamin increase the gap.

At the beginning of the homestretch Benjamin had added another 2m and continued building to a final margin of a dozen, his anchor 43.40 being the fastest carry of the race. Angela finally collared Ndori with 15 meters to go and once past, moved away with each stride, his 44.12 gaining Netherlands 2nd, with Botswana 3rd after Ndori’s 44.20. Borlée’s 44.18 brought Belgium to 4th with an NR 2:57.88.

The final oval race of the 2020 Olympic Games had athletes in a reflective mood as best expressed by Norman: “There is no better feeling. All the sacrifices we put in in 2019, 2020 and 2021 have finally paid off and just being able to do it was to put a cherry on top.”


MEN’S 4 x 400 RESULTS

(August 07) (temperature 82F/28C; humidity 84%)

1. United States 2:55.70 (WL, AL) (4W, A)

(Michael Cherry 44.3, Michael Norman 44.0, Bryce Deadmon 44.01, Rai Benjamin 43.40);

2. Netherlands 2:57.18 NR (#5 nation)

(Liemarvin Bonevacia 45.0, Terrence Agard 43.8, Tony van Diepen 44.28, Ramsey Angela 44.12);

3. Botswana 2:57.27 NR (#6 nation)

(Isaac Makwala 43.9, Baboloki Thebe 44.8, Zibani Ngozi 44.40, Bayapo Ndori 44.20);

4. Belgium 2:57.88 NR (#7 nation)

(Alexander Doom 44.9, Jonathan Sacoor 44.1, Dylan Borlée 44.68, Kevin Borlée 44.18);

5. Poland 2:58.46

(Dariusz Kowaluk 45.0, Karol Zalewski 43.7, Mateusz Rzeźniczak 45.44, Kajetan Duszyński 44.31);

6. Jamaica 2:58.76

(Demish Gaye 45.3, Christopher Taylor 43.9, Jaheel Hyde 45.15, Nathon Allen 44.41);

7. Italy 2:58.81 NR

(Davide Re 45.2, Vladimir Aceti 44.2, Edoardo Scotti 45.07, Alessandro Sibilio 45.29);

8. Trinidad 3:00.85

(Deon Lendore 44.4, Jereem Richards 44.6, Dwight St. Hillaire 46.88, Machel Cedenio 44.99).

(best-ever marks=-for place: 3–8)

(lanes: 2. Netherlands; 3. Italy; 4. United States; 5. Jamaica; 6. Poland; 7. Botswana; 8. Trinidad; 9. Belgium)

(reaction times: Belgium 0.149, Poland 0.157, Italy 0.161, Netherlands 0.176, Trinidad 0.179, United States 0.185, Jamaica 0.195, Botswana 0.212)


Men’s 4×4 Order By Leg

Leg 1
1. Botswana 43.9; 2. United States 44.3; 3. Trinidad 44.4; 4. Belgium 44.9; 5. Netherlands 45.0; 6. Poland 45.0; 7. Jamaica 45.3; 8. Italy 45.2

Leg 2
1. United States 1:28.29; 2. Botswana 1:28.67; 3. Poland 1:28.72; 4. Netherlands 1:28.78; 5. Trinidad 1:28.98; 6. Belgium 1:29.02; 7. Jamaica 1:29.20; 8. Italy 1:29.49

Leg 3
1. United States 2:12.30; 2. Netherlands 2:13.06; 3. Botswana 2:13.07; 4. Belgium 2:13.70; 5. Poland 2:14.15; 6. Jamaica 2:14.35; 7. Italy 2:14.56; 8. Trinidad 2:15.86.


HEATS (August 06)

I–1. United States 2:57.77 (WL, AL) (fastest-ever prelim)

(Trevor Stewart 44.8, Randolph Ross 44.6, Deadmon 44.08, Vernon Norwood 44.34);

2. Botswana 2:58.33 NR (#7 nation) (Makwala 44.9, Thebe 44.8, Ngozi 44.61, Ndori 43.95); 3. Trinidad 2:58.60 (Lendore 44.8, Richards 45.1, Cedenio 44.42, St. Hillaire 44.29); 4. Italy 2:58.91 NR (Sibilio 45.3, Aceti 44.5, Scotti 44.51, Re 44.55); 5. Netherlands 2:59.06 NR (Jochem Dobber 45.6, Agard 44.3, van Diepen 44.96, Angela 44.23);

6. Great Britain 3:03.29 (Cameron Chalmers 45.9, Joe Brier 46.0, Lee Thompson 45.59, Michael Ohioze 45.80); 7. Czech Republic (CzR) 3:03.61 (Patrik Šorm 45.8, Pavel Maslák 45.4, Michal Desenský 46.59, Vít Müller 45.82); 8. Germany 3:03.62 (Marvin Schlegel 46.5, Luke Campbell 46.0, Jean Paul Bredau 45.96, Manuel Sanders 45.11).

(best-ever mark-for-place: =5)

II–1. Poland 2:58.55 (Kowaluk 45.3, Zalewski 43.8, Krzewina 45.06, Duszyński 44.39); 2. Jamaica 2:59.29 (Gaye 45.4, Hyde 45.0, Karayme Bartley 44.99, Allen 43.93); 3. Belgium 2:59.37 (Doom 45.4, Sacoor 44.1, D. Borlée 44.46, Jonathan Borlée 45.43);

4. India 3:00.25 NR (Y. Muhammed Anas 45.7, Noah Nirmal Tom 45.1, Arokia Rajiv 44.84, P.A.Amoj Jacob 44.68); 5. Japan 3:00.76 NR (Rikuya Ito 45.8, Kaito Kawabata 44.8, Kentaro Sato 45.13, Aoto Suzuki 45.11); 6. France 3:00.81 (Thomas Jordier 45.0, Muhammad Abdalla Kounta 45.2, Ludovic Ouceni 45.56, Gilles Biron 45.00); 7. South Africa 3:01.18 (Lythe Pillay 45.7, Zakithi Nene 45.5, Ranti Dikgale 45.96, Thapelo Phora 43.99); 8. Colombia 3:03.20 (Alejandro Perlaza 46.4, Diego Armando Palomeque 45.0, Raúl Hernán Mena 44.98, John Alexander Solís 46.81). ◻︎