World Champs Mixed 4×4 — Fab U.S. Finish Yields WR

The owner of a 50.32 open PR, USA anchor Alexis Holmes caught Femke Bol by surprise with a blinder split, 48.82. (JEFF COHEN)

THE U.S. MIXED RELAY defied multitudes of armchair analysts as well as a powerful Dutch team to smash the World Record and capture the gold in one of the most stirring and unexpected finishes the event has ever seen. That the Americans might have a chance to challenge the Netherlands squad and its powerful anchor, Femke Bol, seemed possible when Gabby Thomas told reporters the day before that she would be running in the final.

In the morning heats, the U.S. struggled to take control of the race after a 45.97 opener from Ryan Willie put the team in 3rd at the handoff. Rosey Effiong (50.43), Justin Robinson (43.86) and Alexis Holmes (50.15) managed to turn it around, leading all qualifiers at 3:10.41, the fastest heat in history and No. 9 all-time.

For the final, scheduled as the last race of the first evening, the coaches decided that Willie was the one who needed replacing, and as only one substitution was permitted, it was Matthew Boling who stepped in, not Thomas.

Robinson ran leadoff and acquitted himself well, going out harder than usual to build a modest lead on the Netherlands’ Liemarvin Bonevacia, 44.99–45.27. That got the stick to Effiong, who had to face Lieke Klaver. Effiong stayed ahead for half a lap, then the Dutch star moved into the lead. Effiong stayed admirably close, clocking a 49.86 to Klaver’s impressive 49.29.

Boling got the stick in 2nd but fought his way to the front on the backstretch, but Isaya Klein Ikkink passed him back on the stretch, his 45.29 enough to get to the zone first, even though Boling split 45.13.

For the analysts, that was it, as the prevailing opinion was that the United States had needed a big margin at the final handoff for any hope to hold off Bol, who broke the World Indoor Record this past winter at 49.26.

Was Holmes, with a PR of just 50.32, in over her head? Clearly, she didn’t think so. Perhaps flashing back to her anchor of Kentucky’s NCAA-winning 4×4 last year, Holmes set out after Bol and did not allow the Flying Dutchwoman to stretch the margin any further.

Then, off the last turn, the unthinkable started happening: Holmes began to close. The margin shrunk as she pressed harder and harder. With 10m left, Holmes had the momentum to challenge for the gold. Bol, perhaps thrown off by the unexpected challenge, lost her footing and crashed to the track, the baton leaving her hand to bounce across the line on its own. Bol got up and finished empty-handed, all for naught.

The clock flashed a World Record 3:08.80 for the Americans, shattering the 3:09.34 they had set in winning the gold in Doha.

Holmes closed the deal in a mind-blowing 48.82. Much farther back, in the race for the other medals, Britain (3:11.06) had enough of a lead to hold off Czechia (3:11.98), both national records.

“I was just super-determined,” said Holmes. “I was thinking about my teammates and just representing my country, so I wanted to bring it home the best way I could.”

Bol, stunned by the fall and clearly distraught, explained, “I think I cramped up when I felt someone next to me, and then I was on the ground.”

(note: splits have been modified from story’s initial posting)


FINAL (August 19)

1. United States 3:08.80 WR, AR (old WR, AR 3:09.34 United States ’19)

(Justin Robinson 44.99, Rosey Effiong 49.86, Matthew Boling 45.13, Alexis Holmes 48.82);

2. Great Britain 3:11.06 NR (#5 nation)

(Lewis Davey 45.69, Laviai Nielsen 49.94, Rio Mitcham 44.65, Yemi Mary John 50.78);

3. Czechia 3:11.98 NR (#9 nation)

(Matěj Krsek 46.13, Tereza Petržilková 50.60, Patrik Šorm 44.85, Lada Vondrová 50.40);

4. France 3:12.99

(Gilles Biron 46.32, Louise Maraval 51.92, Teo Andant 44.05, Amandine Brossier 50.70);

5. Belgium 3:13.83

(Robin Vanderbemden 46.34, Imke Vervaet 50.91, Jonathan Borlée 44.96, Camille Laus 51.62);

6. Ireland 3:14.13

(Jack Raftery 46.40, Sophie Becker 52.01, Christopher O’Donnell 45.70, Sharlene Mawdsley 50.02);

7. Germany 3:14.27

(Manuel Sanders 46.22, Alica Schmidt 51.45, Jean Paul Bredau 44.61, Elisa Lechleitner 51.99);

8. Poland 3:15.49

(Igor Bogaczyński 46.93, Patrycja Wyciszkiewicz-Zawadzka 51.68, Karol Zalewski 45.54, Marika Popowicz-Drapala 51.34);

… dnf—Netherlands

(Liemarvin Bonevacia 45.27, Lieke Klaver 49.29, Isaya Klein Ikkink 45.29, Femke Bol [fell]).

(best-ever mark-for-place: 7)

(lanes: 1. Poland; 2. Germany; 3. Ireland; 4. Czechia; 5. France; 6. United States; 7. Netherlands; 8. Great Britain; 9. Belgium)

(reaction times: 0.164 Belgium, 0.166 Czechia, 0.176 Great Britain, 0.180 Germany, 0.182 United States & France, 0.183 Netherlands, 0.201 Poland, 0.223 Ireland)

Times & Places At Handoffs

Leg 1: 1. USA 44.99; 2. Netherlands 45.27; 3. Great Britain 45.69; 4. Czechia 46.13; 5. Germany 46.22; 6. France 46.32; 7. Belgium 46.34; 8. Ireland 46.40; 9. Poland 46.93.

Leg 2: 1. Netherlands 1:34.56; 2. USA 1:34.85; 3. Great Britain 1:35.63; 4. Czechia 1:36.73; 5. Belgium 1:37.25; 6. Germany 1:37.67; 7. France 1:38.24; 8. Ireland 1:38.41; 9. Poland 1:38.61.

Leg 3: 1. Netherlands 2:19.85; 2. USA 2:19.98; 3. Great Britain 2:20.28; 4. Czechia 2:21.58; 5. Belgium 2:22.21; 6. Germany 2:22.28; 7. France 2:22.29; 8. Ireland 2:24.11; 9. Poland 2:24.15.)

HEATS (August 19)

I–1. United States 3:10.41 (WL, AL) (9 W; 4 A) (Ryan Willie 45.97, Effiong 50.43, Robinson 43.86, Holmes 50.15); 2. Great Britain 3:11.19 NR (#5 nation) (Joe Brier, Nielsen, Mitcham, John 51.16);

3. Belgium 3:11.81 (Vanderbemden, Vervaet, Florent Mabille, Laus 50.49); 4. Ireland 3:13.90 (Raftery, Becker, O’Donnell, Mawdsley 50.14);

5. Hungary 3:14.08 NR (Attila Molnár, Bianka Bartha-Kéri, Zoltán Wahl, Janka Molnár); 6. Italy 3:14.56 (Lorenzo Benati, Ayomide Folorunso, Riccardo Meli, Alice Mangione); 7. Kenya 3:15.47 NR (Ekwom Zablon, Millicent Ndoro, Wycliffe Kinyamal, Mercy Oketch); 8. Portugal 3:15.75 (Omar Elkhatib, Cátia Azevedo, Ricardo Dos Santos, Fatoumata Diallo).

II–1. Netherlands 3:12.12 (Ikkink 45.78, Klaver 50.55, Terrence Agard 44.81, Bol 50.98); 2. France 3:12.25 NR (#9 nation) (Biron, Maraval, Andant, Brossier 51.12); 3. Czech Republic 3:12.52 (Krsek, Petržilková, Šorm, Vondrová 50.50); 4. Germany 3:13.25 (Sanders, Schmidt, Jean Bredau, Skadi Schier 52.32);

5. Jamaica 3:14.05 (Demish Gaye, Natoya Goule-Toppin, Malik James-King, Stacey-Ann Williams 52.22); 6. Switzerland 3:14.38 (Lionel Spitz, Giulia Senn, Ricky Petrucciani, Julia Niederberger); 7. Nigeria 3:14.38 (Dubem Nwachkwu, Patience George, Nathaniel Ezekiel, Imeobong Nse Uko); 8. Poland 3:14.63 (Karol Zalewski, Marika Popowicz-Drapala, Kajetan Duszyński, Patrycja Wyciszkiewicz-Zawadzka).