LONDON — Eyeing the trackside clock as she approached the finish line, Carmelita Jeter pointed the black baton in her left hand at those bright orange numbers.
She wanted to make sure everyone saw what she saw: The United States was breaking the world record in the women’s 4x100-meter relay — and it wasn’t even close.
Allyson Felix, Tianna Madison and Bianca Knight built a big lead, and Jeter brought it home Friday night, anchoring the U.S. to its first Olympic gold medal in the sprint relay since 1996 with a time of 40.82, more than a half-second better than a record that had stood for 27 years.
“As I’m running, I’m looking at the clock and seeing this time that’s like 37, 38, 39. In my heart, I said, ‘We just did it!’ I definitely knew we ran well,” Jeter said. “When I crossed the finish line, I had so many emotions because we haven’t been able to get the gold medal back to the U.S.”
Felix collected her second gold of the London Games, along with the one she won in the 200 meters, while Jeter completed a set, adding to her silver in the 100 and bronze in the 200.
“I just knew if we had clean baton passes that we would definitely challenge the world record. Smash it like we did? We had no idea,” Madison said, “but I knew it was in us.”
The American quartet erased the old mark of 41.37 run by East Germany in October 1985. Here’s how long ago that was: Jeter was 5, Madison was a month old, and Felix and Knight weren’t even born.
“It’s an absolutely unreal feeling. It just feels like for so long, we looked at women’s sprints and the records were so out of reach. To look up and see we had a world record, it was just crazy,” said Felix, who gets a shot at a third gold in the 4x400 final today. “I didn’t think that was going to happen.”
Jamaica won the silver medal in a national record of 41.41 seconds, with a team of 100 champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, 100 bronze medalist Veronica Campbell-Brown, Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart.
“All their girls are in top shape this year. You can’t say they didn’t deserve it. They prepared for it and they came out here and they delivered,” Fraser-Pryce said. “For us, it’s back to the drawing board.”
The bronze went to the Ukraine in 42.04.
Madison ran the opening leg, and Felix the second. Then, with Knight approaching for the final handoff, Jeter took nine strides, reached her hand back and took a perfect exchange. Jeter was staring at the clock as she covered the final 10 meters — and she jutted the stick in that direction.
“I saw the huge lead that we have, and I looked up on the board and saw the time flash, and I was so confused,” Felix said. “I was like, ‘That is not a 4x100 time.’ I was waiting, and then I saw the world record, and I was like, ‘This is insane.’ It was just a beautiful thing to see. As soon as Bianca passed to ‘Jet,’ it was done.”
Afterward, the quartet of champions paused to watch a replay of their record performance on the scoreboard at 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium. When Jeter was shown crossing the finish line, Knight punched the air.
The perfect trip around the track ended a string of disappointments for the U.S. in the event.
In Athens eight years ago, Lauryn Williams was involved in a bad exchange in the final, leaving her team without a medal. In Beijing four years ago, the Americans didn’t even reach the final because Torri Edwards and Williams bobbled the last exchange in the semifinals. That marked the first time since 1948 that the U.S. wasn’t involved in the women’s 4x100 medal race at the Summer Games.
This time they were back in the final — and now they’re champions again, too.
“It’s a relief. It’s a joy. It’s everything,” Felix said. “We went into this race and it was the most comfortable I’ve seen this team. We were laughing and smiling. We’ve never been like that. We were confident. We felt good. We were confident in the passes, and it showed.”
And Williams even gets a gold medal this time, because she ran a leg in Thursday’s semifinal.
“Talking about the ‘botched handoff’ is history now,” Madison said. “She has completely obliterated that from her record.”
The U.S. performance was part of a speedy night on the track, even if Usain Bolt wasn’t around: The U.S. and Jamaica turned in two of the five fastest men’s 4x100 relays in history to set up a showdown in today’s final.
And in the 4x400, Ramon Miller of the Bahamas overtook Angelo Taylor of the United States to give his country its first men’s Olympic gold medal in any sport.
Miller powered Bahamas to a time of 2:56.72, 0.33 seconds better than the U.S., which had won that event at every Olympics since 1984. Trinidad and Tobago took third.
But the silver helped the United States run its lead in the medals table to 94-81 over China.
The United States was missing three injured runners, including Manteo Mitchell, who finished out his preliminary lap Thursday on a broken leg and was there to watch Friday, leaning on crutches.
“Without him, this wouldn’t be possible,” said Tony McQuay, Mitchell’s roommate in the athletes village. “He held it down for the USA. Sorry we couldn’t give him the gold.”
The South African team finished last, falling way behind before double-amputee Oscar Pistorius even got his hands on the baton for the anchor leg.
In the 4x100 semifinals, dash bronze medalist Justin Gatlin ran the anchor leg as the Americans broke a 20-year-old national record by finishing in 37.38 seconds. The old mark of 37.40 was initially established in 1992 with Carl Lewis on the last leg, and later equaled.
Jamaica ran 37.39 in the other semifinal — and that was without Bolt, who got a chance to rest a day after adding gold in the 200 to his gold in the 100 but is expected to run the anchor in today’s final.
“We’re going to figure out a way to go out there and compete with them,” Gatlin vowed. “We’re not scared of them.”
The current world record of 37.04 was set by Jamaica at last year’s world championships.
On Friday, the U.S. went with former University of Florida running back Jeff Demps, Darvis Patton, Trell Kimmons and Gatlin. Tyson Gay, who finished fourth in the 100 and is still in search of his first Olympic medal, figures to be added to the relay team for the final.
The American men are back in the final after missing it in Beijing when Patton and Gay mishandled the baton exchange in a preliminary heat.
Jamaica wound up winning the gold, one of Bolt’s three record-breaking runs in 2008 when he won the 100, 200 and 4x100.
He can repeat that trio of titles today by joining the likely holdovers from the semifinal victory: Nesta Carter, Michael Frater and Yohan Blake, the silver medalist in the 100 and 200.
“We’ve got guys that have been running good and we’ve got Usain Bolt, who’s going to run a fast time,” Blake said. “It’s going to be interesting.”
Turkey’s Alsi Cakir Alptekin (women’s 1,500 meters), Ethiopia’s Meseret Defar (women’s 5,000 meters) Russia’s Tatyana Lysenko (women’s hammer throw) and France’s Renaud Lavillenie (men’s pole vault) were the other winners at Olympic Stadium.
Kevin Durant and the U.S. men’s basketball team also had quite the closing kick in their semifinal against Argentina.
Durant scored 19 points and LeBron James did a little bit of everything as Team USA pulled away for a 109-83 victory and a spot in Sunday’s final against Spain.
Argentina trailed by four early in the second half when the United States put the game away behind the strength of James and Durant’s shooting ability.
Durant made two 3-pointers in an 8-0 spurt that pushed the lead to 13, and when Argentina got back within eight, the NBA’s MVP and runner-up teamed up to blow it open.
James had a basket and drove for a powerful dunk while being fouled. Durant followed with consecutive 3-pointers, and James tipped in a miss and suddenly the lead was 19, 72-53, with 1:30 left in the period.
Jordan Burroughs had his eyes on a gold medal for months, and he let everyone know about his plans.
Then he delivered.
The 24-year-old American backed up all that talk, beating Iran’s Sadegh Saeed Goudarzi 1-0, 1-0 in the men’s 74-kilogram freestyle division to give the U.S. its first wrestling gold in London.
“A lot of people call it cocky, people call it over confident,” said Burroughs, who selected (at)alliseeisgold for his Twitter handle. “But I knew I was going to win.”
Burroughs, who grew up in New Jersey, has won 38 straight international freestyle matches and is the first Olympian to claim the $250,000 prize from the Living the Dream Medal Fund, a program designed to support U.S. wrestling.
An hour after beating Goudarzi, the tweet-happy Burroughs posted a shot of himself beaming beside his gold.
Maris Strombergs of Latvia won his first gold in 2008. Now he has two.
Strombergs defended his BMX title over a harrowing course in Olympic Park, taking the lead at the start and never relinquishing it. He cruised across the finish line in 37.576 seconds to add to the title he won in Beijing, when the sport made its Olympic debut.
“It’s just amazing,” Strombergs said. “I think everyone at home, they watched the race, and deep inside they were hoping I could repeat, and I think my country believed in me.”
Former world champion Mariana Pajon won the women’s BMX competition, giving Colombia its first gold at the London Games. With David Beckham watching from the stands, Pajon hit form at the right time after being hampered by a shoulder injury earlier this season.
Ous Mellouli of Tunisia won the grueling 10-kilometer race to become the first swimmer to win medals in the pool and open water at the same Olympics.
Mellouli pulled away from a small group of leaders in the fifth of six laps and finished in 1 hour, 49 minutes, 55.1 seconds in the murky waters of the Serpentine in Hyde Park. He also won bronze in the 1,500-meter freestyle last week.
It was the second gold of Mellouli’s Olympic career. He also took the 1,500 at the 2008 Beijing Games.
Thomas Lurz of Germany was second, 3.4 seconds behind, and first-time Olympian Richard Weinberger of Canada grabbed the bronze.
The crowd favorite was Benjamin Schulte, a 16-year-old from Guam, who finished far behind all the other competitors. Fans stuck around and applauded loudly when Schulte finally finished nearly 14 minutes after Mellouli.
Lightweight Vasyl Lomachenko and two Ukrainian teammates advanced to gold-medal bouts.
Lomachenko, Chinese light flyweight Zou Shiming and Italian super heavyweight Roberto Cammarelle all won their semifinals, earning the right to fight during the final weekend for their second straight Olympic gold medals.
Two more fighters also protested the results of their bouts in a tournament full of appeals to amateur boxing’s governing body. Ukraine light heavyweight Oleksandr Gvozdyk protested his loss to Kazakhstan’s Adilbek Niyazymbetov on a tiebreaker, and super heavyweight Magomedrasul Medzhidov protested his one-point loss to Cammarelle. AIBA rejected both protests late Friday night.
Britain will have three fighters in gold-medal bouts. Bantamweight Luke Campbell, welterweight Freddie Evans and super heavyweight Anthony Joshua also scored semifinal wins.
South Korea’s Hwang Kyung-seon defended her Olympic title in the women’s 67-kilogram division, and Sebastian Crismanich of Argentina won the gold medal in the men’s 80-kg category.
Hwang defeated Turkey’s Nur Tatar 12-5 in a final in which both fighters attacked from the start.
The bronze medals were won by Paige McPherson of the United States and Germany’s Helena Fromm.
Five-time world champion American Steven Lopez lost his opening bout in the men’s competition. Two members of his family said later that he had broken leg.
Australia’s Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page, and New Zealand’s Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie won the 470 class gold medals by overwhelming their British rivals on Weymouth Bay.
The victory by Belcher and Page guaranteed that Australia will win more sailing gold medals than the strong, well-funded British team. That’s a remarkable feat, although the British will lead all countries with five sailing medals — one gold and four silvers. The British came in thinking they had a shot at medals in all 10 classes.
The Aussies lead the British 3-1 in golds, with only the women’s match racing to be decided. The Australians will pick up either a gold or silver in that event Saturday as skipper Olivia Price and her crew advanced to the final against Spain’s Tamara Dominguez and her crew.
The Americans failed to win an Olympic sailing medal for the first time since 1936.
There’s no question which country is the best at synchronized swimming.
Russia grabbed the team gold medal for its fourth consecutive team victory and sixth straight overall gold.
The Russians totaled 197.030 points with a free routine featuring swimmers doing acrobatic flips and pirouetting like ballerinas above the water.
The team of Anastasia Davydova, Maria Gromova, Natalia Ishchenko, Elvira Khasyanova, Alexandra Patskevich, Svetlana Romashina, Anzhelika Timanina and Alla Shishkina swam in black, red and gold suits featuring a spider web design on the back.
China earned the silver at 194.010, and Spain took the bronze four years after winning silver in Beijing.
Ed McKeever of Britain clocked the quickest time over the heats and semifinals as the 200-meter canoe sprint made its Olympic debut.
Racing in front of a flag-waving crowd under sunny, cloudless skies at Dorney Lake, the barrel-chested McKeever crossed in 35.087 seconds in his heat and then easily won his semifinal.
Canoeing officials replaced the 500-meter race with the 200 sprint in a bid to inject more excitement into the sport and attempt to move it out from rowing’s shadow at the Olympics. The 200 races were played out in front of the whole length of three packed grandstands, generating a vibrant atmosphere.
In the only 200-meter event for women, Lisa Carrington of New Zealand and Natasa Douchev-Janics of Hungary set up a probable shootout in the K-1 final.
The Netherlands retained the women’s Olympic title with a 2-0 win over world champion Argentina at Riverbank Arena.
Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel and captain Maartje Paumen scored for the Netherlands, which will try for the first-ever Olympic double when the country’s men’s hockey team takes on Germany on Saturday.
Earlier Friday, Britain’s women won the bronze by defeating New Zealand 3-1 to secure their country’s first Olympic field hockey medal in 20 years. Prince William’s wife, the former Kate Middleton, was on hand to applaud the goals, all of them from second-half penalty corners.
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Russia’s Evgeniya Kanaeva finished on top of qualifying, putting her in position to defend her Olympic title.
Kanaeva had been second behind Russian teammate Daria Dmitrieva going into the final rotation after a rare mishap in her hoop routine on the first day. But Kanaeva performed flawlessly in the ribbon, giving her 29.400 points and the top spot in the standings with 116.000.
Dmitrieva was 1.45 points behind, and Azerbaijan’s Aliya Garayeva was third. The final is today.
Russia also qualified in first place for Sunday’s group final after holding off a challenge from Italy.