In what may yet prove to be her final Olympic appearance Allyson Felix led the US 4x400m relay team home in style to become the most decorated athlete in US track and field history, overcoming their Jamaican rivals with ease in the process.
The American 4x400m men’s team made it a double in the final race of the Rio programme, taking gold ahead of Jamaica and the Bahamas in a victorious Games for US Track & Field. It was the fifth time the US has secured the 4x400m double. No other nation has done it even once.
In a week that has seen the world obsess about Usain Bolt’s medal tally, Felix quietly took her overall Olympic haul to nine – six golds and three silvers. Her total matches the six silvers and three bronze medals held by Jamaican sprinter Merlene Ottey in numerical terms but outranks her in terms of precious metal.
In the end it was only that dramatic last ditch dive by Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas in the individual 400m – one of the defining images of these Games – that deprived her of triple gold in Rio by 0.07 seconds.
“This one wasn’t an individual medal and the great thing is I get to share it with these great friends. I am so blessed,” she said afterwards. “Track and field is such a big part of my life. In track and field, there are always bumps in the road and each one of us had a unique journey to get here, but we pushed through.”
The glittering Felix, who at one stage had considered doubling up in the 200m and 400m but got injured at a crucial time, has had an eventful Olympics. In the 4x100m, the US women had survived a scare in qualifying before appealing and running a solo lap against the clock to qualify for the final.
There was no such drama in the 4x400m where the US led almost from the start and Felix had a comfortable advantage over her Jamaican anchor leg rival Noviene Williams-Mills that she did not relinquish, coming home in a season’s best 3.19.06.
Ahead of Felix, Courtney Okolo, Natasha Hastings and Pyllis Francis had done more than enough to make her final lap of 49.66 a victory procession. The US had breezed through qualifying without Felix or Hastings.
Behind them, in what was almost a separate race, Great Britain’s women secured bronze to make Christine Ohuruogu the first British athlete since Steve Backley to win medals in three successive Games.
“Today it wasn’t really about me, it was a real team effort. We knew a medal was up for grabs but we had to go out and deliver,” she said, after a superb run from Emily Diamond put Ohuruogu in position to seize third with the fastest of the four legs.
Beaming as she crossed the line to add to the bronze won by the women’s 4x100m team, it was the first time both British women’s relay teams had won a medal since 1980.
The US men won their race in 2.57.30. Once Gil Roberts handed to LaShawn Merritt, the team’s anchor never looked in danger once he took on the last lap in the lead.
It wasn’t quite the procession that was expected, however, with the US quartet having to work hard for their victory against the Jamaicans, who finished with silver. Tony McQay made the difference for the US, running the second leg in 43.2 seconds after taking the baton from Arman Hall.
After the US finished with a total of 31 track and field medals, beating their nearest rivals Jamaica by 20, Felix said they had pushed one another to new heights.
“We have an amazing team. We were all inspired by each other. To be able to sit back and watch people step up and have amazing performances, it propelled everyone to do well,” she said. “The team for the most part is very, very young.”
Brazil, who qualified after the British quartet were controversially disqualified during the heats, were loudly cheered in the final athletics event of the Games but finished last.
In the women’s high jump, the Spaniard Ruth Beitia won gold from Mirela Demireva of Bulgaria and Blanka Vlašić of Croatia at the age of 37. All three cleared the same height of 1.97m but Beitia had gone clear in all her attempts until all the top four contenders failed at 2m.
German Thomas Röhler won the men’s javelin with a throw of 90.30, his third time over 90m this season and enough to beat last year’s world champion from Kenya, Julius Yego, into second place.
Yego held on for silver despite sustaining an injury, winning his country’s first ever medal in a field event ahead of Keshorn Walcott, who won Trinidad & Tobago’s first medal of the Rio Games.
Röhler said that the public back home had stayed up to watch in the wake of their penalty defeat to Brazil in the football. “It’s just awesome. I’m super proud and they’re super proud and I’m just happy for the whole of track and field in Germany,” he said.
This article was written by Owen Gibson at the Olympic Stadium in Rio, for theguardian.com on Sunday 21st August 2016 05.06 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010