EUGENE — It’s not often the United States and the phrase won-by-upset are linked when it comes to top-class relays.
But what else can it be called? Jamaica’s women were that dominant during the first week of the World Athletics Championships. Jamaica went 1-2-3 in the 100 meters, 1-2 in the 200.
Saturday night at Hayward Field, Jamaica was 2. Because USA was that perfect, that almost in an epic race to win the 4×100 relay.
USA had perfect handoffs and a big start, and it was good enough for anchor leg Twanisha Terry to edge Jamaica’s fast-closing Shericka Jackson at the finish. Team USA won its second world championships title since 2017 with a time of 41.14 seconds, just ahead of Jamaica’s 41.18. Germany was a well-beaten third.
The United States’ men were also involved in an upset, though this one stung. Heavily favored to win the 4×100 relay, USA struggled with its final handoff, and Canada pounced, winning the gold medal in 37.48. The US was second at 37.55, well ahead of third-place Great Britain in 37.83.
The women’s relay was expected to be a sprint sweep of sorts for the Jamaicans, whose fans came ready to blast away with their celebratory horns. But right from the gun, the USA meant business. It ran like the favorites, not a gritty underdog.
“Social media, the predictions, all that stuff is people talking,” said Jenna Prandini, the former Oregon Ducks star who ran the third leg. “The coaches, our team, we were really confident in each other.”
Melissa Jefferson got the USA off to a good start, as she cooked around the first turn to give her team the lead. Abby Steiner then sped down the backstretch, running away from Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson-Herah. USA led by nearly four-tenths of a second when Prandini took the handoff.
Though Jamaica whittled away at the lead on the far turn, America’s anchor, Terry, had a nice cushion as she ran down the stretch.
Terry said she was never concerned as she neared the finish line.
“I never looked to my left or my right,” Terry said. “I can see out of my peripheral and I didn’t see (Jackson) at the beginning of the race, so I did what I was supposed to.
“You heard the stadium. The stadium went crazy. We just brought it home.”
As for the USA men, much will be made about the third baton exchange between Elijah Hall and Marvin Bracy. It was awkward, as Bracy had to slow a little, and Hall ultimately fell to the track after handing off.
But even if the exchange had gone smoothly, Team USA had its hands full. Canada took it to the Americans all the way around the track.
“We spoke about this moment so many times, waiting for the gold medal. It feels good to get it done,” said Andre de Grasse, Canada’s anchor leg.
The Americans had trouble separating from Canada. After two legs, USA’s lead was only 0.02 of a second. Jerome Blake ran faster down the backstretch than USA’s Noah Lyles, the 200 gold medal winner. The lead grew a little as Hall ran around the second turn, but it came apart as soon as the baton was exchanged.
Hall was unclear as to what happened.
“I really got to look at the film. I can’t really think too much into it right now,” he said.
De Grasse was able to maintain the lead through the wire, holding off Bracy at the finish line.
“I was hoping not to get caught. I was tightening up a little bit,” de Grasse said.
Team USA accepted its fate, taking the silver, the fourth consecutive worlds in which it has medaled in the 4×100.
“It was definitely fun to go out there and represent the country,” Bracy said. “We have a few things to clean up. Nonetheless, we got a medal, got the stick around. We will win next time.”
— Nick Daschel | firstname.lastname@example.org | @nickdaschel