U.S. Women’s 4x100 Outsprints Jamaica To Win World Title
by Chrös McDougall
(L-R) Melissa Jefferson, Abby Steiner, Jenna Prandini and Twanisha Terrypose after competing in the women's 4x100-meter relay final at the 2022 World Athletics Championships on July 23, 2022 in Eugene, Ore.
A track relay team isn’t necessarily the sum of its parts. Sometimes it’s more.
Jamaica came into the women’s 4x100-meter final at the World Athletics Championships Saturday with three of the fastest sprinters the sport has known. The U.S. team of Melissa Jefferson, Abby Steiner, Jenna Prandini and Twanisha Terry beat them, crossing the finish line in 41.14 seconds to Jamaica’s 41.18 on the penultimate day of competition in Eugene, Oregon.
The win was third in the last seven attempts for Team USA at a global championship. The U.S. also won the 2016 Olympic gold medal and 2017 world title, while Jamaica was victorious at the 2013, 2015 and 2019 world championships as well as the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Jamaica came in as the prohibitive favorite, with a team featuring Elaine Thompson-Herah, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Shericka Jackson. That trio has combined to win 14 individual global championships and 24 individual medals at the Olympics or world championships. Fraser-Pryce and Jackson took the 100 and 200 world titles earlier this week in Eugene, while Thompson-Herah swept both events at both the 2016 and 2020 Olympics.
The American team?
None of the four had ever reached an individual podium in the Olympics or world championships.
When it came to moving the baton around the track fastest on Saturday, though, the Americans proved to be up for the task.
“This is the most fun race of my life,” said Steiner, who at 22 is seen as one of the U.S.’ brightest young sprinters. “You can hear my voice. I never scream that loud during a race. Hayward magic is a real thing.”
(L-R) Elijah Hall, Christian Coleman, Noah Lyles and Marvin Bracy celebrate after competing in the men's 4x100-meter relay final at the 2022 World Athletics Championships on July 23, 2022 in Eugene, Ore.
The U.S. men got off to a strong start in their subsequent 4x100 final with former 100-meter world champion Christian Coleman handing off to two-time reigning 200-meter world champ Noah Lyles. Elijah Hall in the third leg kept the U.S. in front, but a delayed handoff to Marvin Bracy-Williams cost the Americans some momentum, and Canada’s Andre De Grasse made them pay. The Tokyo gold medalist in the 200 pulled away and then held off Bracy-Williams to cross the line in 37.48 to Team USA’s 37.55.
The win was Canada’s first in the event since the country’s 1990s heyday, when it won world titles in 1995 and 1997, with an Olympic gold medal in between.
The U.S. won the 4x100 world title in 2019 but missed the podium more often than not in the five prior world championships. Struggles to get the baton around the track have also plagued the U.S. men at the Olympics, with their last 4x100 medal coming in 2004, when they won a silver.
“We won silver. I am actually pretty happy with that,” Lyles said. “It's not about gold every day. We got the stick around.”
After nine of 10 days at these world championships, the U.S. now has 10 gold medals and 28 total medals. No country comes close in either category.
There were four other finals on Saturday, with U.S. athletes taking part in three of them.
Donald Scott, who finished third in the men’s triple jump at the world indoor championships in March, was sixth in the event Saturday, posting a best mark of 17.14 meters. Will Claye, the three-time Olympic medalist and four-time world championships medalist, was 11th..After scratching his first two attempts he got to 16.54 on the third, but it wasn’t enough to move on.
Tokyo Olympian Elise Cranny was the top U.S. finisher in the women’s 5,000-meter, taking ninth in 14 minutes, 59.99 seconds. Emily Infeld was 14th at 15:29.03, while fellow Olympian Karissa Schweizer did not finish.
Curtis Thompson, a 2020 Olympian, represented Team USA in the men’s javelin and finished 11th at 78.39 meters.
Also on Saturday, Zachary Ziemek and Kyle Garland ended the first day of the decathlon ranked third and fourth. Ziemek, a two-time Olympian, was among the top five in each of the five events Saturday, while Garland was never lower than seventh. Steven Bastien, a 2020 Olympian, rounded out the American performances in 13th. They’ll compete in the remaining five events Sunday.
Any track athlete can relate to the coach coming on strong with a convincing sales pitch to run in the 4x400 relay. That includes Allyson Felix. The most decorated woman in track and field history figured to have run her last world championships race when she helped Team USA win a bronze medal in the mixed 4x400 relay on the first night in Eugene. The 36-year-old who is set to retire was surprisingly back on Saturday to run the heats in the women’s 4x400. Her strong second leg helped the U.S. post the top qualifying time and easily move on to tomorrow’s finals. The U.S. men had no trouble moving on either, and they also posted the top time in qualifying.
In other qualifying action, Keni Harrison, the Tokyo Olympic silver medalist and current world record holder in the women’s 100-meter hurdles, joined fellow American Alia Armstrong in winning their heats on Saturday. The semifinals and finals are Sunday. Defending world champ Nia Ali and Alaysha Johnson were both DQ’d.
Quanesha Burks had the best mark in women’s long jump qualifying at 6.86 meters. She’ll join Tiffany Flynn in Sunday’s final.