Relays can be very tricky, but victory for Jamaica in the women’s 4x100m relay last Friday night was as sure as night follows day.
Stacked with rare, elite quality which includes Elaine Thompson-Herah, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Shericka Jackson, the podium finishers in the 100m final six days earlier, as well as two of the three fastest women ever, they teamed up with Briana Williams, the Under-20 sprint double champion, to register a National record 41.02 seconds, the third-fastest time in history as they reclaimed the title they last won in Athens 2004.
Only the US at the London 2012 Games (40.82 seconds) and Rio Games (41.01 seconds) have gone faster, while Jamaica’s previous best was 41.07 seconds achieved at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing. That team also featured Thompson-Herah and Fraser-Pryce.
At the finish line, anchor Jackson was several metres clear, pulling farther and farther away from the field running in lane eight after Williams had given the Caribbean island a flying start.
The US finished second in a season’s best 41.45, with Great Britain third in 41.88 seconds.
However, the first exchange with Thompson-Herah left a lot to be desired as the outgoing runner left her starting mark much too early and was forced to slow in order to effect the exchange within the zone.
The second-fastest woman in history made amends, however, when she scorched down the backstretch to hand off to Fraser-Pryce and from that point, it was simply a matter of Jamaica against the clock, barring any unforeseen mishaps.
As fast as the event was, sub-par baton exchanges throughout ensured the world and Olympic records remained intact.
It was the third gold medal of the Games for Thompson-Herah who had won the 100m final in an Olympic record 10.61 seconds, and the 200m in a National record 21.53 seconds for an unprecedented repeat of the Olympic sprint double.
It was the fifth Olympic title for Thompson-Herah while for the 2008 and 2012 Olympics 100m gold medallist Fraser-Pryce, it was her eighth Olympic medal.
It was the perfect gift for the nation celebrating its 59th year of Independence, though the Jamaican quartet was left confused as they were made aware of rumours of a potential protest from one of their rivals, just ahead of speaking to the Jamaican media in the mixed zone.
“As far I saw we were okay and there are officials that are placed at each point, so I’m sure if they saw something they would have raised a flag and sent it in. So, the fact that they went ahead to do a protest I just can’t understand, but we’ll wait and see. But, we know we deserve that medal — we ran for our medal and we had a good run,” noted Fraser-Pryce.
“I don’t think they are going to deny us an Independence Day gold medal and Elaine her three gold medals, suh dem haffi guh come good,” she added.
Still trying to grasp the rumours circulating, Thompson-Herah remained positive.
“Honestly, I’m going to forget what I just heard. But we just went out there as a team; we wanted to get the world record and the Olympic record, we did not get that, [but we] still got a national record on Independence Day. There is nothing more we could ask for.”
At her first Olympics, young Williams was over the moon.
“I’m feeling great. I’m happy, proud of these ladies and what we’ve done tonight winning a gold medal.”
Jackson, after some amount of hesitancy, chipped in: “I’m just grateful. We went out there to do our best and our best was good enough. We got a National record, we won a gold medal so far as we know, we won a clear gold medal so it is just a great feeling to go out there and execute.”
The women’s 4x100m gold medal increases Jamaica’s tally to eight.