Road To The Olympic Games


Canadian men qualify for 4x100m relay final

The Canadian men's 4x100-metre relay team advanced to Saturday's final after a solid run against a strong field. Canada finished second in its heat with a time of 38.05 seconds.

U.S., Jamaica set for showcase matchup

Anchor Justyn Warner, centre, helps Canada qualify for the final of the men’s 4x100-metre relay event on Friday in London. (Alexander Hassentein/Getty Images )

The Canadian men's 4x100-metre relay team advanced to Saturday’s final after a solid run against a strong field.

Canada, consisting of Gavin Smellie (Brampton, Ont.), Oluseyi Smith (Ottawa), Jared Connaughton (New Haven, P.E.I.) and Justyn Warner (Markham, Ont.), finished second in its heat with a second-best time of 38.05 seconds.

Jamaica easily won the heat in 37.49.

Competing with Usain Bolt earning a well-deserved rest, the Jamaican’s were led by 100 and 200 runner-up Yohan Blake, who ran the third leg.

The Jamaicans are the defending Olympic champions and the current world-record holders in this event.

Members of the American team left the Olympic track Friday believing anything's possible — maybe even a win over Usain Bolt.

With Justin Gatlin running the anchor leg, the U.S. broke a 20-year-old national record in its preliminary round, finishing in 37.38 seconds. The old record, first set in 1992 with Carl Lewis running the anchor leg, was 37.40.

"We're going to figure out a way to go out there and compete with them," Gatlin said. "We're not scared of them."

One small problem: Jamaica, running in the evening's opening heat, was only a hundredth of a second slower than the United States, and that was with Bolt on the sideline.

In the final Saturday, Bolt will take Kemar Bailey-Cole's place on the anchor leg, while Nesta Carter, Michael Frater and Blake will run in the first three spots, as they did in the preliminaries.

The U.S. and Jamaican times were the fourth- and fifth-fastest ever recorded, and based on all the fast times run Friday — the American women set a world record in their final later in the evening — the men's mark of 37.04, set by Jamaica at last year's world championships, appears reachable.

"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." 

Bolt first helped rewrite the relay record to close out his three-win, three-world-record performance at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when he ran the third leg of a race the Jamaicans finished in 37.10. Bolt hasn't set a record in his two winning sprints in London so far but has become the first man to repeat at the Olympics in both the 100 and 200. 

In the preliminaries, the U.S. went with former Florida football player Jeff Demps, Darvis Patton, Trell Kimmons and Gatlin, this year's 100-metre bronze medalist. Tyson Gay, who finished fourth in the 100 and is still in search of his first Olympic medal, figures to earn a spot in the final.

The American men are back in the final after missing it in Beijing when Patton and Gay mishandled the baton exchange in preliminaries. At the time, Gatlin, the 2004 100-metre champion, was serving a doping ban. But now he's back, and he helped break a record held by Lewis, along with men who are now coaching a number of the American sprinters, Dennis Mitchell and Jon Drummond. 

"They always put it in our face: 'If you want to be great, go after that record,'"Gatlin said. "Many U.S. relays teams have gone for that record and have not gotten it. It happened to be here in the Olympics."

The American record is one thing. Winning the Olympic gold medal, however, will take a win over Jamaica and Bolt.

"They're definitely fast. They're definitely worthy opponents," Gatlin said. "I'm the kind of person that loves pressure. This is the level we have to reach, this is the level we have to achieve."

Great Britain, the No. 4-ranked team in the world, were disqualified for an illegal exchange.

It was another disappointing Olympics for the 2004 Athens champions. The Brits actually finished ahead of Canada in the first heat but were eliminated following a baton exchange outside the designated zone.

U.S. women break 27-year-old world 4x100 relay record

Allyson Felix won her second Olympic gold medal at the London Games and added a world record for good measure as the U.S. sprint relay team powered past its Jamaican rivals in the 4x100 metres.

The 200-metre champion ran a blistering second leg and 100-meter silver medallist Camelita Jeter finished off the world record performance, pointing to the time clock with her mouth wide open as soon as she got past the finish line, seeing that the 27-year-old mark of the former East Germany was gone.

The U.S. team finished in 40.82 seconds, shaving a massive 0.55 seconds off the old mark.

"Who would have thought that we would have had a world record tonight?" Felix said. "It's amazing. Our names are going down in history."

Jeter was just as elated. "I was already pointing at the clock, saying 'there it is!' There was a cloud hanging over us with people saying 'they cannot do this, they are going to drop the stick,' but we did it."

It was the second world record in as many days on the super-fast track at the Olympic Stadium after David Rudisha of Kenya set a fresh mark 800 on Thursday night.

Jamaica won the silver medal Friday in a national record of 41.41 seconds, with 100 champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Sherone Simpson, Veronica Campbell-Brown and Kerron Stewart bringing the baton around.

The bronze went to the Ukraine in 42.04.

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 metres and used the stick in her left hand to make sure everyone else also had their eyes trained on the bright orange numbers on the trackside clock.

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. At Beijing four years ago, the Americans didn't even reach the final because Torri Edwards and Lauryn 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.

Relay shocker: Bahamas stuns Americans

Ramon Miller of the Bahamas chased down Angelo Taylor of the United States in the men's 4x400 final Friday night to win his country's first gold medal in a relay won by America at every Olympics since 1984.

Miller lifted the Bahamas to a time of 2:56.72, .33 seconds better than the U.S.

Trinidad and Tobago took third.

Taylor, a 400-metre hurdler, was in the lineup after a flurry of injuries hit the Americans. Lashawn Merritt and Jeremy Wariner both pulled out before the preliminaries, where Manteo Mitchell ran the last 200 metres of the opening lap with a broken left fibula.

It overshadowed Oscar Pistorius's last race at the London Games. Pistorius, known as the "Blade Runner," got the South African baton in last place and crossed the line in eighth in an anticlimactic performance after he had become the first amputee runner in track and field to compete at the Olympics.

"It has been incredible to be here," said Pistorius, a double amputee who runs with the aid of carbon fiber blades. "Just to participate has been great and now I am really looking forward to the Paralympics."

Lysenko sets Olympic record to win hammer gold

Tatyana Lysenko of Russia won the hammer throw gold medal in an Olympic record. 

Lysenko, the former world-record holder who served a two-year doping ban until 2009, set the games record with her first attempt at 77.56 meters and then improved it with her fifth at 78.18 — Aksana Miankova set the old mark of 76.34 at Beijing. 

Anita Wlodarczyk of Poland earned the silver at 77.60 with her last throw and China's Zhang Wenxiu took bronze at 76.34. 

Miankova, the 2008 champion, placed sixth.

Alptekin leads gold-silver finish for Turkey

Alsi Cakir Alptekin led Gamze Bulut in a 1-2 finish for Turkey in the Olympic women's 1,500.

European champion Alptekin, who served a two-year suspension for doping after the 2004 world junior championships, won the gold medal in 4 minutes, 10.23 seconds, and Bulut took silver in 4:10.40. Two-time world champion Maryam Jamal of Bahrain won the bronze medal in 4:10.74.

U.S. runner Morgan Uceny had another tumble at a major meet, crashing to the track at the start of the last lap and failing to finish the final. She was the leading 1,500 runner leading into the world championships last year but fell in the final at Daegu.

She was on her hands and knees, staring at the track in disbelief, when Alptekin crossed.

Shortly after, Uceny trudged off the track — blood dripping from her leg — and into the medical area. She left the stadium without speaking to reporters.

Last year at the world championships, Uceny, of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., entered the race as one of the top runners. But she became entangled just before the final lap and fell, all but ending her chances for a medal. She did pick herself up and finish a disappointing 10th.

This time, there was no getting up.

Uceny's fall happened on the 28th anniversary of the fall of Mary Decker Slaney, an overwhelming favourite to win gold in the 3,000 at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. In one of the most memorable moments in Olympic history, Slaney collided with barefooted runner Zola Budd and tumbled to the track.

No one was all that sure what happened to Uceny. She was comfortably cruising along before crashing to the ground. British runner Lisa Dobriskey was tucked in right behind Uceny and didn't get a good look at what took place.

"Too many bodies running together and too comfortably," Dobriskey said. "I think someone got tangled up with her. She just went flying — with quite a big bang.

"But it wasn't me that clipped her. It was just too many bodies."

Defar upstages Dibaba to win Olympic 5,000 gold

No one came close to an Olympic record in the 5,000, but Meseret Defar reclaimed the title she first won eight years ago, as her Ethiopian compatriot Tirunesh Dibaba missed a chance to become the first woman to repeat as double Olympic long-distance champion.

Defar swept past the front-running Dibaba in the final straight and had enough power to hold off Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya. Dibaba, running with blue tape on the back and inside of her right thigh, faded toward the end and was unable to produce the kick that earned her gold in the 10,000 last week.

Once she crossed the line, Defar produced a religious image of a virgin and child to show to the cameras before breaking down, sobbing into the picture.

After she won at the 2004 Athens Games, Defar has often had to spend time running in the shadow of Dibaba. Now the two have combined to dominate their fierce rivals from Kenya over the long distance events in London.

"I feel like I've been born again," Defar said. "After eight years, to get gold again is big."

Ethiopia had already won the women's marathon in the centre of the city last Sunday, and the favoured Cheruiyot failed to even get close to her world championship double from last year.

Dibaba was one race away from achieving the long-distance equivalent of what Usain Bolt did over the sprints on Thursday.

Lavillenie takes pole vault with Olympic record

Renaud Lavillenie of France won the pole vault gold medal with an Olympic record jump of 5.97 metres.

Lavillenie, the world indoor champion, has been the dominant pole vaulter in 2012.

Bjoern Otto earned silver on a countback from German teammate Raphael Holzdeppe after both cleared 5.91 meters. Holzdeppe had more missed attempts than Otto during the final.

Jamaican, U.S.  women qualify for 4x400 relay final

The United States and Jamaica advanced to the Olympic final of the women's 4x400 relay.

Both high-profile teams easily won their preliminary heats. With 400 bronze medalist DeeDee Trotter running the anchor leg after Keshia Baker, Francena McCorory and Diamond Dixon circled the track, the Americans finished in three minutes, 22.09 seconds.

Jamaicans Christine Day, Shereefa Lloyd, Shericka Williams and Rosemarie Whyte won the opening heat in 3:25.13. 

Russia, Britain, Ukraine, France, the Czech Republic and Nigeria also qualified for Saturday night's final.

The Americans have won the last four Olympic golds in the event. Sanya Richards-Ross, the gold medalist in the 400, is expected to join the U.S. squad in the final.

With files from