Poland celebrates mixed 4x400m victory at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (© Getty Images)
Poland’s first gold medal of the Tokyo Games came with a special bonus: a place in the Olympic history books.
Kajetan Duszynski raced to the front down the final straight and powered across the line to give his country the first gold medal in the inaugural Olympic mixed 4x400 relay on Saturday (31).
The Polish quartet of Karol Zalewski, Natalia Kaczmarek, Justyna Swiety-Ersetic and Duszynski clocked a European – and now Olympic – record of 3:09.87 to claim the title ahead of the Dominican Republic and the United States.
It was also Poland’s second Olympic gold in an athletics relay, coming 56 years after the Poles won the women’s 4x400m relay at the 1964 Games, which also happened to be held in Tokyo.
“We all believed we could manage to win the medal,” Zalewski said. “We were not sure if it was going to be gold or something else, but we knew that we could win something. We all left our hearts on the track.”
Duszynski, who ran the final leg in 44.38, held his arms outsretched wide as he crossed the line, then pulled his singlet over his head in celebration before being mobbed by his teammates.
"In the last 150 metres I felt I had a lot of strength still,” Dusynski said. “I'm that type of endurance athlete. It is my strength to run the first 200 metres slowly and then to attack towards the finish line. So I knew that I could make it. It's my strategy and it worked for me."
The Dominican Republic quartet of Lidio Andres Feliz, Marileidy Paulino, Anabel Medina Ventura and Alexander Oganda claimed the silver, with Paulino clocking a 48.7 split for her second leg. The bronze went to the US team of Trevor Stewart, Kendall Ellis, Kaylin Whitney and Vernon Norwood.
Oganda outleaned Norwood at the line to clinch the silver in 3:10.21, just 0.1 ahead of the US.
“It is so exciting to come here and run the first mixed relay at the Olympic Games, and to come out with a medal feels great,” Ellis said. “It feels like a win for us."
The race capped an eventful 24 hours for the US and Dominican teams. They had been disqualified after the qualifying rounds on Friday but were reinstated on appeal in time for the final.
The USA replaced their lineup from the heats, which was made up of Lynna Irby, Taylor Manson, Bryce Deadmon and Elija Godwin. The members of Saturday’s team said the controversy over the disqualification and reinstatement should not take away from their bronze-medal performance.
“It was events outside our control and we as a team stand behind our teammates and the United States, who we are proud to represent and bring home a medal for us,” Whitney said.
The mixed relay made its Olympic debut two years after being contested at the World Athletics Championships for the first time in Doha.
While teams can choose any order they want for the relay, all teams in Tokyo opted for the conventional order of man-woman-woman-man.
The Dominicans built up a large lead on the third lap until 21-year-old Dutch 400m and 400m hurdles star Femke Bol reeled them in going into the anchor leg.
Duszynski timed his kick perfectly, surging to the front after the final turn and pulling away down the home stretch. Norwood moved into second place and seemed poised to secure the silver for the US but was edged out by Oganda on the lean.
The US team did not include Allyson Felix, who had helped the USA win the mixed relay in Doha and was eligible to run the event in Tokyo.
It means that Felix, competing in her fifth Olympics at the age of 35, will have to wait a bit longer to bid for her 10th career medal. That would make her the most decorated woman in Olympic athletics history and equal Carl Lewis for the most medals by a US track and field athlete.
Felix, who holds six gold and three bronze medals, will run in the 400m and possibly the women's 4x400m relay.
Steve Wilson for World Athletics
|MIXED 4x400m MEDALLISTS|
|🥇||Poland 🇵🇱 POL||3:09.87 OR|
|🥈||Dominican Republic 🇩🇴 DOM||3:10.21 NR|
|🥉||United States 🇺🇸 USA||3:10.22 SB|