After a commanding first round blitz, Jamaica and the USA are set for another scintillating showdown in the men’s 4x100m Relay final, the final event on the programme at Olympic Stadium on Saturday night.
Team Jamaica, led by double-double sprint champion Usain Bolt, claimed five of the six medals on offer in the 100 and 200m, and moral is high for a successful defence of their sprint relay crown as well.
The quartet from the island nation performed admirably, winning the first heat in a sizzling 37.39, the fourth fastest time in history, and quicker than any other nation has run. And they did it without Bolt, whose unprecedented double defence here was rewarded with an evening off. Good thing, too, because they’ll need him.
As it turned out, their world leader was very short-lived. Jeff Demps, Darvis Patton, Trell Kimmons and 100m bronze medallist Justin Gatlin formed an inspired and fearsome foursome in the second heat, dominating the race en route to a 37.38 run, 0.01 better than the Jamaican squad, and 0.02 faster than the national record Michael Marsh, Leroy Burrell, Dennis Mitchell and Carl Lewis set 20 years and two days ago at the Barcelona Games.
Fast time notwithstanding, Jamaica doesn’t seem too worried, if double sprint medallist Blake’s post-race thoughts are any indication.
"We didn’t want to run too fast, we are taking things easy for tomorrow," said Blake, who ran the third leg behind Bolt during their 37.04 World record in Daegu last year.
Gatlin too believes there is more room for improvement on the U.S. squad. "We want to be on top of the podium. I feel we have more time in us."
There was a blanket finish behind the U.S. – well behind – with just 0.10 separating positions two through five. Japan was second in 38.07 just ahead of Trinidad and Tobago (38.10) to take the next two automatic qualifying spots. The next two fastest to advance came from this race as well, with France (38.15) just edging Australia (38.17) who equaled their own Area record first set in 1995.
There was drama behind the Jamaican squad – Nesta Carter, Michael Frater, Yohan Blake and Kemar Bailey-Cole – but not quite the kind another capacity crowd of 80,000 was hoping for.
Running the anchor for Great Britain, World junior champion and 100m semi-finalist Adam Gemili botched the exchange from Daniel Talbot, missing it the first time around. By the time he did grab the baton, he was clearly out of the exchange zone. He powered on and passed Canadian anchor Justyn Warner, initially bringing the baton around in 37.93. But the shroud of disappointment that covered the 18-year-old told the story. An announcement a few minutes later made the disqualification official.
"I think I went to the check mark maybe a tiny bit early," Gemili, who has clocked 10.05 this year, said. "In a stadium like this it’s hard to hear. I put my hand out and was waiting and waiting (for the baton), and it didn’t come."
Canada – Gavin Smellie, Oluseyi Smith, Jared Connaughton and Warner – were elevated to second in 38.05. The Netherlands – Brian Mariano, Churandy Martina, Giovanni Codrington and Patrick van Luijk – were third to also move on to the final, propelled by a 38.29 national record.
The fast London track also brought national records for China (38.38) and St. Kitts and Nevis (38.41) in heat One and Poland (38.31) in heat Two.