Sydney McLaughlin, Dalilah Muhammad, Athing Mu and Allyson Felix after their Olympic 4x400m win in Tokyo (© Getty Images)
Allyson Felix bowed out in style – and with another gold medal around her neck.
One of the greatest careers in athletics history came to a close on Saturday (7), with Felix winning a record 11th Olympic medal and helping the United States claim a seventh consecutive title in the women’s 4x400m relay.
“I just came out really at peace, and wanting to soak it all in,” Felix said after joining Sydney McLaughlin, Dalilah Muhammad and Athing Mu in a ‘dream team’ quartet that blew away the rest of the field at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
The Americans clocked 3:16.85 – the fastest time in 28 years – to win by more than four seconds and extend the USA’s long dominance in the event, a gold-medal-winning streak that dates all the way back to the 1996 Atlanta Games.
“I think all of us in the team have achieved a lot in the individual events and I wanted to be able to run with these women and to win gold with them,” the 35-year-old Felix said after completing her fifth and final Olympics, and first as a mother.
Poland claimed silver in a national record 3:20.53 for their first ever medal in the event, adding to the gold they won in the mixed 4x400m relay. Jamaica took bronze in 3:21.24, earning a medal in the event for the sixth consecutive Olympics but dropping down a place after winning silver behind the USA at the past three Games.
Canada finished fourth in 3:21.84, just 0.63 shy of their national mark set in 1984.
One day after winning bronze in the women’s 400m to become the most decorated woman in Olympic athletics history, Felix surpassed Carl Lewis for the most medals won by a US track and field athlete.
Felix finishes her Olympic career just one short of the all-time record of 12 medals held by Finnish distance great Paavo Nurmi. She added a seventh gold to go with her collection of three silver and one bronze.
“This is a really special team because we're not 400m runners,” Felix said. “I don’t see myself as a 400m specialist. We all do different things and it was really cool to come together, to get to close out the Olympic Games and, for me, my Olympic career.”
It was Felix’s fourth gold in the relay, equalling Al Oerter (discus) and Carl Lewis (long jump) with four Olympic golds in the same event.
The US team featured one of the most star-studded quartets ever formed. The four came into the final with a Tokyo medal haul that included two gold, a silver and a bronze, along with a world record.
Besides Felix and her 400m bronze, the line-up included: McLaughlin, gold and world record in the women’s 400m hurdles; Muhammad, silver behind McLaughlin in the hurdles; and the 19-year-old Mu, gold in the women’s 800m.
“We were excited,” McLaughlin said. “An amazing group of women right here, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so I think we all just knew going in it’s going to be fast and just have fun.”
By the end of the night, McLaughlin and Mu came away with their second golds of the Games, and Felix and Muhammad took home their second medals.
For McLaughlin, it was an honour to hand the baton to Felix in her last Olympic race.
"Being able to go out there and be able to physically hand the baton off – it was a really special moment that I'm grateful for,” she said.
With such an all-star group, it was no surprise that the US team ran away with the title in dominant fashion. They won by the largest ever margin for the Olympic 4x400m relay, and their time was fifth-fastest of all-time and the quickest since 1993.
McLaughlin sprinted out to the lead on the first leg and the US athletes never looked back. When Mu took the baton for the anchor leg, they led by a margin of 1.5 seconds.
“I saw how big the gap was and then when I got there I was just like, 'Let's just make it bigger, let's just take it home'," said Mu, who further extended the lead by more than 2 seconds.
The splits: McLaughlin 50.21, Felix 49.38, Muhammad 49.94 and Mu 48.32.
The victory capped a legendary career for Felix, which began when she won silver in the 200m as an 18-year-old at the 2004 Athens Olympics. It ended in triumph less than three years after she gave birth to her daughter, Camryn, via an emergency procedure that threatened the life of both mother and child.
Felix’s success on the track, as well as her activism off of it, has been an inspiration to her teammates and female athletes all over the world.
“I'm really just honoured to have been a part of this team with her on her last Olympics,” Muhammad said. “I think we're going to look back at this and just think about how special this moment really was.”
Steve Wilson for World Athletics
|WOMEN'S 4x400m MEDALLISTS|
|🥇||United States 🇺🇸 USA||3:16.85|
|🥈||Poland 🇵🇱 POL||3:20.53 NR|
|🥉||Jamaica 🇯🇲 JAM||3:21.24|