LONDON — Eyeing the trackside clock as she approached the finish line, Carmelita Jeter pointed the black baton in her left hand at those bright orange numbers.
She wanted to make sure everyone saw what she saw: The United States was breaking the world record in the women’s 4x100-meter relay — and it wasn’t even close.
Allyson Felix, Tianna Madison and Bianca Knight built a big lead, and Jeter brought it home Friday night, anchoring the U.S. to its first Olympic gold medal in the sprint relay since 1996 with a time of 40.82, more than a half-second better than a record that had stood for 27 years.
“As I’m running, I’m looking at the clock and seeing this time that’s like 37, 38, 39. In my heart, I said, ‘We just did it!’ I definitely knew we ran well,” Jeter said. “When I crossed the finish line, I had so many emotions because we haven’t been able to get the gold medal back to the U.S.”
“I just knew if we had clean baton passes that we would definitely challenge the world record. Smash it like we did? We had no idea,” Madison said, “but I knew it was in us.”
“It’s an absolutely unreal feeling. It just feels like for so long, we looked at women’s sprints and the records were so out of reach. To look up and see we had a world record, it was just crazy,” said Felix, who gets a shot at a third gold in the 4x400 final Saturday. “I didn’t think that was going to happen.”
Jamaica won the silver medal in a national record of 41.41 seconds, with a team of 100 champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, 100 bronze medalist Veronica Campbell-Brown, Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart.
“All their girls are in top shape this year. You can’t say they didn’t deserve it. They prepared for it and they came out here and they delivered,” Fraser-Pryce said. “For us, it’s back to the drawing board.”
The bronze went to the Ukraine in 42.04.
Madison ran the opening leg, and Felix the second. Then, 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 meters — and she jutted the stick in that direction.
“I saw the huge lead that we have, and I looked up on the board and saw the time flash, and I was so confused,” Felix said. “I was like, ‘That is not a 4x100 time.’ I was waiting, and then I saw the world record, and I was like, ‘This is insane.’ It was just a beautiful thing to see. As soon as Bianca passed to ‘Jet,’ it was done.”
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.