Olympics 2012: U.S. breaks 27-year-old record in women’s 4x100

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In Athens eight years ago, Lauryn Williams was involved in a bad exchange in the final, leaving her team without a medal. In Beijing four years ago, the Americans didn’t even reach the final because Torri Edwards and 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.

This time they were back in the final — and now they’re champions again, too.

“It’s a relief. It’s a joy. It’s everything,” Felix said. “We went into this race and it was the most comfortable I’ve seen this team. We were laughing and smiling. We’ve never been like that. We were confident. We felt good. We were confident in the passes, and it showed.”

And Williams even gets a gold medal this time, because she ran a leg in Thursday’s semifinal.

“Talking about the ‘botched handoff’ is history now,” Madison said. “She has completely obliterated that from her record.”

The U.S. performance was part of a speedy night on the track, even if Usain Bolt wasn’t around: The U.S. and Jamaica turned in two of the five fastest men’s 4x100 relays in history to set up a showdown in Saturday’s final.

And in the 4x400, Ramon Miller of the Bahamas overtook Angelo Taylor of the United States to give his country its first men’s Olympic gold medal in any sport.

Miller powered Bahamas to a time of 2:56.72, 0.33 seconds better than the U.S., which had won that event at every Olympics since 1984. Trinidad and Tobago took third.

The United States was missing three injured runners, including Manteo Mitchell, who finished out his preliminary lap Thursday on a broken leg and was there to watch Friday, leaning on crutches.

“Without him, this wouldn’t be possible,” said Tony McQuay, Mitchell’s roommate in the athletes village. “He held it down for the USA. Sorry we couldn’t give him the gold.”

The South African team finished last, falling way behind before double-amputee Oscar Pistorius even got his hands on the baton for the anchor leg.

In the 4x100 semifinals, dash bronze medalist Justin Gatlin ran the anchor leg as the Americans broke a 20-year-old national record by finishing in 37.38 seconds. The old mark of 37.40 was initially established in 1992 with Carl Lewis on the last leg, and later equaled.

Jamaica ran 37.39 in the other semifinal — and that was without Bolt, who got a chance to rest a day after adding gold in the 200 to his gold in the 100 but is expected to run the anchor in Saturday’s final.

“We’re going to figure out a way to go out there and compete with them,” Gatlin vowed. “We’re not scared of them.”

The current world record of 37.04 was set by Jamaica at last year’s world championships.

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