The United States gained a Olympic sprinting victory over Jamaica and shattered a 27-year-old world record by winning the women's 4 x 100-meter relay in 40.82 seconds Friday evening. Jamaica appeared to have an edge on paper over first three legs of Friday's race, with Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce running first and Veronica Campbell-Brown third. But when American anchor Carmelita Jeter took the baton in first place, there was nothing Jamaica could do. Jeter extended the U.S. lead and powered home to break the previous record of 41.37 set by East Germany. Tianna Madison led off for the U.S. and matched Fraser-Pryce. Allyson Felix, ran second for the U.S. and Bianca Knight third. Jamaica finished second in a national record 41.41 while Ukraine also set a national best, taking third in 42.04.
The U.S. nearly swept the day's relay events, having also won a pair of earlier heats (see below), but the absence of the injured LaShawn Merritt cost the Americans the men's 4 x 400 relay gold. The Bahamas, with 400-meter finalists Chris Brown and Demetrius Pinder running the first two legs, led after 800 meters. Bryshon Nellum and Joshua Mance had the U.S. in second after two legs, then 400-meter finalist Tony McQuay burst past Michael Mathieu and handed the baton to Angelo Taylor in first place. The American led until the home stretch, when Ramon Miller ran him down to take the gold for the Bahamas in 2:56.72. The U.S. gained the silver (2:57.05) while Trinidad and Tobago got the bronze (2:59.40). The anticipated insertion of Jeremy Wariner into the U.S. lineup didn't occur due to a training injury.
Meseret Defar regained the Olympic championship she won in 2004, running down fellow Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba to win the 5000-meter gold medal. Dibaba won the 10,000-meter championship last week and was seeking her second consecutive 5000-10,000 double. She led for the final few laps, with Defar close behind. Defar moved onto Dibaba's right shoulder on the final turn, then shot past her on the home straight to win in 15:04.25. Kenya's Vivian Cheruiyot also passed Dibaba to take the silver in 15:04.73, while Dibaba settled for the bronze in 15:05.15. Ethiopia and Kenya shared the top six spots.
Pole vault favorite Renaud Lavillenie of France led for most of today's final, but dropped to third in the late stages and was one jump away from finishing there when he cleared an Olympic record 5.97 meters (19 feet, 7 inches) to move back into fast and take the gold medal. Lavillenie was the only clean jumper through 5.85/19-2¼, but he missed his first attempt at 5.91/19-4½. Germans Bjorn Otto and Raphael Holzdeppe - who had two and four misses, respectively - cleared 5.91 on their first attempts to move in front. But neither could clear any further heights. Holzdeppe earned two personal bests in his bronze medal performance, while Otto took the silver.
Women's hammer throwing is still a fairly young Olympic sport, having first been contested in 2000. The Olympic record has been topped in each subsequent Olympics, and this year was no exception, as gold medalist Tatyana Lysenko of Russia beat the former mark four times in her six throws. Lysenko led from the first round and topped out at 78.18/256-6 in the fifth round. Poland's Anita Wlodarczyk fell as low as fourth and sat in third before throwing 77.60/254-7 on her last attempt to secure the silver medal. China's Zhang Wenxiu appeared to have the bronze medal, but an earlier problem measuring Betty Heidler's fifth-round throw was straightened out, giving the German a throw measuring 77.13/253-0 and putting her into third place.
Turkey's Asli Cakir surged from third to first on the back straight of the final lap to win the 1500 meters in 4:10.23, the slowest winning time in women's Olympic history. Another Turk, Gamze Bulut, moved from fourth to second on the front straight to take the silver in 4:10.40, with Maryam Jamal of Bahrain earning the bronze in 4:10.74. The unlucky American Morgan Uceny, who tripped over a fallen runner late in last year's World Championship final, appeared to be clipped from behind and was knocked to the track at the start of the final lap on Friday, leaving her no chance to contend with the leaders.
As expected, the men's 4 x 100-meter relay is shaping up as a U.S.-Jamaica battle. Jamaica won Friday's first heat in 37.39 seconds, running Nesta Carter, Michael Frater, Yohan Blake and Kemar Bailey-Cole. The U.S. then put up a national record 37.38 to win the second heat, with Jeffery Demps leading off, followed by Darvis Patton, Trell Kimmons and Justin Gatlin. Jamaica will, of course, plug Usain Bolt into the anchor leg to reunite the team that set the world record of 37.04 at the 2011 World Championships. The U.S. will add Tyson Gay, and may also insert Ryan Bailey, giving the Americans three 100-meter finalists.
Jamaica and the U.S. also led the way in the women's 4 x 400-meter relay heats. Jamaica won the first heat in 3:25.13, while the American quartet of Keisha Baker, Francena McCorory, Diamond Dixon and Deedee Trotter won the second race in 3:22.09. Both relay finals are set for Saturday.