Throwback Thursday: When Allyson Felix helped the USA smash the world relay record

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Allyson Felix after winning 4x400m gold at London 2012. Picture: Citizen59 via Flickr.

For most people, celebrating an 18th birthday might involve buying their first alcoholic drink or maybe getting their first car.

However, these probably weren’t at the forefront of the mind of American track and field legend Allyson Felix. Drinks and cars paled into insignificance for an 18-year-old who was top of the world 200m rankings and heading for the Olympics.

Back then, anything was possible for Felix, with the IAAF describing her as “one of the brightest talents of US sprinting”, leaving her looking set for great things.

Now, as she celebrates her 33rd birthday, the former young prodigy now stands as one of the sport’s most decorated athletes, with her 9 Olympic medals and 16 world medals turning her into the “undisputed queen of the track”.

All of her four Olympic campaigns have seen her walk away with a medal, with the number still likely to increase in 2020 when she plans to bow out.

Her time competing the Olympics has of course held many great moments, with Felix competing all the way across 100m to the 4x400m relays.

However, it was the London 2012 4x100m relays that produced arguably her and certainly one of the USA’s greatest ever moments at the games, when the team of Felix, Tianna Madison, Bianca Knight and Carmelita Jeter ran an unbelievable 40.82 world record that obliterated all that had come before it.

By that time, a 26-year-old Felix was arguably at her peak. London 2012 had already seen her clinch 200m gold, as well as finishing 5th in the 100m.

But the 4x100m relays presented the USA with a chance to overcome some old Olympic demons. At the previous games, two disastrous events for both the women’s and men’s teams saw some of the world’s fastest runners crash out of the event early on, both dropping the baton during the race to end up disqualified and leaving with nothing.

With the women then making the same mistake at the subsequent 2009 World Championships, the sprinting titans were facing a quick battle to finally reclaim their place as one of the world’s dominant relay forces.

There was therefore a lot of pressure on Felix’s shoulders when she entered the team as part of their 4x100m team at the 2011 World Championships, with Felix herself again aiming for a quadruple of medals across the sprinting events.

Despite the hectic schedule, the US team that they were still strong, fighting off their Jamaican rivals to clinch gold; their first since 2007, which Felix was also involved in.

Of course the Olympics were a different matter altogether – where athletics took centre stage above other sports – where all across the globe watched with bated breath.

The Jamaicans were still a huge threat to the USA, with both teams evenly matched in terms of individual ability. However, as a team, the USA showed different class altogether. With Madison on the first leg, there was almost no choosing between her and Jamaica’s Fraser-Pryce in a close early battle.

However, once the baton was handed over to Felix in the second leg, the 200m champion glided down the back straight, opening up a large gap on the Jamaicans and leaving her team-mates Knight and Jeter primed for gold.

A near perfect changeover from Knight to Jeter saw the 100m silver medallist power on down the home straight to a dominant victory. But as she crossed the line, it got even better, as Jeter looked at the clock before pointing at it in triumph as she began to revel in her county’s all new world record.

Not only had they produced the fastest time ever, they absolutely annihilated the previous record. Their 40.82 time was over half a second quicker than the old mark, set before any of the team were even born.

Four years after their Beijing disappointment, the USA were in a completely new dimension, with a performance that has never been touched since.

For Felix, there was still time after to also grab another gold in the 4x400m relay, underlying her claim as the undisputed sprint queen. Now as she gears up for her final swansong at Tokyo 2020, the world record breaker isn’t quite the dominant force she was back then.

But, when looking back on her past achievements, she can stand tall as quite possibly the greatest female sprinter the world has ever seen.


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First published on: 15 November, 2018 1:06 pm