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."
Felix collected her second gold of the London Games, along with the one she won in the 200 meters, while Jeter completed a set, adding to her silver in the 100 and bronze in the 200.
"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."
The American quartet erased the old mark of 41.37 run by East Germany in October 1985. Here's how long ago that was: Jeter was 5, Madison was a month old, and Felix and Knight weren't even born.
"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.
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." -- (AP)
The Penn Relays offer a number of special events for track and field fans. The one just about everybody looks forward to each year is USA vs. The World. The 14th edition of USA vs. The World will take place on Saturday, April 27 at Franklin Field in what should be one of the most exciting relay races of the day. This event also kicks off the 2013 Outdoor USTAF Championship Series.
Team USA captured the USA vs. The World relays for the first time in history last year and will be defending against a talented international field. More than 15 countries will compete, with relays contested in the 4x100, 4x400, women’s 4x800 and the men’s distance medley relay.
The relays set the table for the USTAF Championship Series, which includes the Adidas Grand Prix (May 25), Nike Prefontaine Classic (June 1) and the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships (June 19-23). USA vs. The World will be broadcast live on NBC (Channel 10) on Saturday, April 27 from 1 to 3 p.m. An additional two hours of track and field coverage will be televised that same day on Universal Sports from 3 to 5 p.m.
NOTES: Prior to shattering the record books in the London Olympics, the quartet of Tianna (née Madison) Bartoletta, Allyson Felix, Bianca Knight and Carmelita Jeter ran to the win at last year’s USA vs. The World clash. With a world record to added to their accomplishments, all four women will return to Franklin Field as the U.S. looks to defend its crown.
Determination brought Manteo Mitchell to finish his leg of the men’s 4x400-meter prelim in London despite breaking his leg mid-lap. That same determination carried Mitchell through the recovery and rehabilitation process to get him back on the track. When Mitchell receives the baton on Team USA’s 4x400-meter relay team, it will be his first relay since that day in London.
Team USA will have to put up a tough fight with a list of international all-stars and Olympic medalists descending on Franklin Field. World and Olympic champion Kirani James will be the key performer to watch on the Caribbean All-Stars 4x400 meter relay team along with two-time Olympic champion Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic. The women’s top athlete will be two-time Olympic 100-meter champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce on the Jamaican team in the big USA vs. Jamaica rivalry.