RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Kerron Clement picked up Thursday where the United States left off the evening before at the Olympic Stadium — with more gold.
Even when things could have gone really bad for the U.S., with the women’s 4×100-meter relay team failing to get the baton around, there was a second chance at yet more hardware.
The defending Olympic champions successfully protested that Allyson Felix was bumped by a Brazilian runner in her handover and the Americans got another go at qualifying.
Running on their own hours later, in the same lane as their failed qualifying race and with the same team, the U.S. women held on to the baton this time and finished in 41.77 seconds to knock slowest-qualifier China out of the final.
Just to make sure, it was the second-fastest time of the year.
Highlighting how the U.S. team feeds off each other, Ashton Eaton briefly took time off his decathlon — which he was leading on near world-record pace — to congratulate Clement as his teammate lay exhausted in the midday sun after the 400-meter hurdles final.
“I felt somebody … I didn’t know who it was. I was on the ground, exhausted,” Clement said. “I’m sure when I get back to the village, I’ll thank him.”
With three full days of competition to come after Thursday, the United States has 20 medals in track and field, including 6 gold. In one burst Wednesday night, dubbed the “awesome hour” by long jumper Tianna Bartoletta, the U.S. team added six medals in around 60 minutes.
Hurdler Clement was so confident of a first Olympic individual gold, he had his mother, Claudette, bring a star-spangled banner from home.
“We had a flag at home and I told her to bring the flag. I knew I was going to win,” Clement said.
However tough his task was, it was made easier when Javier Culson, the 2012 Olympic bronze medalist from Puerto Rico, was disqualified for a false-start.
Clement has been decorated enough, with two world championship gold medals, but the Olympic title had eluded him. Now he has gold, yet another one for the buoyant U.S. team, to go with his 400 silver and 4×400 relay gold from the 2008 Beijing Games.
Boniface Mucheru Tumuti of Kenya took silver, 0.05 behind, and Cuban-born Yasmani Copello of Turkey, the European champion, won bronze in 47.92. Four of the finishers produced national-record times, including Tumuti and Copello.
Eaton is expected to deliver more gold for the United States when the decathlon wraps up with javelin and 1,500 in the night session.
The pole vault provided some high anxiety as Olympic and world champion Eaton twice went to the third and last attempt at lower heights before he came through with 5.20 meters. It made for a score of 7,370 points with two events to go, just off his world record pace.
Kevin Mayer of France jumped a personal best of 5.40 to hold Eaton’s lead to 124 points. Damian Warner of Canada was in third place with 7,102.
Without needing Usain Bolt, Jamaica’s relay team did its bit to help the superstar’s quest for an historic triple-triple at the Olympics. With Bolt focusing on the 200 final — part 2 of 3 for him — the Jamaicans qualified for the 4×100 final behind heat-winner Japan. It shows that the team might have to rely more than ever on the speed of their superstar.
Veteran Asafa Powell just wanted to make sure that the Jamaicans didn’t do anything stupid and Bolt got the chance to run in the final on Friday in what could be the final Olympic act of one of the greatest Olympians ever.
“I was a lot more concerned about the start and getting the baton around. I mean, these guys, they’re pretty excited,” Powell said. “That’s what gave me a bit of comfort, that they really wanted it so bad. There was some pressure to make it to the finals.”
First, though, Bolt’s target is securing the sprint double, with his favorite event, the 200, Thursday’s highlight.
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