The US’ 28-year domination of the men’s Olympic 4x400m relay ended in thrilling fashion on Friday when the Bahamas overhauled them to snatch gold in a pulsating final leg.
Chris Brown, Demetrius Pinder, Michael Mathieu and Ramon Miller sped home in a Bahaman record time of 2 minutes, 56.72 seconds, Miller passing the US’ Angelo Taylor to huge roars from the crowd with just 50m left.
“Miller had a phenomenal leg. I really feel bad for these guys [teammates]. I really didn’t hold up the tradition,” Taylor, who had been handed a lead of a couple of meters going into the last leg, told reporters. “I felt pretty good for 300 [meters], then I tried to hit it and I just didn’t have it.”
Bryshon Nellum, Joshua Mance, Tony McQuay and Taylor claimed silver for the US with a season’s best time of 2:57.05, ending a run of seven successive golds in the event.
It was the Bahamas’ first gold in men’s track and field.
“No matter how small an axe, you can always bring down a big tree. We are a little axe and America is a giant tree, but we have done it,” the Bahamas’ Brown said.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Lalonde Gordon, Jarrin Solomon, Ade Alleyne-Forte and Deon Lendore won bronze, with hosts Britain just outside the medals in fourth after poor changeovers left them with too much to do.
South Africa, who had double-amputee Oscar Pistorius running the fourth leg of the race, finished eighth, having got to the final on appeal after a collision caused by Kenya’s Vincent Mumo Kiilu ended their qualifying heat.
Kenya’s disqualification also robbed the final of the planned appearance of David Rudisha, who sprinted to 800m gold in a new world-record time of 1:40.91 on Thursday.
The last time the US lost on the track in the Olympic event was in Helsinki in 1952, where they finished behind Jamaica.
They did not win in 1972 because they withdrew from the competition, or in 1980 when they boycotted the Moscow Games.
The US took gold in 2000 in Sydney, but victory was eventually awarded to Nigeria after one of the US sprinters in the race, Antonio Pettigrew, admitted to doping offences.
The US had beaten the Bahamas in Beijing in 2008 to take gold in an Olympic record time of 2:55.39 — the second fastest performance ever — but were much weaker in London and had already been edged out by the Bahamas in the heats.
The US’ 2008 Olympic 400m champion LaShawn Merritt, a first-choice relay option, injured his hamstring moments into his title defense on Saturday and pulled out of the Games, while Manteo Mitchell suffered a broken leg during the relay heats.
Double US relay gold medalist Jeremy Wariner was also unfit to run in London.
The US still remained favorites for gold and their chances looked to have been bolstered on Thursday when medal contenders Jamaica crashed out in qualifying, after Jermaine Gonzales pulled up injured and ended their race.
The world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, had said there was a slim chance he might have run the final if Jamaica had got there.