BUDAPEST - The United States emphatically won their ninth world men’s 4x400 gold from the last 10 finals on Sunday but the absence of their women’s team allowed the Netherlands to take gold after one of the performances of the week by anchor Femke Bol.
Bol began the championships by inexplicably falling metres short of the line as she battled for gold in the 4x400 mixed relay but, after recovering to win the 400m hurdles, she ended it with an extraordinary burst down that same home straight. With the ever-dominant U.S. women absent after their semi-final disqualification, Sunday’s race looked open but gold looked out of the question for the Dutch after three laps.
Bol collected the baton in third place, almost 20 metres adrift of leaders Jamaica and 10 behind Britain and was still well back going into the final straight. She overhauled Britain’s Nicole Yeargin and though first place still looked impossible with only 20 metres to go, she somehow dragged herself up to and beyond Jamaica’s Stacey Ann Williams on the line.
The Dutch clocked 3:20.72, Jamaica’s second successive silver came in 3:20.88, with Britain taking bronze in 3.21.04. “The first three legs went so well, I felt like I had to finish as strongly as I could,” said Bol. “I wanted to stay patient, but in the last metres I said ‘no, we have to take it’.
“It was one of my most important runs ever but it is the first time we are world champions so it applies for all of us. Every tenth and hundredth of a second was needed. We had good exchanges and still barely won it.” Third leg Cathelijn Peeters spoke for most of the captivated crowd when she said: “To be honest I was already happy with a bronze, then I realised we might win a silver and was shocked at the end with the gold.”
The U.S. men, who have won four of the last five Olympic golds as well as their worlds domination, were always in control of their race and came home well clear in 2:57.31. Quincy Hall and Vernon Norwood built an early lead before Justin Robinson, who also got a gold in the mixed relay, stretched it to give anchor Rai Benjamin a virtual lap of honour.
That made four out of five relay golds following their double sprint success on Saturday and mixed 4x400 on opening night. It also left them away and clear at the top of the medal table with 12 golds and 29 medals in all. Canada and Spain were next on the podium with four golds each. France took a surprise silver as a national record 2:58.45 gave them their first medal of the championships. Britain took bronze in 2:58.71, holding off back-to-back silver medallists Jamaica