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As The Ja.-US Women’s Sprint Relay Battle Continues…

Track and field camps have begun their preparation for both amateurs and those in the professional ranks, as the 2013 season comes into focus. But amidst this forward thinking remains the issue of the 2012 Olympic women’s 4x100m final.

There is an argument, perhaps triggered by the BBC commentator’s description of the race, that American Tianna Madison outran two-time Jamaican Olympic Champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce on the starting leg. Well, not true at all. What seemed like a lead by Madison was just an illusion based on the changes by both teams, and how Madison gained on the runner to her right.

As I have always said, if the baton is not changed within certain confines, such as close to the top of the exchange zone or after the middle, runners will lose the advantage of momentum. Both incoming and outgoing runner must have an unspoken connection which can only occur through constant practice.

Watch the Video

To address whether Madison outran Fraser-Pryce, here goes: from my observation, Fraser-Pryce led Madison. Take a look at the Youtube video clip which, when closely examined, shows why the Jamaican women lost the race. The point at 3:40 seconds in the video clip shows that Fraser-Pryce gained an advantage over Madison. At 3:42, she is ahead of Madison and ready to hand over. We can see her foot at the exchange zone. By 3:43, Fraser-Pryce is slowing down and is now beside teammate Sherone Simpson, who did not get out at the right time. Had Simpson moved off faster or earlier, Fraser-Pryce would be even further ahead, and so Jamaica would have been clearly leading after the first exchange.

Logic states that Fraser-Pryce, a brilliant starter and seasoned repeat Olympic Champion who had just won gold, should not be outpaced on a lead-off relay leg by Madison, a fourth place finalist. Something would have had to have gone terribly wrong.

On the second exchange, at 3:53 in the video, the change is again made early. However, American Allyson Felix had established a lead on Simpson, which Veronica Campbell-Brown (VCB) closed on the third leg. That gap was, however, too great to overcome. At the third exchange the pass is early in the zone, where VCB runs up on Kerron Stewart (5:04). The deficit by then cannot be placed at the feet of Fraser-Pryce.

Setting up The Duel

If positioned differently, Jamaica could have had the lead at the third exchange, therefore setting up an exciting duel to the line with America’s Carmelita Jeter. Had Jamaica owned a substantial lead at that point, it would be hardly likely that Jeter would have been able to overhaul Stewart, who had just about 90 meters to get home.

Charged with the responsibility of setting up the running order for the team, I would have placed VCB, on the second leg against Felix to open a lead, and pass to Simpson on the third leg because Simpson is more aggressive on the turn than she is on the straightaway. A review of the women’s 200m final in which she ran a terrific bend then faded, clearly demonstrates this.

Perhaps the biggest issue to be addressed going forward is the question of practice, practice and more practice, to figure out the best running order. This is something Jamaica could learn from the US. I remember being at a Penn Relays press conference last year when the question was posed to the US female sprinters: “What are you going to do about the baton passes?” In response, Jeter stated clearly: “We are going to run more races together every chance we get…” Brilliant plan, indeed, I thought. Although they weren’t perfect on the day they ran the Olympic final, they were more efficient than their competition, simply because of their running order.

So, congrats to the US team for winning and breaking the world record and to the Jamaican team for lowering their national record. The Jamaica-US battle continues next year at the World Championships in Russia.

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