US women win relays in upset, while men flounder again

Sports

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — The U.S. women pulled a shocking upset over Jamaica in the 4×100 relay at world championships Saturday, while the men finished second after a sloppy baton exchange that has become a ritual for that star-crossed team.

Andre De Grasse beat Marvin Bracy to the line by .07 seconds to lift Canada to the victory in the men’s race in 37.48 seconds.

Bracy fell behind in the anchor leg after twice reaching back and whiffing on the exchange from Elijah Hall, who went tumbling to the ground after he finally got the stick into his teammate’s hand.

The U.S. women, a clear underdog to a Jamaican team that had won all but one of the six sprint medals at this meet, pulled the upset when Twanisha Terry held off 200 gold medalist Shericka Jackson for a .04-second victory.

The American team, which also included Melissa Jefferson, Abby Steiner and Jenna Prandini, finished in 41.14.

Jamaica’s fate might have been sealed on a messy first pass between Kemba Nelson and Elaine Thompson-Herah. With Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce running the third leg, Jamaica came into this with all three members of the team that swept the 100 meters last weekend and both members of the 1-2 finish in the 200. The U.S. had taken all six medals in the men’s 100 and 200.

The relays proved, yet again, that pure speed is not all that matters in these races.

Though the U.S. men will walk away with a medal this time — they’d been shut out in six of the last 13 worlds and three of the last four Olympics — this can’t be framed as anything but an unsatisfactory result.

De Grasse, the Olympic champion at 200 meters, could barely walk up his stairs four weeks ago while recovering from COVID-19. He didn’t make it through 100-meter heats last weekend and pulled out of the 200 altogether.

He won the gold medal with a team that also included Aaron Brown, who finished seventh in the 200 and eighth in the 100; Jerome Blake, who didn’t make the final in either; and Brendon Rodney, who was part of Canada’s relay pool.

Meanwhile, the U.S., apparently buoyed by a solid race in prelims the day earlier, put out the same lineup and left a bunch of its medalists from earlier in the week — Trayvon Bromell, Erriyon Knighton, Kenny Bednarek and the injured Fred Kerley — on the bench.

Hall stayed on. His resume: A fifth-place finish in the 100 at nationals last month, but also an NCAA relay title in 2018 at University of Houston, where the legend, Carl Lewis, who is also a constant critic of the U.S. relay process, has been coaching for years.

One thought for the men: Take a page out of the book being written by the women’s relay coach, Mechelle Lewis Freeman.

Her team consisted of the eighth-place finisher in the 100 (Jefferson), the fifth-place finisher in the 200 (Steiner) and two others (Prandini and Terry) who didn’t make it out of their semis.

The initial pass between Jefferson and Steiner might not have been amazingly smooth, but neither was Jamaica’s.

Terry took the stick for the anchor leg with about a four-step lead over Jackson, who, two nights earlier, had run the second-fastest time ever in the 200 (21.45).

The Jamaican closed, and closed some more, but when Terry leaned into the line she had America’s first win at worlds in this race since 2017, when Fraser-Pryce was out after having her baby.

Other winners Saturday included Emmanuel Kipkurui Korir of Kenya in the men’s 800, Gudaf Tsegay of Ethiopia in the women’s 5000, Anderson Peters of Grenada in men’s javelin and Pedro Pichardo of Portugal, who backed up his Olympic title with a world title in men’s triple jump.

The evening also featured a (final?) curtain call for Allyson Felix, who was lured back to the worlds stage to run the prelims in the 4×400 women’s race.

It sets up Felix to win her 20th world championship medal, and her 14th gold after Sunday’s final. The U.S. has won the 4×400 at seven of the past nine worlds.

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