LONDON – They didn't drop the baton.
That alone was a huge victory for the U.S. men's 4x100 relay team, which suffered a disqualification for that indignity in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
The group of Jeffery Demps, Darvis Patton, Trell Kimmons, and Justin Gatlin blazed to the fastest qualifying time of Friday's heats. The foursome clocked a time of 37.38 seconds, a new national record that topped Jamaica's 37.39.
That's just qualifying, though. The final is Saturday night, the last event of the athletics meet at Olympic Stadium. And while the time is impressive and beating the Jamaicans is notable, it doesn't mean much.
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Usian Bolt did not run in the qualifying heat for Jamaica, but he can – and will be put on the team – for the final. It's Jamaica that is the defending Olympic champion.
The U.S. will add Tyson Gay and Ryan Bailey, who finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in the 100-meter dash, in an effort to add its own blast of speed.
Jamaica remains the heavy favorite to win gold. Bolt has pointed to the event as the pinnacle of his Games, the final defense of three golds that he believes will make him an all-time Olympics legend.
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The Americans are the chief competition standing in the way. The U.S. has won 15 of the 22 4x100 relays held at the Games, although none since 2000 in Sydney. It may be the only nation with the depth of sprinters to give Bolt and Co. a race.
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