U.S. men's track team makes good with final chance at Olympic gold in 4x400

TOKYO — It took until the last day and the last race of the meet, but the U.S. men got a gold medal on the track, winning the 4x400 meter relay.

The team of Michael Cherry, Michael Norman, Bryce Deadmon and Rai Benjamin posted a time of 2:55.70, just off the Olympic record of 2:55.39 set by the U.S. at the 2008 Olympics.

"It's really great; it's an indescribable feeling. It's something we put in years of hard work for and we're finally seeing — everything that we put in is coming to fruition," Deadmon said of winning.

The Netherlands won silver in 2:57.18, and Botswana won bronze in 2:57.27. It was the first time both nations had medaled in the event, and the only athletics medal for Botswana in Tokyo.

The first of the two golds earned by an American man here was in field, where shot putter Ryan Crouser put together the greatest six-throw series in Olympic history to win on Thursday.

TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 07:  (L-R) Michael Norman, Michael Cherry, Bryce Deadmon and Rai Benjamin of Team United States celebrate after winning the gold medal in the Men's 4 x 400m Relay Final on day fifteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 07, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 07: (L-R) Michael Norman, Michael Cherry, Bryce Deadmon and Rai Benjamin of Team United States celebrate after winning the gold medal in the Men's 4 x 400m Relay Final on day fifteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 07, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

"It's been a long championship, very emotional for all of us here in all honesty," said Benjamin, who earlier won silver in the 400 hurdles, in one of this greatest races of this or any Olympics. "Track and field, this sport is really unforgiving, and it's just amazing to come out here and win a gold medal considering, you know, what the banter was back home, especially given our team is young, and a lot of people don't understand that.

"They're just used to seeing USA going out, winning gold, but they don't understand that we're in a transition period."

The U.S. won 26 total track and field medals at these Olympics, 15 by the women, 10 by the men, and one from the mixed relay, which made its debut this year; it won 32 in Rio in 2016, and that count was an even split between the men and women.

Benjamin's comments about the youth of the American track and field team and many members coming to Tokyo off a long NCAA season were curious. In a different answer, he acknowledged that some American males expected to win gold won silver or bronze, and others expected to medal didn't.

Everyone's interpretation of young is different, but 17-year-old 200-meter runner Erryion Knighton finished fourth in his event, and 19-year-old Athing Mu won two golds, in the women's 800m and 4x400m relay — and Mu did run a full outdoor track season at Texas A&M. Benjamin celebrated his 24th birthday in Tokyo, hasn't run for an NCAA team in three years and has major international experience, having won a silver in the long hurdles and gold in the 4x400 relay at the last World Championships in 2019.

Best of Tokyo 2020 Day 16 slideshow embed
Best of Tokyo 2020 Day 16 slideshow embed

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