BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Now that they’ve got the baton thing down, the American sprinters can start brushing up on celebrations.
Noah Lyles and Sha’Carri Richardson anchored their 4x100 teams to victories Saturday, giving the U.S. its first sweep of the short relays at world championships since 2007 and a boost of confidence heading into next year's Olympics.
Lyles finished 3 for 3 at these championships — with wins in the 100, the 200 and the 4x100. He lifted three fingers and shouted “Three!” as he crossed the line to remind the world of what he'd done, which was to become the first man to complete that triple at worlds since Usain Bolt in 2015.
Richardson’s celebration was a little different. With the men on the track watching and Richardson still putting on the brakes after she crossed the line, an over-the-moon Christian Coleman came out to celebrate with a hug ... or a high-five ... or something. They collided, spun around and went tumbling to the ground.
But Richardson popped right back up. No damage was done, and it will go down as one of many sweet memories on a night that was full of them.
“I didn't know she was going to jump like that. I guess I was supposed to catch her. But I don't know. It's all good,” said Coleman, who, along with Lyles, was on the last men's team to win the relay, at world championships in 2019.
It didn't have to be perfect, but maybe that was the point in a race where the Americans had the deepest, fastest lineups. The final exchange in the men's race, between Brandon Carnes and Lyles, ended with Carnes using two hands to shove the baton into the American champion's hands as he accelerated.
Lyles got the baton in time and kept going.
He started the anchor leg with a one-step lead on a Jamaican — in days past, a sign of bad things to come. But the best closer in the game right now is no longer Bolt, who retired in 2017. It's Lyles. He put Jamaican Rohan Watson in his rearview mirror to wrap up a run of 37.38 seconds, good for a .24 win over Italy and a .38 margin over Watson and Co.
“I'm not turning around,” Lyles said when asked if he thought about looking back to see what was going on with the exchange. “We did what we came to do. We got the job done, regardless of the situation.”
It hasn't always been that way.
Sometimes because of the pressure Bolt applied, and sometimes simply because of their own bad habits, the U.S. has struggled in this race, even when it has brought the deepest team.
The baton exchanges have cost the men wins in seven worlds and five Olympics since 1995. The women have had their share of trouble, too. As if to drive home that point once more, it was the women’s 4x400 team that ran into problems about an hour before the 4x100 runners took to the track.
Quanera Hayes and Alexis Holmes passed outside the lane in qualifying of the longer race, where the exchange isn’t even supposed to be hard, and the U.S. was DQ’d.
All that felt like ancient history by the time Richardson grabbed the baton from 200 silver medalist Gabby Thomas, took off and outran Jamaican 200 gold medalist Shericka Jackson to the finish line. It didn’t hurt that Thomas handed it to Richardson with about a two-step lead that the American held throughout the final leg.
The U.S. women finished in 41.03 — .18 ahead of Jamaica — with Britain finishing third. Richardson will leave Budapest with her two golds, plus a bronze in the 200. Any tensions that lingered from a much-discussed recent U.S. training camp felt like water under the bridge.
“No matter what we put out there, we knew what we needed to do, and we all had a common goal and we did it,” Richardson said.
In individual action on the second-to-last day at the meet, the world’s best pole vaulter, Armand Duplantis, cleared 6.10 meters (20 feet) to win his second straight gold medal at worlds. With the win sealed, he tried to break his own record, but couldn't clear 6.23. This still marked the 50th time he’s gone over 6 meters in competition.
Faith Kipyegon completed the 1,500-5,000 double by running the longer race in a leisurely 14 minutes, 53.88 seconds. That was more than 48 seconds off the world record she set earlier this year but still .23 seconds ahead of her friend, Sifan Hassan.
Hassan adds this silver to a bronze she won in the 1,500 and an 11th place finish in the 10,000 after she tripped and fell near the finish line on opening night.
In the decathlon, Pierce Lepage outlasted Damian Warner in a 1-2 finish for Canada. In the men's 800, Marco Apop brought another gold to Canada.
In women's shot put, American Chase Ealey won her second straight world title.
The U.S. closed the night with 27 medals — 11 of them gold — and one day of competition left. Some might argue none of those medals were sweeter than the two from a pair of relay races the Americans have always loved but that have not always loved them back.
“It's my first gold medal, I’m really excited and we made it work,” Thomas said. “We’ve worked together and we got it done and I’m just so happy that we did that.”
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