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U.S. men have one final shot at gold in 1,600-meter relay

Vernon Norwood competes in a heat of the men's 1,600-meter relay.
Vernon Norwood competes in a heat of the men’s 1,600-meter relay on Friday at the Tokyo Olympics.
(Petr David Josek / Associated Press)

Randolph Ross was all smiles.

So were Trevor Stewart, Bryce Deadmon and Vernon Norwood.

All looked happy. Confident. And maybe just a little bit relieved.

The four men had just ensured that the U.S. men’s track team would get one last opportunity to win a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

That will happen Saturday in the 1,600-meter relay, the final competition event at Olympic Stadium.

The men’s team has earned silver medals. Paul Chelimo added another bronze Friday in the 5,000-meters. But American sprinters and middle- and long-distance runners are O for the Olympics when it comes to gold.

Mexico struggles to make an impact in any sport, with only four bronze Olympic medals so far. They’re on pace for their worst performance since 1996.

The U.S. men had lost one potential golden opportunity on Thursday. The 400-meter relay team failed to qualify for the final. The track world quaked.

Now they have a chance for at least one gold medal.

Ross said it was “an amazing feeling” to qualify for the final.

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“For a lot of us, this is our first team, all of this is a new experience, a big stage,” he said. “To come here and experience all of this for the first time and make the final is a great feeling.”

Ross said the team did not feel pressure.

“We don’t really focus on what’s in the future or the past,” he said. “Every day’s new, and we’re thankful for what we can do.”

This group’s job, however, is probably done. If tradition holds, bigger names could run in the final. Michael Norman, Rai Benjamin and Michael Cherry might be in play for an event that U.S. men have dominated.

The women’s 1,600 relay could feature an even bigger name — Allyson Felix.

By earning a bronze medal in the 400-meters, Felix is tied with Carl Lewis for most medals by an American track and field athlete. A relay victory on Saturday would put her over the top.

The U.S. women showed again on Friday that they know how to execute in relays.

The Jamaican 400-meter relay team featured two-time 100- and 200-meters gold medalist Elaine Thompson-Herah. It also included Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

Barring a major Jamaican error, they were not going to be beat. But the U.S. women made sure they were positioned in case.

The Jamaican team won in 41.02 seconds.

Javianne Oliver, Teahna Daniels, Jenna Prandini and Gabrielle Thomas finished in 41.45 and earned silver.

“We’re really excited to come out here and work hard together and come out with a medal,” Thomas said. “We knew it was going to come, we manifested it, we planned for it and were just really excited to get it for Team USA.”

Said Prandini: “We have some great chemistry and we’re really confident and comfortable with each other.”

The four women ran, seemingly, without pressure.

That won’t be the case for the U.S. men, whatever the lineup, on Saturday.


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