In an already hot London morning, T&T 4x400 metres relay team made it even hotter when scorching the track at the Olympic Stadium, to win the first heat in 3:00.38, a new national record, yesterday at the Olympic Games in England. Some nine hours later, the 4x100m women’s team of Kelly-Ann Baptiste, Michelle Lee Ahye, Kai Selvon and Semoy Hacket, did the same, breaking the national record in a time of 42.31 and placing second in heat one, in the evening session, to also automatically qualify for today’ final at 3.40 pm (T&T time). The faces of Olympic bronze-medallist Lalonde Gordon, Ade Alleyne-Forte, Jarrin Solomon and Deon Lendore glowed with excitement after the accomplishment and the possibilities that exist in the final, set for today at 4.20 pm. Lendore ran a spectacular final lap, coming from third place with some 20 metres to go, to tie with Great Britain (3:00.38) for first place. “We had the right mindset to come in the top three. We went out there and everybody did the best that they could. We believed in each other and that helped us to come out with a new national record and first spot.” Not since the 1992 Barcelona Games has T&T had a 4x400m team qualify for an Olympic final.
The youngsters eclipsed the time of 3:01.05 achieved by Alvin Daniel, Neil De Silva, Patrick Delice and Ian Morris. Gordon, who gave the local team a strong start, had the day before, made a bold statement that he and his teammates will do well even in the absence of 400m specialist Renny Quow, who was forced out of the Games due to a hamstring injury. Yesterday he stayed firm in his belief that his unit can make it all the way to the podium. “We will get a medal, don’t worry,” said the always smiling Gordon. “I’m feeling great. I’m feeling that we will go a little faster tomorrow (today) because most of the guys haven’t run in weeks so after this first run their body wake up now so tomorrow we will go for a faster time.”  Solomon, son of Michael “Mike” Solomon, a former T&T athlete, who had specialised in both the 400m and 4x400m relay, and Ade Alleyne-Forte agreed with Gordon. Alleyne-Forte said, “I felt a little rusty in my first run in about a month but we got the job done and that is the important thing and we are happy about it.” Solomon added, “Like myself and Ade, it’s our first race in about month. We have been training hard but I had to blow the rust off but I was ready to run. We’re hungry for a medal. We saw Lalonde get a bronze medal and we all want a medal too. We’re going to go as fast as we can to get a gold medal.”
The second heat of the event was as intense as the first. USA and Bahamas were also given the same time: 2:58.87, in the second semi-final, to qualify with the quickest times overall. Cuba and Russia will join the top four automatic qualifiers in the final after they also hit qualification times in the heats. Any hopes of Usain Bolt appearing in the finale were squashed when Jamaica’s Jermaine Gonzales pulled up injured on the third leg. A South Africa team featuring Oscar Pistorius also failed to finish their heat after Ofentse Mogawane crashed out. As Pistorius waited to collect the baton from Mogawane on the third leg, he collided with Kenya's Vincent Kiilu and was sent sprawling to the track, a shoulder injury leaving him unable to continue. The Kenyan team was disqualified and the South Africans lodged an appeal which they won. The jury of appeal met and agreed to advance the South African team to the final, even though they did not finish the race considering that their chances had been severely damaged in the incident with Kenya. The women team bettered the previous record of 42.50 which was established last year at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. Lee Ahye ran the first leg, giving T&T a good start. She handed off to Baptiste, who stayed close to early leader Jeneba Tarmoh of the USA team.
The transition from Baptiste to Selvon was not the smoothest of handovers but the national 200m champion regained composure and had T&T in with a chance. By the time Hackett collected the baton, the Americans with Lauryn Williams, running the anchor leg, raced away to top the group with a season-best 41.64. Third was Netherlands in 42.45. The other finalists are Ukraine (42.36), Jamaica (42.37), Brazil (42.55), Germany (42.69) and Nigeria (42.74). Speaking on the behalf of the quartet, Baptiste said: “We’re happy. Hopefully we’ll get some great passes to put ourselves into contention to win a medal. That would be good. We did not have a good handover and still got a national record, it is a good thing." With two down and one to go, their male counterparts will be looking to follow suite when they line-up in the heats of the Men’s 4x100m relay event from 2.45 pm. The responsibility falls on Richard Thompson, Keston Bledman, Rondell Sorrillo, Marc Burns, Emmanuel Callender and Jamol James from which the final team will be picked. “I think we will do well in the 4x100m relay. The race that we put together in London shows that we are capable of running very fast because we ran 38.23 in the rain and in the cold. The conditions were poor and we were still able to put together a fast time without Bledman,” said Thompson, the double Olympic silver medallist. “With Bledman back in the mix it gives us a stronger chance of winning it all.”
By Rachael Thompson-King