English Gardner and her 4x100 teammates had an interesting journey to the gold medal in the relay race. Initially, it seemed as though they may not even get to run in the finals. That was after second leg and 200 meter silver medalist Allyson Felix was bumped on her exchange to Gardner. The U.S. wisely picked up the baton that was dropped amidst the chaos and finished the race, knowing it would help their appeal. The appeal was approved, as it was clear that a Brazilian runner had made contact with Felix as a result of not staying in her lane. All would be settled, and the U.S. would get to run in their own heat. The quartet made the most of their second chance, posting a 41.77, the best time overall and securing a spot in the final.
They didn't miss a beat tonight either. Running in lane 1 was not something the reigning world champions would've had in mind, but it didn't matter. Their exchanges were clean throughout, and Gardner ran her heart out to ensure anchor leg Tori Bowie had enough space to fend off any advances from Jamaican anchor Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. Bowie is a burner in her own right, as she took bronze in the 200. But you can never be sure with a team that boasts the last three gold medal winners in the 100. Gardner gave the anchor a sizable lead, although Fraser-Pryce picked up ground on Bowie. The lead proved insurmountable however, as Bowie flew down the homestretch to a second straight 4x100 gold medal.
The women won in 41.01, the second-fastest time ever and still beat their only real competition (the Jamaicans) by a sizeable track margin, as they took the silver in 41.36. Great Britain claimed the bronze (41.77). For Gardner, the gold avenges a 100 final in which she placed seventh, after winning the U.S. Olympic Trials. Then the disappointment of a DQ, or at least what appeared to be a prelim exit, came and went, and now Gardner can bring another gold back on U.S. soil for the Oregon faithful. Her gold as part of the relay is the second in as many nights for Ducks, as Ashton Eaton emphatically repeated as decathlon gold medalist Thursday. While the gold was Gardner's first, it marked a milestone for teammate and second leg Allyson Felix. Felix's gold was her fifth, which made her the most decorated female track & field athlete. She's likely pondering how it's not six, given that she was set to win Olympic gold in the 200 before the Bahamas' Shaunae Miller edged her with a dive at the tape.
Ducks aren't done competing on the track just yet. Phyllis Francis anchored the women's other relay team, the 4x400, to a spot in the final. Team USA's 3:21.42 was the fastest of the prelims.