clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Matthew Centrowitz and Phyllis Francis Win Gold in Final Day on Track

Centrowitz took home the 1,500 crown while Francis was part of the 4x400 relay.

Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

The last two days of the Rio Olympics had produced two gold medals on the track for former Ducks, and no one seemed to have any interest in ending that streak. Matthew Centrowitz and Phyllis Francis were part of history, each in their own way, in winning gold medals Saturday.

Centrowitz won the men's 1,500 race, becoming the first American to do so since 1908. The World Indoor Champion led virtually from start to finish, and was able to hold off a late push from Algeria's Taoufik Makhloufi, who Centrowitz (3:50) had to edge at the line. Makhloufi took silver by only a tenth (3:50.11). Nick Willis of New Zealand took the bronze. Centrowitz didn't let the slow pace phase him, as he stayed the course and ran a 50.6 split for his last lap. The gold medal time of 3:50 was one of the slower in recent Olympic history, and Centrowitz' fourth place time (3:35.17) in the London Games would've won handily. Centrowitz admitted to expecting more of a challenge down the homestretch, but clearly he was the best conditioned runner tonight.

After the race, Centrowitz was awestruck by what he had just accomplished. The gold medalist gasped before dropping to his knees, in what was surely a mix of exhaustion and shock. His post-race interview allowed him to see his family's reaction to his win, which he soaked up, commenting on how his dad "looked like a kid".

The fun didn't end there, however, as the women's 4x400 relay would be the second team in as many days to win a gold medal featuring a former Duck. Friday it was English Gardner as a member of the 4x100 relay, Saturday it was Phyllis Francis' turn. Francis was joined by Courtney Okolo, Natasha Hastings, and Allyson Felix.

Much like the 4x100 squad, the Americans' only real challenger proved to be Jamaica. Lead leg Courtney Okolo came down the homestretch to overtake Great Britain and Jamaica and gave Natasha Hastings a lead that wouldn't be relinquished. The Jamaicans would give chase and pulled even on Phyllis Francis' leg before handing off to Allyson Felix to seal the deal. Felix had a slight lead down the backstretch and pulled away down the homestretch, proving historical on multiple fronts. The win not only gave American women the 4x400 gold for the sixth straight Olympics, it also gave Felix her sixth gold medal. No one finished within a second of the U.S. (3:19.05), as the Jamaicans finished in 3:20.34. Great Britain took bronze.

Although some Ducks will be going home without hardware, the Rio Olympics were kind to many. Four Oregon alums will go home with gold, along with a bronze for Brianne Thiesen-Eaton.