World champion Carmelita Jeter was at her fiery best and could not believe her eyes when she saw the time on the trackside timer, and kept pointing at it with the baton as she crossed the line, anchoring the US sprint relay team to a world record of 40.82 seconds at the Olympic Stadium on Friday.
Tianna Madison, Allyson Felix and Bianca Knight ran the first three legs, before Jeter romped home as the US bettered a long-standing world record.
Jamaica, with 100m champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce on anchor, bettered its national record with a time of 41.41s for the silver, but was never in a position to threaten the US once Jeter took off on the finishing straight.
Ukraine took the bronze with a national record of 42.04.
The earlier world record of 41.37 was set in Canberra, Australia, in 1985 by East Germany, and the Olympic record of 41.60 was set by GDR in 1980 in Moscow.
The US had failed to make the final at Beijing, bungling an exchange in the heats, and Jamaica — favourite to win, and possibly better the world record with all the medalists in the 100m — botched a baton-change in the final, leaving Russia to romp home.
On Friday, it was an explosive performance by the American women, who had messed it up in the Berlin world championships too. Their Olympic gold here was their first since Atlanta 1996.
Jeter was understandably thrilled with her role, and the way the whole team pulled together.
“We were having so much fun when we walked into the call room. I knew from that moment that we were going to run well. We were just so happy. We had great chemistry,” said Jeter.
“I did look at the clock at the end. When I crossed the finish line I just had so many emotions,” she said.
The 200m gold medallist Felix, who ran the second leg, was delighted. “It was an absolute unreal feeling. To look up and see we had a world record was just crazy. You just don’t think something like that would happen,” Felix said.
“I saw the huge lead we had going into the last leg and then when I saw the time at the finish I was confused for a second. I thought that is not a 100m relay time. Then I realised it… it is a beautiful thing,” she said.
Madison — an acclaimed long jumper, who ran the first leg — said there was so much confidence in each other and it had felt “great to walk out to the stadium and feel that atmosphere and electricity.”
The Jamaicans were gracious in defeat and thanked the American girls for bringing the spotlight on the women’s athletes in the Games so much dominated by Usain Bolt.
“We ladies are running in wonderful times. Everyone talks about Bolt, now we can talk about the ladies,” said Fraser-Pryce.
“We got the national record, so we should be thankful,” said Sherone Simpson.
“Our objective was to make sure we had smooth changes. I am happy with the performance tonight,” said Campbell-Brown, who was “happy and pleased” that America broke the world record.