The women’s 400m semi-finals were controversially placed with a bizarre piece of scheduling between the individual 400m semi-finals and final.
This meant no nation could risk their 400m finalists, which isn’t a problem for USA or Jamaica, but it did present a problem for Britain with the trials winner Jodie Williams not available. It also meant some other semi-finalists were fatigued and had to be rested.
Britain’s cause was further complicated by some strange seeding which saw them up against the two teams who beat them in Rio [USA and Jamaica obviously] as well as the strong Dutch squad who won the European indoor title and had Femke Bol on anchor.
Ultimately USA won the event in a world-leading 3:20.86 with a team of Kaylin Whitney [50.7], Wadeline Jonathas [49.6], Kendall Ellis [50.06] and Lynna Irby [50.34]. They could easily a much, much faster totally different quartet in the final.
Jamaica also have a much faster squad in reserve but some will undoubtedly be retained as they were a clear second in 3:21.95 with a quartet of Junelle Bromfield [51.0], Roneisha McGregor [49.8], Janieve Russell [49.52] and Stacey Ann Williams [3:21.95].
In the two likely final top two’s wake there was a superb battle for third.
Emily Diamond [51.5] gave Britain a good start and there were equally strong runs from Zoey Clark [50.9] and Laviai Nielsen [50.92] but they set off in fourth place behind Canada with Netherlands’ Bol just over a second back at the last change-over.
Nicole Yeargin, who had been disqualified from the individual event for a lane infringement, made no mistake here and using her great experience from NCAA competition this year made a late kick past the Canadian and barely held off Netherlands and Ukraine.
Yeargin’s leg was 50.59 and Britain ran a season’s best 3:23.99 – two seconds faster than they ran in Rio – and they have Williams to come although who she replaces is a tough task for the relay coach with a fresh semi-finalist Ami Pipi also in the selection mix.
Bol ran a 49.14 to close – easily the quickest of the race – but fell short of automatic qualifying although the Dutch record of 3:24.01 gained a fastest losers’ spot, as did Canada’s 3:24.05 with Ukraine [3:24.50] just missing out.
The earlier heat had been won by mixed relay champions Poland in a fast 3:23.10 as they used a near full-strength team of Anna Kielbasinska [51.0], Iga Baumgartl-Witan [50.2], Malgorzata Holub-Kowalik [50.43] and Justyna Swiety-Ersetic [an eased back 51.42] and they are bound to challenge for their first ever Olympic women’s 4x400m medal.
Thanks to a good anchor by Lisneidy Veitia, who moved from fifth to second in the straight with a 50.13 leg, Cuba ran 3:24.04 just ahead of Belgium’s national record 3:24.08 as Germany [3:24.77] and France [3:25.07] were not quite quick enough to nab a fastest losers’ spot.
Source: Steve Smythe