The USA made it a perfect three-for-three in the women’s 4x800m, convincingly fending off short-lived challenges by Belarus and Australia who finished second in the opening evening’s first final.

Their winning time of 8:16.36 was by far their slowest in the short history of the IAAF/BTC World Relays –indeed, that performance wouldn’t have been enough to reach the podium in 2014 or 2015– but what it lacked in speed it made up for with bits of drama. At least over most of the first three legs when the winner was far from clear.

Chanelle Price, the 2014 world indoor champion, led off the USA quartet for the third time at the World Relays, and as in her previous lead-off roles, launched her team to a narrow lead, this time with a 2:01.73 split.

But Australia came back, albeit briefly, courtesy of Abbey De la Motte who ran down Chrishuna Williams after their first lap, to eventually hand Zoe Buckman a narrow .72 lead.

Buckman held her ground for just over a lap until Laura Roesler, a finalist at the 2016 IAAF World Indoor Championships, glided by with 250 metres remaining in her leg. She eventually chiseled together what would be an insurmountable three-second lead before handing the baton to Charlene Lipsey.

By that point Australia had faded out of contention with Belarus, anchored by world champion Maryna Arzamasova, giving chase. The Belarusian made up some ground, but an overly-enthusiastic early injection of speed hurt her in the waning stages and a real threat never materialized.

As Lipsey crossed the finish unchallenged, Arzamasova did manage to hold off Australian anchor Heidi See to reach the line in 8:20.07 to secure a medal for Belarus in their maiden World Relays appearance.

“I knew we had a target on our backs and that the other teams wanted to take the crown from us,” said Price, who joined Nickel Ashmeade of Jamaica and Sanya Richards-Ross as a World Relays three-time gold medallist. “We also wanted to set the tone for the USA.”

Australia clocked 8:21.08 for third, well ahead of Poland, who were fourth in 8:24.71.

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF