The 4x100 meter relay is one of the most thrilling events in track and field, but because it requires precision for blind baton handoffs, you never quite know how races will shake out.
It was no different on Saturday night in Eugene, Oregon.
The men's and women's 4x100 medal races were held at the World Athletics Championships, and neither favorite won gold, instead taking silver.
In the women's race, the United States earned a surprise win, with Twanisha "TeeTee" Terry holding off Jamaica's Shericka Jackson down the final straightaway for a title-winning time of 41.14 seconds, the third-fastest ever.
The American quartet of Melissa Jefferson, Abby Steiner, Jenna Prandini and Terry featured three exceedingly young stars in Jefferson (21 years old), Steiner (22) and Terry (23), with the veteran Prandini, whose leg on the second turn and handoff to Terry were effectively flawless, setting her teammate up brilliantly for the anchor leg.
It was the eighth Worlds gold in the sprint relay for the American women.
Jamaica, which swept the medals in the 100 meters and won gold and silver in the 200, was certainly considered the favorite in the race, but a shaky first exchange from Kemba Nelson to Elaine Thompson-Herah meant Thompson-Herah had to slow down a bit to make sure they competed their handoff within the zone and were not disqualified.
Jackson, who won 200 meters gold earlier this week, certainly closed the gap on Terry but couldn't ultimately overtake her before the line. Jamaica's time was 41.18, while Germany won bronze in 42.03 seconds and was clearly thrilled to have medaled.
Men's relay settles for disappointing 2nd
In the men's race, the U.S. were favored. They had swept the 100 and 200, and even without 100 gold medal winner Fred Kerley available after he suffered an injury in the 200 final, the Americans put a strong team on the track. And even better, they kept the same quartet and order from the qualifying round to the final, presumably meaning there was a measure of familiarity and that the chances of a major mistake were minimized.
But it was not to be. Christian Coleman led off, but his handoff to 200 champion Noah Lyles was imperfect. Third leg runer Elijah Hall did his job, and anchor Marvin Bracy had a lead.
But Canada's Andre DeGrasse, the Tokyo Olympics 200 champion who has dealt with a foot injury and two bouts of COVID this year, which has meant a disappointing season for him, would not disappoint on Saturday night. DeGrasse caught and passed Bracy to give Canada the gold in 37.48 seconds.
The United States' silver-medal winning time was 37.55, while Great Britain won bronze in 37.83.
Other medals were awarded Saturday in men's triple jump, with Portugal's Pedro Pichardo, the gold medalist in Tokyo, once again golden with a best jump of 17.95 meters (58 feet, 10.75 inches). In men's javelin, Grenada's Anderson Peters repeated his 2019 Worlds gold with a fantastic series and a best mark of 90.54 meters (297-0.5). The women's 5,000 meters saw Ethiopia's Gudaf Tsegay claim gold (14:46.29) after running to the silver medal in the 1500 on Monday night. And the men's 800 meters was won by Kenya's Emmanuel Korir in 1:43.71.
Sunday is the final day of the Championships, with nine gold medals left to be awarded. Of many things to look for: whether Sweden's Mondo Duplantis can once again break the world record in men's pole vault; another women's 100 meter hurdles showdown between American and world record holder Kendra Harrison and Puerto Rican Jasmine Camacho-Quinn, the gold medalist in Tokyo; American Athing Mu in the women's 800m final; and whether Allyson Felix, who ran the fastest leg in the women's 4x400m relay preliminary on Saturday, will be part of the American quartet in the medal race.