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Bol turns relay grief into glory with her grandstand finish

Femke Bol, who fell face-down a couple of metres short of securing Dutch victory in the mixed 4x400m on the opening night of these World Championships, produced the reverse effect in the final track race as her astounding finish earned women’s 4x400m gold for the Netherlands.

The 23-year-old, who won the women’s 400m hurdles title on Thursday, took over the baton on the last leg a couple of metres behind the Jamaican and British last-leg runners, Stacey Ann Williams and Nicole Yeargin, and by the back straight the gap between her and the leader was about 10 metres.

As the medal contenders reached the home straight, victory seemed destined for the Jamaicans, who had qualified fastest in 3:22.74, the fastest time recorded this season, and had supplemented their quartet with Candice McLeod, seventh in the individual 400m final, and Janieve Russell, seventh in the 400m hurdles final, both of whom won Olympic 4x400m bronze in Tokyo.

But the crowd noise rose as Bol’s late charge looked likely to earn silver instead of bronze. She duly passed Yeargin 30 metres from the line before sending the decibel level up still further by overtaking Williams in the final two strides – a significant section of track for her – to bring the baton home in 3:20.72.

Jamaica took silver in 3:20.88, with Britain taking bronze in 3:21.04.

“The first three legs went so well, I felt like I had to finish as strongly as I could,” Bol said. “I wanted to stay patient, but in the last metres I said ‘No, we have to take it’.

“It was one of my most important runs ever, but it is the first time we became world champions so it applies for all of us. Every tenth and hundredth of a second was needed. We had good exchanges and still barely won it.”

Hurdles specialist Cathelijn Peeters, whose own third-leg efforts had been crucial for the Netherlands, added: “To be honest, I was already happy with a bronze medal, then I realised we might win a silver, and was shocked at the end with the gold!”

Yeargin commented: “I was just trying to hold it and get us on to the podium. I knew Femke was coming, so I had to dig deep and give it all I’ve got. And that’s what I did.”

The Dutch had also altered their line-up, adding Lieke Klaver, who had finished fifth in the 400m final, to run the second leg, and she took over the baton from Eveline Saalberg behind Jamaica’s Russell and Amber Anning of Britain, with Canada – unchanged from the heats – right behind her in the form of Aiyanna Stiverne.

Klaver’s efforts meant that, after the second handover, her teammate Peeters, Jamaica’s Nickisha Pryce and Britain’s newly installed Ama Pipi set off virtually level.

As the Jamaicans and British pushed on, the question was: how much of a deficit would Bol take over for the final leg?

And as it turned out, the answer was: a manageable deficit, although it took supreme athleticism and determination for her to turn bronze into gold in the space of the last 30 metres.

Canada, anchored by Grace Konrad, finished fourth in 3:22:42 ahead of Belgium in 3:22.84.

The latter had hoped to bring in Cynthia Bolingo, fifth in the individual final, but she was unable to run because of a calf injury so instead Camille Laus arrived in place of Naomi Van Den Broeck.

Poland, anchored by 400m silver medallist Natalia Kaczmarek, finished sixth in 3:24.93, 0.05 ahead of Italy, with Ireland eighth in 3:27.08 and France, added to the final after being unfairly affected by the disqualified Nigerian team in their heat, last in 3:28.35.

A new champion in this event was certain after the United States – who have taken this title at the last three World Championships – were disqualified after coming home first in the second heat because of a final changeover between Quanera Hayes and Alexis Holmes which was not completed within the allowable zone.

There was some painful irony in this for Holmes, whose outstanding anchor leg in the opening day’s mixed 4x400m relay had put Bol under such pressure that she fell.

There was thus a perfect symmetry to Bol’s Budapest experience.

🥇 Netherlands 🇳🇱 NED 3:20.72 WL, NR
🥈 Jamaica 🇯🇲 JAM 3:20.88 SB
🥉 Great Britain & NI 🇬🇧 GBR 3:21.04 SB
  Full results

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