LONDON, England – It was the kind of race that will live on in the minds of Bahamians forever.
The Bahamas men’s 4x400-meter (m) relay team erased a 60-year stranglehold the United States held in the Olympic final of the event with one golden run Friday night.
The team of Chris Brown, Demetrius Pinder, Michael Mathieu and the gutsy Ramon Miller, in that order, set a new national record of 2:56.72, to take down the mighty U.S. The Americans had not lost a men’s 4x400m final at the Olympics on the track since Jamaica beat them in 1952 — a string of 11 gold medals.
All of that changed on Friday night here in London as four young men from The Bahamas weren’t going to be denied.
Brown, who has anchored The Bahamas at the past three Olympics, said that even he was a bit skeptical when the order for the final revealed that he would be the man out of the blocks for the team and the inexperienced Miller, at that position, would anchor.
Some even questioned the nerve of coaches to change the order of the team that had just ran the fourth fastest time ever turned in by The Bahamas, in the heats — 2:58.87. It’s safe to say that no one doubts that strategy now.
“I have to admit that I was a [little] hesitant at first, but I realized that these guys were not going to be expecting Chris Brown to come out of the blocks,” Brown said.
“They were shocked, and I was very comfortable with the idea of shocking the world. We trusted each other and that was the important thing. I felt the country supporting us and pulling us through. If that’s the first time in 60 years that they have been beaten, that makes me feel very good. I just want to know one thing right now… where’s the party,” he exclaimed.
Not only is the time a new national record, but it leapfrogs The Bahamas to the third fastest nation ever, behind the United States and Great Britain in the event.
It was the first and only medal for The Bahamas at these 30th Olympic Games, the first Olympic gold medal for Bahamian men on the track, and it continued an impressive streak of at least one medal for The Bahamas at six straight Olympics dating back 20 years to Frank Rutherford’s bronze medal winning leap in the men’s triple jump at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Demetrius Pinder also gave thanks to God for the stunning and uplifting victory.
“I’m eternally grateful. Also, I want to say rest in peace to my sister. I used that for power and motivation,” said the three-time national champion whose sister passed away just before the start of the Olympic Games. “We just felt like we had to do. I just want to thank God for giving us the opportunity to make the entire Bahamas proud.”
A stunned American team, with Angelo Taylor on anchor, finished second in a season’s best time of 2:57.05, and Trinidad and Tobago won the bronze medal in a national record time of 2:59.40. Great Britain finished fourth in a season’s best time of 2:59.53, putting four nations under three minutes in one of the fastest 4x400m races in Olympic history.
The moment belonged to The Bahamas. It’s been a rough Olympics with ‘Superman’ Leevan Sands going down, Michael Mathieu false starting in the open men’s 200m semis, and Shamar Sands crashing into hurdles, just to name a few.
One gold medal run lifted the spirits of an entire nation though.
“I have to give all credit to the Lord,” said Brown. “I didn’t lose faith and I didn’t lose confidence. I knew that the country was depending on us bringing home something, and we did that. I know that Bahamians wanted more medals than just this one, but this gold medal means a lot to me, my family and the country. I just want to thank everyone for supporting us throughout the years.”
When Miller got the baton on the anchor leg about three to four meters behind Taylor, the hope among Bahamians here in London was that he would just run a smart race and wait for the right moment to strike. Like a cheetah eyeing his prey, Miller did exactly that as he rode Taylor’s momentum all the way to the home stretch and then made his move about 50 meters from the finish line.
“It’s wonderful. I just owe it all to God for giving me the strength to bring it home,” said Miller. “I just was patient and waiting on the right moment to kick. I knew it was going to come down to who had the fastest kick. When I passed him (Taylor), I knew that was it. There was no way he was coming back on me. It was a long time coming and we finally did it. Thank God.”
Once Miller passed Taylor, there was no looking back. Taylor was all-out in an attempt to respond to Miller’s move, but Miller was in full stride and wasn’t going to be caught.
Miller had the fastest split of all anchors, bringing the team home in 44.01. Brown led off in 44.9, and Pinder turned the fastest split of the four in running a 43.5 on the second leg. Mathieu turned in a 44.25 on the third leg as all four men ran under 45 seconds.
“I just wanted to stay as close to him (American third leg runner Tony McQuay) as possible and give Ramon a chance. I still can’t believe it. It’s amazing and I just thank God for the victory. We finally won gold in the men’s 4x4 and that’s a sweet feeling,” said Mathieu.
Brown gave The Bahamas a lead on the first leg, Pinder maintained that lead on the second leg, and Mathieu had to deal with the United States’ fastest runner on the third leg, and although he relinquished the lead, he kept the team in contention. Miller won the hearts of Bahamians everywhere though. He will always be remembered as the smallest man on the team, with probably the biggest heart, who ran down one of the United States’ most consistent performers over the past decade and its team captain, Angelo Taylor.
Taylor and the United states gave a valiant effort, but in the end, they would be no match for the Bahamian quartet.