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    Olympics: SEC Helps Team USA Close Out Strong

    By: Mark Maloney
    SEC Digital Network

    LONDON — What a way to close out the Olympic track and field competition.

    Team USA, with a big boost from Team SEC, added two more relay medals Saturday night in London’s Olympic Stadium.

    Dee Dee Trotter (Tennessee 2005) led off the gold-medal women’s 4-by-400-meter relay team.

    With Justin Gatlin (Tennessee 2001) handing off to Tyson Gay (Arkansas 2005) on second-to-third legs, the American men earned silver with their second consecutive national record in the 4-by-100 relay.

    Only the men’s marathon, out on the roads, remains on Sunday’s track schedule.

    "My job was to get us ahead of the others," Trotter said. "We were going for some records tonight, so my goal was to go out fast."

    Starting in the seventh lane, that’s exactly what Trotter did, opening a lead of more than 5 meters.

    Allyson Felix, the 200-meter gold-medalist, doubled the lead on the second leg.

    Francena McCrory and 400-meter gold-medalist Sanya Richards-Ross ran unchallenged, bringing Team USA home in 3:16.87, the fastest time in the world for 19 years. It marked America’s sixth consecutive Olympic gold in the event.

    Russia took silver in 3:20.23, while Jamaica bagged its third bronze in a row in 3:20.95.

    Trotter already won an individual medal here, a bronze in the 400.

    Now with two medals around her neck, "I just really can’t wait to get back home to everyone to show them and let them see what hard work really was able to do," she said. "Because everyone was with me on my journey. ... It’s definitely the highlight of my career. Absolutely."

    Felix became the second woman to win gold in the 4-by-100 and 4-by-400 relays in the same Olympics. Chandra Cheesborough was the first, for Team USA in 1984.

    Felix’s three gold medals in London tie her for second among women in athletics for most gold medals at one Olympics. Four others have accomplished the feat, including three American sprinters and Australia’s Betty Cuthbert (in 1956).

    In the men’s relay, Trell Kimmons, Gatlin, Gay and Ryan Bailey teamed up to tie the world record of 37.04 set by Jamaica at last year’s World Championships.

    However, the Jamaicans were even faster Saturday.

    Nesta Carter, Michael Frater, Yohan Blake and Usain Bolt lowered the standard to 36.84.

    Trinidad and Tobago, featuring Marc Burns (Auburn 2004) on the second leg and Richard Thompson (LSU 2008) on anchor was bumped from fourth place to bronze-medal position in 38.12. Canada finished ahead of T&T but was disqualified for running inside its lane on the final exchange.

    Jeff Demps (Florida 2012) also earned a silver medal by running for Team USA during Friday’s first round.

    Gay was crushed when he placed fourth in last week’s 100-meter finals, behind Bolt, Blake and Gatlin.

    "Last week was very emotional for me. I was very upset," Gay said. "But I said that I have a missing part in my heart -- I don’t have an Olympic medal. So me getting that tonight is a blessing. It fills that spot in my heart."

    Gatlin, the 2004 gold-medalist in the 100 who was later banned for testing positive for amphetamines (a prescribed medication to treat Attention Deficit Disorder), said he was thinking about Gay when he stepped on the track.

    "Tyson came back from an injury (hip surgery) that could have made him retire at an early age," Gatlin said. "Knowing that he didn’t have a medal, when I went out there ... I wanted to make sure he came away with a medal, and he was happy with that."

    The silver also was sweet redeption from 2008, when Gay was unable to grasp the final baton pass from Darvis "Doc" Patton.

    "We just wanted to come back and show the world that we can get the stick around," Gatlin said. "We can go out there and make some magic in our lane seven, and I think we did a great job with our handoffs, and we got to the finish line the best way we could. ... I think it shows that America is getting ourself together and we’re back, and we want to put on a great show for next year (at the World Championships) as well."

    A reporter asked the Americans to respond to a comment reportedly made by Bolt, who was asked if the Americans could ever beat the Jamaicans. Bolt’s response: "They’ve got a lot of work to do."

    "It is what it is," Gay said. "We gave it our best and they’ve got a tough team. At the end of the day, we’ve still got (injured) athletes sitting at home who can contribute to our relay team as well. We’ve still got a lot of time to get healthy. I need a full season. I can run a better turn.

    "Ryan Bailey, he’s young. He’s about to get better. And we’re all going to get better. ... We can’t take nothing away from them, but I believe we can run 36.8 as well."

    * As for Trinidad’s medal finish, four-time Olympian Burns came back from tearing two metatarsals at the Beijing Olympics, a serious condition that he wasn’t able to overcome until being directed to a San Diego-based orthotics specialist in 2010.

    Burns said that getting a medal after first thinking his team had placed fourth ranked "right up there with the rest" of his Olympic experiences.

    "My respect goes out to Canada. I know they worked hard to make it to this point. It’s quite disheartening for them, and us being fourth. But we came out on the (good) end of that."

    Added Thompson: "I was so disappointed at first. I actually, for a long time, laid on the ground with my hands on my head in disappointment. It was unfortunate for Canada because I know they worked hard and they really wanted a medal as well. However, in track and field, things like this happen and I guess, for them, they were on the bad side of the stick."