By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
LONDON, England: A change in the line-up between Chris ‘Fireman’ Brown and Ramon ‘Fearless’ Miller resulted in the Men’s 4 x 400m team snapping the United States of America’s 60-year stranglehold of the Olympic Games title and capping off a traumatic experience here on Friday night with the only medal - GOLD - in the final event for the 26-member Bahamas team.
The relay team of Brown, Demetrius Pinder, Michael Mathieu and Miller ran a blistering time of two minutes and 56.72 seconds for a new national record, erasing the previous mark of 2:57.32 set back in 2005 at the IAAF World Championships. It was also the fastest time for the year, lowering the previous best of 2:58.87 that both the Bahamas and the United States ran in a photo finish in the heats.
And it turned out to be the third fastest time by a country, following nine of the top ten by the United States - their best being the world record of 2:54.29 that was set back in 1993 and the ninth best by Great Britain of 2:56.60 in 1996. The Bahamas moved ahead of Jamaica, who had the next best time by a nation of 2:56.75 from 1997.
But more importantly, after playing second fiddle for so long, the Bahamas finally did what no other country has done in 60 years and that is to beat the United States on the track, a feat that comprised of 11 straight victories in the 1600 metre relay. The men took the monkey off the Bahamas’ back and celebrated as if they had won the Olympic Games, albeit the Bahamas is now tied for 45th place with Algeria, Grenada and Venezuela.
In what was a deliberate strategy to throw off, but ended up stunning their opponents and eventually had the 80,000 fans in the packed Olympic Stadium cheering from start to finish, men’s head coach David Charlton and the rest of the coaching staff decided to change the line-up of Miller, Pinder, Mathieu and Brown and it worked to perfection.
“The guys went out and got it done,” said Charlton, who admitted that they got consultation from a number of persons, including Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations’ president Mike Sands.
Brown, normally the man who has anchored the team for the past 16 years, said it wasn’t about him, but what was good for the team and the country.
“I gave it all to the Lord. I didn’t lose faith and I didn’t lose confidence. I didn’t let the 400 metres get to me,” said Brown, who fell shy of his ultimate goal, which was to win his first individual medal in the 400 metres, only to fall short in fourth place for the second consecutive Olympiad. “I knew that the country was depending on us to bring home something.
“I trusted in my team-mates and they trusted in me. I knew that whatever happened in this race was going to be the determining factor with what we go home with.
“I told the guys, once I do my leg, it’s up to you all to do the rest, whether you want to go home with gold, silver or bronze. But I will get us out front and you do the rest.”
With a split of 44.9, Brown did his job as he passed the baton to Pinder, who took a slight lead on the back stretch and maintained it as he came in again, like he did in the heats, with the fastest split of 43.5. Once he passed it to Mathieu, he had another tough battle with American Tony McQuay, but this time, Mathieu was able to hold him at bay with his split of 44.25. McQuay powered through in the American’s fastest split of 43.41.
Then on the anchor leg, Miller shocked the world as he got a slight lead, only to get caught and passed by American 400 hurdler Angelo Taylor on anchor. Miller, however, stayed on Taylor’s trail until he came off the final curve when he scooted past him in a split of 44.1 for the upset. Taylor could only muster a 44.85 as he faded dropping the United States in second in their SB’s of 2:57.05 for the silver.
Trinidad & Tobago claimed the bronze in a national record of 2:59.40.
Pinder, in giving thanks to God and dedicating his performance to his dead sister, Claudia, who passed away and was buried while he was here, said that was his motivation.
“I just want to thank the Bahamas for their support,” he said. “We are some criticising people, so we had to do it. We couldn’t come back home without gold. I just want to thank God for giving us this opportunity.”
For his part, Mathieu said he seemed to have been put into the lion’s den against McQuay, but he didn’t want to let the team or the Bahamas down.
“I was just trying to stay as close to him as possible,” Mathieu said.
“That’s what I did. He’s good. He’s really, really good. But I was just trying to hold him off. I guess it was good. He was rolling yesterday and he came back and was rolling again today.”
While Mathieu said he was impressed with the way Brown and Pinder got the team rolling, he was in awe of what Miller did.
“It was amazing. We finally won gold after chasing the United States for years and years,” he said. “All that hard work finally paid off. We finally got them.”
Considered to be the ‘David against Goliath,’ Miller found himself in a tough situation where the Bahamas either went for it all, or came up short again. With the pressure squarely on his shoulders, Miller rose to the occasion and got the job done as he made believers out of the non-believers.
“Coming home, Angelo was in the front, but I learnt patience. I waited for the right move and the right time to kick,” he said. “When I passed him, I knew he wasn’t going to catch me. When I passed him at the 80 or 60 metres, ain’t no way he was going to come back on me.”
The only thing left is for the team to pick up their medal. They will get that tonight at 6:45 p.m. when the medal presentation is held just prior to the start of the final day of competition in athletics, thanks to a switch by the organisers to highlight the Men’s 4 x 100m relay over the 4 x 400m.
Their victory turned out to be a sweet one for the Bahamas, which earlier in the day was awarded the bid to host the first two IAAF World Relay Championships in 2014 and 2015, Leevan ‘Superman’ Sands underwent surgery on his knee and IAAF Councilwomen Pauline Davis-Thompson presented the flowers to the winners of the Women’s 4 x 100m Relay team, including the Americans, who set a world record in running away from Jamaica.