Russian Relay Team in the women's 4x400m at the IAAF World Championships Moscow 2013 (© Getty Images)
The women’s 4x400m Relay final got the biggest cheers of the championships with an epic battle between hosts Russia and the United States, who had won the past three World titles in this event with Russia being the previous country on the top podium in Helsinki 2005.
With the defending champions missing several key members of those gold medal-winning teams – mainly Sanya Richards-Ross and Allyson Felix – the new US team was in tough position against a strong Russian team, who also had the benefit of the home crowd support, and lots of it.
Russia’s opener from Yuliya Gushchina brought the baton to the first exchange as first team with the United States first leg runner Jessica Beard fading quite badly in the front straight after a quick start.
But all this changed quickly with the most experienced runner on the US team, Natasha Hastings, moving the baton quickly during leg two. The three-time World 4x400m Relay champion took her country to first place with a significant gap over the Russians at the 200m mark.
But the Russia’s Tatyana Firova ran a more balanced race and was able to reduce the deficit before the second exchange. With the US runners taking their time passing the baton, Russia’s third leg runner Kseniya Ryzhova rushed to the front once more, closely followed by Ashley Spencer.
Just 20 years of age, Spencer showed good fighting spirit by passing Ryzhova in the back straight to take the lead again. The exciting competition continued with Ryzhova again overtaking Spencer before the last exchange to give Russia a five-metre lead on the anchor leg.
Great Britain’s Margaret Adeoye squeezed ahead of France ahead of the final exchange in a tight battle for the bronze.
The Russian anchor, 400m bronze medallist Antonina Krivoshapka, never really gave USA’s Francena McCorory a chance on the deciding final leg. McCorory bravely attempted to close in on the Russian, moving to lane two at the start of the final straight, but Krivoshapka held on to the win, easily getting the biggest roar from the crowd during these World Championships in Moscow.
Russia ruled, winning in a world-leading 3:20.19 with the first five teams clocking season’s bests. McCorory brought silver to the US in 3:20.41, while individual 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu pulled away from French anchor Floria Guei, clocking 3:22.61 and 3:24.21 respectively.
Ukraine was fifth in 3:27.38 followed by Nigeria, who clocked 3:27.57, Romania finished seventh in 3:28.40 while Italy were disqualified.
Mirko Jalava for the IAAF