For the first time in 20 years, Trinidad and Tobago will compete in an Olympic Games 4x400 metres final. But the four men expected to represent the Red, White and Black in today's 4.20 p.m. (T&T time) championship race are not satisfied with mere participation.
In fact, Ade Alleyne-Forte believes that the Americans–gold medallists in the event 16 times–can be beaten.
"They're most definitely vulnerable. We're like sharks in the water. We're smelling the blood and we're trying to go get it, trying to get our food. We need to eat too."
At the Olympic Stadium, yesterday, men's 400m bronze medallist Lalonde Gordon, Jarrin Solomon, Alleyne-Forte and 19-year-old Deon Lendore, running in that order, combined for victory in the first qualifying heat in three minutes, 00.38 seconds–a new national record.
"I'm happy we came out on top," said Gordon. "Looking forward to the final."
After a good start from Gordon, Solomon continued the fine work, earning T&T a five-metre lead halfway through the race. But Alleyne-Forte, who came into the team as a replacement for the injured Renny Quow, found the going tough, slipping to third. T&T were still third when anchorman Lendore came off the final turn, but he produced a strong run on the home straight, leaning at the line to hand his team victory by the narrowest of margins.
Lendore, who bowed out of the individual 400m event in the opening round after finishing fifth in his heat in 45.81 seconds last Saturday, produced an impressive 44.49 seconds split in yesterday's relay.
"From the open four, I saw I wasn't really in the shape I thought I would have been in, so I came out in the relay to try to measure myself, so I'll go into the final a little more confident. I didn't get the first part of the race, so I had a lot to do coming home. I didn't want to come in two or three. I wanted the first place in order to get a good lane, so it could be better for us when we go into the final."
T&T will start in lane four in today's medal race. Great Britain finished second to T&T in yesterday's opening heat, also in 3:00.38, while Cuba clocked 3:00.55 to earn the third automatic qualifying berth up for grabs.
South Africa's second leg runner, Ofentse Mogawane, fell during the race, and his team did not finish. However, it was determined that Kenyan Vincent Mumo Kiilu had cut across Mogawane. The Kenyans were disqualified, while the South Africans were given a spot in the final by the jury of appeal. Solomon was superb on the second leg for T&T, combining with Gordon to lay a solid foundation for the record run.
"I'm feeling really good," Solomon told the Express. "My body's in the best shape of my life."
The second heat was also a close contest. Bahamas won in 2:58.87, the same time clocked by second-placed United States.
But though no T&T team has ever run under three minutes, Solomon is certain T&T will be in the hunt for gold.
"We ain't really care about time. We just want to get the medal, so as fast as it takes to get that gold medal, that is what we're going to do."
Lendore is also determined to climb the podium. "I'm inspired by Lalonde. He inspired the whole team to try and get a medal too."
At 2.53 this afternoon (T&T time), T&T will bid for a men's 4x100m championship race lane. The track and field team manager, here in London, Dexter Voisin, said that Richard "Torpedo" Thompson will run the leadoff leg, handing off to Marc Burns. Emmanuel Callender performs third leg duties, while the anchor leg responsibility is Keston Bledman's.
T&T will run in lane four in the second of two heats, next to France, in five. United States have been drawn in lane seven.
Heat one will feature reigning Olympic champions, Jamaica.
At the 2008 Beijing Games, Jamaica won in a then world record time of 37.10 seconds, while T&T clocked 38.06 to earn silver.