LONDON — Tianna Madison can almost feel the medal around her muscular neck.
The Elyria High graduate is one race, three handoffs and 400 meters from winning some Olympic hardware. And it might be made of gold.
Running leadoff on the American 4×100-meter relay, Madison set the tone for a dominant qualifying race Thursday by bursting out of the blocks and surging to the front. The Americans clocked 41.64 seconds, easily winning their heat and advancing to the finals today. The race will be at 3:40 p.m. EDT.
“It’s good to have an explosive start and set the relay off with the right tone, and I can do those things, and I think that’s why the first leg is for me,” Madison told the Knoxville (Tenn.) News Sentinel. “Since the 100 ended (Saturday), every day we’ve come together and we’re working exchanges out and we’ve gotten comfortable with each other.
“Every little thing we could do to put ourselves in the best position, we’ve done.”
Madison handed the baton to Jeneba Tarmoh, who was followed by Bianca Knight and Lauryn Williams. Allyson Felix and 100-meter bronze medalist Carmelita Jeter will likely be added to the lineup today, but Madison expects to remain in the leadoff spot.
Madison, competing in her first Olympics, just missed a medal Saturday in the 100 meters. She ran a personal-best 10.85 to finish fourth.
“The 10.85 was awesome. I don’t think I missed out on anything,” Madison said. “But obviously you come to the Olympic games, you want to come home with a medal, so it’s really important. I’ll give it 100 percent to make sure that happens for my team.”
Jamaica also reached the final, but wasn’t as smooth as the Americans. Sherone Simpson and Schillonie Calvert nearly botched the exchange between the second and third legs. With Samantha Henry-Robinson running the opening 100 meters and Kerron Stewart serving as the anchor, the Jamaicans finished in 42.37 seconds, edged at the line by Ukraine.
Like the U.S., the Jamaican lineup could look drastically different with the gold medal on the line today.
Both high-profile teams failed to medal in Beijing in 2008, the Americans faltering in the prelims and the Jamaicans botching a handoff in the final. It was the lone sprint the Jamaicans didn’t win in China. The U.S. also failed to medal in Athens in 2004.