United States relay team with Kind Butler, David Verburg, Calvin Smith and Kyle Clemons, from left, celebrate after winning the 4x400m relay with a new world record during the Athletics World Indoor Championships in Sopot, Poland, Sunday, March 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
SOPOT, Poland (AP) — Perhaps people know Calvin Smith Jr, and even then likely because his father was a famous runner a generation back. And David Verburg ran on the 4×400 world outdoor gold medal team last year.
But Kyle Clemons? Kind Butler III?
Like so many on this U.S. team at the world indoor championships which was low on glamor yet deep in talent, they produced beyond expectations on Sunday and now have a 4×400 indoor world record to show for it.
When everyone expected the three-day event to peter out without a world record, suddenly this quartet made a name for each and every one on the team.
“These are moments you really have to cherish,” Butler said. “We are never going to be here again.”
The four sprinters got the baton around in a time of 3 minutes, 2.13 seconds, slashing .70 off the 15-year-old indoor mark set by another U.S. relay team at the 1999 world indoors.
The U.S. beat Britain into silver and Jamaica took bronze.
“The combination of these guys is amazing. They brought it out of me,” said Clemons, who already took bronze in the individual 400.
The record gave the U.S. team eight gold and 12 medals overall, more than double the total of runner-up Russia, which had three gold and five overall.
The U.S. team won 10 gold and 18 overall two years ago, but that was such an outsize record performance that no one thought it would be possible again.
Yet, when it came to gold, the Americans came pretty close with a slew of little-known names.
“We never lose runners, lose people. We just keep reloading,” said Clemons of the U.S. athletics program.
The first U.S. gold Sunday came in the women’s 800, where Chanelle Price did all the frontrunning and refused to fade over the final two laps, as she disregarded the massive cheers of the home crowd that was pushing for Angelika Cichocka.
Then the 4×400 women’s team led from start to finish to easily win the relay ahead of Jamaica and Britain.
And in the wide-open 60 hurdles, Omo Osaghae dipped at the line to beat two Frenchmen in a world leading 7.45. Pascal Martinot-Lagarde was .01 back and Garfield Darien a further .01 second in a tight finish.
It was the perfect setup for the concluding relay record.
In Sunday’s top individual race, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce kept the 60 meter title in Jamaica with the fastest run by anyone in four years. The double Olympic 100 champion finish in 6.98 seconds, beating Murielle Ahoure of Ivory Coast by .03 seconds. Tianna Bartoletta of the United States took bronze.
Veronica Campbell-Brown was the double defending champion but still too rusty to be at her best as she was only cleared at the last moment to compete at the championships after a doping scandal had sidelined her since last summer.
The result proved Jamaica’s sprint credentials again, but overall the day and the championships again belonged to the United States.
No one was as overwhelming as Genzebe Dibaba on the last day. The Ethiopian breezed to a gold medal in the 3,000 meters, failing to add a third world record in a season but clinching a long-distance title after the 1,500 two years ago.
Dibaba knew from the start she was in a league all her own, and when she took charge at the halfway point only a few could match her pace. With a kick for home with two laps to go, Dibaba immediately created a yawning gap, leaving silver to defending champion Hellen Obiri of Kenya and bronze to Maryam Yusuf Jamal of Bahrain.
Dibaba had already set world records in the 1,500 and 3,000 and a world best over 2 miles this winter but decided against a double in Sopot because it would be too draining.
“It’s been a great year for me,” said the younger sister of Tirunesh Dibaba, the triple Olympic and five-time world long-distance champion.
“Tirunesh also wanted me to focus on the gold and not the time,” she said. “I have done what they hoped and expected.”
Mohammed Aman added to a good day for Ethiopia when the 800 defending champion swept past two Polish runners to take another gold, and put his nation third in the gold medal standings. Adam Kszczot got silver. Teammate Marcin Lewandowski crossed in third place but was later disqualified.
Kszczot’ silver delighted the home crowd at the Ergo Arena after Anna Rogowska had failed to live up to expectations in the pole vault, finishing fifth behind gold medalist Yarisley Silva of Cuba, who scaled 4.70 meters. Two silver medalists, Anzhelika Sidorova of Russia and Jirina Svobodova of the Czech Republic scaled the same height but missed out on the title on a countback.
Olympic champion Jenny Suhr only cleared 4.65 before she skipped the next height and failed three times at 4.75.