IMAGE: Kajetan Duszynski, Justyna Swiety-Ersetic, Karol Zalewski, Natalia Kaczmarek of Poland celebrate after winning the gold medal and setting a Olympic record in the 4x400m relay mixed final at Olympic Stadium in Tokyo. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Poland scored an upset win in the inaugural Olympic 4×400 metres mixed relay on Saturday, with Dominican Republic picking up silver and the United States taking bronze.
The Polish team, comprised of Karol Zalewski, Natalia Kaczmarek, Justyna Swiety-Ersetic and Kajetan Duszynski, put on a gutsy performance inside the fan-free Olympic Stadium after posting the fastest time in Friday’s heats.
It was the first Olympic medal for all four team mates, who cheered and embraced as anchor leg runner Duszynski crossed the finish line in a time of three minutes and 9.87 seconds.
The US were the favourites after winning the event at the 2019 World Championships. But they almost did not make the final after they were disqualified for exchanging the baton outside the changeover zone in Friday’s first round. Organisers later reinstated them, citing an official’s error.
IMAGE: Poland’s anchor leg runner Kajetan Duszynski celebrates as he crosses the finish line in a time of three minutes and 9.87 seconds. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Notably absent from the US relay roster was six-time Olympic gold medallist Allyson Felix, who was a part of the Americans’ winning relay team in 2019 and is set to compete in the women’s individual 400 metres on Tuesday in her fifth and final Games.
The event, which features two men and two women per team and made its World Championships debut in 2019, contains a certain level of unpredictability as there are no gender rules governing the order in which athletes choose to race.
Poland had experimented with its lineup in the Doha title race, placing men in the first two legs, but they finished fifth. The team opted to place its two women competitors in the middle legs of Saturday’s race, as did the other eight teams.