Despite curious timetabling by Tokyo organisers the GB quartet progressed on Thursday evening
The women’s 400m semi-finals were controversially placed with a bizarre piece of scheduling between the individual 400m semi-finals and final. This meant no nation could risk their 400m finalists, which isn’t a problem for USA or Jamaica, but it did present a problem for Britain with the trials winner Jodie Williams not available. It also meant some other semi-finalists were fatigued and had to be rested.
Britain’s cause was further complicated by some strange seeding which saw them up against the two teams who beat them in Rio (USA and Jamaica obviously) as well as the strong Dutch squad who won the European indoor title and had Femke Bol on anchor.
Ultimately USA won the event in a world-leading 3:20.86 with a team of Kaylin Whitney (50.7), Wadeline Jonathas (49.6), Kendall Ellis (50.06) and Lynna Irby (50.34). They could easily a much, much faster totally different quartet in the final.
Jamaica also have a much faster squad in reserve but some will undoubtedly be retained as they were a clear second in 3:21.95 with a quartet of Junelle Bromfield (51.0), Roneisha McGregor 49.8), Janieve Russell (49.52) and Stacey Ann Williams (3:21.95).
In the two likely final top two’s wake there was a superb battle for third.
Emily Diamond (51.5) gave Britain a good start and there were equally strong runs from Zoey Clark (50.9) and Laviai Nielsen (50.92) but they set off in fourth place behind Canada with Netherlands’ Bol just over a second back at the last change-over.
Nicole Yeargin, who had been disqualified from the individual event for a lane infringement, made no mistake here and using her great experience from NCAA competition this year made a late kick past the Canadian and barely held off Netherlands and Ukraine.
Yeargin’s leg was 50.59 and Britain ran a season’s best 3:23.99 – two seconds faster than they ran in Rio – and they have Williams to come although who she replaces is a tough task for the relay coach.
Bol ran a 49.14 to close – easily the quickest of the race – but fell short of automatic qualifying although the Dutch record of 3:24.01 gained a fastest losers’ spot, as did Canada’s 3:24.05 with Ukraine (3:24.50) just missing out.
The earlier heat had been won by mixed relay champions Poland in a fast 3:23.10 as they used a near full-strength team of Anna Kielbasinska (51.0), Iga Baumgartl-Witan (50.2), Malgorzata Holub-Kowalik (50.43) and Justyna Swiety-Ersetic (an eased back 51.42) and they are bound to challenge for their first ever Olympic women’s 4x400m medal.
Thanks to a good anchor by Lisneidy Veitia, who moved from fifth to second in the straight with a 50.13 leg, Cuba ran 3:24.04 just ahead of Belgium’s national record 3:24.08 as Germany (3:24.77) and France (3:25.07) were not quite quick enough to nab a fastest losers’ spot.
Bahamas minus Shauane Miler-Uibo gave up after trailing the field by some distance.