The U.S.A.'s Bryshon Nellum, Joshua Mance, Tony McQuay and Albany native Angelo Taylor celebrate their silver medal they won Friday in the men's 4x400-meter final at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London.
LONDON --- Call it a silver lining.
After all, it was better than nothing.
The American men's relay team saw its streak of three straight golds in the 4x400 end Friday night when it finished second in the final at the 2012 Summer Games in London.
Albany's Angelo Taylor, who was a late addition to the team Thursday after teammate Manteo Mitchell broke his leg during qualifying --- but still managed to finish the race --- ran the final leg and had the lead down the stretch but was passed by the Bahama's Ramon Miller in the final 100 meters, giving the country its first-ever gold medal in Olympic history.
The American team --- made up of Bryshon Nellum, Joshua Mance, Tony McQuay and Taylor --- finished with a time of 2:57.05, while the quartet from the Bahamas won with a time of 2:56.72. Trinidad and Tobago (2:59.40) was third, winning the bronze. The South African team, anchored by double amputee “Blade Runner” Oscar Pistorius, fell behind well before Pistorius received the baton and finished last.
The biggest story, however, was seeing the reign of American dominance come to a close.
"It was tough," Taylor said. "I thought I could get home but it was exceptionally close."
The U.S. still holds the world record of 2:54.29, which was set in 1993 in Stuttgart, Germany, but the Americans were trying for their 17th title in the 4x400 event in 92 years of Olympic Games.
But that means little to this group, who lamented being the ones to let one of the most impressive streaks in track & field history end Friday.
The final result marks just the third time since Kenya won the 4x400 relay in 1972 that the U.S. didn't win. The Americans did not win in the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow because they boycotted, and they were stripped of their gold from the 2000 Sydney Games because of doping infractions. That team consisted of Michael Johnson, Antonio Pettigrew and twins Alvin and Calvin Harrison, while Jerome Young and Taylor were alternates, but it was Pettigrew that brought shame on the U.S. when he later admitted he doped while training under now-banned American coach Trevor Graham.
Taylor, a 400-meter hurdler, was thrust into the lineup after a flurry of injuries hit the Americans this week. Beijing's 2008 400-meter champ Lashawn Merritt and Athens' 400 gold medalist Jeremy Wariner both pulled out before the preliminaries.
A former Georgia Tech track star, Taylor, 33, likely ends his final Olympics with three golds (2000 and 2008 in the 400 hurdles, and 2008 as a starting member on the 4x400 relay team) and now one silver.
But when it comes to the 4x400-meter Olympic relay, the American men aren’t used to being overtaken at the end, the way Taylor was Friday night.
Then again, they have never really run that race under these circumstances when three of their top runners were banged up.
But instead of complaining about the color of their medal, the Americans celebrated Mitchell's courage after the race.
“Without him, this wouldn’t be possible,” said McQuay, Mitchell’s roommate in the athletes village. “He held it down for the U.S.A. Sorry we couldn’t give him the gold. But we want to thank him for getting us to the final.”
Taylor thanked Mitchell endlessly Thursday after the injury, calling him a "hero" in a tweet.
“@ManteoMitchell a real hero. Way to fight thru the pain for your Country!” Taylor tweeted late Thursday. “We are going to win this relay for you 2morrow! Love ya bro!”
But they fell just short of Taylor's prediction.
Mitchell’s selfless run, however, kept the United States in the mix for a medal. In the preliminaries Thursday, he felt a pop in his leg at the halfway point of his lap but stayed on the track to move the baton along to Mance. The U.S. qualified easily. Doctors later told him he had a broken left fibula that will take up to six weeks to heal.
Mitchell came to the stadium for the race Friday using crutches and wearing a gray walking boot that covered his foot and leg up to the knee. He was part of the celebration after Taylor crossed the line.
“I realize the significance,” said Mitchell, who will receive a silver medal because he ran in the preliminaries. “But it’s not about me. It’s not about you. That’s how Team U.S.A. operates. A lot of people on the outside looking in think that this is an individual sport. But in the end, we’re here to serve our countries.”
But all that anyone was talking about afterward was how Taylor just couldn’t hold off Miller, who closed out the race with a lap of 44.1 seconds to make history in the Bahamas.
“For me, it’s a joyful feeling,” said Chris Brown, who ran the opening leg. “It’s been a long journey for me. I’ve been here for a long time, and this is my first Olympic gold medal. I’ve gotten silver and bronze before. It took me a long time. The United States is a tough team to beat.”
Taylor was handed a 10-meter lead when he received the baton, but Miller chipped away. By the final stretch, Miller had passed him and the rest of the race was academic.
“I felt the second gear come on, but it came on too late,” Taylor said. “I think I should have moved a little earlier. We gave our best. We took some hits. But even though we took a hit, we were able to put together a team that could take home the silver.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report