Trinidad and Tobago capped off a six-medal haul at the 2022 Commonwealth Games with a historic men’s 4x400 metres relay gold at Alexander Stadium in Birmingham, England on Sunday.
The TT quartet of Dwight St Hillaire, Asa Guevara, Machel Cedenio and Jereem “The Dream” Richards, running in that order, powered to victory in three minutes, 01.29 seconds.
In the process, they ended TT’s 56-year gold medal drought in this event at the Games. The last time TT won the Commonwealth men’s 4x400m was in 1966, when Lennox Yearwood, Kent Bernard, Edwin Robert and Wendell Mottley topped the field in Jamaica.
Running out of lane eight, St Hillaire had a strong start on the opening leg and was first to smoothly hand-off his baton to Guevara. Guevara extended the lead on the second lap but Jamaica’s Nathon kept in the hunt.
Another successful hand-off to Cedenio saw TT maintain their advantage with Jamaican Jevaughn Powell closing in. Powell caught Cedenio with just over half-lap to go but the TT quarter-miler shifted gears to regain control.
With about 50m to go on the third lap, Botswana’s Anthony Pesela surged past Powell and levelled Cedenio at the hand-off.
However, the in-form recently crowned men’s 200m Commonwealth champion Richards meant business. Richards blasted off on the final leg to go ahead of the Botswana’s Bayapo Ndori.
Ndori kept on his heels but with the last 100m to go, and scenting victory, Richards increased his speed to open up an unassailable lead; one comfortable enough for him to spread his hands in glory while crossing the finish line.
Botswana earned silver in 3:01.85 whhile Kenya snagged bronze in 3:02.41.
This was Richards’ second gold medal of the meet having successfully defended his 200m crown on Saturday.
Additionally, this was the first time the team ran in this order, since Richards usually contests the second leg. As is customary, “The Dream” paid tribute to his former 400m teammate Deon Lendore, who passed away in an accident in Texas in January.
“First of all I want to say give praise to God. I know Deon would be looking down at us and be very proud of this 4x400m team to see where we’ve come from, to where we are now, Commonwealth Games champions,” he said.
Richards credited a full team effort for the victory and highlighted the efforts of teammates Kashief King and Che Lara, who competed in the semi-finals on Saturday and helped qualify TT to the medal race.
“Today, the plan definitely was to put me on the last leg and see how well I could finish. And everyone did their job exceptionally. Asa might as well have taken me off of the second leg with that leg that he put down there today.
“Dwight gave us a lead from the start. Asa extended that lead, Machel held that lead and did well and opened up for me.
“The team, when I got the baton, it had no wrong for me to do; just finish strong. Running 400m hurts but I will sacrifice myself any day for this 4x400m team,” he added.
Cedenio thanked TT and their social media following for supporting and having faith in their performance.
He said, “We felt the love and we just had to come out and execute and bring it back home to the people of TT.”
St Hillaire’s Kaizen Panthers (domestic club) coach Arlon Morrison expressed pleasure with his Kentucky-based athlete’s critical performance on the opening leg, one which he thinks set the foundation for a golden finish.
During last year’s Olympic men’s 4x400m final, St Hillaire, running the third leg, pulled hamstring and the TT team was forced to settle for last place.
Morrison doesn’t think Sunday’s performance serves as fitting redemption but confirmed it was one of St Hillaire’s best first leg performances.
“I thought this was one of his best first legs run for the season comparing to what he ran at World Championships. If the splits were correct, when the baton exchange happened, this was actually his fastest exchange on a lead-off leg for the year.
“So it seems he has been in good shape and has been able to come through a long collegiate season, which probably would have had influence on his performances prior.
“It’s nice to see how he came around for the team and I’m happy the gelled and produced such a performance,” Morisson said.
Alvin Daniel, a former TT 4x400m World Indoor champion and Central American and Caribbean Games and Carifta Games medallist, said that despite “everything”, he was elated to see TT succeed on this stage.
“Hats off to the team. They didn’t put Jereem under too much pressure on the last leg. Performances like this are going to help Jereem improve over the 200m. His times (200m) will come down once he continues competing in the 400m,” Daniel said.
The 4x400m relay team’s performance mirrored that of cyclist Nicholas Paul’s Commonwealth gold medal in the men’s keirin last week. Paul also became the first TT rider to achieve Commonwealth cycling gold since Roger Gibbon at the same 1966 Games in Jamaica.
Additionally on Sunday, TT’s Jerod Elcock, Eric Harrison jnr, Kion Benjamin and Kyle Greaux secured silver in the men's 4x100-metre relay.
Running out of lane five, TT clocked a season's best time of 38.70 seconds to finish second. Hosts England copped gold in 38.35 and Nigeria took bronze in 38.81.