LIKE most track fans, the Championship Record and National Record 41.29 seconds run by the Jamaican women's 4x100m team on the final day of the 14th IAAF World Championships in Moscow, Russia last week came as a surprise to Lennox Graham, the coach who was in charge of organising the team.
Graham said he knew the team could run fast and could dip under 42.00 seconds but never thought they could run as fast as they did on Sunday. The team of Carrie Russell on the lead-off leg, Kerron Stewart, Schillonie Calvert and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce won Jamaica's first World Championships gold medal since 2009 in Berlin, Germany and third overall as the USA placed second after the disqualification of France with Great Britain getting the bronze.
"I was very pleased with the 4x100m relay team," he told the Observer on Monday. "The time was faster than I expected," Graham added.
The coach said that given what he saw leading up to the championships and how the 100m runners performed during the championships, he knew they would run fast but the record came as a surprise. "I knew we were going to run 41.00 seconds, I knew we were going to run fast as Carrie was coming off a fast time, Calvert ran well enough in the prelims to suggest that she was going to run well; Shelly was on fire and Kerron was also running well, (her reaction time in the 100m semi-finals) suggested she was in 10.8-low shape so I knew we were going to run fast, but a championships record was not something that we were gunning for."
Graham, the former Kingston College athlete and head coach who is now in charge of the track and field programme at Johnson C Smith University in North Carolina, said the atmosphere on the team was positive.
"The atmosphere on the team was very good, this was my second World Championships team and the relationship among the women on the 4x100m team was absolutely beautiful; everyone was co-operative, no one came up with any kind of negative attitudes, so I was very pleased with the young ladies," Graham said.
"Switching the team around, letting persons know they were only going to run prelims and not final did not present any problems at all for me," he continued.
Overall, he said the performance of the team "was excellent, especially seeing it was a young team" with about 16 athletes making their debut at the World Championships. "Some found it a bit challenging because of the new experiences, but others managed to step up," Graham told the Jamaica Observer.
"Most people would agree that young (Javon) Francis was one of the standouts, and the usual suspects Usain Bolt and Shelly, who had awesome championships and capped it off with a National Record in the 4x100m, were also outstanding," he said.
On the negative side he said the disqualification of Kaliese Spencer in the 400m hurdles and the women's 4x400m relay team "were very disappointing", but noted that's a part of track and field.
"We did appeal all the rulings but they were thrown out, and as in anything track and field you have to go with what the officials say," noted Graham.
The situation with sprint hurdler Hansle Parchment, he said, might have also cost Jamaica another medal as he said the Olympic Games bronze medallist might have had "a little bit of a ring rust and getting injured maybe as a result of the ring rust".
Parchment, who ran a National Record 13.05 seconds in May, was injured at the JAAA National Trials in late June, and as a result, missed preparation time and competition leading into the Championships. He advanced to the second round as one of the fastest losers after finishing fifth in his first-round race, then hit a hurdle after getting a cramp and failed to finish the race.
Graham has high hopes for the men's 4x400m team that finished second, but cautioned that "track and field is about keeping healthy, and if we can keep this unit healthy, it will be very interesting".