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1988 Olympic Games Seoul - Women's 4 x 400 m



Host City: Seoul, South Korea Format: Top three in each heat and next two fastest advanced to the final.
Date Started: September 30, 1988
Date Finished: October 1, 1988
(Competitors: 61; Countries: 13; Finalists: 32/8)
Venue(s): Olympic Stadium, Seoul Sports Complex, Seoul
Overview by IAAF 1988_olympic_stadium.jpg 
In the heats, all the teams were holding back their top runners for the final and there were no split times of under 50 seconds in the preliminary round. Denean Howard started for the USA with a 49.82 opener to lead the USSR by 0.3 seconds, the GDR losing touch with Neubauer’s 50.58. Nazarova broke away from Dixon after 200m of the second leg, and went away to lead by 10m, having run a sparkling 47.82 leg. Brisco then ran a storming 48.44 making up all but half a metre of the deficit. Griffith Joyner ran the anchor for the USA attempting to win her fourth gold medal, but she was up against the 400m gold medallist, and Bryzgina never let her take the lead, eventually gaining over 2m in the finishing straight to set a new world record, with the USA also breaking the old record.
Summary by
Anticipation was high for the final in this event, with the United States, the GDR, and the Soviet Union considered equal favorites. The Soviets were led by 400 champion Olha Bryzhina while the US was led by 100/200 champion Florence Griffith Joyner, who was a talented 400 runner. All three teams qualified easily for the final, which did not disappoint, some track experts considering this the greatest Olympic final ever run. Denean Howard put the US ahead on the first leg but the Soviets Olga Nazarova ran 47.82 on the second leg to put the USSR eight metres in front. The GDR had fallen back and would not challenge for the gold medal. Valerie Brisco, 200/400 champion in 1984, ran the third leg for the US and brought the baton to Griffith Joyner with only a half-metre deficit. FloJo moved to Bryzhina's shoulder on the backstretch and seemed ready to pounce, as the crowd looked for her to move ahead at any time. But it never happened. Griffith Joyner moved up slightly on the final turn but that was as close as she got, Bryzhina pulling away to win by three metres, and outrunning FloJo – 47.80 to 48.08. Both teams finished under the world record, with the Soviet Union posting 3:15.18, which still stood as the world record through 2014.


These were the standing World and Olympic records (in minutes) prior to the 1988 Summer Olympics.

World Record 3:15.92 East GermanyGesine Walther
East GermanySabine Busch
East GermanyDagmar Rübsam
East Germany Marita Koch
Erfurt (GDR) June 3, 1984
Olympic Record 3:18.29 United States Lillie Leatherwood
United States Denean Howard
United States Valerie Brisco-Hooks
United States Chandra Cheeseborough
Los Angeles (USA) August 11, 1984

The following World and Olympic record (in minutes) was set during this competition.

October 1, 1988 Final  Tatyana Ledovskaya (URS)
 Olga Nazarova (URS)
 Mariya Pinigina (URS)
 Olga Bryzgina (URS)
3:15.17 OR WR

These are the official results of the Women's 4 × 400 m Relay event at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. There were a total number of sixteen nations competing.

On paper this looked like the Soviet Union would dominate. They had the gold and bronze medalists from the 400 metres race and the silver medalist from the 400 hurdles. With the retirement of Marita Koch and Jarmila Kratochvílová, Gold medalist Olga Bryzgina had the fastest time of any active athlete when she finished a close second behind Koch's world record three years earlier. Her 48.64 earlier in the week showed she hadn't lost a step. The Soviet's fourth runner had a bronze medal from the 1983 world championships.

USA was the defending champion from the boycott impaired games at home four years earlier. USA had the fourth through sixth places in the 400 meters race earlier in the week. Instead of running the fourth best runner from the Olympic Trials, USA pulled a risky maneuver in asking Florence Griffith-Joyner to anchor vs Bryzgina. FloJo hadn't run a 400 metres in years and it never was her specialty event. But FloJo was now a different beast. In one year she had risen from a 200 metres silver medal in the previous Olympics and World Championships, to super-human. Over the course of sporadic races in 1988 she had set the world record in the 100 metres and 200 metres, both by Beamonesque margins with the 200 metres world record set only two days earlier. And just earlier in the day she had anchored the US 4x100 metres relay team to the gold medal, her third already in this Olympics.

From the gun, hurdler Tatyana Ledovskaya looked to have a slight lead over former high school star Denean Howard, who at 23 was already on her third Olympic team. Just as she had done in the hurdles, Ledovskaya tied up a bit on the final straight, Howard put the USA in first at the handoff with a 49.8 out of starting blocks. Going through the third turn, it was already clear this was a two team race. Just as she did in her many indoor victories, Diane Dixon got to the break line first and "shut the door" taking over the lead position over bronze medalist Olga Nazarova. This forced Nazarova to pass Dixon on the outside, and she did it on the turn. After making the pass, Nazarova opened up about a 10 meter lead on Dixon going into the handoff. Mariya Pinigina took the handoff and extended the lead another five metres by the 200 mark against the 1984 gold medalist Valerie Brisco-Hooks. But through the turn Brisco-Hooks started to make some headway. On the final straight, Pinigina began to tie up, noticeably hopping a stride trying to maintain form. The lead evaporated as Brisco-Hooks gained with every step. At the handoff, it was barely a meter, with FloJo taking the baton and strategically ducking in behind Bryzgina. Down the backstretch and through the final turn, Griffith-Joyner stayed the same distance behind Bryzgina as if there was a rope between the two. At the end of the turn, Griffith-Joyner looked to gain a little but Bryzgina sensed the attack and accelerated away, widening the gap slightly. In the final 50 metres , Griffith-Joyner made one more attack, but it wasn't with super-human sprint speed. She was able to close down the gap to 2 metres by the finish but it was a clear win for the Soviets.

The American time 3:15.51 was more than four tenths of a second faster than the four-year old world record. The winning Soviet time 3:15.17 improved the world record by three quarters of a second. Since that day, more than a quarter of a century, those two times remain the fastest in history. No team has come within a second and a half of the world record. Only four squads, all American Olympic or world championship teams, have since beaten the East German time from a distant third place in this race.

4 x 400 m Women Final 1 October
Rank Mark Team Country NOC Records
1 3.15.17 Tatyana Ledovskaya BLR, Olga V. Nazarova RUS, Mariya Pinigina UKR, Olga Bryzgina UKR Soviet Union URS WR
2 3.15.51 Denean Howard-Hill, Diane Dixon, Valerie Brisco-Hooks, Florence Griffith-Joyner United States USA AR
3 3.18.29 Dagmar Neubauer GER, Kirsten Emmelmann GER, Sabine Busch GER, Petra Schersing GER East Germany GDR
4 3.22.49 Ute Thimm GER, Helga Arendt GER, Andrea Thomas JAM, Gudrun Abt GER West Germany FRG
5 3.23.13 Sandie Richards, Andrea Thomas, Cathy Rattray-Williams, Sharon Powell Jamaica JAM
6 3.28.89 Linda Staines, Jennifer Stoute, Angela Piggford, Sally Gunnell Great Britain GBR
7 3.29.37 Fabienne Ficher, Nathalie Simon, Nadine Debois, Evelyne Elien France FRA
DNF Charmaine Crooks, Molly Killingbeck, Marita Payne, Jillian Richardson Briscoe Canada CAN
4 x 400 m Women Heat 1 30 September
Rank Mark Team Country NOC Records
1 3.27.37 Grit Breuer GER, Dagmar Neubauer GER, Kirsten Emmelmann GER, Petra Schersing GER East Germany GDR
2 3.27.63 Charmaine Crooks, Esmie Lawrence, Marita Payne, Jillian Richardson Briscoe Canada CAN
3 3.27.75 Helga Arendt GER, Michaela Schabinger GER, Gisela Kinzel GER, Gudrun Abt GER West Germany FRG
4 3.28.52 Linda Staines, Jennifer Stoute, Janet Smith, Sally Gunnell Great Britain GBR
5 3.29.95 Fabienne Ficher, Nathalie Simon, Nadine Debois, Evelyne Elien France FRA
6 3.30.21 Falilat Ogunkoya, Kehinde Vaughan, Airat Bakare, Mary Onyali Nigeria NGR
7 3.33.46 Mercy Kuttan, Vandana Rao, Vandana Shanbagh, Shiny Wilson India IND
4 x 400 m Women Heat 2 30 September
Rank Mark Team Country NOC Records
1 3.25.86 Lillie Leatherwood, Sherri Howard, Denean Howard-Hill, Diane Dixon United States USA
2 3.26.83 Marcia Tate, Andrea Thomas, Cathy Rattray-Williams, Sharon Powell Jamaica JAM
3 3.27.14 Lyudmila Dzhigalova UKR, Olga V. Nazarova RUS, Mariya Pinigina UKR, Olga Bryzgina UKR Soviet Union URS
4 3.36.81 Tânia Miranda, Suzete Montalvão, Soraya Telles, Maria Magnólia Figueirêdo Brazil BRA
5 3.51.09 Yang Kyong-Hee, Choi Se-Beom, Lim Chun-Ae, Kim Soon-Ya South Korea KOR
DQ Olga Escalante, Norfalia Carabalí ESP, Amparo Caicedo, Ximena Restrepo Colombia COL




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