Host City: London, Great Britain
Venue(s): White City Stadium, London; White City Stadium, London
Date Started: July 24, 1908
Date Finished: July 25, 1908
Format: Four runners covering 1,600 metres in the following order: 200 metres, 200 metres, 400 metres, 800 metres.
This was the first Olympic relay race and evidence that the event was still in its infancy is confirmed by the fact that the runners did not carry a baton and transfer was by "touch." The United States was untroubled in both rounds. After winning their heat in 3:27.2, they were comfortable winners of the final in a time more than two seconds slower. The U.S. margin was eight yards at the first exchange, 15 yards at the second exchange, and 20 yards on the final exchange.
With Emilio Lunghi, the silver medalist in the individual 800, running the vital 800 anchor leg, the Italians, who had been drawn in the second heat, were viewed as likely finalists but they withdrew at the last minute to lend their support to their countryman, Dorando Pietri, who was approaching the Stadium in the closing stages of the marathon.
The 400 metre leg for the United States was run by John Taylor, who was African-American. His gold medal in this race makes him the first black man to have won a gold medal. He was considered the top American at 400 metres, having won three IC4A 440 yard titles while at the University of Pennsylvania, and he had also won the Eastern Olympic Trials in 1908. He had trained in veterinary medicine, but practiced only briefly. After returning to the United States, he developed typhoid fever and died only a few months after the Olympics, on 2 December 1908.