Four years later, Natasha Hastings and her teammates got the gold medal. What they’ll never get back is the night they came in second. Before the start of world championships on Friday, the U.S. 4×400-meter relay runners were awarded the first-place prizes they missed out on in 2013 after losing to a Russian team that was later stripped of the gold because of doping.
Hastings, Jessica Beard, Ashley Spencer and Francena McCorory were invited to the top step of the podium, had the medals placed around their necks and heard their national anthem play – all part of the IAAF’s attempt to set things right after getting so much wrong over the years in its less-than-upstanding fight against doping. Britain and France also moved up one spot in the race.
Hastings, who will compete for the U.S. at this year’s world championships as well, said “awkward and bittersweet are definitely words to describe it.”
Much as she appreciated the gesture, and will treasure the gold medal, she echoed the sentiment of so many who have been in her shoes when she conceded she’d never totally forget the moment her team crossed the line less than 0.3 seconds behind the Russians.
“It’s a moment you can never completely get back,” she said. “Having a moment to get on the podium and hear the national anthem, yeah, kinda, sorta. … But there’s nothing like crossing that line in first place.”
McCorory also was awarded a bronze medal in the 400 meters after finishing fourth at the 2011 world championships in Daegu, South Korea. She didn’t think the emotions would overtake her Friday. They did.
“It was pretty emotional,” McCorory said. “I’m grateful the IAAF did let us relive the moment for sure, instead of handing the medals to us and saying, `Congratulations.”’
McCorory, who’s not competing this week, will give her medals to her grandmother, who wears them to work. She said this is a step in the right direction, even if she feels her moment was stolen.
“It’s kind of devastating to know that you can work as hard as you possibly could work and still get cheated,” McCorory said.
In all, 16 medals will be reallocated over the weekend in 11 events spanning from 2007 through 2013. Jessica Ennis of Britain, Kara Goucher of the United States and Stephenie Ann McPherson of Jamaica are among those getting new awards.
A number of these cases involved doping in Russia, which has been banned from the worlds by the IAAF. Nineteen Russians have been approved to compete this week as neutral athletes.
“It’s not a Russia thing, but it is a thing that sometimes you get out there and you wonder, `Do I have a fair shot at this? If I’m doing the right thing, is everyone else doing the right thing?”’ Hastings said. “I have to tell you that it is something that’s discouraging when you get on the track, and no matter how far in the back of our minds we try to push it, we talk about that.”
Eilidh Doyle and her British teammates were bumped up from bronze to silver from the 4×400 relay in 2013. It was nice to be honored in front of a home crowd, even if it was years later.
“For our medal, we were a bit luckier than the other girls because … we had the moment on the podium. Some of the other girls (honored by the IAAF) didn’t,” Doyle said. “They didn’t get the chance to go on the podium. It’s not very nice in that sense. At least this is happening now. These things are getting sorted out.
“But to look back and know it should’ve (had) a silver, you’re a little bit angry and annoyed because it’s not fair. You have to let it go and see the positive that things are getting changed.”
Doyle said she’s keeping her old medal since it’s engraved. “It will go into a memory box and be a reminder of, `Yes, that was my first medal and it meant the world to me when we won it. And yeah, it should’ve been a silver,”’ she said.