Athletics at the 1988 Summer Olympics – Women's 4 × 400 metres relay

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Athletics at the
1988 Summer Olympics
Athletics pictogram.svg
Track events
100 m   men   women
200 m men women
400 m men women
800 m men women
1500 m men women
3000 m women
5000 m men
10,000 m men women
100 m hurdles women
110 m hurdles men
400 m hurdles men women
3000 m
4×100 m relay men women
4×400 m relay men women
Road events
Marathon men women
20 km walk men
50 km walk men
Field events
Long jump men women
Triple jump men
High jump men women
Pole vault men
Shot put men women
Discus throw men women
Javelin throw men women
Hammer throw men
Combined events
Heptathlon women
Decathlon men
Wheelchair races

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.


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.

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


  • Held on Saturday 1988-10-01
Med 1.png  Soviet Union (URS) Tatyana Ledovskaya
Olga Nazarova
Mariya Pinigina
Olga Bryzgina
Med 2.png  United States (USA) Denean Howard
Diane Dixon
Valerie Brisco-Hooks
Florence Griffith-Joyner
Med 3.png  East Germany (GDR) Dagmar Neubauer
Kirsten Emmelmann
Sabine Busch
Petra Müller
4.  West Germany (FRG) Ute Thimm
Helga Arendt
Andrea Thomas
Gudrun Abt
5.  Jamaica (JAM) Sandie Richards
Andrea Thomas
Cathy Rattray-Williams
Sharon Powell
6.  Great Britain (GBR) Linda Keough
Jennifer Stoute
Angela Piggford
Sally Gunnell
7.  France (FRA) Fabienne Ficher
Nathalie Simon
Nadine Debois
Evelyn Elien
 Canada (CAN) Charmaine Crooks
Molly Killingbeck
Marita Payne-Wiggins
Jillian Richardson


  • Held on Friday 1988-09-30
1.  East Germany (GDR) Grit Breuer
Dagmar Neubauer
Kirsten Emmelmann
Petra Müller
2.  Canada (CAN) Charmaine Crooks
Esmie Lawrence
Marita Payne-Wiggins
Jillian Richardson
3.  West Germany (FRG) Helga Arendt
Michaela Schabinger
Gisela Kinzel
Gudrun Abt
4.  Great Britain (GBR) Linda Keough
Jennifer Stoute
Janet Smith
Sally Gunnell
5.  France (FRA) Fabienne Ficher
Nathalie Simon
Evelyn Elien
Nadine Debois
6.  Nigeria (NGR) Falilat Ogunkoya
Kehinde Vaughan
Airat Bakare
Mary Onyali
7.  India (IND) Mercy Kuttanmath Alapurackal
Vandana Rao
Vandana Shanbagh
Shin Kurisingal Abraham
 Australia (AUS) Debbie Flintoff-King
Maree Holland
Kerry Johnson
Jennifer Laurendet

1.  United States (USA) Lillie Leatherwood
Sherri Howard
Denean Howard
Diane Dixon
2.  Jamaica (JAM) Marcia Tate
Andrea Thomas
Cathy Rattray-Williams
Sharon Powell
3.  Soviet Union (URS) Lyudmila Dzhigalova
Olga Nazarova
Mariya Pinigina
Olga Bryzgina
4.  Brazil (BRA) Tania Miranda
Suzete Montalvao
Soraya Telles
Maria Figueiredo
5.  South Korea (KOR) Yang Kyoung-Hee
Choi Se-Beom
Lim Chun-Ae
Kim Soon-Ja
 Colombia (COL) Olga Escalante
Norfalia Carabali
Amparo Caicedo
Ximena Restrepo
 Uganda (UGA) Jane Ajilo
Grace Buzu
Farida Kyakutema
Ruth Kyalisiima
 Spain (ESP) Blanca Lacambra
Esther Lahoz
Cristina Pérez
Teresa Zuñiga

See also[edit]