EDMONTON, Alberta - Once again, Baltimore's Bernard Williams has proved himself a golden guy of American track and field.
With a solid second-leg performance by Williams, the former standout at Carver High and the University of Florida, the United States dashed off with the gold medal in the men's 400-meter relay, the closing event of the track and field world championships yesterday at Commonwealth Stadium.
Mickey Grimes to Williams, Williams to Dennis Mitchell, Mitchell to Tim Montgomery - the three baton passes were on the money as the United States raced off to a decisive triumph in 37.96 seconds, beating South Africa (38.47), Trinidad and Tobago (38.58) and Australia (38.83) to claim the gold and an $80,000 team check.
Around new teammates, Williams celebrated without being brash.
Teaming with Jon Drummond, Brian Lewis and Maurice Greene, he had collected gold, too, in the 400 relay at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.
But this time there was no flag-draped preening or prancing during the victory lap or on the medals stand - the kind of behavior that raised so many hackles in Sydney.
The relay team's victory lap yesterday was strictly sedate. They waved to the crowd from the medals stand - and that was about it.
"I'm glad to get another medal, and I'm glad it's gold," said Williams, breathing a sigh of relief.
"I'm glad this battle is over; now we'll prepare for the next war.
The baton handoffs "were real sweet," Williams said. "As we got it going [after the semifinal], we made a couple of adjustments. As you can see, it turned out to be good. This was the best we can do. This was as good as the Olympics. Both of them mean the same. Everybody sees the Olympics. That's the only difference."
Said Montgomery, "I'm coming off a great race [in the 100] and a great season. [But] this was the sweetest."
Theirs was the fifth and final gold medal earned by the American men in Edmonton. But five also equaled the all-time low total by the U.S. men at the world championships - the 1997 team at Athens also won five.
With the U.S. women winning four golds, the American team wound up with 19 total medals, a figure equaled by Russia in the battle-within-a-battle for global team supremacy.
However, only a horribly bungled baton pass - Michelle Collins to anchor runner Suziann Reid, with the Americans holding a big lead in the women's 1,600 relay - kept the team from winning 10 gold medals.
The United States did prevail in the men's 1,600 relay, as Olympic 400-meter hurdles champion Angelo Taylor fought off a weeklong illness to anchor the victory in 2:57.54, the fastest time in the world this year.
The men's 400-relay team of Grimes-Williams-Mitchell-Montgomery was slightly shaky in winning its semifinal in a relatively slow 38.60. Brazil (38.23) and Japan (38.54) were faster in the other semifinal. The Americans' baton work seemed tentative.
This was a semi-makeshift team to begin with. Greene had bowed out with a leg injury after leading Montgomery and Williams to a 1-2-3 finish in the 100 dash. And Drummond, leadoff man in the Olympics and Saturday's preliminaries, went to the sideline after ripping a quadriceps muscle at the 60-meter mark.
Still, Drummond stayed in the race despite the pain and passed off to Grimes to keep American hopes alive. Then the team had to wait out a preliminary disqualification call - overruled two hours later - to clinch its place in the semifinals.
All those problems were pushed aside, though, by the time of the final.
"It's a pleasure," Grimes said. "I had a coach [U.S. coach Orin Richburg] who had faith in me, and three other guys who had faith in me.
"It's great, I'm very happy, I can't wait till next year."