The anchor leg is the final position in a relay race. Typically, the anchor leg of a relay is given to the fastest or most experienced competitor on a team. The athlete completing the anchor leg of a relay is responsible for making up ground on the race-leader or preserving the lead already secured by their teammates.
Notable track examples
"Bullet" Bob Hayes ran anchor leg for the United States 4 × 100 metres relay team in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Receiving the baton in fifth place, Hayes pulled ahead of four runners to win the race. A French rival, Jocelyn Delecour, remarked to the American lead-off runner Paul Drayton "You haven't got anything except Hayes", and Drayton responded "That's all we need, pal."
Carl Lewis never lost a race when he anchored the American 4 × 100 m relay team. He regularly ran under 9 seconds for his anchor legs and helped the team break the world record in the 4 × 100 m relay five times. The record set by the U.S. at the 1992 Summer Olympics of 37.40 seconds stood for 16 years.
Anchoring the U.S. sprint relay team at the 1984 Summer Olympics, Evelyn Ashford ran a reported 9.77 seconds, the fastest time ever for a woman over 100 m. The U.S. team of Alice Brown (first leg), Jeanette Bolden (second leg) and Chandra Cheeseborough (third leg) won by the biggest margin in the event's history.
Usain Bolt anchored the 2012 Jamaican 4 × 100 m relay and helped set a new world record with a time 36.84 seconds.
After she placed eight individually in the 100 m, Pam Marshall ran the anchor leg for the American 4 × 100 m team at the 1987 World Athletics Championships in Rome and beat Marlies Göhr in the final with an anchor leg timed at 10.11 s to Göhr's 10.41 s.
In some cases, athletes who are not top performers in individual events excel when given the responsibility of anchoring a relay. Phil Brown, a U.K. 400 m runner, won Olympic, World and European championship medals as the anchor leg runner for his national 4 × 400 m relay team despite never having won a medal and rarely having advanced beyond the preliminary rounds individually.
British hurdling specialist Kriss Akabusi swapped places with normal Great Britain anchor, Olympic 400 metre silver medalist Roger Black, in a race where he caught and passed 400 metre world champion Antonio Pettigrew to win Great Britain the World Championship gold in Tokyo. Due to the final legs of 4 × 400 m relay being run without lanes, the anchor may require some of the techniques normally associated with a middle distance runner, including tactical awareness, overtaking technique and physical strength to hold off other athletes, as well as basic speed.
All-time top 10
|1||8.60||Bob Hayes||United States||21 October 1964||Tokyo|
|2||8.65||Usain Bolt||Jamaica||2 May 2015||Nassau|
|3||8.68||Asafa Powell||Jamaica||22 August 2008||Beijing|
|4||8.80||Richard Thompson||Trinidad and Tobago||3 May 2014||Nassau|
|5||8.83||Ryan Bailey||United States||2 May 2015||Nassau|
|6||8.85||Carl Lewis||United States||8 August 1992||Barcelona|
|7||8.92||Leroy Burrell||United States||22 August 1993||Stuttgart|
|Yancarlos Martínez||Dominican Republic||2 May 2015||Nassau|
|9||8.93||Donovan Bailey||Canada||3 August 1996||Atlanta|
|10||8.95||Linford Christie||United Kingdom||1 October 1988||Seoul|
At the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Michael Phelps swam the anchor leg of the 4 × 200 m relay becoming the most decorated Olympian of all time with his 15th gold medal and 19th overall. He returned in 2016 to again anchor the 4 ×200 m freestyle relay, claiming his 21st gold and 25th medal.
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