Anchor leg

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.[1][2][3]

Notable track examplesEdit

"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."[4]

Carl Lewis never lost a race when he anchored the American 4 × 100 m relay team.[citation needed] 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.[5] The record set by the U.S. at the 1992 Summer Olympics of 37.40 seconds stood for 16 years.[6]

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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

Usain Bolt anchored the 2012 Jamaican 4 × 100 m relay and helped set a new world record with a time 36.84 seconds.[7]

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.[citation needed]

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[8] despite never having won a medal and rarely having advanced beyond the preliminary rounds individually.[citation needed]

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.[9] 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.[citation needed]

All-time top 10Edit

Rank Time Athlete Country Date Place Ref
1 8.60 Bob Hayes   United States 21 October 1964 Tokyo [10][11][12]
2 8.65 Usain Bolt   Jamaica 2 May 2015 Nassau [13]
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
Filippo Tortu   Italy 6 August 2021 Tokyo
8 8.92 Leroy Burrell   United States 22 August 1993 Stuttgart
Yancarlos Martínez   Dominican Republic 2 May 2015 Nassau
10 8.93 Donovan Bailey   Canada 3 August 1996 Atlanta
11 8.95 Linford Christie   United Kingdom 1 October 1988 Seoul

The Bob Hayes time has been the stuff of legend for decades, but it is not the official time. With modern video reviews it has been clocked at 9.00 seconds.


At the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Jason Lezak was the oldest male on the U.S. swim team. He anchored the U.S. 4 × 100 m freestyle relay team that won the gold medal and set a new world record.[14]

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.[15] He returned in 2016 to again anchor the 4 ×200 m freestyle relay, claiming his 21st gold and 25th medal.[16]


  1. ^ Ask the Coaches: Relay Strategy Archived 2014-05-23 at the Wayback Machine. Running Times (2002-07-02). Retrieved on 2014-05-23.
  2. ^ Anchor Leg Archived 2014-05-23 at the Wayback Machine. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on 2014-05-23.
  3. ^ Missy Franklin's Unreal Anchor Leg Secures 800 Free Relay Victory for California Archived May 23, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. Swimming World (2014-03-21). Retrieved on 2014-05-23.
  4. ^ Litsky, Frank (2002-09-20). Bob Hayes, Stellar Sprinter and Receiver, Is Dead at 59 Archived 2017-08-11 at the Wayback Machine. The New York Times. Retrieved on 2014-05-23.
  5. ^ "Carl LEWIS". Olympic Channel. Archived from the original on 2020-09-18. Retrieved 2020-08-26.
  6. ^ "USA Men's 4x100m - Olympic News". International Olympic Committee. 2017-03-17. Archived from the original on 2018-09-17. Retrieved 2020-08-26.
  7. ^ "USA Track & Field | Ashford's 100m record earns her USATF Throwback Athlete of the Week honors". Archived from the original on 2020-08-09. Retrieved 2020-08-26.
  8. ^ "Local Olympian to start 17th Great Midlands Fun Run". Great Midlands Fun Run. 2019-06-01. Archived from the original on 2020-09-24. Retrieved 2020-08-27.
  9. ^ "Kriss Akabusi on the Olympic medal that changed his life". International Olympic Committee. 2019-03-05. Archived from the original on 2017-08-22. Retrieved 2020-08-27.
  10. ^ "Bob Hayes: A two-sport legend with speed to thrill". Fox News. Archived from the original on April 11, 2018. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  11. ^ "Bob Hayes". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on April 11, 2018. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  12. ^ "Hayes deserves better place in history". ESPN. Archived from the original on April 11, 2018. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2018-07-12. Retrieved 2018-07-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ "12th Anniversary of Jason Lezak's Epic Anchor Leg at Beijing Games (Video)". Swimming World News. 2020-08-11. Retrieved 2020-08-27.
  15. ^ "U.S. wins 4x200 freestyle relay gold, Michael Phelps sets career Olympic medal record". Archived from the original on 2020-12-29. Retrieved 2020-08-27.
  16. ^ Auerbach, Nicole. "With Michael Phelps as anchor, U.S. 4x200 free relay wins gold". USA TODAY. Archived from the original on 2020-03-17. Retrieved 2020-08-27.