BEIJING Sanya Richards needed a furious comeback. Jeremy Wariner could have walked to the finish.
The results were the same, though.
No dropped batons.
And gold medals. Finally.
In a pair of races that helped salvage the U.S. track and field team's Olympics, Wariner, Richards and Allyson Felix led an American sweep of the 1,600-meter relays Saturday, an event that might as well have been designed to bolster the U.S. team's gold-medal count.
Richards anchored her team to a come-from-behind victory in 3 minutes, 18.54 seconds, the world's fastest time since 1993. It was the fourth straight Olympic win for the United States in the women's 1,600.
Wariner crossed the line 12 strides ahead of Christopher Brown of the Bahamas, finishing in 2:55.39 to break the Olympic record by 0.35 second.
"To end it with an Olympic record after everything those guys have been through, that shows you they care about representing America," U.S. men's coach Bubba Thornton said. "They wanted to end it with a good dose of good ol' American apple pie."
The women's race was hardly a breeze unless you count that huge sigh of relief that came from the U.S. foursome.
In the final leg, Richards trailed Russia's Anastasia Kapachinskaya for more than 300 meters, with no signs of closing the gap. But down the stretch, Richards finally took over something she couldn't do in her bronze-medal performance in the 400-meter race on Tuesday for the 0.28-second victory.
When she crossed the line, she threw out her right fist baton tightly clenched inside of it, knowing a gold medal would soon be hung around her neck. The team huddled and cried. Tears of joy this time instead of disappointment.
"You get down on yourself," Richards said. "So we used that as motivation. We kept our heads high and we ran great."
There was no such drama in the men's race, which featured two gold-medal winners LaShawn Merritt, who upset Wariner in the 400, and Angelo Taylor, the 400 hurdles winner. Merritt put America in the lead early, Taylor widened the gap, David Neville held it and Wariner romped to the finish.
The American men won the long relay at the Olympics for the 18th time out of 22 they've been entered. Their gold medal in 2000 was recently stripped because of a doping case.
With only Sunday's marathon left, the Americans are likely to finish with seven gold medals, one fewer than the last two Olympics, but one more than their worst showings in 1972 and 1976, when fewer events were held.
The golds gave the Americans 23 overall medals, meaning they're virtually assured of falling short of the 25 they won in Athens four years ago.
Wariner, Felix and Richards were among a big handful of Americans who came to Beijing with gold-medal hopes that were unfulfilled coming into the final weekend.
Richards' hamstring started tightening up in the last 80 meters of the 400 on Tuesday and she walked away with a bronze, crying into her cell phone when it was over. Two days later, Felix finished behind Jamaica's Veronica Campbell-Brown, who ran the best time in a decade in the 200, and also was weeping after the race.
Felix and Richards had also hoped to line up for the Americans in the final of the 400-meter relay Richards would have been a long shot to make that team but never got the chance because the team dropped the baton in qualifying, blowing a sure shot at a medal and maybe even a gold.
The American men dropped the stick, too, blowing yet another medal opportunity in an event where they usually dominate.
Wariner was the defending world and Olympic champion, a favorite to win the 400, but labored mightily down the stretch, losing badly to Merritt. Merritt, Wariner and Neville still swept the event, though a pretty good sign that there would be gold in their relay future to help set aside some of the disappointments.
"A lot of things happened in this Olympics that we weren't expecting," Wariner said. "But we'll use that to build on. I know next year at the world championships it's going to be different."