RIO DE JANEIRO – An old rhyme indicates that on her wedding day, for good luck a bride should wear “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.”
Friday night at Olympic Stadium, English Gardner had all of those fronts covered during Team USA’s gold-medal 4x100m relay performance. Running in her new, blue USA uniform and her usual jewelry, her “something borrowed” was her most important piece of equipment – her shoes.
Gardner says that after Thursday night’s time trial for the relay, which advanced them into the final, she returned to the apartment she shared with her parents in Rio and never touched her spike bag. Friday night at the stadium’s warm-up track, she left her bag in a tent as she warmed up. Just more than 10 minutes before the team was to report to the call room, she prepared to practice hand-offs with Allyson Felix. She went to her bag to get her shoes: “I opened my bag, and it looked like stuff had been moved around. And there was only one spike in it.”
Gardner discreetly told a Team USA assistant coach about her conundrum, and they searched for an athlete with size 7.5 feet. Gardner then confided in Felix, who wears a size 8. The most decorated female track & field athlete in history had an extra pair of spikes in her bag. And although the shoes were custom-made for Felix’s narrow feet rather than Gardner’s and were a half-size too big, “It was nothing an extra pair of socks couldn’t fix,” Gardner said.
Running in those borrowed, big shoes, Gardner’s third leg was critical in propelling the Americans to victory in 41.01 seconds, the second-fastest time in history.
After the race, Gardner thanked Felix for the loaner and tried to return the shoes, which had helped to fulfill that old good-luck poem about wedding days.
“You keep those,” Felix told Gardner. “You earned a gold medal in them.”