In 2012, Tori Bowie was an unknown who missed the Olympic Trials after breaking her jaw in a freak accident, rendering her temporarily unable to eat or speak.
Now, she leaves Rio with a medal of every color, the last image of her crossing the finish line triumphantly carrying a baton as the anchor of the U.S. 4x100m relay team.
The U.S. clocked 41.01 seconds, the second-fastest time in history behind its 40.82 from the 2012 Olympic final. The Americans beat rival Jamaica by .35.
“I feel like I had the easiest job of all,” Bowie told Lewis Johnson on NBC afterward. “You know, my teammates brought me the stick, and all I had to do was bring it to the finish line.”
Bowie, a 25-year-old from one-stoplight Sand Hill, Mississippi, added 4x100m gold to her 100m silver and 200m bronze in the last week.
On Friday night, she was given a comfortable lead by Tianna Bartoletta, Allyson Felix and English Gardner and held off Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the 2008 and 2012 Olympic 100m champion.
Bowie was left off the 4x100m at the 2015 World Championships, despite taking 100m bronze earlier in the meet, because she did not take part in pre-worlds relay work.
So being put on the anchor leg here meant the world to her.
“I felt like my teammates trusted me enough to handle that position,” Bowie said. “I for sure didn’t want to let anyone down. I wanted to do my best job possible coming off six races [in the 100m and 200m rounds].”
Bowie is the fifth U.S. woman to earn medals in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m at the same Games. The two most recent were Carmelita Jeter and Florence Griffith-Joyner.
All this for a woman who didn’t take up sprinting full-time until March 2014, after she finished last in the long jump at the world indoor championships.
Now that Bowie has confirmed she is the best U.S. sprinter, she wants to give the long jump another try. It has always been her passion.
She has pushed her coach of two and a half years, Central Florida-based Lance Brauman, to let her get back into the pit.
“He kind of told me that if I come in and I get the right medals, then he will allow me to do the long jump next year,” Bowie said. “I think that’s a discussion that we’ll have later, after tonight. I’m hoping he’ll give in.”