LONDON — It took a fraction more than 37 seconds to change so much for Darvis Patton.
Good fortune at long last descended on the 34-year-old with the star-crossed past. The U.S. 400-meter relay team set an American record while qualifying first with a 37.38-second time.
Patton ran the second leg, and he got the baton around cleanly in possibly the last Olympic race he will ever run.
“To me, it’s business as usual,” Patton said. “I’ve just been on the unfortunate end of it a lot of times.”
“I whispered to him, ‘Third time is the charm,’ ” U.S. teammate Justin Gatlin said. “He’s been in a couple of the bobbles in the last couple championships. I said, ‘You know what? The next Olympics you go to, something is going to happen.’
“And now he’s an American record holder, at the end of his career. He said this might be his last Olympics, and to go out with an American record, that’s huge.”
In 2008, it was the ghastly failure to complete the exchange with Tyson Gay that robbed the U.S. of a spot in the 400-meter relay Olympic finals. In 2009, it was a disqualification at the world championships for an improper pass with Shawn Crawford. In the 2011 world championships, Patton was bumped, fell and separated his shoulder to submarine U.S. hopes there.
No such trouble Friday, as the U.S. sped by the old national mark of 37.40, last reached in 1993.
“I think complete redemption would be crossing that line to get on that podium here in this stadium,” Patton said. “If we walk away with a gold, that would be complete redemption. I’ve had some problems in the past. But I put that behind me, came forward and got an American record.”
And, at least for 24 hours or so, a spot in national history.
“Guys like Maurice Greene, Michael Johnson, Andre Cason, Carl Lewis, Dennis Mitchell, Leroy Burrell — I mean, I’m named with those guys,” Patton said. “And ahead of those guys, at least for this relay. It’s pretty hard to put into words what I’m feeling right now.”
Handed the baton again, he delivered, in every sense. All that’s left is to see if he gets another chance to race for gold Saturday. The relay lineup for the final will be officially announced Saturday.
“If I’m a part of it, I’ll be excited,” Patton said. “If I’m not, I’ll be the biggest cheerleader. Pompoms and a skirt.”
Told that would be quite a sight, Patton said: “Hey, I’ll do it if we get the gold medal. You have my word.”