Rio de Janeiro – Allyson Felix, the only returner from the U.S. relay team who won gold four years ago in London, might be able to defend her Olympic title after a ruined baton exchange. The United States was apparently out of the competition, but the team argued that Felix had been impeded upon during a handoff to English Gardner, and the Americans will re-run the track Thursday evening and maybe qualify for the final of the 4×400 meters relay. They will be alone on the road.
Felix said she was thrown off balance after getting bumped coming into the exchange zone, as reported by The Washington Post. She could not hold the baton together to get it to English and it fell to the ground.
A successful protest was filed after the race by officials with U.S. Track and Field. The protest states that a Brazilian runner impeded with Felix during the hand-off. As a consequence, the Brazilian team was disqualified for obstruction, according to The Washington Post.
The Americans will be able to post a time that could give them a spot in the final field. The IAAF said the United States must post over 42.70 seconds to advance. That qualifying time in the final-round heats was achieved by both Canada and China, the seventh and eighth teams in the final’s field.
Felix told the BBC that she had gone propelled at about 20 mph. She explained that a foreign object coming in front of the athlete inevitably ruins the handover.
“We’re just going to regroup, get ourselves together and go out there and be able to compete in the final,” said Gardner before a final decision had been made, as quoted by The Washington Post.
The Americans will re-run on Thursday at six p.m. EST. According to the IAAF, athletes are required to make a baton pass to “keep in their lanes or maintain position until the course is clear to avoid obstruction to other athletes.” If an athlete runs out of his or her lane and impedes a member of another team, the referee may allow the affected competitor or team to advance to the next ground or dictate that the race is re-held.
The U.S. will be among the favorites in Friday’s final if they succeed on Thursday night and advances. Jamaica and Great Britain are already among the medal favorites. Any medal would mean an importance advance to Gardner, who is a pre-race favorite in the women’s 100 meters which could not make it to the final. She finished seventh.
The male team did manage to win their heat in their equivalent race as they ran the fastest time of all the qualifiers with a 37.65 finish. Things will surely be very different on Friday when Usain Bolt joins his relay team. He was part of the teams which won gold in the past two Olympics.
Previous U.S. ruined baton pass in a relay
The USA Track and Field has experienced such disappointments eight times in the previous two decades. The male team has either been disqualified or failed to get the baton around the track at the Olympics and several world championships. And the American women set a world record in London four years ago, but only after they mishandled the handover in Athens and Beijing.
Source: Washington Post