A botched handover between Allyson Felix and English Gardner appeared to eliminate the U.S. team from contention to defend its Olympic 4x100m gold medal. But now the U.S. will have a second opportunity to qualify for the final, after launching a successful protest.
The U.S. will run a second 4x100m heat by itself tonight at 6:00 p.m. ET. If the U.S. runs faster than the 42.70 seconds of China, the slowest nation to advance, the U.S. will replace China in the final. Canada also clocked 42.70 seconds in the first round, but the IAAF ruled that Canada finished .001 seconds faster than China, according to Tim Layden of Sports Illustrated.
Running a relay time trial at the Olympics is believed to be unprecedented:
In the first round, Felix stumbled and failed to catch Gardner, the third U.S. runner, as she entered the exchange zone. In desperation, Felix tried to flip the baton to Gardner. But the IAAF, the sport’s international federation, ruled that a Brazilian runner “obstructed” Felix before the botched handover.
“It just knocked me off,” Felix said to NBC’s Lewis Johnson. “I mean, I was tripping, but I don’t know, I was still trying to get it off, but I just…I couldn’t.”
Felix wisely instructed Gardner to pick up the baton to complete the race, making the protest possible.
The Brazilian team was disqualified.
The U.S. 4x100m relay team regularly runs faster than 42.70 seconds when it is at its best. The U.S. clocked 41.68 seconds to win the silver medal at the 2015 World Championships. The U.S. broke the world record at the 2012 Olympics in 40.82 seconds with Felix and Tianna Bartoletta, who are both in Rio.
The women’s 4x100m final is scheduled for Friday at 9:15 p.m. ET.