Team USA’s mixed 4×400 meter relay team faced an emotional rollercoaster on Friday after they were disqualified — and later reinstated — because of an illegal baton pass in the inaugural Olympic event.
It appeared as if Team USA handily won their heat on Friday, finishing with a time of 3:11.38 ahead, well ahead of the rest of the field. But the team was informed after the event concluded that they had been disqualified for an illegal baton pass; video of the incident shows Elija Godwin giving the baton to Lynna Irby — the latter of whom ran the second leg of the rce — outside the pass zone. Video shows Irby lined up well beyond the other racers in her leg.
Below is the full event, the illegal baton pass and a post-race interview in which the runners were informed they had been disqualified:
Here’s everything you need to know about Team USA’s disqualification and subsequent reinstatement following the mixed 4×400 relay mishap:
Why was Team USA disqualified in the mixed 4×400 relay?
Following the conclusion of Friday’s heat, NBC’s Lewis Johnson informed the mixed 4×400 relay team they were disqualified. Before he broke the news, however, he asked Irby to review a replay of the exchange and explain what happened.
“So I see my teammate (Godwin) coming in, hauling ass, really representing Team USA,” Irby said. “The baton gets to me. … You know what, it does look like the zone, but we’ll just have to wait and see the results at the end.”
Lewis then informed Irby the mixed 4×400 relay team had been disqualified because the pass took place outside the designated zone.
“Oh my God. The exchange was out,” Irby said. “OK, I mean that’s disappointing, but lessons learned.”
Irby said the team had practiced extensively over the previous two days to ensure no issues occurred in the baton pass, but said this was the team’s first time out on the Olympic Stadium.
Why was Team USA reinstated in the mixed 4×400 relay?
Following Team USA’s disqualification, the team filed a formal appeal to the IOC; the team argued that Irby was told where to line up by an official, absolving the team of the penalty.
As discussed by four-time Olympic gold winner Michael Johnson:
@TeamUSA Mixed 4×4 relay DQ’d. 2nd runner lined up at the wrong line. Our @BBCSport coverage saw 2 athletes in heat 2 also lined up in the wrong place and corrected themselves last minute. Officials either lined them up wrong or didn’t give direction. US should win appeal.
— Michael Johnson (@MJGold) July 30, 2021
Irby’s track and field coach, Lance Brauman, said as much in an interview with the IndyStar, blaming an official mistake for the penalty. It appeared the IOC agreed with the United States’ opinion, reinstating the team after it was initially disqualified.
Team USA will run in the mixed 4×400 relay on Saturday at 8:35 a.m. ET. That also leaves open the possibility that Allyson Felix — who could run in Saturday’s final — will win yet another Olympic medal. A medal in any of her three potential Tokyo Games events would give her an 11th Olympic medal, making her the most-decorated woman in Olympic track and field history. Carl Lewis (11) is the only other U.S. track and field Olympian to have more than Felix.