The USA men’s 4×100 meter relay team entered the Tokyo Olympics trying to end what has been a dismal stretch of failure dating back to the London games in 2012 where they haven’t medaled despite being among the favorites each year.
This year, with Usain Bolt no longer anchoring the Jamaican team, and two top-5 finishers in the 100-meter final just days ago, the USA was the gold medal favorite on paper, but moreso than any other track and field event, the fickle nature of the relay proved to leap up and bite the Americans before they could even get to the final.
The second handoff between Fred Kerley and Ronnie Baker proved to be the death knell, as Baker didn’t get up to speed in time and Kerley nearly ran past him, resulting in a disastrous handoff that set the Americans back too far to make up on the final legs.
— Charles G. Conner (@CharConner) August 5, 2021
Ultimately, Team USA finished sixth in their heat, getting edged out at the line by Ghana for the final spot in the finals.
China, Canada, and Italy are through to the final in men’s 4x100m relay. #TokyoOlympics
— #TokyoOlympics (@NBCOlympics) August 5, 2021
For Olympic legend Carl Lewis, it was nothing short of a disgrace, as he torched the squad on Twitter for being a “total embarrassment” and looking worse than AAU teams he’s watched recently.
The USA team did everything wrong in the men’s relay. The passing system is wrong, athletes running the wrong legs, and it was clear that there was no leadership. It was a total embarrassment, and completely unacceptable for a USA team to look worse than the AAU kids I saw .
— Carl Lewis (@Carl_Lewis) August 5, 2021
Lewis, twice a gold medalist in the 4×100 for Team USA in 1984 and 1992, certainly knows a thing or two about how to perform in that event and what it takes to make a successful team, so his comments have to sting far more than any other disappointed fan watching at home. After the race, the issues for the team were laid bare by Baker and Kerley’s brief post-race media comments about how much the team had practiced leading up to the opening heat.
Two members of the U.S. 4×100 team spoke with the media in the mixed zone. Asked how much practice they had for this event, as a group, coming into today.
Fred Kerley: “Don’t know.”
Ronnie Baker: “Not much.”
— Tom Schad (@Tom_Schad) August 5, 2021
The USA’s issues in the team event in recent years can be summed up by those quotes, as they put together an impressive group of individuals on paper, but the lack of work to become a team to nail the relay portion of the race — where they are won and lost — has been apparent far too often.