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Baton Mishap Costs US Men’s Relay the Gold In the 4x100

By: Abigail Weintraub

The starting pistol fires. Christian Coleman from the United States team zooms ahead, clutching the lime-green baton. “Here’s Noah Lyles,” says the announcer after a clean baton exchange between the two runners. “Away goes the two-time 200 world champ.” The racers are before the final stretch; the USA is ahead, with Canada close behind. However, during USA’s third and final pass, racer Elijah Hall struggled to quickly hand off the baton to Marvin Bracy. As Canadian anchor Andre De Grasse rocketed down the track, only a few steps ahead of Bracy, it was clear that the United States’ awkward baton maneuver cost them the win.

“It’s bittersweet,” said Bracy. “When you sweep the 100 and the 200, you expect to come out here and perform better.”

The second-place finish came as a disappointment to many people because four out of the ten fastest men in the world were featured in the US relay. Moreover, the women’s team, featuring runners Melissa Jefferson, Abby Steiner, Jenna Prandini, and Twanisha Terry, took home gold in the women’s 4x100 relay moments earlier. “You could have the four fastest women, but if you don’t have chemistry and the baton doesn’t move through the exchange zone, then what are you doing?” commented Terry.

Still, receiving silver is a satisfactory achievement, considering the fact that the runners attain speeds over 20 mph and can’t look behind them when passing the baton. Each racer has to trust that their teammate behind them will quickly position the baton into their open hand. The maneuver shouldn’t last more than a second.

The women’s team finished first with a time of 41.14 seconds, the 3rd fastest time ever recorded. They tend to do excellent in global relay events. Their recent win was their second 4x100 world title in the last three championship years, and the team has won gold in 2 out of the past 3 Olympic events. At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, they won silver, losing to Jamaica.

On the contrary, the men’s relay team hasn’t been awarded an Olympic gold medal since 2000. In their most recent performance, the USA got off to a slow start, and there was a handoff miscue from the second to third leg. Then, the anchor of the team couldn’t keep pace, dropping their standings from 3rd to 6th in a matter of seconds. “The USA team did everything wrong in the men’s relay,” tweeted track and field athlete Carl Lewis.

Judging from the races by both the men’s and women's teams, the message is clear: speed is great, but cooperation is just as essential.


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