'Something looked off': USA caught in Olympics relay controversy

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·Sports Editor
·3-min read
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  • Lynna Irby
    American sprinter
Lynna Irby, pictured here lining up way outside the exchange zone in the mixed 4x400m relay.
Lynna Irby lined up way outside the exchange zone in the mixed 4x400m relay. Image: BBC

The US mixed 4x400m relay team have been reinstated after a controversial disqualification at the Tokyo Olympics.

Officials originally ruled that Lynna Irby had positioned herself outside the passing zone when she received the baton from Elija Godwin in Friday night's preliminary heat.

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However that decision was later overturned on appeal, with USA Track and Field announcing the change late on Friday night. 

The Dominican Republic had also been disqualified but was were later reinstated.

In the 4x400m race, officials direct the next group of runners onto the track to try to maintain order in the sometimes-crowded exchange zone. 

Runners can be every bit as attuned to where the officials tell them to line up as to the teammate about to give them the baton.

It is believed Irby was told to stand in the wrong spot by an official, hence why the disqualification was overturned on appeal.

Lynna Irby, pictured here carrying the baton in the 4x400m mixed relay at the Olympics.
Lynna Irby carries the baton in the 4x400m mixed relay at the Olympics. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Irby could be seen standing why in front of her fellow competitors as she awaited the baton exchange, leading to mass confusion in the race and on social media.

"Something looked off at the first exchange, where Lynna Irby was not in view here and appeared to be at the wrong stagger," tweeted reporter Nick Zaccardi.

American legend Michael Johnson tweeted: “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.”

Team USA's ugly history of botched relays

Because the decision was overturned, Allyson Felix now gets a chance to win her record 10th Olympic medal on Saturday night. 

She helped the US win the 4x400m race in its debut at the world championships two years ago.

If she is placed in the lineup for the final, she can break a tie with Jamaican great Merlene Ottey for the most women's track medals in Olympic history. 

Felix will also run next week in the women's 400m and could have a spot in the women's 4x400m next weekend.

This was the latest chapter in long string of drama for the US in relays. Much of it has come in the shorter 4x100m relay where the pass is a more technical and time-sensitive move.

A disqualification at the 2016 Olympics in Rio marked the ninth time since 1995 the men had botched the relay at a world championships or Olympics.

The women also misconnected at the 2004 and 2008 Games and got shut out of the medals.

Friday's night's episode was more reminiscent of 2016.

Felix was on the US women’s team that was initially disqualified from the preliminaries for an illegal pass in the 4x100m. 

But they protested because Felix got jostled by another runner. 

Hours later they came back to the track to run a time trial with no other team on the track. That advanced them to the final, where they won easily.

with Associated Press

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