TOKYO (Reuters) – The mixed 4x400m relay made its Olympic debut in Tokyo amid controversy on the opening Friday of the athletics program, when Poland won the qualifying round after the US team was disqualified.
A discipline in which two-man and two-woman teams compete against each other in any order would appeal to audiences thanks to its unique and unexpected look.
But team members were left to cheer on other athletes at the Olympic Stadium in the absence of fans due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The American team including Elijah Goodwin, Lena Erba, Taylor Manson and Bryce Dedmon finished their first run the fastest, but were later disqualified due to a baton change outside the substitution area.
“Mistakes happen, we’re human, we can make mistakes, and if we get a DQ (unqualified) at the end of the day, I’ll look into it because I know we did our best,” Goodwin said. “I am proud of all our boys and girls.
“We are going out, we are doing our best and it was a complete surprise to all of us. All we can do is prepare for the future and see what happens next.”
The United States won the gold when the mixed relay was held for the first time at the 2019 World Cup in Doha and were the favorites to win the first Olympic gold for the Tokyo event.
The Dominican Republic was also disqualified even though it finished outside Saturday’s finals.
While teams are free to choose any arrangement for their competitors, most choose a male runner, followed by two women for the next two rounds and a man to lead the main stage in the relay.
Nigeria was the only team to spoil it by putting a male runner in third place in the first stage.
Samson Nathaniel Patience Okon George gave an advantage of around 30 metres, but the Nigerian was quietly outclassed by all men in the final stage of the season.
Poland tried a two-man race in the first two rounds in Doha, but it didn’t pay off and they decided not to take any chances on Friday.
The first stage was officiated by Dariush Kowalek, followed by Ega Baumgart-Witan and Magorzata Holub Kowalek, and the last stage managed by Kajitan Dusinski, when Poland reached 3:10:44.
The Netherlands took second place and Jamaica qualified in third.
Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly Editing by Ed Osmond
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