RIO DE JANEIRO – Getting a baton around the track proved to be the Achilles heel of the American sprinting squad on Thursday morning, but after a bizarre day of appeals and a solo rerun on the track, the U.S. women earned a spot in the final and second chance at defending their Olympic title from London.
In the qualifying heats on Thursday morning, Allyson Felix botched a handoff to English Gardner that looked to end the American’s hopes at gold. After the race, Felix told reporters in the mixed zone that the the Brazilian sprinter in the lane next to the U.S. may have stepped out of her lane causing contact, and shortly after, USA Track and Field filed an appeal. Officials determined that the Brazilian runner did, in fact, come in contact with Felix during the baton handoff, and the Brazil relay team was disqualified.
Jamaica, Great Britain, Ukraine, Germany, Nigeria and Trinidad & Tobago advanced to the final. The U.S. women earned a rerun on Thursday night, needing to beat China’s time of 42.70. Alone on the track, the U.S. team ran 41.77, which is the fastest of all 16 teams that ran on Thursday. Eight advance to the final on Friday but the United States will run on the outside lane as their initial time counts as their mark for the final.
"I feel like it was a glorified practice. We just had fun out there. We were laughing and joking going in and staying light going in," Gardner said. "We already knew we were going to execute the first time except we had an unperceived circumstance. Now all we had to do is the same thing and same plan we had as the first time just get out there and actually execute it."
Gardner thought the United States would be booed after eliminating the Brazilian team but the Americans were welcomed onto the track to cheers.
“It was different. It was really weird," Felix said. "When we walked out. People were cheering for us. I think it uplifted us and encouraged us. I think we’re just grateful."
At the 2012 Olympics, Tianna Madison, Felix, Bianca Knight and Carmelita Jeter won gold with a world record of 40.82. After last month’s Olympics Trials in Eugene, Ore., Gardner and her teammates said they hoped to break the world record in Rio.