In another men’s relay hampered by a failed handover transition, the USA settled for a silver medal in the 4×100-meter relay on Saturday. They finished in 37.55 seconds.
Canada won gold in 37.48 seconds and Great Britain took third place with a time of 37.83 seconds.
The home crowd at Hayward Field seemed to hold their breath as the US team of Christian Coleman, Noah Lyles, Elijah Hall and Marvin Bracy passed the baton, seemingly fearing the mistakes that have become notorious for American men’s relays.
The race went smoothly for the USA until the last handover. Hall struggled to get the baton to anchor Bracy’s leg and Hall fell over after making the pass, costing the team valuable time which Canada used to win the gold. Andre De Grasse of Canada held Bracy back and sprinted across the finish line with his hands up.
Hall said he needed to “watch the movie” to decipher exactly what went wrong with the handover.
“It’s bittersweet,” Bracy said. “If you sweep the 100 and the 200, expect to come out of here and perform better.”
The US relay, which has been severely scolded for mistakes at the highest level in recent years, competed without world 100m champion Fred Kerley, who picked up an injury in the 200m heats. But the relay still featured four of the ten fastest men in the world that year and was expected to take the gold.
Second place was particularly disappointing as it got the crowd excited just moments after the US women’s 4×100 relay. The team of Melissa Jefferson, Abby Steiner, Jenna Prandini and Twanisha Terry brought the baton around the track without a hiccup in 41.14 seconds, for the third fastest time ever.
The win came as a surprise as Jamaica, who swept the women’s 100 meters and won Olympic gold last summer, were expected to walk away with this event. But a poor first handover threw the Jamaicans back and Shericka Jackson was unable to track down Terry before the finish line.
“You could have the four fastest women, but if you lack chemistry and the baton doesn’t go through transition, what do you do?” said Terry.
While women have not been favored in 4×100, they have found success in global championships. Saturday night’s win was the US women’s second 4×100 world title in the past three championship years, and the team has won gold at two of the past three Olympics. The US team finished second behind Jamaica at the Tokyo Olympics.
The US men, on the other hand, have not won an Olympic gold in the event since 2000. At the five World Cups between 2007 and 2019, the USA were disqualified twice, failed to finish in 2011 after Darvis Patton collided with Britain’s anchor leg and won two silver medals.
At last summer’s Summer Olympics, the relay had one of its most embarrassing performances in recent memory when the men failed to make it through the heats. There was no dropped baton or illegal handoff, they just didn’t get the baton around the track fast enough.
Trayvon Bromell, who went to the Olympics with the world’s fastest 100m time, got the relay off to a slow start. Then a handover error between Olympic silver medalist Fred Kerley and Ronnie Baker cost the relay seconds from stage two to stage three. Ankerbein Cravon Gillespie raced to third place, which would have automatically qualified the team for the finals, but he couldn’t keep up. The men finished sixth in the heat.
The disappointing ending drew criticism from many, including Carl Lewis, one of the most decorated American track and field athletes in history.
“The US team did everything wrong in the men’s relay” Lewis tweeted after the Olympic race.