2020 Tokyo Olympics: US’s Mixed-Gender Relay Team Gets Disqualified, Reinstated in Debut Event

by Suzanne Halliburton

The Tokyo Olympics introduced several new events involving relay teams with both men and women. The United States very nearly saw its gold medal hopes in one of them ripped away.

That’s because the American team for the 4X 400 mixed relay was disqualified in one of the preliminary heats, Friday. Track refs flagged the American team for passing the baton outside of the designated zone. The ruling came after the team won the heat.

However, hours later, the team found out it was reinstated, so it will be around for the inaugural medal run as track starts its competition at the Tokyo Olympics.

U.S.A. Track and Field posted the ruling on its Twitter account. The statement said: “BREAKING NEWS: The U.S. 4x400M Mixed Relay team has been reinstated and will compete in Saturday’s final.

Allyson Felix Could Run Relay at Tokyo Olympics and Set History

Here’s why the reinstatement could be really good news for American sprinter Allyson Felix, who is seeking a 10th career medal at the Tokyo Olympics. Felix could be on the relay. She didn’t run it, Friday. But relay teams often swap out participants between prelims and finals. The strategy is to save the legs of some of the key runners needed in the finals. Felix ran the second leg for the American team that won the event at the 2019 World Championships.

The 35-year-old Felix is on track for history at the Tokyo Olympics. Winning one or more medals is key. She definitely will run the 400 meters and the 4X 400 women’s relay. If she wins at least one medal, she’ll tie Carl Lewis for most medals won by an American track and field athlete. And one more medal will allow Felix to break a career tie with Merlene Ottey, the legendary Jamaican sprinter. They co-own the record for most track medals won by a woman.

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Hand Off Problem Happened Between First, Second Legs

But first, the American team must clean up its exchanges. The bad handoff Friday came between Elija Godwin and Lynna Irby, the runners for the first and second legs. Reporters covering the event said Irby appeared to be 10 meters away from where she was supposed to be. Taylor Manson and Bryce Deadmon ran the third and anchor legs in the prelims.

“Mistakes happen,” Godwin told reporters at the Tokyo Olympics. “We are human. We do make mistakes. If at the end of the day, we DQ’d, I know I’m going to hold my head up high because we went out and competed our best.”

Apparently, the track officials made the mistake. They lined up people in the wrong area. American track icon Michael Johnson noticed what happened and tweeted his thoughts.

“Team USA Mixed 4×4 relay DQ’d. (Second) runner lined up at the wrong line. Our BBC Sport 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 the appeal.”

So stay tuned for Saturday’s track action at the Tokyo Olympics. Plus, if you’re a fan of the mixed relays, check out the action Friday night from the swimming venue. The swimmers will compete in a 4 X 100 mixed medley relay.