Sunday, December 5

Why was Team USA’s mixed 4×400 squad disqualified, then reinstated, at the Tokyo Olympics?

Team USA’s 4×400-meter mixed relay team faced an emotional rollercoaster on Friday after they were disqualified, and later reinstated, due to an illegal baton pass in the inaugural Olympic event.

It looked like Team USA comfortably won their tie on Friday, finishing with a time of 3: 11.38 ahead, well ahead of the rest of the group. But the team was informed after the event concluded that they had been disqualified for an illegal witness pass; Video of the incident shows Elija Godwin giving the baton to Lynna Irby, the latter of whom ran the second stage of the rce, out of the passing zone. The video shows Irby lined up way past the other runners on his leg.

Below is the full event, the illegal witness pass, and a post-race interview in which the runners were informed that they had been disqualified:

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Here’s everything you need to know about Team USA’s disqualification and subsequent reinstatement after the 4×400 mixed relay mishap:

Why was Team USA disqualified in the 4×400 Mixed Relay?

Following the conclusion of Friday’s series, NBC’s Lewis Johnson informed the mixed 4×400 relay team that they were disqualified. However, before breaking the news, he asked Irby to review a replay of the exchange and explain what happened.

“So I see my teammate (Godwin) coming in, dragging his butt, really representing Team USA,” Irby said. “The baton reaches me … You know what, it looks like the area, but we will have to wait and see the results in the end.”

Lewis then informed Irby that the 4×400 mixed relay team had been disqualified because the pass was made outside the designated zone.

“Oh my gosh. The trade is over,” Irby said. “Okay, I mean it’s disappointing, but I learned lessons.”

Irby said the team had practiced extensively over the past two days to make sure no baton passing problems occurred, but said this was the team’s first time at the Olympic Stadium.

Why was the USA team reinstalled in the 4×400 mixed relay?

Following the disqualification of team USA, the team filed a formal appeal with the IOC; the team argued that a referee told Irby where to line up, absolving the team from the penalty.

As four-time Olympic gold winner Michael Johnson put it:

Irby’s track and field coach Lance Brauman said the same thing in an interview with IndyStar, blaming an official error for the penalty. The IOC apparently agreed with the US view, reinstating the team after it was initially disqualified.

Team USA will race in the 4×400 mixed relay on Saturday at 8:35 am ET. That also leaves open the possibility that Allyson Felix, who could race in Saturday’s final, win another Olympic medal. A medal in any of her three possible Tokyo Games events would earn her an 11th Olympic medal, making her the most decorated woman in the history of Olympic athletics. Carl Lewis (11) is the only other US Olympian who has more than Felix.

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