U.S. track and field legend Carl Lewis is remembered for his magical performance at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics making him a sprinting icon. In fact, generations of runners have emulated him and looked to him for inspiration.
So he didn’t mince words in a tweet on Wednesday, tearing the 2020 men’s 4×100 relay team a new one after the second and third legs, Ronnie Baker and Fred Kerley, fumbled the baton exchange costing them precious time and eventually leading to a sixth place finish in the second heat and excluding them from the finals.
If you ran track in school, you probably got yelled at by your coach about how important the baton exchange is during a relay. Apparently Lewis echoed frustrated track coaches worldwide, calling what happened an “embarrassment” and compared them to juvenile amateur runners.
Of course, Lewis can back up what he says. At the 1984 games, he won gold medals in the 100-meter and 200-meter races, the long jump and the 4×100 relay, which he anchored. He became the third runner to win four golds behind Alvin Kraenzlin in 1900 and Jesse Owens in 1936 (who won the same four events).
So the man who earned ten Olympic medals, winning gold in the same event in four consecutive games (long jump), is definitely in a position to give at least constructive criticism — and he sounded like it in an interview with USA Today.
“This was a football coach taking a team to the Super Bowl and losing 99-0 because they were completely ill-prepared,” said Lewis. “It’s totally avoidable. And America is sitting there rooting for the United States and then they have this clown show. I can’t take it anymore. It’s just unacceptable. It is not hard to do the relay.”
He also tweeted he would be going on Instagram Live Thursday night to discuss precisely what went wrong.
The collapse extended the misfortune of the American men’s 4×100 relay team for another Olympic games. They have not won gold in the event since the 2000 games in Sydney and have not medaled since the 2012 games in London when they won silver — which was given up because of a doping penalty against Tyson Gay.
Incidentally, the Americans, who finished with a time of 38.10, fell behind China, who won the heat with 37.92; Canada with very close 37.918; Italy with 37.95; Germany with 38.06; and Ghana with 38.08. All of them advance to the finals, scheduled for Friday morning (Aug. 6).
Lead leg Trayvon Bromell, who also failed to make the mens’ 100m final, simply told NBC Sports, “This is really so BS, to be honest with you,” after the race, remembering his own weak baton pass. But anchor Cravon Gillespie explained that the squad hadn’t practiced their exchange very much. In fact, he said they started practicing “two days ago.”
“At the end of the day, we got to get more practice in. Guys are coming in and doing individual races and things like that,” said Gillespie. “But at the end of the day, you can’t put all the pressure on us to perform when we’re — I guess not given the best shot. Give us more practice and we’ll be fine.”
Photos by: Ed Mulholland/Getty Images for USOC; Lu Lin/CHINASPORTS/VCG via Getty Images