After the US men’s 4x100m relay team finished sixth in its semifinal on Thursday, American track and field legend Carl Lewis was blunt in his assessment.
The team’s performance, which included two of the individual 100m finalists, Fred Kerley and Ronnie Baker, as well as world leader Trayvon Bromell and Cravon Gillespie, ensured the US’s longest run without an Olympic medal in this event was extended.
“The USA team did everything wrong in the men’s relay,” the 60-year-old Lewis, who won the 4×100 Olympic gold medal twice as well as seven other golds, wrote on Twitter.
“The passing system is wrong, athletes running the wrong legs, and it was clear that there was no leadership. It was a total embarrassment, and completely unacceptable for a USA team to look worse than the AAU (American Association of Universities) kids I saw.”
Despite its runners’ pedigree, the US team struggled with changeovers and speed, with anchor Gillespie — a surprise selection ahead of Kenny Bednarek or Noah Lyles — struggling to make an impression in the final stint.
With a time of 37.92, China emerged as the surprise heat winner. Canada came in second with anchor 200m champion Andre de Grasse, and Italy advanced with individual 100m champion Lamont Marcell Jacobs running a national record 37.95.
The two fastest losers’ slots in Friday’s final were taken by Germany and Ghana, who finished ahead of Team USA.
The men’s 4x100m relay has been won by the United States a record 15 times at the Olympic Games, but not since 2000 in Sydney.
And the men’s team from the United States hasn’t won a medal in this event since winning silver in Athens in 2004.
The US men were disqualified at the previous two Olympic Games after failing to finish the race in 2008.
In round one of the men’s 4x100m relay heats, athletes compete.
The race’s outcome was “frustrating” for Gillespie and his fellow sprinters, he said.
“Honestly, I’m not even sure. It’s definitely frustrating coming this far, making the team … (not reaching the final) that’s not why we’re here,” he told the media.
“We’ve definitely got to pick it up for the worlds (championships) next year and the next Olympics because this is unacceptable,” he added.