The United States has won an appeal after being disqualified from the mixed 4x400m relay on the opening day of track and field action in Tokyo.
Lynna Irby, the second runner for the US, waited too far up the track to receive the baton, and despite finishing first, the Americans were ruled out for breaking rule 24.19, which states: “For all takeovers, athletes are not permitted to begin running outside their takeover zones, and shall start within the zone. If an athlete does not follow this rule, their team shall be disqualified.”
Irby was out of position when getting ready to receive the baton from Elijah Godwin. She needed to be behind the blue line you can see in the photo below, but she waited in front of it by mistake.
There’s no doubt Irby was in the wrong place, but the US has successfully appealed, claiming she was told to stand in the wrong spot by a trackside official.
American four-time Olympic gold medallist Michael Johnson also said Irby did nothing wrong. “Our @BBCSport coverage saw 2 athletes in heat 2 also lined up in the wrong place and corrected themselves last minute,” Johnson tweeted.
“Officials either lined them up wrong or didn’t give direction. The US should win the appeal.” Adam Kilgore, a journalist for the Washington Post, then reported Irby’s coach Lance Brauman also blamed the mix-up on an official. “It wasn’t her fault that they made a mistake, and she ran very well,” he said.
If the disqualification stands, it will rob American star Allyson Felix of the chance to win a record 10th Olympic medal. On the first night of the athletics competition in Tokyo, Ethiopian distance runner Selemon Barega stormed to a brilliant 10,000m victory to claim the first gold medal.
Barega, 21, ran a superb tactical race to hold off world champion Joshua Cheptegei and Ugandan compatriot Jacob Kiplimo to win in 27min 43.22sec. Cheptegei took silver in 27:43.63, with Kiplimo third.
Barega’s upset win – in a race that for Australian fans was brutal to watch when Patrick Tiernan fell three times as his body broke down on the final lap – was a rare blip on the first day that largely followed the form book as athletes adjusted to the unique surroundings of this year’s pandemic-delayed competition.
The soundtrack at the sparsely populated arena provided the unrelenting high-tempo music, screeching cicadas, and the odd cry of encouragement. But the ghostly atmosphere did not faze Jamaica’s history-chasing Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who safely negotiated the first round of the 100m.
Fraser-Pryce will become the oldest women’s 100m champion in history if she wins Saturday’s final. The 34-year-old is also aiming to become the first woman to win a single individual Olympic athletics event three times, to add to the 100m victories she claimed in 2008 and 2012.