Carl Lewis, a decorated former United States track star with nine Olympic gold medals to his name, didn't mince words after watching the U.S. team fail to qualify in the 4x100 relay event in Tokyo on Thursday.
"The USA team did everything wrong in the men's relay," Lewis wrote on Twitter. The four-time Olympian earned a gold medal twice for the U.S. in the 4x100 relay event: first in 1984 in Los Angeles and again in 1992 in Barcelona.
He continued in the post, "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 kids I saw ."
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The U.S. team, consisting of Trayvon Bromell, Fred Kerley, Ronnie Baker and Cravon Gillespie, came in sixth in their preliminary heat with a time of 38.10 — two hundredths of a second short of qualifying for the final event.
Finishing the second leg, Kerley repeatedly misconnected with Baker, to the point that they were practically side by side and barely running by the time they exchanged the stick.
“We’re just all running fast right now so, you know, the timing and everything, the couple of practices we had," Baker said, according to the Associated Press. "Trying to time that up perfectly with a couple of practices is a little difficult, but it is what it is.”
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But while past Olympic runs for the U.S. relay squad have been marred by notable events, from a retroactive anti-doping medal strip in 2012 to an illegal handoff in 2016, Team USA simply wasn't fast enough this year to reach medal contention — even despite coming off a gold medal win at the 2019 World Championships.
Team USA hasn't won the Olympic 4x100 since 2000, and hasn't earned a medal since winning silver in 2004.
China, Canada and Italy placed first, second and third, respectively, in Thursday's heat. Germany and Ghana also finished ahead of the U.S. team.
The final will take place on Friday at 9:50 a.m. ET.