TOKYO — The U.S. 4x400 mixed relay team has been reinstated for Saturday's final set after appealing a disqualification from the preliminary heat.
After winning Heat 1 in the debut of the event at the Games, the gold medal favorites were disqualified for an exchange zone foul on the first handoff, from Elijah Godwin to Lynna Irby. Irby was lined up beyond the legal exchange zone to receive the baton; the blue line for her to line up properly is about two yards before the finish line, and she was 20 meters farther down the track.
The United States appealed the decision, claiming one of the officials lined Irby up in the wrong position. USA Track & Field officials announced hours later that the team would be reinstated after a review of race footage confirmed the official's error.
American sprinting icon Michael Johnson, who is here as a commentator with BBC Sports, tweeted that he and others with the network noticed officials incorrectly line up two runners in a different heat, but those runners got themselves into proper position in time so they did not have a violation.
This is not the first time a U.S. relay team has been reinstated. In 2016, the American women's 4x100 team was disqualified after a bad exchange and dropping the baton. On appeal, it was agreed that Allyson Felix had been impeded by a Brazilian runner that bumped her, and the DQ was overturned. The women ran alone as a time trial, were fast enough to get into the final, and went on to win gold.
Irby was in tears as she spoke to television reporters as soon as the U.S. quartet walked off the track, but was silent when the group met with written media a few minutes later.
"We come out, we try our best, and it was a complete surprise to all of us," Godwin said. "We heard the news; all we can do is prepare for the future and see what happens next."
"We put our best into it so I'm just proud of everyone's effort," relay runner Taylor Manson said.
As the name suggests, the mixed relay is two men and two women, but it is up to each team to decide the order of their runners. The U.S. went man-woman-woman-man, as five other teams in their heat did. But Nigeria opted for man-woman-man-woman, so anchor leg Patience George had about a four-second lead when she got the baton from Samson Nathaniel.
But Manson handed off to Bryce Deadmon, and Deadmon had caught up to and passed George with 150 meters to go.
"It was fun," George said. "It's not easy running with the men — I had to go. When I [had] the last 100 meters to go I heard them coming and I was thinking, 'No, Patience, you need to go.'"
Americans qualify in other events
In other qualifying events, two American women advanced to the shot put final. Raven Saunders, nicknamed "Hulk" but rocking a Joker face mask and now green and purple hair to match, had the third-best throw in qualifying, 19.22 meters (63 feet, 1/2 inch). Jessica Ramsey fouled on her first two throws, but posted 18.75m (61-6.25) on her final try to get into the final.
Talkative and cheerful away from the track, Saunders said her mask also serves to keep competitors away during her event.
"I always had the mask, and everyone during shot put, I don't know why, but people always [want to] smile and talk and everything like that, and that's not really me, so this is my way of kind of being friendly, I guess, in way," she said. "I'm the greatest person, but during competition, I don't like anybody."
The women's 5000m also saw two Americans move to the medal race. Elise Cranny (14:56.14) was fifth in Heat 2 and automatically moved on, while Karissa Schweizer (14:51.34) was seventh in Heat 1 but got in on time since her heat was faster. In that race, the top five in each heat were automatic qualifiers, and the next five fastest times across both heats also moved on.
Burundi's Francine Niyonsaba, not allowed to run her favored 800m race because of World Athletics' testosterone-levels rule, was in Heat 2 of the 5000m and finished in the top 5 only to be disqualified for a lane violation.
Gold medal favorite Yulimar Rojas led qualifying for women's triple jump with a 14.77m (48 feet, 5.5 inches) on her first jump. American Keturah Orji will be in Sunday's final thanks to her 14.26m (46-9.5) on her first attempt.
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