‘Where is clean sport?’ Furious China 4x100m relay team edged out of final after USA reprieve
Chinese lose their place in the final after American quartet are offered an unprecedented rerun on their own after protesting over obstruction in their heat
China cried foul on Friday after losing out on a place in the 4x100 metres relay final at the Rio Olympics after the United States team were given a second chance in a rare rerun.
The Americans won a reprieve after claiming obstruction by a Brazilian runner forced them to drop the baton. They then competed against themselves, topped the qualifying times and pushed the eighth fastest team – China – out of the final.
The Chinese team claimed the decision was “unfair”, while angry sprinter Liang Xiaojing went further, questioning if the sport was “clean”.
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China launched an appeal before the rerun, but that was rejected by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
“The US team dropped the baton because of their own fault – not entirely due to Brazil’s obstruction,” the official Xinhua news agency quoted the Chinese team as saying.
“It was hugely unfair to let the US team rerun on their own. Letting them run without any competition and disturbance on the track is very much different from how the other teams ran.”
The Chinese team also said retired superstar hurdler Liu Xiang was obstructed by an athlete during a world championship race in 2011, but an appeal was rejected by the IAAF.
US seven-time Olympic medallist Allyson Felix said she was bumped by a Brazilian runner right before she got to the zone to pass the baton to English Gardner on the third leg.
“I got bumped coming into the exchange zone,” Felix said. “It just completely threw me off balance. I tried to pull it together to get it to English. Maybe if I had one more step I could have, but I was falling as I was going to her.”
USA Track and Field protested and the jury of appeals agreed Felix’s progress was impeded. Brazil were disqualified.
The Chinese sprinters had earlier dashed to the finish line in 42.70 seconds, taking eighth and last place in the final.
Surreal scenes unfolded in the evening when the US runners were allowed a rerun – with the same team and in the same lane – finishing in 41.77 seconds and bumping China out.
Chinese athletes were so angry they refused to show up and watch.
It is believed that it was the first time a relay team were allowed a rerun on their own.
“If we are really kicked out (from the finals), where is clean sport?” Liang wrote on her Chinese microblogging site Weibo before the rerun took place.
— Team China (@XHSports) August 19, 2016
Even the US sprinters admitted it was “weird” to be rerunning by themselves.
“It was weird, but it was a lot of fun. Glad we got a chance to really run a race with these ladies and qualify for the finals,” anchor runner Morolake Akinosun said.
Felix said she felt relieved after being very upset.
“Very relieved. I just wasn’t sure how a situation like that played out. I have never been in that situation before, but I am happy that we got a shot at it,” she said.
Gardner said: “It was just an unforeseen circumstance. We just had just a little combustion over there in the third leg, but we got past it, got out there and performed like we’re supposed to.
“Honestly, I feel like it was just a glorified practice, just with the whole word watching,” Gardner said.
And she had a final word for the Chinese team: “I wish them the best of luck. I wish it didn’t happen this way.”