The U.S. men’s sprinters entered the Tokyo Olympics expected to dominate the field. Instead, they will leave the summer games with no individual gold medals for the first time ever.
The U.S. still has the most medals in men’s sprinting in Tokyo, taking home four silvers and one bronze. While that would be a worthy performance for many countries, some of the biggest names in the history of track are calling out the team for being an embarrassment.
American legend Michael Johnson — a four-time Olympic gold medalist who competed in the games from 1992-2000 — ripped into the U.S. 4x100m relay team after they failed to qualify for the final. Johnson tweeted: “US 4x1 failures come down to lack of leadership. Relay members report confusion, lack of communication, and very little practice. This after 2 decades of failure. Still not realizing having the fastest athletes isn’t enough. Problem will continue until there’s true leadership.”
US 4x1 failures come down to lack of leadership. Relay members report confusion, lack of communication, and very little practice. This after 2 decades of failure. Still not realizing having the fastest athletes isn’t enough. Problem will continue until there’s true leadership.— Michael Johnson (@MJGold) August 6, 2021
Johnson’s criticism comes on the heels of Carl Lewis’ scathing indictment of the same relay team. Lewis called the U.S. performance a ‘clown show’ in an interview with USA Today:
“It’s unacceptable. It’s so disheartening to see this because it’s people’s lives. We’re just playing games with people’s lives. That’s why I’m so upset. It’s totally avoidable. And America is sitting there rooting for the United States and then they have this clown show. I can’t take it any more. It’s just unacceptable. It is not hard to do the relay.”
Lewis also sent out this tweet:
The USA team did everything wrong in the men's relay. 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 .— Carl Lewis (@Carl_Lewis) August 5, 2021
The U.S. 4x100m relay team finished sixth in their heat and failed to qualify for the final. You can watch the full race here.
Here’s the final leg of the event:
While the anchor failed to close the gap at the end of the race, the Americans’ biggest misstep was a faulty second baton pass between Ronnie Baker and Fred Kerley. You can watch that baton pass here.
It’s the first time the U.S. men have failed to make the final in the 4x100 since 2008. Bad passes have been a problem for the U.S. in this event before. The 2016 Rio team got DQ’d for another bad pass in the final heat.